Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A cynical look at Obama's Independence Day Message

This seems to be the text of President Obama's message to Israel on Yom Ha'atzmaut today, although I have not been able to find an official version:
On the 62nd Anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, I join the American people in congratulating the government and people of Israel on this celebration of their independence. Minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence, realizing the dream of a state for the Jewish people in their historic homeland, the United States became the first country to recognize Israel.

To this day, we continue to share a strong, unbreakable bond of friendship between our two nations, anchored by the United States’ enduring commitment to Israel’s security. Israel remains our important partner and key strategic ally in the Middle East, and I am confident that our special relationship will only be strengthened in the months and years to come.

I look forward to continuing our efforts with Israel to achieve comprehensive peace and security in the region, including a two-state solution, and to working together to counter the forces that threaten Israel, the United States, and the world.

On this day, we once again honor the extraordinary achievements of the people of Israel, and their deep and abiding friendship with the American people.

I offer my best wishes to President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the people of Israel as they celebrate this happy occasion.

All in all, a very nice message (although, as Aussie Dave points out, putting Peres ahead of Netanyahu might be interpreted as a tiny snub.)

However, in light of the problems between the White House and Israel this year as well as the pressure that Obama has been feeling from members of Congress and prominent Jewish leaders, this message was clearly important for the White House to get right.

How about last year's message, before the current mini-crisis? How effusive was Obama then?

From the White House web site:

Statement on the 61st Anniversary of Israel’s Independence

On behalf of the people of the United States, President Obama congratulates the people and government of Israel on the 61st anniversary of Israel’s independence. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, minutes after its declaration of independence, and the deep bonds of friendship between the U.S. and Israel remain as strong and unshakeable as ever. The President looks forward to working with Israel to advance our common interests, including the realization of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, ensuring Israel’s security, and strengthening the bilateral relationship, over the months and years to come.
Let's compare this short 2009 message with Pakistan's:

At the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, a new Nation emerged from the plateaus of Balochistan and the mountains of the North West Frontier Province. More than one hundred years after colonial rule had arrived, it departed. The Quaid-i-Azam would later explain, "The story of Pakistan, its struggle and its achievement, is the very story of great human ideals..." Over the course of its history, Pakistan has encountered and overcome great challenges, and Pakistanis have brought life to the great ideals that Muhammad Ali Jinnah described.

In the earliest days of the Independence Movement, Muslims, Hindus, and other religious groups banded together to turn back the yoke of British rule. In the early 20th century, many Muslims began to pursue a separate homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims. This pursuit, lead by the Muslim League, ultimately pointed a people towards self-determination and, out of this effort, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was born.

Since its founding, Pakistan has changed a great deal, but its people still carry forward the proud traditions of their forbears. The unmistakable rhythm of the qawwali and melody of the ghazal reverberate and inspire audiences in Pakistan and across the globe. Pakistani artists and poets elucidate the human experience as they explore time-honored themes such as devotion and love. World-class cricket, field hockey, and polo players participate in regional and international competitions, impressing all those who witness their skill.

The United States has been a friend to Pakistan over the course of much of this storied history, and the American and Pakistani people share deep ties and common aspirations. Americans and Pakistanis have both made sacrifices in the service of justice, democracy, opportunity, and the rule of law. Our Nation knows well the heritage of Pakistanis because of our own proud Pakistani American populations. Living in cities large and small, from the shores of New York to the sands of Hawaii, Pakistani Americans enrich our Nation’s diversity. Their professional contributions, family values, and religious traditions have strengthened our economy and enriched our culture.

As Pakistan enters the next chapter in its history, the United States supports the great human ideals to which we both aspire. Our children deserve the opportunity to receive an education and to achieve their dreams. Our families deserve the right to live freely in peace, to practice their faith without fear of insecurity, and to enjoy respect for the full range of their human rights. Today, as we mark the proud birth of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the American people recognize our common future, and reaffirm our unyielding support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people.

Working together, we can ensure that Pakistan rises above its challenges just as it has so many times before.
To be fair, there are very few such national messages at the White House web site; it appears that the job of congratulating countries on their independence falls to Hillary Clinton. And Pakistan is hugely important.

Even so, I cannot help but be cynical about the message from the White House today.