President Barack Obama’s historic address to the Muslim world in Cairo tomorrow offers a prime opportunity to outline a new U.S. vision for democracy and human rights in the region. To accomplish this goal, Obama must firmly reject the notion that safeguarding America’s strategic interests in the Middle East somehow runs counter to the goal of advancing political reform. Instead he must craft a balanced message that recognizes that reform is synonymous with U.S. interests in the region.
Unfortunately, if early signs are any indication, the president seems to be striking the wrong balance. The delayed appointments of key democracy promotion and human rights officials—including the administrator for the Agency of International Development and the assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor—suggest that the issue is simply not a high priority.
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