Testing Obama’s mettle

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In a week and a half, American voters will elect the next US president. Their decision will impact the entire world.

Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama now enjoys a significant lead in the polls against Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. For McCain to win, a lot of Obama supporters will need to reassess their choice for president. This week, Obama's running-mate Senator Joseph Biden gave Obama supporters a good reason to change their minds.

In much-reported remarks to campaign donors in Seattle on Sunday, Biden warned that if Obama is elected to the White House, it will take America's adversaries no time at all to test him. In his words, "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama…. The world is looking…. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate."

Biden then continued, "And he's gonna need help….We're gonna need you to use your influence…within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Many commentators have minimized the importance of Biden's remarks by claiming that all new leaders are tested. But this is not exactly correct. World leaders test their adversaries when they perceive them as weak. When Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected US president in 1952, the Soviet Union did not move quickly to test the man who had led Allied Forces in World War II. When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the Iranian regime released the US hostages it had held for a year and a half.

In speaking as he did, Biden essentially acknowledged three things. First, he recognized that Obama projects an image of weakness and naiveté internationally that invites America's adversaries to challenge him.

Second, by stating that if Obama is tested a crisis will ensue, Biden made clear that Obama will fail the tests he is handed as a newly inaugurated president. After all, when an able leader is tested, he acts wisely and secures his nation's interests while averting a crisis.

Finally, Biden made clear that Obama's failure will be widely noted, and hence, "it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

IN LIGHT of Biden's dire warning about his running-mate, the central question that Americans ought to be asking themselves is whether or not Biden is correct. Is it true that Obama projects a posture of weakness and incompetence internationally and is it likely that this posture reflects reality?

Unfortunately, it appears that Biden knows exactly what he is talking about.

Take Iran for example. Obama has stated outright that if he is elected US president he will offer to conduct direct negotiations with his Iranian counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Yet two weeks ago, the Iranians made clear that their dispute with America is not about who occupies the White House, but about the nature of the US.

Speaking to the official Iranian news service IRNA, Iranian Vice President for Media Affairs Mehdi Kalhor stipulated that Iran will only agree to meet with a US leader after America has bowed to Teheran's will. In his words, Iran will refuse to hold such high-level talks "for as long as US forces have not left the Middle East region, and [the US] continues its support for the Zionist regime."

Kalhor explained, "It is stupidity to hold talks without any change in US attitudes."

After naming its price, Iran has since done its best to make its preconditions palatable for an Obama administration. This it has done by claiming that it will not attack the US, it will only attack Israel.

Just after Kalhor's interview, Seyed Safavi, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a diplomatic audience in London that Iranian leadership circles are now debating the option of attacking Israel without attacking US forces in the region. Safavi added that chances for direct negotiations between the US and Iran will increase if Obama is elected. Alluding to Kalhor's remarks, Safavi claimed that sanctions against Iran have failed and that if the US expects Iran to stop enriching uranium, it will have to take "firm and significant" steps in Iran's direction.

Then on Wednesday, in a visit to US-ally Bahrain, the speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani gave Obama the regime's official endorsement. Larijani said, "We are leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational."

Iran's pre-US election behavior indicates that Iran will waste no time testing Obama's mettle. Iran is behaving as if it fully expects Obama to do what his supporter Rev. Jesse Jackson expects him to do. That is, like Jackson, Iran expects Obama to end "Zionist control" of US foreign policy. And to aid the process, the Iranians are willing to leave US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan alone as they attack Israel with their nascent nuclear arsenal shortly after Obama is inaugurated.

In his remarks on Sunday Biden made clear that he does not believe that Obama will agree to use the US military to confront Iran or any other enemy. His rejection of the use of force is not due to a sense that force is not necessary. Rather it is due to his dim assessment of America's military capabilities. In his words, "We do not have the military capacity, nor have we ever, quite frankly, in the last 20 years, to dictate outcomes. … It's so much more complicated than that. And Barack gets it."

Given the Democratic ticket's belief that the US military is too weak to protect American interests, it could be expected that Obama and Biden would support strengthening the US military. But the opposite is the case. Obama has called for slashing the US military budget, cutting back the US's anti-missile programs and scaling back drastically the US nuclear arsenal. That is, although Obama has claimed that he will never take the option of the use of force off the table, by refusing to strengthen the US military which he perceives as weak, he is making certain that the US military option is ineffectual.

