Mitt the Mormon and the Jews… A Match Made in Heaven?

We all know Mittens, sorry, Mitt Romney, is a giant, humungous, dog-riding-on-top-of-a-car sized hypocrite, but I’ve unearthed some confusion regarding his position toward Israel and American Jews in general.

Let’s be clear, Mitt Romney has only marginally more foreign-policy experience than Sarah Palin, and his view of foreign relations through the prism of the Cold War is about as outdated as it gets.

Just as with Mrs. Palin, your’s truly is far more qualified to be President when it comes to knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs.

However, returning to what I was originally getting at… Mittens is currently “abroad” touring England, Poland, and Israel… if you can really call that ‘abroad’ at all.

I mean, is being President only about visiting allies who share our views? Hmm last time I checked the places Obama has traveled, it doesn’t seem to be.

But look here, Romney is attempting to tell the Israeli government as well as its citizens that he would do a better job at maintaining relations with Israel than the Obama administration has. The same message is being sent to American Jews here in the United States.

Now, he has said all kinds of crazy, such as saying he would “check-in” with Israel before taking any actions in the Middle East. Uh huh. Yes, it is obviously smart to give an ally near veto-power over anything we want to do regionally.

But it gets more interesting… Mittens is trying to win over Israelis and American Jews to his cause. And of course, we all know he is aided by the apocalyptic links between evangelical American Christians and their support for the state of Israel. Just listen to Sheldon Adelson sometime 🙂

All right so lets see what we have here. Mitt Romney is a member of the Mormon faith, which despite being only marginally less secretive and bizarre as the Church of Scientology, has made news in the last year for its posthumous baptizing of historical figures.

Like Anne Frank. She apparently was posthumously baptized multiple times.

So wait a second. We have a presidential candidate who is a member of a religion that practices the posthumous baptism of Jews.

And yet he is trying to persuade American Jews to switch their allegiance to the Republican party because of its support for Israel.

Does this make a shred of sense to anyone?

Look, lets be honest here. Mitt Romney’s religion has been thus far left out of the Presidential contest. He hasn’t dared said the M-word for fear of alienating evangelicals who are highly suspect, and rightly so, of the Mormon religion. But nor has President Obama’s campaign or the handful of superPACs supporting him shone a single light on something that should undoubtedly be part of this election.

Now, as much as this author would like to say that the Democrats are weak in not forcibly dragging Mitt’s Mormon faith into this contest, especially when the Republicans and their far-right allies have no compunction about attacking Obama on the basis of his faith (read: questioning Obama’s Christianity) or his race (read: Romney staffer’s “Anglo-Saxon” comment), that is not a winning argument.

The fact is, we have a candidate running for President who is part of a religion that at one point required its members to take an Oath of Secrecy regarding what happens inside the Mormon Temple.

Do you really want a President who has sworn an oath outside of the one and only oath he is supposed to take, on the very day he is inaugurated, to uphold, protect, and preserve the Constitution of the United States of America?

I certainly hope not.

Please see this BBC documentary on Mormonism and Mitt Romney:

I would note once again that you would have a hard time finding a quality documentary like this here in the U.S.

The MSM has simply refused to touch the issue. WHEN IT RIGHTLY DESERVES TO BE TOUCHED UPON.

Here is another excellent article on the Mormon Church’s business empire:

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: How The Mormons Make Money

Watch that documentary and read that article and tell me what you think.

Barring the inherent danger of organized religion to the American Republic, doesn’t the profound lack of questions regarding Mittens “Oath” to Mormonism disturb you?


The Occupied Movement

I will be attending the General Assembly meeting of Occupy Boston tonight.

Here is why.

I am in broad agreement with the articulated aims of the protests which have evolved over the past few weeks. The moniker of the 99%, which protestors are gathering under, is perfect for the primary target of the movement against Wall Street and the general infiltration of this country’s institutions by the moneyed interest.

However, I will address these broad aims later. For now, I want to air my personal grievance with the system and general state of affairs.

