June 14th, 2009
With Bush in office, Iran became polarized to the extreme, terror-related Hamas won Palestinian elections, Hezbollah had a controlling coalition in Lebanon. Obama takes office, and very soon after making a brilliant, hopeful, and conciliatory speech in Cairo, Hezbollah loses a key election in Lebanon and Iran's Ahmadinejad has to steal an election in order to keep the more pro-Western Mousavi from winning and transforming the country. Some of this might be coincidence in timing, or representative of changes in progress, but I think it's very hard, if not impossible, to discount Obama's impact on this. Bush galvanized people who hate us, and Obama's talent for words and statesmanship is bringing the Middle East to a more reasonable position. Not that the wingnut echo chamber would ever recognize this; in a few years, if we're seeing a recovering economy, a shrinking deficit, and real progress in the Middle East, they'll give full credit to Bush, and to themselves for “pushing” Obama in the right direction--but to think of Obama as doing any of that, well, their heads would explode. Despite Obama's faults in other areas, he's doing damned well on the diplomacy front, achieving more in five months than Bush did in eight years. Not wholly undoing the damage Bush left behind, but clearly on the right path.