IN CERTAIN respects, if Americans elect Obama to lead them on November 4, they will be repeating the decision of Israeli voters who elected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to lead them in March 2006. Like Obama, Olmert ran on a platform of appeasing Israel's enemies.

In addition to his plan to curtail US military options by decreasing US military budgets, Obama's appeasement platform includes his pledge to abandon the Bush administration's sole foreign policy success in its second term by pulling US forces out of Iraq. He has also promised to exacerbate Bush's second term policy failures by expanding the outgoing administration's penchant for courting US adversaries.

In 2006 Olmert's electoral platform included a naïve and defeatist pledge to unilaterally withdraw Israeli civilians and military forces from Judea and Samaria. As for Iran, Olmert's policy was to abdicate Israel's responsibility to prevent its own destruction by relying on the Americans and the Europeans to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Biden's warning that Obama will be tested and found wanting by America's adversaries almost immediately after entering office echoes warnings by politicians and commentators in the lead-up to Olmert's electoral victory in 2006. As subsequent events showed, Olmert's critics were correct.

Olmert was tested and found wanting when in July 2006 Iran's Hizbullah proxy went to war against Israel. Just as Olmert's political opponents warned, and Israel's enemies expected, Olmert's naïve perception of international affairs, his strategic incompetence and
his exaggerated view of his own importance caused him to fail abjectly when his country needed him.

Largely due to Olmert's weakness and poor judgment, Israel was defeated by Hizbullah. And Israel's defeat fomented a radical reordering of the regional balance of power in Iran's favor. Hizbullah took over Lebanon. Hamas took over Gaza. Syria is being feted by the Europeans. Iran stands in the doorway of the nuclear club.

Olmert's failure not only strengthened Israel's enemies, it caused its own allies to reassess its value. After the war, the Bush administration embraced Europe's failed strategy of appeasing Iran and the Palestinians. Washington eschewed confrontation with Teheran and has renewed its push to compel Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem despite the certainty that any territory Israel vacates will fall under the control of Hamas and Iran.

Iran will likely be the first US adversary to test Obama. And Obama will have no idea what to do. While Obama has stated repeatedly that a nuclear-armed Iran is a "game-changer," Obama's own rule book for international relations has no relevance for dealing with Iran's game.

Obama views international relations as a creature of American will. If America is nice to others, they will be nice to America. But the fact of the matter is that regimes like Iran hate the US regardless of how it behaves. The only question with strategic relevance for Washington is whether the Iranians also fear the US. And Obama has given them no reason to fear him. To the contrary, he has given them reason to believe that under his leadership, the mullahs can defeat America.

AMERICA STANDS to elect its new president in times of nearly unprecedented dangers. Iran is on the threshold of nuclear weapons. Thanks to the Bush administration, North Korea now feels free to vastly expand its nuclear proliferation activities. Oil rich states like Venezuela, Russia and Iran recognize that with global oil prices decreasing, now is the time to strike before they are impoverished. And the international economic turmoil will cause Western nations to recoil from international confrontations and so embolden rogue states to attack their interests.

For Israel, this state of affairs could not be more dire. As these threats mount, we find ourselves bereft of political leadership. Although Olmert has finally resigned, he remains in office as the caretaker prime minister until someone forms a new government. In the best case scenario, elections will be called and Olmert will remain in office for the next four to six months. In the worst case scenario, he will be replaced by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Like Obama and Olmert, Livni is perceived as weak and incompetent by Israel's enemies. Unlike Obama, Livni is judged not only by her words, but by her deeds. As foreign minister, Livni was an architect of the cease-fire with Hizbullah under which Hizbullah has taken control of Lebanon and rearmed. She is an architect of Israel's current policy of expanding the Hamas terror state to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. She is an architect of Israel's policy of doing nothing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The prospect of an Obama-Livni partnership in policy failure is enough to keep men and women of good faith up at night. Certainly it should suffice to convince some Obama supporters to reconsider their options.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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13 Comments

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 10/24/2008 at 18:40

    Polls are misleading, and fortunately we still have time before the U.S. elections on November 4th. If Senator Obama wins, we can expect four more years of Jimmy Carter. It was former President Carter’s inexperience that set the stage for the current problems with Iran. Having Senator Biden as Vice-President wouldn’t make Americans sleep any better. Senator Obama is perceived as weak among Arabs, and his rhetorical skills won’t save us from our enemies. And America needs Senator McCain, who paid the price to protect our freedom.

