May 19, 2011

Passing "Must"er

Hatched by Dafydd

It's extraordinary how many times President Barack H. Obama uses a particular four-letter word, especially in public utterances. In his most recent speech, for example, he uses it 32 times in 74 paragraphs, or once every 2.3 grafs. It's jarring to hear such a muster of oaths coming from the mouth of the most powerful man in the world.

Submitted as evidence is the president's speech on "the Middle East and North Africa"... the "making a long nutshell short" edition:

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end....” *

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind....

There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity....

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility....

[I]t’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome....

Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions....

But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place....

The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition....

But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change -- with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today....

The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis....

America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region....

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites....

Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information....

And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain....

So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy....

The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young....

Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year....

The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace....

A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders -- must believe peace is possible....

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear....

The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state....

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated....

That is the choice that must be made....

It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people....

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa.

* Although the first instance of Obama's favorite four-letter word apes the form of a quotation, the Yemeni students of Sanaa doubtless chanted their chant in Arabic, not English; as a White House translation of the chant (if said chant occurred at all), the "must" must be laid at the feet of President B.O., not the hapless protesters in Yemen. (And if it didn't really occur but was just made up for dramatic effect, that plonks the must even more firmly in Obama's hands.)

As I understand the word, "must" means "is required to;" we must do this means we are required to do it. But I'm more than a little puzzled over who, exactly, requires that America "proceed with a sense of humility" and "also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites." And while it's certainly true that persons in a negoiation are required to negotiate "the core issues of the conflict," it sounds like a trivially obvious point.

By contrast, with "that is the choice that must be made," miserly Obama won't even reveal the name of the "Person X" making the choice, let alone the "Person Y" chap behind the scenes, requiring Person X's complete participation. I must be misreading.

(Later the president qualifies that such choices should be made by leaders, and also by people. Having just watched the beginning of the sixth season of the new Doctor Who, I'm intensely curious to discover who those non-person leaders might be.)

I must be reading the wrong speeches. Something must be done -- choices must be made by leaders (and by people); strong action must be taken through proper channels; and the President of the United States must cease and desist all use of that overripe, placeholder word in public, the word that swaps a verbal imperative -- this must be done! -- for any concrete effort to do it.

It's an absolute must!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 19, 2011, at the time of 6:13 PM

Comments

The following hissed in response by: Beldar

This is the fierce urgency of that which is very urgently, uh, fierce.

The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 21, 2011 4:13 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Note that he always says "you must", but "I will". The "I will" is always about stuff that other people must do. To paraphrase the way he talks...."I will make this country great again. To do that everyone must sacrifice."

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 23, 2011 1:53 PM

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