Washington Babylon — November 5, 2009, 11:52 am

Obama and the Closing of the Arabian Mind

From Marc Lynch:

Obama’s window is closing. Arab audiences see Guantanamo still open (including in an endlessly repeating al-Jazeera promo), US troops escalating in Afghanistan, Gaza still blockaded, and no settlement freeze or peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. They have seen little follow-up on the ground on the Cairo address (regardless of what’s been cooking secretly in Washington). A narrative is clearly hardening that Obama has not delivered on his promises, and that he hasn’t really changed American policies despite his personal appeal. U.S. officials may complain that this is unfair, that it’s only been four months since Cairo, that they are preparing a lot of programs… but the world isn’t fair. This window isn’t closed yet, but it’s closing fast and opinions appear to be hardening. I don’t think that the risk here is that al-Qaeda will take advantage of it, given its weakened state — in fact, Secretary Gates made an uncharacteristic mistake when he lapsed back to the Bush-era argument that we had to win in Afghanistan because otherwise al-Qaeda would capitalize. It’s more that the mobilized Arab and Muslim publics which Obama hoped to win over will be lost.

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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