    Reply
  • David Kerner 10/24/2008 at 18:47

    For context: I try to be supportive of anybody the people living in Israel elect, but I would feel more comfortable with Netanyahu and Ya’alon running things (and communicating to the world).
    But America has huge problems of it’s own, and it is McCain who is scaring me more. For many reasons.
    What would be really helpful would be seeing (quickly) you or David Horovitz interview Representative Rahm Emmanuel, an impressive individual who has known and worked with Obama for a long time.
    From what I’ve seen, I would not want to be a country who tests either candidate.
    Your column is an antidote for much fuzzy thinking. I have many questions, but I’ll stick to the above for now. Thank you.
    – David

    Reply
  • David Custis Kimball 10/24/2008 at 21:56

    Post Comment to Testing Obama’s mettle by CarolineGlick.com 10/24/08
    “I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate,” Biden said to
    Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. “And he’s
    gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not
    financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the
    community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be
    apparent that we’re right.” http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/10/biden-to-suppor.html
    How’s this scenerio, Joe…. it kinda haunts me is:
    Pakistan PM has stated that Biden has been very generous funding things in Pakistan and Pakistan now is in dire financial straits. Certainly maintaining its nuclear arsenal both secure (USA is supposedly financing this) and just the housing and staffing of experts, secrets, etc. takes a stable cash flow.
    The USA is going to try to cut costs wherever possible. Perhaps the $Bil to Pakistan Bush paid to Musharraf is considered enough…. and so we let up on securing nukes inPakistan.
    Pakistan needs oil….Iran wants quick bolster of weapons…. Pakistan transfers weapons for fuel and cash…
    Bingo…. Surprise …. Rockets away at Iraq….. USA bases targeted….
    40,000 USA soldiers Vaporized in Greenzone….. makes the 1985 Iran Sponsored Hizzbollah attack of our Marines in Lebanon seem like a hand slap. And that was a great embarrassment to Reagan…. payback for the Carter humiliation of Reagan getting the hostages released. Reminds me of my stint in working for FEMA, my boss was a Santanista intelligence officer, who supplied a lot of the information to expose the weapons to Contra by Reagan….again. He was a professor in South Florida last I heard.
    So much for getting out of Iraq as the favored alternative or the agreement of force with the Iraqi Parlament. Obama could come on air…. and say: See I told you so. I never was in favor of putting boots on the ground in Iraq.
    Meanwhile the Zband Radar that USA installed in Israel is not online… orders to keep it quiet was an appeasement to Iran by Obama…. so we wouldn’t be attacked (the fine print noted only USA land as in America.)
    As it takes several days to get USA soldiers back (Israeli’s are not allowed near it), it’s too late:
    Now the second wave is on Israel, or a retaliation wave by Israel against Iran provokes their second wave…. Israel under Livni doesn’t realize that Pakistan’s nukes are in play, or if they are… where they are… so strategically there’s advantage to Pakistan-Iran.
    Meanwhile other fronts are engaged by Russian style briefcase nukes…. Europe hit, esp. England subways.
    What does USA do? NOTHING. See: USA didn’t get hit, so now it’s over. The world goes back to it’s normal state of appeasement and complicated diplomacy. The UN offers to take over Israel
    Remember, Biden’s statement that ” it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”
    And In his words, “We do not have the military capacity, nor have we ever, quite frankly, in the last 20 years, to dictate outcomes. … It’s so much more complicated than that. And Barack gets it.”
    I can hear Rev. Wright and Farrakan crowing….. It’s the Chickens coming home to Roost. USof KKK A.
    And as an added bonus, both McCain’s and Palin’s male heirs will be happily eliminated. So much for the politics of personal destruction.
    Now this may be the ideal that Biden anticipates, but knowing his inability to spell JOB, his lunching at a restaurant closed for some 20 years, and his controling his urge to plaguerize so far this election… he has a keen inability to anticipate other activities of higher thinking people. THAT IS THE ONLY GOOD NEWS.
    The BAD NEWS: Now without panicking, but with real reservation… consider what was on Biden’s small ungoverned mind which prompted this most recent STRATEGIC GAFF. It must have been concerning some great danger that is not being addressed with a military option…. the only option of deterance…. that Iran’s Larijani looks at Obama as the FAVORED ONE because he is more “rational” and militarily weakened because “the US had to pump massive amounts of money into its economy due to the financial meltdown.” AP in JPost.com
    Doubters: Did the 19 El Queda fliers forewarn us of 9/11/2001? Did the Japs ask to visit Pearl Harbor on 12/7/1941? Did the brown shirts of Germany preorder plywood for Germany on 11/8/1938? Answers are NO.
    Did Saudi financiers short American Airlines and United Airlines stock before 9/11/2001? Have the Saudi’s been paying Osama bin Laden Million$ each year, not to attack Saudi Arabia? Has Joe the Biden offered up the weakness of his running mate, Obama, and signaled our enemies that we have no defense, thus inviting the TEST… the Disaster (but really the victorious takeover of the USA government by Obama under a War Emergency Powers act)? Answers are sadly, YES.
    Biden just wants you to stick with us…. like in the campaign… adoringly….unquestioning…. Obama is your Keeper… he will assign you your mission…. or your internment in a camp as efficient as Dachau did for the early dissidents against the brown shirts of Germany. Who has staged the collapse of the economy…. CRA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, ACORN, and the unwitting fools of wallstreet who can sell ice to the eskimos…..if only the coldness appreciation didn’t fall. The perfect storm…. evil + greed = disaster. Or is the path to hell really paved in good intentions?

