Obama's First year - The Writing Was on the Wall
"Makor Rishon" weekly, January 15, 2010
I am not surprised by President Obama's performance – since January 2009 - in face of unprecedented and simultaneous economic, social, national security challenges, domestically and internationally.
I am not surprised by President Obama, who was elected to the most difficult and complicated post – during a most unstable period internally and externally – in spite of his obvious lack of experience and superficial world view.
I am not surprised by President Obama's policy toward the Jewish State and toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is a derivative of his world view that was fully displayed during the 2008 campaign.
I am not surprised by President Obama's performance – the writing was on the wall for those who were ready to read it!
Obama was elected at the peak of an economic meltdown, the extent of which has not been determined. Millions of Americans have lost their homes, unemployment is around a 26 year record 10%, under-employment is 17%, the budget deficit is the worst since the end of WW2, hundreds of banks have collapsed, the real estate bubble burst, private consumption and investment have dipped beyond expectation, the social security and the medical insurance systems are severely threatened, taxes are rising and government's involvement in the economy is expanding. Obama is increasingly identified and burdened with the economic crisis – which was not caused by him - and the steps taken to solve the crisis.
Obama prefers to be preoccupied with domestic challenges, which will determine the future of the USA and of his presidency. However, as expected, he is sucked into the lava of Islamic terrorism and religious, territorial, tribal, ideological and power struggles throughout the globe. While Obama extends his hand to rogue regimes, Islamic terrorism stretches its hand into the US mainland, exacerbating a sense of insecurity and reawakening the question: "When – and not if – will the second shoe fall?!" Islamic terrorism has intensified its operational, political, financial, ideological and logistical involvement in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the USA, Latin America and Australia.
Pakistan persists in its double-role of the most critical base of Islamic terrorism on one hand and counter-terrorism on the other hand. In fact, Islamabad could be taken over by terrorists along with its nuclear arsenal. India's restraint in the face of Islamic terrorism may be suspended, reigniting the endemic conflict with Pakistan. The US war in Afghanistan could be Vietnamized and the war in Iraq is far from a conclusion. The possible evacuation of US troops from these two arenas could add fuel, not water, to the fire, further destabilizing the region and the globe.
Syria has provided safe haven for anti-US Iraqi terrorists. Iran supports and incites Persian Gulf and global terrorism, while upgrading its ballistic and nuclear capabilities, which would agitate the Gulf, the Middle East, the US, Europe and the entire world. Nuclear North Korea has been a source of unexpected threats. Russia and China have never hidden their imperial aspirations, which have gravely concerned their neighbors in East Europe and Asia. Mexico is facing a lethal challenge from drug cartels, which have expanded their internal wars into Texas, Arizona and California. Venezuela and Cuba collaborate with enemies and rivals of the USA, who may thus gain access to Washington's backyard. And, that's an incomplete list of external challenges preoccupying Obama.
President Obama is facing these challenges with a world view, which was enunciated during the 2008 campaign and in three major speeches at Cairo University (June 4, 2009), the UN General Assembly (September 23, 2009) and West Point Military Academy (December 1, 2009).
In contrast with the US ethos, Obama does not believe in the moral, economic and military exceptionalism of the US or in the destiny of the US to lead the battle of Western democracies against rogue regimes. He views the US as a power-in-retreat, which abused its dominance. Therefore, he systematically apologizes to Muslims, in particular, and Third World societies in general, investigates the conduct of CIA agents in their war against terrorists and is closing down the Gitmo detention camp. He does not define the world as an arena of confrontation between free societies and terror organizations and states, but as a platform of engagement between rivals who must comprehend that covenants and accords are preferable to wars and that their common ground exceeds that which separates them.
Obama is convinced that military force does not solve conflicts and that the era of military balance is over. Therefore, he cuts the budget of military R&D and missile defense, does not replenish military inventories consumed in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not expand US armed forces despite expanding threats and initiates agreements to reduce the arms race, even when this advances Russian interests.
Obama's Administration refrains from using the terms "international terrorism," "Islamic terrorism," (because "Islam is part of America…") or "Jihadist terrorism" (because "Jihad means to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal…"). According to Obama, there are no terrorists, only "extremists," "man-made disasters" and "isolated cases" such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Terrorism is considered a challenge for law-enforcement officials rather than for military personnel. Moreover, terrorism constitutes, to an extent, a Third World reaction to abuse and lack of respect by the Western World. Therefore, terrorists benefit from the rights of civil law offenders. And, when there is no moral clarity, there is hardly battle field clarity.
