Coffee House

Will Obama’s Middle Eastern public diplomacy work?

27 January 2009

One of the big questions of the Obama presidency is can he actually use his popularity to go over rulers’ heads and straight to their people. Obama’s interview with Al Arbiya, a 24 hour Middle Eastern news channel, was an attempt to do just that. Obama emphasised his willingness to listen and repeatedly talked about ensuring about a better future for the children. He struck a far more doveish tone than he did either in his inaugural address or on the campaign trail; it was clear quite his comments were not aimed at a domestic audience.

We’ll have to wait and see if this approach works. My concern is that it muddles his message and the soft-pedalling on issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme will encourage the Iranians to test his resolve. But maybe I’m under-estimating how effective Obama’s direct pitch will be.

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  • The Cat Anand but No Purrs

    Anan lectures with manufactured and opportunistic outrage, “Please learn at least now that there is no such punctuation mark in the spelling of Obama.”

    Then how does one indicate that ‘click’ sound that Mariam McAber made so popular?

  • The Cat Anan

    Anand – Meow! You are a huge bore! Cats, with our sharp eyes, notice things that are to our advantage. In fact, we live for things that are to our advantage. You’re not one of them.

    Please stop posting in my name.

  • Anan

    The same people that ridiculed Obama’s election chances, policies etc. are now, still having not learned the lesson of their idiocy, criticizing his current decisions. You will probably be proved wrong yet again.

    C Powell: “Since when do their leaders pay any attention to what their people want?” That isn’t really a worthy comment to make since the same can be asked of governments in another particular part of the world, you know, that region where the sun usually sets every day. Or have you forgotten how we got stuck in Iraq?

    Wilhelm, I realise that with a name like that you probably come from 1800s Prussia, but that is no excuse for using such words as “O’blmbo” to address the elected leader of the USA. This is similar to racist names used to call those of African origin in the past. But I’m sure that is not what you meant, being alive in this day and age. And to both Wilhelm and Roger – President Obama’s surname is of African, not Irish origin. You seem to be confused for some reason and have added an apostrophe after the “O.” Please learn at least now that there is no such punctuation mark in the spelling of Obama. It would be rather ridiculous for someone so learned as to read the Spectator to not even know how to spell the President of the United States of America’s name properly. Hope this helps you for future comments. Cordially, Anan.

  • Hugh
  • Roger Thornhill

    If O’bama appeals directly to the people, then how about the other nations appealing directly to the American people and bypass Obama as well. How about that?

    People rarely go to war with each other. Governments do.

  • Juliana

    For some reason the mods keep failing to put my posts up. I have no idea why. Here we go again.
    He can talk nicely and ask them to come to tea and play and share his toys until the cows come home… it will have no effect. Of course it won`t. He seems not to know that a lot of other countries have been trying to talk nicely to the Middle East and negotiate diplomatically for years and it has had absolutely no impact. Their mindset is different. There is nothing wrong with talking nicely. We should all do more of it. But it won`t work in getting countries like Iran and Pakistan to love the West. They have a wholly different agenda.

  • rivere

    “Open government” on U.S foreign policy? Clearly he hasn’t watched yes prime minister!

  • Chris

    A columnist in the Wall Street Journal summed it all up yesterday, writing about the proposal to close Guantanamo: the theory is that self-esteem can function as self-defence.

  • Charlie Coyle


  • Verity

    TrevorsDen – It will be more subtle than that. The Islamics have been fighting the West for 1200 years, still astonished that we come out tops on every count.

    That won’t stop them, because they think their god, who is not the god who introduced electricity, cars, planes, phones, mobile phones, iPods, speed cameras, CCTV and travelators in airports, all of which they use, is superior in some way as yet undefined.

    They are unchallenged because the British left sees them as tools to defeat our country.

  • George Steiner

    Iran has finished off Carter. Iran will finis off Obama.

  • Alan Polasky

    And now we can see why the ‘N’ word; i.e. ‘Naivete’ is so repugnant. If Obama keeps up this ‘Blame America First’ tactic, he will leave us vulnerable to miscalculation by very real (and dedicated) terrorists. Furthermore, he will demoralize our citizenry, as well as our nation’s Armed Forces. ‘Happy Days’ are, indeed, here.

  • C Powell

    So what if he appeals to Arab people. Since when do their leaders pay any attention to what their people want? This approach may work very well with his own electorate but that’s because America is a democracy and Congressmen know they that if they are too out of line with their voters they will lose their seats. But this does not apply in the vast majority of the Muslim world.

    Talking is fine if it undermines the power and appeal of ghastly leaders but not if it means that he is perceived as weak and if his actions – or lack of actions – exhibit weakness. So we’ll have to wait and see.

  • TrevorsDen

    Of course it won’t work.

    He can speak softly all right, but where is his big stick?

    He is setting up America for a big terrorist attack against it somewhere.

  • wrinkled weasel

    Look. I know this cuts across the group dynamic and yes, the Messiah is among us and yes, it’s news, but I am bored with Obama and Obama stories.

    There is a lot going on in Europe right now which your organ seems to have missed.

  • JJS

    “But maybe I’m under-estimating how effective Obama’s direct pitch will be.” You’re not. Sadly.

  • Alf Tupper

    To know ‘will it work’, we would have to know what his intentions are.

    We don’t. In a big way.

  • Wilhelm

    O’bImbo is going to close down Guantanomo, where are they going to put all the nutty terrorists ? may I suggest Annie Lennox’s house.

    The fact is Guantanomo worked because America didnt get another terrorist attack.

  • Max Kaye

    Will it work?



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