For years I have wanted to become a Foreign Service Officer and serve my country as a diplomat for the Department of State. I have taken the Foreign Service Written Examination three times, failing the first, passing the second, and will hear in 3 weeks time how I did on the third. I remember being very exhilarated as well as nervous the first two times I took it. This, after all, was the exam that could determine my career. When I failed the first time, I was even more determined to pass the second time around, which I did, making it halfway to the Oral Examination stage of the process before my candidacy was dropped. I submitted my responses to the Personal Narrative Questions and took the language placement for Arabic, which I was told upon passing could only help my application. But it was not to be. Not that I’m really surprised of course. With the state of the economy, and the number of people who test and apply annually for the service, I could hardly stand a chance next to a 35-year old lawyer with multiple degrees and years of experience.

Going into the test this past week, I felt nothing. I was almost completely demoralized. It felt almost routine. And there were significantly more people there taking it. Most of them in the same situation I was. Recent graduates from college, whom the State Department is apparently totally disinterested in. Master’s Degree required.

It is extraordinarily disheartening. How long am I supposed to slave away until I can serve my country in the capacity I desire? How long am I supposed to wait? How many degrees do I have to acquire?

The timing of the exam last week could not have been better, coming off the heels of a report in the New York Times that the Department itself was going to be facing cuts to foreign aid. I mean, sure, at first this might not look so bad from an employment standpoint, but consider the wider implications. Cutting from U.S. AID amongst the other sub-departments in charge of administering foreign aid will undoubtedly mean at some point that there will no longer be a need for as many people to administer what sorry funds remain. A reduction in soft power means a reduction in individuals qualified to administer said soft power.

Such news could not come at worse time. The government needs to employ more people. I’m certainly not advocating for bloated bureaucracies here. But give us something like the Civilian Conservation Corps! Or at least provide some encouraging signs for those that want to work in the departments and serve their country.

I am tired of sitting on the sidelines watching this happen. I’m tired of feeling like a freaking spectator. This is our Republic, and those who want to serve it in and make it better for others should be able to.

This is why I will be attending Occupy Boston.

Egypt: How much has really changed?

GlobalPost has an eye-opening article regarding the state of post-revolution Egypt:

Has Egypt’s Revolution Become a Military Coup?

Military trials of Egyptian civilians persist and the military leadership has expanded and extended the 30-year-old, widely criticized Emergency Law once used by Mubarak to justify his authoritarian tactics.

Was it not one of the revolution’s central demands (as with the other Arab revolutions) that the Emergency Law be brought to an end? Perhaps the Obama Administration should attempt to salvage the remaining bits of its reputation in the Mideast (post-U.N. speech) by putting pressure on the Egyptian military to bring an end to this law.

The military said the sweeping powers granted in the law were necessary to prevent the type of chaos that erupted on Sept. 9, when a mob of hundreds of Egyptians stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Ah, but of course. The usual suspects.

Future prospects look dim:

No one knows exactly how much of Egypt’s economy is controlled by the army, but most estimates place it in the “billions” of dollars range. The problem, said some analysts, is that the military likely wants to prevent the complete transition to civilian leadership to ensure its hold on these assets.

“The military will never allow a civilian president to have oversight of their budget,” Stacher said. “And the Mubarak-style tactics to control dissent on the streets is one way for the military to consolidate its rule.”

I recall hearing the chant, “The Army and the People are one”, during the Revolution. Yeah…







The Greatest Threat to America

What would you think if someone suggested normalizing relations with Cuba would be unwise because of an Iran-Cuba-Hezbollah Axis, where by the Cuban Missile Crisis would be repeated, only this time with Iranian arms placed there by a Lebanese “terrorist” organization? Well, you’d probably think they were more than a little off their rocker.

I give you… Michelle Bachmann:

I have to say, if her allegations were true, such a situation would definitely add an interesting twist to world diplomacy.

From the Middle East

I decided to separate out my coverage of events in the Middle East from the usual stuff I find on the internet and repost here in Amateur Diplomat. After all, the primary focus of this blog is supposed to be on America’s foreign affairs, and not random items of amusement, however interesting they may be. I actually haven’t been doing my job very well (ironically, I’m actually writing this at my professional job) but, what I mean, is that analysis of foreign affairs is not just the reposting of articles others have written, however brilliant or insightful they may be. I should really be providing some sort of coherent critique here.

