These are tough times for Barack Obama. Barely three weeks have passed since his
party received a “shellacking,” as he put it, in the midterm elections, denying
him unfettered control over Congress and putting his domestic agenda in
Obama’s approval ratings have been sinking faster than Paris
Hilton’s acting career, and the president is even finding himself to be the
object of mockery on late-night television.
As Jay Leno recently noted on
The Tonight Show: “In an upcoming interview with Barbara Walters, Sarah Palin
says she believes she can beat Obama in 2012. The way things are going right
now, [her daughter] Bristol Palin could beat Obama in 2012.”
enough, the newly-weakened president has turned his attention overseas, seeking
to squeeze out something – anything! – that might resemble a victory and burnish
his image. But even that isn’t going all too well. Weakness invites antagonism,
and America’s foes – and even many of its allies – have wasted little time
“dissing” the leader of the free world.
Consider the following: At the
recent G-20 summit in South Korea, Obama tried to get America’s European
partners to press China to change its monetary policy. What should have been an
easy sell quickly backfired when leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel
turned around and instead berated the president because of the slumping US
dollar. Pundits and politicians alike labeled it an astonishing
Then, while still in Seoul, Obama was rebuffed by the South
Korean government, which refused to sign a much-anticipated free-trade agreement
with the US, marking yet another humiliating turn of events.
ostensible American pals have also joined in the fun, feeling free to lecture
Washington at will. Take, for example, Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Despite
owing his job and personal safety to the 100,000 American troops in his country,
he felt no compunction about confronting the president and denouncing US policy
at the NATO summit in Lisbon last week.
The wily Karzai knows a thing or
two about political maneuvering, and saw an easy opportunity to score some
points back home at a hapless Obama’s expense.
Back in the Middle East,
the Obama administration took it on the chin as well, when PA President Mahmoud
Abbas rejected an American proposal to restart peace talks with Israel. Egypt,
too, got into the act by slapping down the American administration. Cairo
rebuffed pleas from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even Obama himself to
allow international monitors into the country to certify that the upcoming
parliamentary balloting is free and fair.
Needless to say, this has not
gone unnoticed by America’s enemies, who are having a field day at Obama’s
Just last week, in a provocative and highly unusual move, North
Korea allowed an American scientist to tour one of its top-secret nuclear
facilities, taunting the US as it continues to expand its atomic weapons program
with impunity. It was as if the North Korean regime was sending a message
directly to Washington: You don’t scare us.
It seems no one on the
international stage is really taking Obama all that seriously anymore. All the
shine and glitter have worn off.
As tempting as it may be to rejoice in
Obama’s difficulties – and it is quite inviting – this is no reason to
If you believe, as I do, that America is a force for good in
the world, a country that upholds the highest values of freedom, democracy and
human rights, then any decline in American influence and power is hardly a
If anything, it does not bode well for global
stability, and opens the door to all kinds of mischief by the bad guys out
BUT IT is not too late for Washington to turn things around. There
is one dramatic step that Obama can take that would have a transformative
effect, not only on his standing in public opinion but on the world itself: Take
aggressive action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
The greatest threat to
global peace and security today is the possibility of the ayatollahs going
atomic. The thought of the would-be Hitler of Persia getting his hands on a
nuclear weapon is one that should send shivers down the spine of every Israeli
and every Westerner. It would be a game-changer in every sense of the term,
upsetting the strategic balance in the Middle East and giving Iran the
unprecedented ability to intimidate and coerce its neighbors.
investing so much energy and resources in trying to resolve the
Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Obama would do himself and the world an enormous
favor if he would turn his sights toward Teheran. Imposing punishing sanctions
and using military force if necessary to stop the Iranian nuclear program would
rally the American public behind his administration and underscore the fact that
US deterrence is alive and well. In one fell swoop, Obama could restore America
to its rightful place on the world stage, while striking an important blow
against nuclear proliferation.
Sure, there would be a price to pay, as
Muslims around the world would react with fury. But the fundamental truth of
international affairs is that it is better to be respected than liked. And right
now, America is neither.
Sounds like a pipe dream? Probably. The
president has thus far pursued a policy of “engagement” with the Iranians,
hoping to avoid a showdown. But this has produced little in the way of
So if Obama wants to save his presidency, his reputation and the
Western world, his road to salvation may just lie in aiming the crosshairs at a
Containing Iran, and bombing it if necessary, would
have a dramatic impact not only on America’s strategic standing, but on his own
place in history.