In Cairo, Pompeo gives the speech Obama should have in 2009

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama gave a speech in Cairo that he referred to as "A New Beginning."  In that speech in June 2009, Obama identified the United States as one of the causes of turmoil and violence in the Middle East.  He never said the words "I'm sorry," but his tone was apologetic as he viciously criticized the Israeli "occupation" and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Yesterday, almost ten years later, American secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave the speech that Obama should have given.  It was unabashedly pro-American and identified America as a force for good in the region.

Fox News:

In a stunning but essential rebuke of former President Barack Obama and his legacy of weakness and failure abroad, Pompeo declared, "The age of self-inflicted American shame is over."

If that wasn't clear enough, Pompeo said, "Now comes the real new beginning" – a jibe at the speech Obama gave in Cairo early in 2009, in which he essentially apologized for American Middle East policy going back decades in remarks titled "A New Beginning."

Pompeo's view is unequivocal and crystal clear: "America is a force for good in the Middle East."  He didn't even add the usual qualifiers about our historic imperfections.  Expect our adversaries abroad and snowflakes at home to be mighty upset at this moral clarity and self-confidence from the greatest, freest country on Earth.  Our real allies will love it.

No doubt the Sunni Arab states and other regional U.S. allies cheered Pompeo's words, while those same words worried America's enemies.  There was no question of who was on the side of peace and stability and who was seeking change through violence and terror.

Pompeo's speech had three watershed components:

First, Pompeo made it clear that the chief focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East is thwarting Iran's dangerous and tyrannical ambitions.  While violent jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda still exist and deserve our attention, they are now a lesser threat.  Also, by condemning Obama's decision to do nothing in 2009 and 2010 when Iranians took to the streets to protest their oppressive regime, Pompeo opened the door to supporting Iran's internal opposition.

Second, Pompeo specifically called out "radical Islamism" and condemned Obama for not doing so.  This is a refinement and extension of President Trump's condemnation of "radical Islamic terrorism," which is the tactic that Islamists use when they go violent.

Far from semantics, this change from "Islamic terrorism" to "radical Islamism" means that finally, 40 years after Islamists took over Iran, 36 years after Islamists blew up our Marine barracks in Beirut, and nearly 18 years after Islamists attacked us on 9/11, we can clearly name the ideology that animates most of the problem actors in the Middle East.

The only problem with Pompeo's stirring words was that they clashed with some of the actions taken by Donald Trump.  Agree with the president's Syria policy or not, Trump's stated goal of pulling out of Syria while ISIS is still a threat and abandoning the Kurds to the tender mercies of Turkey's President Erdoğan makes for actions at odds with Pompeo's strong words of support for U.S. allies.  In fact, Pompeo's speech highlights the yin and yang of Trump's foreign policy.  He wants to demonstrate American strength while withdrawing from some of our commitments.  The two concepts aren't mutually exclusive, but the perception is one of confusion and indecision.

Between Obama's apology ten years ago and Pompeo's full-throated support of American values yesterday, the region has been roiled by the "Arab Spring," revolutions, and the growing threat of Iran – a threat so severe that it has thrown former enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia together as allies.  Where will the Middle East be ten years from now?  If Trump gets his way, the external threat of Iran will be removed, and internal divisions in many Arab countries will be bridged. 

That's a vision Barack Obama was incapable of seeing.