First off, there’s been a lot of discussion in the national media regarding the Obama Administration’s response to the situations in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and now Libya. President Obama didn’t even mention Egypt in his State of the Union and three days after Mubarak was taken out of power. Obviously, the issue inside of the administration right now is attempting to reconcile the interests of the United States, especially when it comes to maintaining regional relationships regarding resources and defense, with our principles, which dictate that we support human rights, democracy, liberty, and the rule of law. Regardless of how this balancing act has played out recently, it occurred to me recently, that I honestly don’t think the Obama Administration, nor perhaps any institution that has a hand in U.S. foreign policy making, had contingency plans in place to answer the fundamental questions of “what do we do if…. regimes are toppled by popular unrest – and the Middle East is swept by a wave of democratic uprisings”. I think our foreign policy establishment was entirely unprepared to answer that question. It’s pretty clear that was the case given the sporadic and inconsistent response by the American government to each of the revolutions in the Middle East. It’s somewhat startling as well. Think about how much time and effort the Bush Administration devoted to its “Freedom Agenda” – two wars and billions of dollars later and where did we stand? Worse off than where we began. The Obama Administration began its tenure in office by initiating a 6-month review of the Afghan War. I mean, was there really no preparation done to answer the question of what the U.S. should do if revolution started of its own accord in the Middle East? It’s slightly mind-boggling, and makes me wonder if there was some sort of mis-guided perception that’s dominated the American perspective of world affairs that essentially causes us to view outside events through the prism of American/Western action – basically – that major events such as these don’t take place without some sort of catalyst on our part.

I don’t know.

Anyway, here is some of the latest and most interest coverage of events in the Middle East…
In Cradle of Libya’s Uprising, the Rebels Learn to Govern Themselves

On Thursday, the fruits of that effort were beginning to take a rough shape. A judge, still wearing his robes, wandered through traffic, ordering drivers to put on their seat belts. At another intersection, three young men helped an elderly police officer direct a traffic jam.

In Benghazi’s new order, the court building overlooking the Mediterranean has become both a seat of rebel power and the town hall.

U.S. Trying to Pick Winners in New Middle East

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was unable to reach the foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, Mr. Crowley said, citing a technical glitch.

That’s also my cat’s name.

The administration has urged Saudi Arabia not to impede King Hamad’s attempt to undertake reforms in Bahrain, an island connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway and dependent on the Saudis for political and economic support.

I also wonder if that does not include military support as well. It’s not just the military support Saudi Arabia receives from the United States, in terms of weapons and other defensive equipment, but also the reliance of Bahrain’s ruling family on an internal security service composed primarily of foreigners. I recently heard a suggestion that perhaps Saudi was sending some of its notorious religious police into Bahrain, over the bridge connecting the two countries.

An incredible video from CNN’s only correspondent in Libya, Ben Wedeman…
Gawker: The Incredible First News Footage from Liberated Benghazi, Libya
Look at all those people hallucinating on Nescafe.

WSJ: Our Bargain With The New Gadhafi

Gadhafi’s vicious regime has left Libya far worse than he found it on the day of his coup in 1969. King Idriss was at least a unifying figure for a country that had not long been unified and had been independent only since 1951. Gadhafi has established no national institutions, not even allowing a fake parliament of the Mubarak or Ben Ali variety that could perhaps be turned into something real.

Nor is there an army such as in Egypt, with the prestige and unity to intervene, restore calm and (we all hope) set the country on a better path. Gadhafi, who took power in a military coup, was too clever to allow a well-organized army that might do the same to him. Many units are organized along tribal lines, which has kept Gadhafi safe but may be his undoing now. If the tribes are central to defeating him, the next government will have to balance them carefully, using Libya’s oil wealth to buy support and time to address its many crises.

Like Idi Amin and Emperor Bokassa, Gadhafi will soon join the pantheon of grotesque dictators who leave their countries in ruins. Given the last years—when quiet disapproval replaced forceful denunciation as U.S. policy—we can only hope that Libyans remember the decades when we were Gadhafi’s worst enemy.

Roger Cohen’s latest Op-Ed in the Times…
NYT: From Oklahoma to Tobruk

I could only think of the long journey traveled by the United States from its “original sin” of slavery, through the civil war and Jim Crow, on through the long civil rights campaign and the King assassination, to the once unthinkable thing: the election of an African American to the nation’s highest office.

It takes a long time — centuries — to establish that all men really are created equal; and that “certain unalienable rights” belong to all citizens rather than to all citizens except those of a certain color.

