I don’t think one could come up with a more teachable moment regarding
international affairs – and including Middle East politics – than a little
incident that just happened between US President Barack Obama and
First, the facts: Obama gave an interview to a Venezuelan
newspaper in which he articulated some of his administration’s most basic
themes. “Venezuela is a proud, sovereign nation,” said the president, adding
that “the United States has no intention of intervening in Venezuela’s foreign
relations; however, I think the government’s ties with Iran and Cuba have not
benefited the interests of Venezuela and its people.
“Sooner or later,
Venezuela’s people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in
having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is
isolated from most of the world. The Iranian government has consistently
supported international terrorism.”
Now, this is precisely the same
approach that Obama has taken toward Iran. He said, and this has been a common
talking point for administration officials, that Iran would not benefit from
having nuclear weapons. He continued:
“Iran understands that they have a choice:
They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and forswearing the
development of nuclear weapons, which would still allow them to pursue peaceful
nuclear power, like every other country that’s a member of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty, or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the
Obama has rejected America’s leadership role. He feels
that the United States has been too much of a bully historically, so he doesn’t
stress what US interests require but politely asks other – hostile – countries
to behave differently. He tells them that to do so is in their interest because
their current behavior doesn’t benefit them.
Foreign leaders can only
react with astonishment and – if they are hostile – laughter. If they are
pro-American they react with horror.
THIS APPROACH is a clear sign of
weakness and fear. It practically puts a “kick me” sign on Washington’s
Furthermore, telling someone else what their “true” interests is no
less patronizing than telling them what your own interests are and demanding
that they be respected. When you ask an aggressive dictator “pretty please,” you
are asking for some spit in the face.
That’s just what Obama’s gotten
received from Venezuela, Iran, and others. Take the response from Venezuelan
dictator, Hugo Chavez: “Obama, mind you own business, man. Focus on governing
your country, which has become a disaster.
Now you’re going looking for
votes by attacking Venezuela....
“Obama, you’re a phony.... Go and ask
the black community in your country what you are to them: the biggest
frustration in I don’t know how many years. Go and ask the many people in Africa
who may have believed in you because of the color of your skin, because your
father was from Africa. You’re a descendent of Africa, but you are the shame of
all those people.”
In other words, your enemy reacts with disdain. You
may not criticize him but he’ll criticize you. You may not do things he doesn’t
like but he’ll do things you don’t like.
And each time Obama ignores
these insults, ignores the violations of US interests, ignores the threats and
attacks on US allies.
That is also why Obama can disrespect US allies:
They can only rarely, if ever, answer back as Chavez or Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do. Obama may sizzle over Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu’s slap-down in a brilliant oration to a joint session of Congress, but
his websites bulge with statements of praise wrung from Israeli leaders heard
through their gnashing of teeth.
But there’s something else going on here
that shows his ignorance and signals his ineffectiveness. America’s
enemies know perfectly well where their interests lie. Of course, the Venezuelan
regime benefits by building alliances with fellow radicals and anti-Americans.
Iran’s regime benefits in many ways by seeking nuclear weapons.
same in Turkey, where the regime benefits by forming alliances with Iran,
Hezbollah, Hamas and other fellow revolutionary Islamists. Palestinian
Authority rulers benefit by not negotiating or compromising with Israel. The
Muslim Brotherhood benefits by seeking to seize state power and transform their
states into Islamist ones. And so on.
Obama thinks that he can persuade
radicals to be moderate. Thirty years ago, President Jimmy Carter also thought
the US government could persuade the new Islamist regime in Iran to be moderate.
In the 1990s President Bill Clinton thought a spell in power would turn Yasser
Arafat into a moderate. It was just a matter of these revolutionaries seeing
where their true interests were.
More recently, Vice President Joe Biden
said US policy in Afghanistan was to “try to get the Taliban to move in the
direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be
engaged with al- Qaida or any other organization that they would harbor to do
damage to us and our allies....”
Recently, a Third World diplomat whose
democratic country has faced threats from radical regimes asked me why people
fail to understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical group. All I could
answer was that people simply do not understand the role of
Part of this handicap is cultural; part due to ideological
blindness on Obama’s own part. Yet the Obama administration is also ensuring it
won’t learn by covering its eyes and ears, pretending that a revolutionary
Islamist ideology doesn’t even exist.
Perhaps the most incredible aspect
of all this is the numerous attempts by the Obama administration and its
apologists –including Jews – to pretend that its policy is really good for
Israel. Over and over again such people and their writings always ignore the
regional strategic aspect of the damage that it is doing.
So what if the
US government gives Israel military aid, which mostly consists of maintaining
old programs? The Obama administration is building up the threat Israel faces to
unprecedented levels. “I love Israel” statements don’t solve this huge strategic
The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a featured columnist at Pajamas Media. His new book,
Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January.