Tomorrow, in Egypt, President Obama will deliver a speech on American foreign policy to a predominantly Muslim audience. Yesterday’s London Times examines the Obama administration decision to address the Muslim world as one block (vice separate muslim communities/countries) and the “political realist” school of thought being employed with foreign policy.  The article states:

Obama is the first major Western leader, after Bonaparte, to address Islam as a single bloc, thus adopting the traditional Islamic narrative of dividing the world according to religious beliefs. This ignores the rich and conflict-ridden diversity of the 57 Muslim-majority nations and fosters the illusion, peddled by people such as Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Islam is one and indivisible and should, one day, unite under a caliphate.  By adopting the key element of the Islamist narrative, that is to say the division of humanity into religious blocs, Mr Obama also intends to send a signal to the Middle East’s nascent democratic forces that Washington is abandoning with a vengeance George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda”.

Mr Obama has started scrapping that policy in the name of “political realism”, the currently fashionable phrase in Washington. The “political realist” school could also be called the “let them stew in their juices” school. It argues that Arabs, and other Muslims, are not ready for democracy and may not even like it if they encountered it. Rather than trying to shock “traditional societies” out of their sleep of centuries, Western powers, especially America, should try to maintain stability.  In her recent visit to Cairo to prepare for Mr Obama’s visit, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made no mention of human rights, democratisation and good governance. Vice-President Biden’s visit to Lebanon, where a crucial election is due on June 7, was designed to hammer home a similar message: Mr Obama is more interested in the country’s stability than the victory of democratic forces.

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