The Arab world has embarked on a very long road to enfranchisement. It will be tempestuous but the direction taken is irreversible.


Found has an insightful article on Obama’s Justice Department’s decision to no longer stand by the Constitutionality of certain statutes of the Defense of Marriage Act…
Obama Sets Marriage Trap… for Republicans

Money Quotes:

In the end, the opponents of same sex marriage were reduced to a perfectly circular argument that would not survive a freshman philosophy class, much less law school. They asserted that the meaning of marriage was a union between opposite sexes, then concluded that allowing any other union would destroy the meaning of marriage as they had just defined it. They were forced to employ such twisted logic because there is no empirical evidence to support the exclusion of gays from marriage; the prohibition is the last vestige of the religious belief that homosexuality is sinful, a rare application of the language of the Old Testament to otherwise victimless behavior in a secular society. (One of the hardest things about talking to God is finding an expert to give a proper deposition.)

From the Middle East:

Gawker covers Muammar Gaddafi’s many fashion statements throughout the years…
Muammar Gaddafi’s Most Memorable Fashion Moments

I think this one is my favorite…

For anyone interested in the comparison between the revolutions of 1848 in Europe and those happening today in the Middle East here’s some essential background… from Wikipedia
Revolutions of 1848

An interesting twist from Yahoo India on the case of a CIA Agent? being tried in Pakistan…
“CIA Spy” Davis was giving nuclear bomb material to Al-Qaeda, says report

Money Quotes:

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is warning that the situation on the sub-continent has turned “grave” as it appears that open warfare is about to break out between Pakistan and the United States, The European Union Times reports.

The most ominous point in this SVR report is “Pakistan’s ISI stating that top-secret CIA documents found in Davis’s possession point to his, and/or TF373, providing to al Qaeda terrorists “nuclear fissile material” and “biological agents”, which they claim are to be used against the United States itself in order to ignite an all-out war in order to re-establish the West’s hegemony over a Global economy that is warned is just months away from collapse,” the paper added.

I have yet to read this article… but Robert Fisk has written his first dispatch from Libya, probably just as extraordinarily insightful as most of his work is… will probably break down with comments at a later point.

The Independent: Robert Fisk with the first dispatch from Tripoli – a city in the shadow of death


The Cool Stuff…

Mark Zuckerberg now stars as the hero of a comic…
The Mark Zuckerberg Comic Has Arrived

*A side note – “Gurl, that boy is one hot mess, and not just because of his billions in cash”

I wish I could play violin as good as this Toyota robot…

And finally, this is probably the coolest video I’ve seen all day… I’m definitely going to grow a beard like that when a) I begin writing a dissertation or b) am deployed to a remote village with the Peace Corps. He’s pretty hot to boot – I have a thing for guys with beards and nice lips… mmm… yeah I could marry him in a heartbeat

The Middle East: An Update

I know… once again this blog has failed to keep up with the rather current events taking place in the Middle East… though I have been reading much about what is currently unfolding in Cairo, Yemen, and now Syria and Jordan. Poor Lebanon’s almost been squeezed out of the news. Nobody cares anymore about Hezbollah’s “coup”, if you will. The events in Cairo have greatly overshadowed the news coming out of the Middle East. Just a couple of quick notes before I get down to business here. First off, I don’t think anybody ever expected or thought that 2011 would be the year where such fundamental changes would take place in the Middle East. What we are witnessing is truly having a profound impact on the way in which Arab citizens in countries around the region interact with their leaders. For me, it was best put by an Egyptian street protester interviewed by CNN, he spoke in broken English and said to the camera, that what we are witnessing is a rebirth of the Arabic mind. And this is precisely what is happening. It is truly historic. And I am profoundly jealous and bitter that I am not there to witness it myself, though as I write this, events in Egypt have taken a sudden, violent turn. But still, it is funny to reflect how the last year I spent in Beirut was oddly peaceful and pretty much functioned under the existing status quo, which has now been completely upended. We are truly witnessing a historic change in the Middle East.

Here’s what I’ve found to be of some interest in tracking these events…

This is probably the most ironic image I’ve seen recently :

Courtesy The Daily Dish: Democracy in The Middle East – A Visual Argument

Here is a rather fascinating insight into the events in Cairo written by a Google Blogspot blogger by the name of The Bionic Arabist who writes the blog The Colorless Revolution.
I’ll repost the entry entitled The Anti-Lawrence here, in its entirety.

