Either President Obama is mostly done dealing with the rest of the world, or he needs better speechwriters.
Obama droned through a desultory message of a saccharine enthusiasm for the changes in the world over the past year, applauding what he sees as a new thirst for freedom and dignity in the Arab world while cautioning blandly that “peace is hard.”
It’s as if Obama wants to say a little blessing over the people of the world, thank them for their past and future cooperation, and get back to domestic politics. How fitting that the president held two fundraisers while in New York this week for the UN opening session.
With the world’s future in the balance, this is not the time for platitudes. There is some promise but also great danger in what will come out of the turmoil unleashed this year. History does not suggest that change in the Arab world will lead to pleasant consequences.
While the president did mention that “we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly,” he should have warned specifically that we will sternly oppose the rise of Islamism to replace the regimes that have fallen, particularly Egypt.
This was not the time to say, “America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically.”
And what to make of this?
So let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical to the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.
Is there any potential U.S. foe that would not interpret this as an unequivocal pronouncement that we are reluctant to fight? If withdrawing troops is critical to “the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home,” are we not signaling that we won’t introduce them anywhere else?
Sorry, but it’s still the Bad Old World out there.
North Korea is threatening South Korea, China menacing Taiwan. Iran has a nuclear weapons program that will have to be destroyed by someone, though evidently not us.
Obama instead blathered the usual stale warnings to North Korea and Iran, complete with threats of sanctions they don’t seem to care about. They get that they’re off the hook, that they’ve spun right off the Axis of Evil.
Obama’s statement of support for Israel was encouraging, a vivid assertion of U.S. empathy.
Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
It’s just that – given Obama’s history of impatience with Israel and support for the Palestinians – it’s really difficult to separate this sudden eloquence from domestic politics.
Obama needs Jewish votes, and it’s hard to imagine Israel won’t be back on the Presidential Shit List once he is reelected.
Obama is done for now making serious moves toward peace between the Arabs and the Palestinians. But this conflict, and the fires raging elsewhere, will not wait for the U.S. campaign season to finish.