Obama stresses point 224.
(photo credit: AP)
As I sit in my biweekly Arabic lesson trying to
decipher a complicated text, reciting the words like music -
emphasizing the tedious final vowels - my teacher proudly smiles and
says, "Easy in training, difficult in battle. At least that's what the
soldiers used to tell me." This saying, in Hebrew, is loosely
translated to mean "practice makes perfect." So mindful is this teacher
of the warlike mentality that she refers to my education as training,
claiming that during my time at graduate school I "was trained to be a
writer and trained in Arabic."
time, this mentality has become a day-to-day reality here. In the
country's 61 years of existence it has been involved in many wars. Its
survival has always been dependent upon highly trained individuals.
Without the sweat and toil of its citizens, it is very possible that the country might not have survived to this day.
The lesson of "easy in training, difficult in battle" is one
that the Obama administration should learn from in its effort to
promote democracy, human rights and freedom around the world.
From his very inception as president, Barack Obama
represented a turning point in international affairs. From small
villages in Egypt to bustling cities in Asia, Obama impressed hope upon
people all over the world for a brighter future. For many, he is not
merely seen as an American president, he is a world leader who will
restore and resurrect the rule of law and freedom that we all so badly
With three simple words - "yes we can" - Obama promised to
restore America's image from the often scorned policies of his Bush
A world where actions speak louder than words, Obama has made
significant efforts to advance the moral principles we aspire to.
Presidential orders to shut down Guantanamo Bay were immediately
signed. New diplomatic initiatives dealing with North Korea, Iran and
other nuclear would-be threats are being undertaken. Suspected
terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the self-proclaimed
mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attack - have been given fair
trials in American courts. In fact, they have even been given American
lawyers to represent their interests.
Even after the Fort Hood massacre Obama did not
waste an instant in reminding the world that "no faith justifies these
murderous and craven acts." These attacks were committed by "twisted
logic" and were not representative of the doctrines of any one
religion." Obama's efforts have demonstrated to the world the
importance of freedom and the rule of law.
Yet, despite Obama's valiant efforts to actualize our
principles, Iran with its nuclear ambitions is closer to acquiring a
nuclear arsenal. It has not bought into our international principles.
In fact, its leadership has used the unwieldy time it takes for
international diplomacy to take effect to further the development of
its nuclear program.
Meanwhile, religious extremists are committing terrorist
attacks in the US - even at heavily guarded army bases. And even under
the due process of law suspected terrorists such as would-be Christmas
Day bomber Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab fail to participate in their
hearings. Our principles of freedom and the rule of law are heard; but,
they are not being universally accepted.
The Obama administration has taken the first few steps in
advancing humanistic principles throughout the world. First, Obama has
injected people everywhere with hope for the future. Second, he has
taken actions to actualize these principles. However, these two steps
have still not produced the desired results.
Obama claims that "change will not come if we wait for some
other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting
for. We are the change that we seek." However, our views of freedom and
the rule of law are far from being universally accepted. Convincing
people to give way to our beliefs will not come with the click of a
To turn our ideals into reality we must undertake the difficult
task of understanding the way our adversaries think. We must work hard
to show them how freedom, human rights and democracy should prevail.
We must not allow the goodness of our principles to be used against us. Change is possible; but it involves hard work.
Prior to moving to Israel, the writer served as the special
assistant to the Critic of International Cooperation in the Canadian
House of Commons. In Israel, he has researched, written and edited
papers for some of Israel's leading think tanks. He is
currentlycompleting his thesis about modern reform in the Arab Middle
East at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.