I wrote this late at night/early in the morning, when I had decided to go. I’m not sure it’s the most flattering portrait of my thought-processes, but it’s honest:

I’m not exactly living through a revolution so much as living next to one. Most of the foreigners I know in Cairo, except the journalists and would-be journalists, are having a similar experience. Ultimately, this is why I’m going to leave Cairo. I don’t think I’m in danger, but this isn’t my revolution, my family and friends are worrying, and I don’t really know what to do with myself here.

The thing that I don’t know how to explain over the phone is the mixture of boredom and excitement. In one sense, it’s really boring. I spend most of my time glued to al-Jazeera, or cooking to distract myself. Occasionally, I can hear gunfire coming from the Interior Ministry, a couple blocks away, but that’s as scary as it gets (pro-tip: when searching for an apartment, consider whether you want to live next to the most hated ministry in the country. Location, location, location). Needless to say, I’m not getting dissertation research done. Libraries aren’t open, and for some reason nobody wants to talk about houses…

But there’s another sense in which it’s really exciting. This feels vain, but it’s true. It’s intoxicating. All around me, people are coming together with remarkable discipline to bring down a regime whose combination of thuggishness and banality was making me depressed, to say nothing of the people it was actually hurting. It’s exciting. I feel like I’m in the realest place in the world.

But it’s not actually my revolution. I haven’t been protesting or covering it like a journalist, or doing anything else to bask in the reflected glory of Egypt’s uprising, to feel like I’m a part of it. It’s tempting to join in the protests, but it would feel to me like a case of Lawrence of Arabia syndrome. I’m a nerdy little scholar who often finds life back home boring. Planting myself in someone else’s protest to feel like I’m involved in Something would be, I don’t know how else to put it, deeply self-indulgent. It’s not my country, and if I don’t like the new or the old regime, I can leave; the stakes for me are not the same as for Egyptians here.

The Bionic Arabist raises a fair point here. Having spent a year in Beirut, I can definitely say that it is quite easy to get carried away with the ideas and passions running not only around one’s host country, but around the region. It’s easy to get caught up in them, and to want to espouse them, or participate in their formation and evolution in a society. But at the end of the day, its simply not the same for us. We have to put ourselves at a distance from those we come to love and care about there. As much as I hate to say it, we live different lives. We can always return home. But its simply not the same for them. They have nothing else but to cope with the reality they face in their own countries. Wherever the problems come from – the political, social, or economic situation. It’s not our problem to fix, its theirs. Though we cannot deny some culpability, perhaps, in the reality they currently face. But it is not up to us to determine the outcome of their situation. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot help. Personally, I would stay, as I would have in Lebanon if some potentially terrible situation would have evolved that placed foreigners living in the country at a risk. The one thing we can do is to document what is going on, to make our own citizens and leaders aware so that they might make informed decisions in our policy. If I had a choice between braving a revolution that was not my own, or suffering through an epic New England snowstorm, well, I’d choose the former.

I don’t think I’m the only one, either in Cairo or at a keyboard back in America, who feels the urge to be a part of someone else’s revolution because of that thrill. Even if I’m not participating, just being here is exciting. I won’t lie and pretend there’s no vicarious thrill to this. Bumming around Cairo, hunting for fresh vegetables, hanging out with neighborhood watch guys, speculating about when Mubarak will give up and go away, passing the time with other nervous expats while the streets take on a carnival atmosphere – ok, a carnival with tanks, but still, it’s an adventure. I have front row seats for history.

But there are people back home who are worried about me, and the excitement isn’t worth the possibility that the phones could go down again and they’d have no way to contact me. I’m a selfish only child, but not that selfish. So I’m going. I hope I can come back soon, under a new and better regime.

Yeah, regrettably he’s right.

Other Links of Interest:

A rare Wall Street Journal interview with Syria’s President – Bashar al-Assad

NYT Magazine Preview: Julian Assange

Dealing With Assange and The Secrets He Spilled

The Times has published a fascinating account of its dealings with the man behind WikiLeaks, Julian Assange… some select quotes…

Assange was transformed by his outlaw celebrity. The derelict with the backpack and the sagging socks now wore his hair dyed and styled, and he favored fashionably skinny suits and ties. He became a kind of cult figure for the European young and leftish and was evidently a magnet for women. Two Swedish women filed police complaints claiming that Assange insisted on having sex without a condom; Sweden’s strict laws on nonconsensual sex categorize such behavior as rape, and a prosecutor issued a warrant to question Assange, who initially described it as a plot concocted to silence or discredit WikiLeaks.

