President Barack Obama will embark on another major overseas visit this week, including a second visit to Europe as President. Although this visit is symbolically loaded Obama will visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and commemorate the D-Day landings in Normandy, France there are still things that the President needs to achieve. Americas image to the rest of the world is important, and trips like this set the stage for our diplomatic policy in the War on Terrorism.
First Stop: Saudi Arabia
The President met with King Abdullah in Riyadh to discuss the growing threat posed by Iran, cooperation in fighting terrorism, and how to revive the stalemated Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. The Saudis likely pressed Obama to accept their own peace plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from territory occupied since 1967 and gives dangerously inadequate security guarantees to Israel. Instead, the President hopefully pressed the Saudi King to show greater flexibility on peace negotiations and take stronger action against terrorism and Iran.
Second Stop: Egypt
President Obama delivered a speech in Egypt on U.S. relations with the Muslim world. He has already injected a new tone in U.S. foreign policy and distanced himself from the policies of the Bush Administration, as his January 26 interview with Al Arabiya demonstrated. This weeks speech followed along the same lines. The President missed an opportunity to celebrate Americas defense of freedom around the world for people of all religions. The President should have reminded Muslims that the United States liberated Kuwaiti Muslims from Iraqi occupation in 1991, fed starving Somali Muslims in 1992, protected Bosnian Muslims in the mid-1990s, liberated Kosovo Muslims in 1999, liberated Afghan Muslims from the Talibans repression in 2001, and liberated Iraqi Muslims from Saddam Husseins dictatorship in 2003.
Third Stop: Germany
The President will also visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility, and the city of Dresden. His visit to Dresden will be intensely controversial. Dresden is most famous for the Anglo-American bombing raid against it on February 13, 1945, which caused serious loss of life, but in the Second World War it was not unprecedented or unusual. The myths that have grown about the raid were fostered by the Nazis and spread by post-war Soviet propaganda. The President must absolutely reject any equation of the Western Allies and the Nazis during his visit and instead defend the Anglo-American air campaign, which served vital military purposes.
Obama must also use this opportunity to press Germany to join him in ramping up sanctions against Iran, which continues to thumb its nose at the international community as it advances its nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile programs. As he commemorates one holocaust, he must take serious action to stop another. He must press Germany to end its massive and growing exports to Tehran, which serve to prop up an odious regime committed to Israels destruction.
Last Stop: France
On a poignant and symbolic visit to Normandy, France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings, where 73,000 American troops descended on Normandy, Obama must take the opportunity to celebrate Americas long history in defense of freedom and liberty. Just as American and British troops gave their lives in defense of France 65 years ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy must commit additional French combat troops for the mission in Afghanistan, to ensure the freedom of the millions of Afghanis who have been liberated from the authoritarian rule of the Taliban. At the NATO summit in April, France was given one of NATOs two supreme commands and in exchange for this bigger seat at the alliances table, Sarkozy must step up to the plate to ensure the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
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