by Barry Rubin
The problem with President Barack Obama is not that he makes gaffes or factual errors when he speaks but because he expresses an ideological framework so shocking and dangerous.
Take the latest such remark, made in the G-20 press conference, referring to
"I'm not interested in victory. I'm interested in resolving the problem."
Totally detached from actual international conflicts, this is a rational and noble statement. Hey, says Pragmatic Man, I'm not seeking something to brag about, a total victory and my opponent's humiliation. I just want to solve problems and leave everyone happy.
Yet he's not playing a game of bridge here but dueling with a dictatorship that thinks it has divine support and wants to build a massive totalitarian empire. The fact that Obama thinks this way makes him a person not fit to deal with real enemies.
Briefly, here are several reasons why:
--In a misunderstanding with those who are otherwise friends, this "no victory" approach makes sense. If the
But Obama doesn't seem to understand the profound difference between friends and enemies. As Obama has repeatedly shown, he is more eager to resolve conflicts with enemies than to back up friends. For him, enemies don't exist but have only been created by mistaken
--Obama assumes the other side is rational and well-intentioned. Whether its Libya or North Korea, Cuba or Syria, Iran or Venezuela, Obama simply doesn't get the idea that dictatorship and ideology, greed and passionate hatred can create forces which don't want to be friends.
In effect, such regimes have the precise opposite approach to that of Obama: They aren't interested in resolving the problem. They are interested in victory.
--By making such a statement, Obama speaks as if Iran is a blank slate rather than a country which has repeatedly broken promises on the nuclear issue; called for genocide against Israel; been the world's leading sponsor of terrorism; killed Americans through terrorist operations in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other countries; is ruled by a regime that just stole an election; has violently repressed the opposition and put peaceful activists on trial for their lives; and has a defense minister who is a wanted terrorist.
--Obama's formulation could be sensible with another side whose feelings one didn't want to hurt unnecessarily. Assuring the other side you don't insist on total victory can be a soothing factor. Unfortunately in this case it is the radical side which needs to say so. (The Palestinian side and most Arab states need to say this to
--But most important of all is Obama's seeming inability to understand the concepts of deterrence and credibility. I'm not exaggerating here. He has never made a single statement incorporating these ideas.
Yes, you need to be tough. Yes, you sometimes have to make threats. Yes, you need to show yourself willing to use force. Yes, you sometimes have to win victories. The leader of a great power needs to do these things to discourage enemies from being more aggressive and disregarding his country's interests. In addition, the leader of a great power must do these things to encourage friends to rely on him and his country for help and protection.
Obama thinks he is reassuring
In totally misconceiving the nature of his own responsibilities and of international affairs, Obama is creating an extremely dangerous situation. One of the many things he doesn't understand is that his approach makes crisis, bloodshed, and war far more likely.
It is sobering to see the man who holds the world's most powerful job for dealing with international affairs on the planet has no previous experience dealing with this topic. It is horrifying that his ideas ensure disaster for the democratic forces and successes for the dictatorial ones.
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