Revisiting ‘Obama in Cairo : The Devil’s in the Details’

Revisiting ‘Obama in Cairo : The Devil’s in the Details’


EDITOR’S NOTE: Definitely required reading for anyone at a higher level in government and worth repeating, and repeating, until it is heard, and becomes a movement is *Dr. Alan Sabrosky’s reflections and strategic recommendations as laid out in his article: Obama in Cairo : The Devil’s in the Details.  He strikes directly to the heart of the problem in America, and arrives at the only possible solution. Or at least, the first necessary step towards a solution to the decades old Middle East conflict.

“We should remember that the ship of state, like a ship at sea, cannot do an instantaneous change of course. It needs to turn, and turn slowly and carefully, so it does not capsize or run aground, especially in a narrow channel with obstacles on all sides.” Writes Alan Sabrosky.

Obama in Cairo : The Devil’s in the Details

By Alan Sabrosky*


President Obama’s Cairo speech is a watershed event. However this plays out, he has done what no other American president of any party could or would have done, and for that alone he deserves praise. It is refreshing that he went immediately to the heart of the matter: the mistrust between Americans and the Muslim world, and the intolerable situation of the Palestinians – no equivocation, just put it on the table.

Purists or fanatics may say that he did not go far enough in condemning past US actions, or in reasserting his predecessor’s open-ended commitment to anything and everything Israel did or wanted. But politics is the art of the practical, and neither groveling in the rhetorical dirt nor being an Israeli apologist would do anyone except those purists and fanatics any good. Obama acquired a good deal of legitimacy as an intelligent, articulate and charismatic leader, thus distancing himself from a predecessor who was none of those things. I applaud him for that.

Reflecting on the Details

Actions do speak louder than words, and it is those that will determine the proof of his intentions. But we should remember that the ship of state, like a ship at sea, cannot do an instantaneous change of course. It needs to turn, and turn slowly and carefully, so it does not capsize or run aground, especially in a narrow channel with obstacles on all sides.

And Obama does face numerous obstacles. One is AIPAC’s tame poodles in the US Congress and Israel’s advocates in the mainstream media. No matter what Obama wishes to do, it is absolutely certain that for now, Congress will vote for whatever Israel wishes, and a good part of the mainstream media will endorse that.

Another is his reaffirmation of a special relationship of unbreakable bonds with Israel. The US cannot hope to broker disputes anywhere if it enters the fray professing a clear preference for one of the parties, and refuses to penalize it in any substantive way.

A third is Palestinians bent on revenge against Israelis who have ravaged them and their land and families for decades. Whatever Palestinian representatives endorse, many who have been oppressed and lost loved ones to Israeli soldiers and settlers will want to return the “favor.”

And the most fundamental is the carefully ignored reality that whatever the two-state rhetoric employed, Palestinians and Israelis claim the same land, neither believes they can be safe without their own country, and neither believes they can be safe if the other has a country. The Israelis now rule and have no intention of relinquishing that position. Some Palestine may emerge that is called a state, but that doesn’t mean it will be anything but an Israeli victim with a different status, barring external protection.

Making it Happen

Good intentions do not have much leverage, but three things can still be done to help Obama begin to achieve his goals, not as Israel’s patron-in-chief but as a US President committed to America’s interests overall. The most important is to replace many of the key players in the Administration now dealing with Middle East affairs. Almost all now are either Jewish or firm Israeli partisans; Arab-Americans and those who are not staunch supporters of Israel are not exactly easy to find in the government. But they are easy to find in America, and Obama should remember that another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, was the last president with a senior Middle East adviser (William Quandt) who was not an Israeli partisan, and he managed to achieve the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt. It is a precedent worth repeating.

Second, the so-called “special relationship” with Israel absolutely has to end, both because of Israel’s elected government and its behavior, and America’s own national self-interest. When one cuts through the rhetoric, the issue of Israel today comes down to parties and people: Who governs? And this much is clear.

If any other country elected someone like Binyamin Netanyahu from a party like Likud as its Prime Minister, and someone like Avigdor Lieberman from a party like Yisrael Beiteinu as its Foreign Minister, no one in Washington would be babbling about a “special relationship” between America and that country. No US President would affirm that its security was America’s paramount concern. No one in Congress would pledge continued support. In fact, no one in official Washington would give such people access to scraps in the White House kitchen, or send a penny to their country. And that is the only approach that may help less dogmatic Israelis come to the forefront.

Third, the US must explicitly link the phased withdrawal of Jewish settlements from the West Bank and the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the beleaguered people of Gaza to a continuation of American military and economic assistance to Israel. A properly coached Congress will be enraged, but while Congress can authorize all the funds for Israel it wishes, the President is under no practical obligation to spend them (so-called “signing statements” may have a good purpose, after all!), and I do not see a Democratic Congress impeaching and convicting a black Democratic President. Without this leverage, Israel has no reason whatsoever to support Obama’s expressed goals, and a failure to understand this essential point will entail the failure of Obama’s grand design, leaving the road to his political hell and more war truly paved with his own good intentions. With it, a safe and stable Palestine has a chance.

These proposals take more from Israel than from the Palestinians, and place a greater burden on Israelis than on the Palestinians. That is because Israel today is in the dominant position, whereas the Palestinians have lost almost everything and are subject to Israel’s whims. Doing what I propose will assuredly upset the Israelis and their supporters in the US. But America has better things to do than to underwrite Jewish settlers determined to play “master race” over impoverished and terrorized Palestinians.


In case you missed the speech in 2009 :

President Obama’s Speech to Muslim World in Cairo


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Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is a writer and consultant specializing in national and international security affairs. In December 1988, he received the Superior Civilian Service Award after more than five years of service at the U.S. Army War College as Director of Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, and holder of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research. He is listed in WHO’S WHO IN THE EAST (23rd ed.). A Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Dr. Sabrosky’s teaching and research appointments have included the United States Military Academy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Middlebury College and Catholic University; while in government service, he held concurrent adjunct professorships at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Dr. Sabrosky has lectured widely on defense and foreign affairs in the United States and abroad.


  1. Bravo! Let's get on with dissolving this special suffocating relationship with Israel. Besides the money could be better spent at home!