I came to think of Julian Assange as a character from aStieg Larsson thriller — a man who could figure either as hero or villain in one of the megaselling Swedish novels that mix hacker counterculture, high-level conspiracy and sex as both recreation and violation.

Another time he called to tell me how much he disliked ourprofile of Bradley Manning, the Army private suspected of being the source of WikiLeaks’s most startling revelations. The article traced Manning’s childhood as an outsider and his distress as a gay man in the military. Assange complained that we “psychologicalized” Manning and gave short shrift to his “political awakening.”

Because of the range of the material and the very nature of diplomacy, the embassy cables were bound to be more explosive than the War Logs. Dean Baquet, our Washington bureau chief, gave the White House an early warning on Nov. 19. The following Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, Baquet and two colleagues were invited to a windowless room at the State Department, where they encountered an unsmiling crowd.

Unlike most of the military dispatches, the embassy cables were written in clear English, sometimes with wit, color and an ear for dialogue. (“Who knew,” one of our English colleagues marveled, “that American diplomats could write?”)

And it was important to remember that diplomatic cables are versions of events. They can be speculative. They can be ambiguous. They can be wrong.

The broader public reaction was mixed — more critical in the first days; more sympathetic as readers absorbed the articles and the sky did not fall; and more hostile to WikiLeaks in the U.S. than in Europe, where there is often a certain pleasure in seeing the last superpower taken down a peg.

Although it is our aim to be impartial in our presentation of the news, our attitude toward these issues is far from indifferent. The journalists at The Times have a large and personal stake in the country’s security. We live and work in a city that has been tragically marked as a favorite terrorist target, and in the wake of 9/11 our journalists plunged into the ruins to tell the story of what happened here. Moreover, The Times has nine staff correspondents assigned to the two wars still being waged in the wake of that attack, plus a rotating cast of photographers, visiting writers and scores of local stringers and support staff. They work in this high-risk environment because, while there are many places you can go for opinions about the war, there are few places — and fewer by the day — where you can go to find honest, on-the-scene reporting about what is happening. We take extraordinary precautions to keep them safe, but we have had two of our Iraqi journalists murdered for doing their jobs. We have had four journalists held hostage by the Taliban — two of them for seven months. We had one Afghan journalist killed in a rescue attempt. Last October, while I was in Kabul, we got word that a photographer embedded for us with troops near Kandahar stepped on an improvised mine and lost both his legs.

A free press in a democracy can be messy. But the alternative is to give the government a veto over what its citizens are allowed to know. Anyone who has worked in countries where the news diet is controlled by the government can sympathize with Thomas Jefferson’s oft-quoted remark that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers.

The intentions of our founders have rarely been as well articulated as they were by Justice Hugo Black 40 years ago, concurring with the Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from suppressing the secret Vietnam War history called the Pentagon Papers: “The government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”

Ninety-nine percent of what we read or hear on the news does not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. News mostly advances by inches and feet, not in great leaps. The value of these documents — and I believe they have immense value — is not that they expose some deep, unsuspected perfidy in high places or that they upend your whole view of the world. For those who pay close attention to foreign policy, these documents provide texture, nuance and drama. They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders. For those who do not follow these subjects as closely, the stories are an opportunity to learn more. If a project like this makes readers pay attention, think harder, understand more clearly what is being done in their name, then we have performed a public service. And that does not count the impact of these revelations on the people most touched by them. WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.

He spun out an elaborate version of aU.S. Justice Department effort to exact punishment for his assault on American secrecy. If he was somehow extradited to the United States, he said, “I would still have a high chance of being killed in the U.S. prison system, Jack Ruby style, given the continual calls for my murder by senior and influential U.S. politicians.”

