The passage of Obamacare confirms Fouad Ajami’s characterization of Barack Obama as America’s first “cosmopolitan” president – i.e., the first to see the European model of governance by centralized bureaucracies as a model for emulation. Obamacare marks a transformative moment in the relationship of Americans to their government. It will vastly expand the federal bureaucracy and limit the freedom of choice of every “private” actor in the health care system – patients, doctors and insurers.
America has embarked on the European path of economic stagnation and declining influence. Since 1945, Europe has depended on America to defend it, while spending ever smaller percentages of its GNP on defense. The huge budget deficits resulting from Obamacare will push America in the same direction.
Every major government entitlement program has ended up costing many times more than initially projected, and the proponent’s cost projections on Obamacare do not meet even minimal levels of credibility. Those costs are predicated on half a billion dollars of annual cuts in Medicare. Either those cuts will be quickly rescinded, or a large group of angry seniors will find out that they can no longer find doctors willing to treat them.
World War II cost Britain its empire, and the huge budget deficits racked up by Obamacare will likely force America to abandon its role as global policeman. That may be fine with Obama, who shows a profound unease with Pax Americana. Yet an American withdrawal will not leave a kinder, gentler world. A nuclear Iran will inspire many imitators, and the retreat of the Great Satan will only whet the appetite of radical Islam. From these threats, the UN will not protect us.
OBAMA PROMISED to deliver on health care reform where all previous presidents failed. What next could satisfy the vaulting ambition of the most self-referential president ever, one who described his nomination, without a trace of irony, as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”? Cap-and-trade, which would intrude another massive federal bureaucracy into every area of the American economy, would fit the bill. But political suicide is by definition a one-time affair, and there will not be enough supporters left in Congress to pass cap-and-trade.
The next frontier, then, will be in foreign policy, which necessitates no messy negotiations with Congress. Foreign policy offers more opportunities as well for one who seeks to be remembered not just as the president of the United States but as the high priest of the “religion of humanity.”
Obama seeks to deliver a Palestinian state – not to be confused with bringing peace to the Middle East. That is the meaning of the demand made on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to commit to a Palestinian state within two years.
Any peace other than that of the graveyard would minimally require the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence and renounce the “right of return,” ensure Israel’s ability to prevent the West Bank from becoming another Gaza Strip within kilometers of its only international airport and major population center, and recognize that no Israeli government can uproot half a million Jews from homes built beyond the 1949 armistice lines.
None of these goals are subject to deadlines, and none are closer to attainment than they were at the outset of the Oslo process. The Palestinian Authority today refuses to even sit in the same room with Israelis. How can it make peace? Another generation of Palestinian children has been raised on a cult of martyrdom and the promise of Israel’s eventual destruction. The PA – not Hamas, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erroneously stated last week – celebrates arch-terrorist Dalal Mugrahbi, architect of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre.
Vice President Joe Biden says that it is hard for the Palestinians to stop incitement, even in the PA-controlled media and school system, just as it is hard for Israel to stop building in Jerusalem. But Israel never undertook not to build in Jerusalem. The Palestinians, however, undertook at the outset of Oslo to stop incitement. They are no closer to delivering on that promise today. If ending incitement is hard for the PA leadership, that is only because the Palestinian street is not ready for peace and has never been prepared for it by its leadership.
But peace for Israel is far less important to Obama than a state for the Palestinians. No confidence-building measures are ever requested from the Palestinians. At every stage, new demands are placed on Israel to placate them and convince them that the US has the power to deliver a state on terms even they cannot refuse.
The Obama administration has made a final solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict the centerpiece of its foreign policy – far more important than preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It has long since been clear that the US will take no serious steps to prevent a nuclear Iran, despite repeated representations by Sunni leaders that stopping Iran from going nuclear is a far greater priority for them than a Palestinian state.
THE ADMINISTRATION would never have invested so much energy in the Palestinian-Israel conflict unless it believed in the possibility of success. That belief is predicated on two assumptions.
First, there is a solution to the conflict that is obvious to all “rational” men: Israel’s return to its 1967 borders with minor adjustments. Palestinian intentions to live in peace are deemed irrelevant.
Second, that settlement can be imposed on Israel. Last May, National Security Adviser James Jones conveyed to a senior European official that “an endgame solution” would be formulated by the US, EU and moderate Arab states, with Israel and the Palestinians relegated to the role of bystanders. He happily allowed that Israel would “not be thrown under the bus.”
For the Obama administration, pressure on Israel is win-win. Even if the president fails to deliver a Palestinian state, the administration’s evident hostility creates “the space” Obama told Jewish leaders last July he seeks between the US and Israel. The realist prescriptions of Walt/Mearsheimer/Brzezinski, according to which Israel harms American interests, become more dominant in the administration’s thinking by the day, most notoriously in the hints by a series of administration officials that Israel’s actions are endangering American troops. The realist approach brings the cosmopolitan president in sync with Europe, for which Israel has long constituted a nuisance.
The hostility of the Obama administration has not been merely a matter of tone – e.g., hectoring demands from the secretary of state, humiliating rituals with Netanyahu left to consider the error of his ways while the president sups with his family. Israel’s quantitative military edge has been allowed to wither: According to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, every Israeli request for upgraded weapons systems has been denied, while the Arab states, most notably Egypt, have been provided with numerous advanced systems on par with Israel’s. Most recently, bunker busters necessary for any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities were diverted.
The only foreign policy agreement the current administration has succeeded in securing was a statement two weeks ago by the Quartet condemning Israeli building in Jerusalem. (A treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissively pointed out to Obama, is profoundly unserious while rogue states like Iran and North Korea edge closer to going fully nuclear.)
No J Street Seder led by the president can disguise that Obama is not, as they say, “that into” Israel. Not by happenstance did he sit comfortably for nearly 20 years listening to Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic invective (including honoring Louis Farrakhan). Martin Peretz, who actively campaigned for Obama, now admits that “he doesn’t particularly like Israel.”
Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the liberal Washington Post
, describes him as “vindictive and ideological” toward Israel.
Pessah celebrates God’s freeing of the Jewish people from servitude to
flesh and blood to become His servants. The American people are
Israel’s strongest supporters and most important allies; we share with
them defining values and vital interests. But this Pessah, the Jews of
Israel, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, must remember that
President Obama is not our master and will not determine our fate.The writer is the director of Jewish Media Resources. He has written a regular column in
The Jerusalem Post Magazine since 1997, and is the author of eight biographies of modern Jewish leaders.