My latest piece at Punditwire, where I note with horror that the Milibandistic dry rot of filling speeches with meaningless – but also intellectually shifty – musty/needs exhortations has spread all the way across the Atlantic to President Obama’s speechwriters:

… his [Obama’s] recent well received speech in Israel, where the m-word is used a disturbing 21 times:

• Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin

• Iran must know this time is not unlimited

• Iran must not get a nuclear weapon

• America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran

• and that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement

• the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized

• Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed

• Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state

• Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn

• you must create the change that you want to see

Why does this style of rhetoric start to sound hollow, if not annoying?

Partly because the machine-gun spray of all these supposed requirements devalues each of them. But also because it asserts a false intellectual leadership, hinting at bold visionary purpose while side-stepping any personal or political responsibility for making anything on the list happen back in real life?

So, for example, what will be the President’s response if (as seems more than likely) Arab states ignore the President’s call for reform and do not, “adapt to a world that has changed?” Or if Israel doesn’t, “recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive?”

That said, while we love to moan about our leaders’ supposed evasiveness and/or dishonesty as exemplified by slippery language like this, how will we respond if they start being honest – and admit that most outcomes they think good for us are completely outside their control?

Good last question. To which answers come there none.