Change you can believe in: Obama bows to Saudi king

sergio

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Yes, I believe there would be an outcry against Obama's bowing the same way before the emperor of Japan - maybe even worse as the memories of Pearl Harbor have yet to fade. Neither the king of Saudi Arabia nor the emperor of Japan, however, expect such obsequious greetings from westerners. I lived in Japan for a number of years. Westerners were never expected to imitate the complex system of bowing. A simple slight bow of the head such as Obama gave Queen Elizabeth was considered more than enough. Trying to follow the Japanese custom of bowing would very likely backfire as it is complex - the depth of the bow and the length of time the head must remain down are dependent on the status of the person to whom you are bowing as well as the situation. Westerners are far more likely to make fools of themselves than to please their hosts when they adopt customs they do not practice or understand. I am quite sure that King Abdullah, a worldly man, expected nothing more than a handshake from the President of the United States. I doubt that he would receive such groveling behavior from many of his own subjects, given the fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is divided over the issue of the monarchy with both liberals and ultra conservative Wahabbi extremists opposed to corruption within the royal family. What surprises me on this website is the willingness of expats, many of whom are surely feminists, to tolerate Obama's act of obeisance to the king of a nation that denies fundamental human rights in particular to women who are not allowed to leave their homes unaccompanied by male relatives, who may not leave the Kingdom without written consent from their closest male relative, who are prohibited from driving cars and generally denied what we in the west consider fundamental human rights. This is why I must disagree with the poster who dismisses Obama’s foolish bow as insignificant. It was an important symbol. Symbols say a lot and what that bow says is disturbing.
 

RWS

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Conorworld said:
. . . . Simply put it is just a lot of hoopla over nothing.
I did my doctoral work in history, have served in the White House (a Democrat's administration, lest the more biased wonder), and have undertaken both international and diplomatic work. None of this would be regarded as "nothing" by scholars, higher-level civil servants, diplomats, or even large-scale international businessmen. If, after all this discussion, "Conor" or any other poster fails to recognize the world as it is, I can add . . . "nothing".
 

owenaj

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tangobob said:
My understanding is that as they are both heads of state then there is no need to bow, they are equal rank. That is why Michelle was allowed to touch the Queen.
Since when is the wife of the president the same rank as a head of state? Silly.
 

Conorworld

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RWS said:
I did my doctoral work in history, have served in the White House (a Democrat's administration, lest the more biased wonder), and have undertaken both international and diplomatic work. None of this would be regarded as "nothing" by scholars, higher-level civil servants, diplomats, or even large-scale international businessmen. If, after all this discussion, "Conor" or any other poster fails to recognize the world as it is, I can add . . . "nothing".
I respect your opinion and your experience in this situation but I still think that making this a major issue perpetuates the archaic attributes to such an instance. Furthermore while we are seeing it from the view of the camera we still don't know what the whole conversation was. I am not saying it was a joke between them. It could just have been what I mentioned earlier with what happened with Cristina previously all just a misunderstanding but again it's making an issue of something that is nothing.
Maybe it is because I am just a normal layman. Maybe I just don't understand this whole different realm of archaic protocol that has built up over centuries, a realm which not just the leaders involved but the other people in diplomacy have a stake in continuing and preserving. But nevertheless I am a layman, looking at things from the view of a camera without knowing all the silly protocols and context of the conversations going on and think that it is all a storm in a teacup.
 

sergio

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Conorworld, There is no protocol requiring the President of a republic to bow in a medieval fashion before the king of a completely undemocratic country. Read my post above (before RWS). Surely it is common sense that no one could expect the President of a democratic state -founded in opposition to monarchy - to behave in such an obsequious and demeaning way. It could hardly have been a joke! That would have amounted to a mockery of the king and an outrageous breach of protocol. Obama did not treat the queen of England - one of the most democratic of all states - in the same extravagant way. Why did the king of Saudi Arabia, in Obama's eyes, deserve such extraordinary treatment?
 

desertrose

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Sergio you talk about feminism and how bad the situation is for women in that unworldly place, have you ever lived in the Middle East? Many women are more than happy with the society they live in. You do not have to understand it, but you cannot just apply your Western standards and make a judgment.
I personally do not think that there would have been such fuzz had he bowed to Emperor Akihito. The problem arises when there's signs of subserviance to a Muslim leader...
On a lighter note, the other greeting mishap was hilarious :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U_eqTAdzvI
 

sergio

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Desert, that you tube clip was very funny! Poor Cristina....

I don't think one necessarily has to live in a place to be informed about its social and political climate however I have in fact lived in the Middle East. No doubt some fundamentalist women are content with the social status quo however there are many Saudi women and men who want change. I can assure you that once women are allowed to drive cars, for example, you are going to see them doing so. You are probably right that the reaction to an obsequious bow to a Muslim is more offensive to many Americans than to the emperor of a country that once brutally attacked the United States and conducted a fierce war against the US however I still believe that Americans would have been offended by such a demeaning gesture, especially those with memories of WW II or whose parents served in the military during that period.
 

jp

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Blimey.

Poor obama. If this thread is anything to go by, ever single action the man takes during his tenure will be pregnant with meaning. The man won't be able to sneeze or wipe his arse without someone commenting on the symbolism of using white double ply paper to wipe away the remains of a of a bowel movement, carefully constructed from the products of failed agricultural policies and branded consumer food produce etc etc.

He might have overbalanced whilst bowing. He might have had a crick in his back. He might just not have been thinking too hard about how the curvature of his spine will be interpreted by millions of people around the world. Maybe he has more important things on his mind. I'd seriously hope so.
 

RWS

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And so it's been for most presidents during the past forty years. It's part of what one bargains for while beseeching the electorate to choose him.

jp said:
. . . Poor obama. If this thread is anything to go by, ever single action the man takes during his tenure will be pregnant with meaning. . . .
 

sergio

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jp, don't be naive. Every President's actions are analyzed with a fine tooth comb. As for the bow, it is more likely that Obama intended to convey his deep respect for the king than anything else. If so, it's worth analyzing why he feels that wayt. I doubt his spine was bothering him.
 
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