My American Dream

Word Cloud from Obama's State of The Union

Alright… here we go… I have grudgingly accepted the necessity to write about the current state of affairs in the Middle East. Let’s begin with a story first. As many of you may know, I passed the written examination for entrance into the Foreign Service last October. This is the first of a multi-step process to become a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, and has remained my dream and ultimate career goal for nearly half a decade now. From passing the written examination (on my second try) I moved into the next stage of the process which was answering a number of personal narrative questions (or QEPs, I believe, for anyone familiar with the process) which were then submitted for review. The answers provided for the questions are accompanied with recommendations, or essentially, sources to provide a credible backing for each answer. I thought my responses were pretty decent. In addition to this, I participated in a phone interview in Arabic with the Foreign Service Institute as I had indicated on the written exam my proficiency in Modern Standard Arabic. There really was no way to find out how I did on that interview. And I wasn’t entirely sure how well it went, since my examiners jumped to a more difficult level with my asking questions in Arabic about the U.S. congressional elections and the state of our democracy. Passing a language exam, at the required Level 2, can only help an application, not hurt it in any way. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised, finally receiving word back this week on my progression as a candidate for the Foreign Service that I had not been selected to procede to the next stage of the examination process, which would have been the Oral Examination. Needless to say, I was pretty dismayed, and have since been in somewhat of a stupor when it comes to following events in the realm of U.S. Foreign Policy. Though, oddly enough, the rejection of my dream came to coincide with President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Prior to the address, watching Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Cabinet walking down the aisle on the floor of the Capitol, I was admittedly bitter, having just been rejected by the woman who leads the department I want to devote a career to and represent. She stands for something more than politics now; she is the head of our foreign policy and our face to the world. So I sat there grimacing, with a stoney, emotionless expression on my face, waiting for the President to deliver his address to the nation.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny.  That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here.  It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea?  What would you change about the world?  What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This is what defines America. I am not particularly a fan of the term “American exceptionalism” because it has been seriously misconstrued and spun into something quite dangerous by individuals such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. But that we were the first nation to be founded upon an idea, or perhaps a bed of multiple ideas that came out of the Enlightenment, as it were, does make us unique, and is something that is enshrined in the principles laid down in our founding documents. And don’t get me wrong, we’re certainly not the only nation anymore that’s been founded upon an idea, and perhaps one can even make the argument that human civilizations have been founded on ideas since the dawn of time, but it is something that defines America. And certainly, at the time when our nation was established, there was nothing quite like it on Earth. It follows a political perspective I’m fond of, when it comes to determining how America should behave internationally, which is as the “first among equals.” We’re not better or superior than anyone else, nor should we define ourselves as exceptional or some how above the rest. But we should lead, and lead well.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice:  If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher.  Your country needs you.  (Applause.)

I’ve strongly considered doing this at some point in my life. Teaching history or some aspect of international politics or foreign policy would undoubtedly be highly rewarding. And it was actually through a high-school history teacher that I came to piece together the idea of wanting to become a civil servant in some capacity.

And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.  And because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

Yes, it should shine. We should lead by example, with our principles dictating our actions and not the other way around. Is Obama invoking Wilson here, perhaps just a bit? And as far as our image being renewed… well, ha, it’s going to take a lot longer than 2 years of a Presidency to do that. We’ve still got a hell of a long way to go, especially in the Middle East, to rectify our standing.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.

Though I might enjoy living and serving my country from the outside more than inside, I’ll always be grateful to return to the places here that I consider home.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.  We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try.  We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible.  No matter who you are.  No matter where you come from.

And this is where I didn’t feel so bad anymore about not being selected to move on to the next stage of the process for the Foreign Service. I might have to go back to square one and take the written exam again, but I will certainly do it again next October. I can only keep trying.

We’re a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.”  “I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.”  “I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try.”  “I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there.  I know we will.”

As often as I read about Lebanon and feel the knife twist inside the open wound I’ve carried since leaving that country, I can say without a doubt that I always return to the notion that there are so many reasons for me to go back there. I’ll  never forget my interaction with Asra, that little girl in the Shatilla Palestinian Refugee camp in South Beirut. She taught me more Arabic than I could teach her English. The way her smile lit up the dark, gray areas of a camp and a school that had absolutely nothing. It doesn’t take some grand foreign policy strategy to help her or others like her. It only takes one individual to care.

And that’s why I must try again at the Foreign Service and must eventually return to Lebanon, or anywhere else where I feel I can do something to help.

That is my American Dream.