Here were the five questions I posted before the president’s Middle East speech this afternoon:
1. What are American interests in the region?
2. What is the proper role of the United States in the Arab Spring?
3. Should we fear Islamist parties?
4. What about Iran?
5. Does Israel really matter in the region?
At the risk of the wrath of AEI blog fans, the president answered most of the questions, though perhaps not as well as he should have. On the whole, a reasonable speech. It wasn’t a vision, it wasn’t passionate, but it was about what America can do in the region. Yes, it was bad in that it ignored Saudi Arabia (about which more later). Yes, it probably over-emphasized Israel, but the swaps idea was nothing new. And calling out Hamas and Fatah was important. The suggestion that Assad still has the choice to reform and stay seemed out of place. But on the whole, the promise of more U.S. commitment to the people of the region, while Bush-like, is nonetheless worthy. The president has needed to speak out and for six months he has all but ignored the Middle East. Now he has spoken and soon the American people and the world can measure whether his administration walks his talk.