Give the man a break

Obama has made significant efforts to advance moral principles we aspire to.

By MICHAEL SUSSMAN
January 25, 2010 23:27
3 minute read.
Give the man a break

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."



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Over 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 desire.



With three simple words - "yes we can" - Obama promised to restore America's image from the often scorned policies of his Bush administration predecessors.



IN 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 pen.



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.


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