... in his first formal television interview, with Al Arabiya. Marc Lynch, king of public diplomacy, tells us
I do think that this is an extremely significant gambit which signals his commitment to real public diplomacy, his engagement with Middle East issues (repudiating all the pundits expecting him to neglect foreign policy), and his ability to speak in a genuinely new way to the Muslim world.
His remarks hit the sweet spot again and again. He repeatedly emphasized his intention of moving past the iron walls of the 'war on terror' and 'clash of civilizations' which so dominated the Bush era. "My job is to communicate to the Muslim world that the United States is not your enemy," Obama said, emphasizing as in his inaugural address that he is "ready to initiate a new partnership [with the Muslim world] based on mutual respect and mutual interest." And where so much of the Bush administration's 'public diplomacy' was about manipulating and lecturing, Obama begins -- as he should -- with listening: "what I told [Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating..so let's listen."
This is, as Marc says, a great step. But only a step: change means policy change, which I hope has been drilled into everyone by now, and taking Muslim world opinion seriously also means responding to those concerns responsibly. The transcipt of the interview is here.
-- Tim Fernholz
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