Leftover Policies Pose a Challenge to Obama's Cairo Message

Delivering on the changes he promised means addressing outrageous policies still in existence

In a speech delivered at Cairo University yesterday, Barack Obama extended a rhetorical olive branch to the Muslim world. In addition to voicing a surprising (if ambiguous) recognition of Palestinian sovereignty, the president repeatedly invoked Islam: He stuck an "Assalaamu alaykum" at the end of his opening remarks; he mentioned a Quran Thomas Jefferson kept in his library. He even went so far as to quote a verse from the sacred text near the end of the address: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female," he said. "And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

Such references framed the affirmation that followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity should focus on overlapping beliefs in order to create a lasting peace. But absent from Obama's comments was the promise to address existing policies of exceptionalism and hostility that continue to rot American foreign policy from the inside out. Without a recognition and serious reconsideration of these practices, the current administration has little chance of making tangible the changes it spent much of the last year promising.

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