Obama considers the UN as the quarterback of international relations and the bureaucracy of Foggy Bottom as the luminaries of foreign policy. He aspires to move closer to the European state of mind and world view, while the world is in a dire need of a US Marshall and not for a European cop. Hence, Obama aims at minimizing unilateral initiatives and maximizing military, legal, political and environmental multilateralism. He has joined the vehemently anti-US and anti-Israel UN Council on Human Rights, which was boycotted by Bush. Furthermore, he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, who headed the Council on Human Rights and led the racist anti-US and anti-Israel UN "Durban Conference."
Obama's attitude toward the Jewish State has been a by-product of his aforementioned world view, of his non Judeo-Christian background and of his inner circle associates and friends at Harvard University and in Chicago, who have been critical and hostile toward Israel. The principles of "moral equivalence" and "evenhandedness" have underlined his policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict. He does not regard Israel as a strategic, let alone unique, ally and is hardly a supporter of US joint defense and commercial projects with Israel. He does not rush to defend Israel at the UN and views the Jewish State as part of the exploiting Western World and the Arabs as part of the exploited Third World.
Obama has adopted the sophisticated line of Arab propaganda, claiming that the moral foundation of Israel is the Holocaust, which resulted in ushering Jews to a newly acquired home, while uprooting Palestinians from their own home. He perceives the Palestinian issue as the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the root cause of anti-US Islamic terrorism and the chief trigger of Middle East turbulence. His prescription for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949/67 Lines, the uprooting of Jewish communities in the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria, the repartitioning of Jerusalem, the negotiation of the return of the 1948 Arab refugees to the pre-1967 Israel and the exchange of land. President Obama is intent on clipping the wings of the Jewish State morally, strategically and territorially. However, that is not a top priority for him. He would not confront Israel's friends on Capitol Hill and in the public if they are mobilized against his prescription. Does Obama have the power to overcome such a pro-Israel alliance and impose a solution on Israel?
Voters in the US elected Obama to office, in spite of his lack of experience domestically and globally. Instead of reading the writing on the wall, US voters entertained the delusion that an "attractive cover" meant an "instructive book." However, Obama's conduct since January 2009 has led to the collapse of his attractive image. For example, a majority of Americans oppose higher taxes, an expanded budget deficit and bigger government, which have become Obama's trade mark. 60% of the US public believes that the US is moving in the wrong direction. Support for Obama has declined from 65% in January 2009, to less than 50% in January 2010 – the steepest presidential decline since 1975.
From a consensus-builder candidate in 2008 he has emerged as a controversy-promoting president in 2009. From a moderate candidate he has transformed into a liberal president, while only 20% of the American public consider themselves to be Liberals. From a coattail candidate, who received the Independent vote and swept Democrats to a major victory in both congressional chambers, he has become an anchor-chained president, who has distanced Independents from the Democratic Party, has energized the Angry White Vote and could drag Democrats to defeat in November 2010. The Democratic failure in November 2009 and public opinion polls for the spring primaries and for the November 2010 election, suggest a major Republican tailwind. As a result, a number of prominent Democratic legislators have announced retirement. Therefore, as we approach the November 2010 election, and as legislators are growing more attentive to their constituents, moderate and conservative Democratic legislators are distancing themselves from President Obama.
While Obama is perceived as a President who strays away from the American consensus, Israel benefits from a consensus support. "Joe Six Pack" and "Lunch Pail Mabel," conservative and liberal America, Jews and Christians, Republicans and Democrats do not view Israel as a classic foreign policy issue, but as an internal Judeo-Christian American issue, which is bonded with the USA through shared values, mutual threats and joint interests. Israel is largely regarded as a peace-seeking democratic militarily-able ally, surrounded by enemies who reject American values. US public opinion polls position Israel as the fourth or fifth most favorite ally with 66%-70% support, compared with the Palestinian Authority, which is at the bottom of the list along with Iran and North Korea. The key factor of support for the idea of a Jewish State – since the 17th century – has been the US public and its representatives on Capitol Hill. Most initiatives enhancing the US-Israel relationship originated in Congress, many times following a struggle against an opposing Administration. President Obama's world view suggests that such struggles could be intensified during the next few years.
The writing is on the wall!