    Reply
  • marcel cousineau 10/24/2008 at 22:04

    There comes a day when it won’t matter to Israel who America President is.
    That day is coming sooner than you think.
    With a U.S. President who is openly against Israel instead of secretly as we have now Israel will finally learn to stand up and say NO MAS instead of willingly going to her death with this false peace Road Map ?
    When I hear an Israeli leader say no just one time to suicidal U.S. policy which endangers Israel I promise it mark it down in my calendar
    and celebrate.
    Maybe an Obama will help Israel learn to say this word again ?
    We know the elite CFR ,Trilateralist who rule America behind the stained,tattered curtain will push forwar their same agenda with a McCain or an Obama as they did with a Clinton and a Bush.
    Nothing really changes as both parties in America are more alike than they are different.
    The media keeps the scam going to keep the dumbed down voters thinking they really have a voice and a choice.
    How easilty the sheep are led.
    I gave up and stoped voting for any of the above liars after Jimmy scammed me in 1976 with his lies.
    The best liar always wins and the stupid voters always fall for it.
    The idiot’s learned nothing from the Bush scam.
    We got a financial socialist with a penchant for rewarding Islamic terrorists as long as they are killing Jews,so how much worse could another Islamic Communist Ubanga be than him ?
    McCain is for the dissolution of Israel by way of the 2 state final solution Road Map as is Ubanga and so the real question we must ask is can Israel say again one more time loudly and clearly what Ariel Sharon said to President Bush on the subject of Israel becoming another sacrificial Czechslovakia ?

    Reply
  • Avi Solomon 10/24/2008 at 22:16

    Here is the agreemment/sellout hungry Livni pleasing her masters at Davos:
    http://gaia.world-television.com/wef/worldeconomicforum_annualmeeting2008/default.aspx?sn=23634
    It is instructive that both Olmert and Livni are lawyers!

    Reply
  • Annette 10/25/2008 at 0:27

    Caroline,
    Americans cannot ask themselves whether or not Biden is correct because the American press is corrupt and has totally given Obama and Biden a pass on everything. The main stream media isn’t even talking about this.
    We have a very serious problem in this country. We are not free when our press lies to us. We are not free when they withold or misrepresent information in order to advance their agenda.
    They are a vile, debased, and contemptible group of people who are using their power as journalists to get what they want.
    Pray that enough Americans know better. I am afraid for Israel, I am afraid for us.
    And yet 75% of American Jews are voting for Obama. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?

    Reply
  • Bill 10/25/2008 at 15:16

    Above posts allude to the compliant American media ignoring the blather out of Biden’s mouth. Another example is the following from the vice presidential debate.
    “When we kicked – along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, ‘Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know— if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.’
    “Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.”
    Joe Biden, September 27, 2008
    No one even thought to ask….Huh? Uhhh Joe…could go over that again?

