Walking a tightrope requires balance: lean to far one way or the other and you are the latest resident of splatland. In giving his speech today, Obama was walking a metaphorical tightrope.
On one side of the rope is Israel. With some notable exceptions, Israel has been a staunch American ally. In general, we can count on them. Israel also has an extremely powerful lobby in the United States and the Jewish community is powerful and influential. Naturally, most Jews are pro-Israel. Because of these factors, Obama has excellent reasons to be pro-Israel.
On the other side of the rope are the Arab oil suppliers and those who influence them. Since we need their oil, the United States has to maintain at least cordial relations with these countries. While the Palestinians are not a petroleum power, the other Arab countries feel obligated to support them (if only to be against Israel). There is also a moral factor-the United States has, in the past, taken the view that we have a moral obligation in the Middle East-especially in helping to sort out the Palestinian question. As such, Obama has excellent reasons to stay on the good side of the Arab nations. Bringing in Islam, he also has excellent reasons to be on the good side of Muslims. On purely practical grounds, isolating the terrorists from the Muslim mainstream would be a considerable advantage for the United States. We would have fewer enemies and more potential allies.
As with a tightrope, Obama has to stay carefully in the middle. If he tilts too far towards Israel, then he risks the wrath of the folks who control a significant chunk of the oil we rely on. He also risks alienating and antagonizing Arabs and Muslims. If he tilts too far towards the Arabs, then he risks antagonizing Israel and the American Jewish community.
His speech showed his mastery of the high wire: he said the right things to show his support of Israel, but was just critical enough of Israel to keep his balance. He also said the right things about Arabs and Muslims. He showed sensitivity to and knowledge of Islam, but also spoke out against the extremists.
Lest I forget Americans, he also said the right things-such as how his number one job is keeping Americans safe. This third element breaks the analogy to the tightrope, but what the heck.
One concern that some Americans might have is that Obama pledged billions of dollars for Pakistan and other countries. I must admit, that I am concerned about this. After all, my university is going through severe budget cuts. I also have friends at the nearby Florida State University whose departments are being shut down because of lack of funding. There are, of course, many other examples of cases where money is lacking in the United States. As such, one might think that we should take care of Americans first. After all, we are the tax payers.
However, it can be argued that spending this money is actually a good idea. If spending such money advances American interests and security, then it could be money well spent. So, for example, if we can ensure Pakistan’s support with this money, then it might we worth it. As another example, if spending the money helps win good will for America and weakens the influence of radical groups, then it could actually be a bargain. It could well buy us fewer American deaths and also reduce what we need to spend militarily. Of course, whether the money will actually do this or not is a matter of debate.