President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly today, focusing mainly on the fallout of anti-American attacks in Egypt and Libya. Obama, who typically strikes an amicable tone when addressing the international body, went in a markedly different direction.
The President showed definite signs of frustration when addressing the leaders of countries, especially those in the Middle East, who were not doing everything in their power to tone down the intolerance and violence in their societies. While acknowledging that not every country in the U.N. has the same rights to free speech that the U.S. does, Obama still urged world leaders to accept the fact that information can no longer be controlled as in the days before smart phones and social media, and that attention must be paid to teaching citizens all over the globe that no form of speech justifies mindless violence.
How far should America go in exporting its idea of freedom of speech in the Middle East? That’s all well and good for Obama to say, but how exactly will other countries react to this forceful statement? How far should America go in exporting its protections of freedom of speech? And does this move by Obama go far enough in addressing GOP criticisms that he is an American apologist?
Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director, The Palestine Center
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; former Pentagon official; former political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004)