    Reply
  • Bill K. 10/26/2008 at 8:02

    The policies of George Bush and his predecessors have made an Obama Presidency possible. Appeasement breeds appeasement. An Islamic Iran should have been destroyed by the Carter Administration after they took over our Embassy and held our diplomats hostage. Every President since then has only followed Carter’s lead. Now Iran is close to getting the nuclear weapons it has long sought and America will not stop it.
    Israel is in a very dangerous place now for it is on its own. Israel must either take its own nuclear weapons out of the closet and display them to the world as a deterrence to Iran or attack Iran directly with conventional weapons. This latter option is fraught with difficulty aside from the complexity of the attack itself. Without a doubt Iran will try to close the Strait of Hormuz and create other mayhem around the world. Israel simply does not have the military might to stop Iran in its tracks. This is the job that the U.S. military was made to handle.
    It is a article of faith with Biden and the Democrats that the US military is so run down that it would be unable to fight Iran. This is complete bunkum. The Iranian military is not the Wehrmacht. Mass suicide attacks are no deterrent to the U.S. Army. We would be in Tehran in a week or two.
    But back to reality. Neither Bush, McCain or Obama is going to order an attack on Iran. What will Israel do?

    Reply
  • marcel cousineau 10/26/2008 at 14:52

    Caroline,
    Will you take a stand and write about this evil Kapo Olmert does to please his master Herr Bush ?
    No razing of terrorist killers homes in east JERUSALEM but with ease they go after the last remaining Jewish Zionists.
    This is all preperation for the removal of Jew from Judea and Samaria for masta Bush’s radical Islamic Palestinian state and silence is criminal at this hour.
    Hevron
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3613051,00.html
    When evil men rule Israel and go against the command of God to build and inhabit homes on the land He gave them,I am certain He will respond
    His plumbline of division between those who believe him and those who follow this evil Israeli leadership who always reward Israel’s enemies.
    They show great power ,determination and brutality to go after the few Jews who oppose their imadness while they aid and abbet those whose outspoken goal is the destruction of Israel.
    When the leader of the Islamic movement in Nazareth Sheikh Saleh openly called incitement against Israel saying much worse things the cowards Olmert and Pamon did nothing .They have lied time and again and said he woul;d be ‘investigated’ for incitiement.
    These COWARDS have done nothing but lie and make excuses for the Islamic jihadists.
    They do have great courage to go after fellow Jews and talk big when it comes to removing this non existent threat while helping the real threat to grow as they have done with Gaza.
    The real enemy are these cowards and when you stand with them you are marked by God as stanging with His enemies against Him. .
    ‘And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
    And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.’
    Amos 9:14-15

    Reply
  • Stephen Hughes 10/26/2008 at 22:37

    Those of you who liked Carter as a US President,
    you will love Obama

    Reply
  • Scott 10/28/2008 at 7:42

    You ask a good question,Annette…I wonder if Zionism will survive American Judaism

    Reply
  • yonsaon 10/28/2008 at 19:41

    TESTING THE METAL OF A COMMUNIST (If you scratch him, does he not ….destroy your village, or even your nation?)
    BRIANAKIRA POINTS OUT THAT…
    Obama [said, and truly believes]:
    * The Supreme Court has failed to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the constitution”
    * The Warren court was insufficiently radical
    * The courts have failed to enforce redistributive change
    * The legislature is the more effective forum for bringing about economic justice and the redistribution of wealth.
    * The American Constitution is outdated and flawed
    * The courts have failed to enforce politically correct thought processes and economic equalization on the populace, and that therefore the government must do so through legislation.
    If that doesn’t bother you, then you are a Communist.
    My analysis of the second and IMO the most important tape cited there…
    In THIS TAPE Obama also said that the US Constitution was “DEEPLY FLAWED” because the Founding Fathers were “BLIND” and that in order to be able to achieve the “ECONOMIC JUSTICE” [a perenial Communist catch-phrase] he mentions in the other tape, then the “DEEP FLAWS” [which is what he meant when he once said that America was “BROKEN”] would have to be “FIXED.”
    Compared to Obama, Carter will look like Ronald Reagan

    Reply
  • Bears fan 01/02/2009 at 22:36

    come on caroline. you are from chicago. THE motherland. barack is a bears and WHITE SOX fan. don’t forget where you come from. screw that damn dessert and come home to the city on the lake. goes BULLS.

    Reply

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