Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Barack Obama

By Ira Sharkansky

It’s not easy—it may not be possible—to identify the real Barack Obama.

We can say the same about other, perhaps all, politicians who reach the top of a steep climb. Yet the Obama puzzle is especially daunting, given his position at the head of the most power country of them all.

His power up there is also something of a mystery. 

He’s not alone. An antagonistic Congress may provide us with a dramatic demonstration of the separation of powers and checks and balances.

It’s best to put aside assertions about missing or faulty birth records, his Islam, and his anti-Semitism. They all distract from a consideration of what he does as president. 

The birth story belongs to those kind of people convinced that the CIA killed John Kennedy. Obama is not responsible for his father, and any politician worth salt would emphasize those elements of background likely to help do business and gain support. Waving his finger, said to be a Muslim sign, and bowing to the king of the Saudis may not help him with some Jews and Christians, but it may help the U.S. government with a large slice of humanity. He has appointed too many Jews to high places to worry about his anti-Semitism. For some of his Jewish critics, those people may not be the right kind of Jews, but that is hardly a charge that should count in Miami Beach or Jerusalem.

Both Israeli and American sources note that U.S. aid to Israel has not suffered during the Obama administration. Prominent, but not alone, was support for the Iron Dome anti-missile system. 

Leaving aside his most inner feelings, which any successful politician must hide from the crowd, we are justified in asking if he acts in a way that reveals an understanding of what is nasty about the Middle East.

Here the reference is not to Benyamin Netanyahu, but to the barbarians who behead in the name of the Almighty, and Iranians who not only aspire to who knows what with nuclear energy, but finance and arm terror, seek to undermine established governments, and chant “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

At least part of the Obama personality appears to be fixed in a commitment to a notion of what is politically correct. It’s a product of contemporary America, upped perhaps by his experiences as an African American, and knowing that his father was a Muslim, even if he did not know his father.

This translates into an attitude that all people are basically similar, and can be reached with the kind of arguments he learned while getting to the presidency. Also involved is a liberal Democrat’s commitment to helping the weaker in his constituency, and his efforts to avoid any equivalence between Islam and aggression.

All of this contributes to an understanding of what looks like obsessions to push for a Palestinian state despite the hopeless Palestinian leadership, and reaching an agreement with Iran about its nuclear activities while overlooking what else it is doing to destabilize the Middle East.

There is also a concern to limit the involvement of American troops, and to limit the U.S. military role to air power or the supply of munitions. 

The Wall Street Journal wastes no words

“An abiding goal of President Obama’s foreign policy has been to reduce America’s role in the Middle East, in the belief that it would lead to greater stability and serve U.S. interests. Has a policy ever been so thoroughly repudiated in so short a time? Mr. Obama has succeeded in his retreat, but the vacuum he’s left has produced a region on fire.”

“Obama’s Iran Policy Is Lost at Sea. How can the U.S. hope to keep tabs on Tehran’s nuclear program when we can’t even track its oil tankers? American negotiators and their cohorts are trying to close a deal that would let Iran keep its nuclear program, subject to intricate conditions of monitoring and enforcement. Yet how is a deal like that supposed to be verified? The Obama administration can’t even keep up with the Iran-linked oil tankers on the U.S. blacklist.”

“The Middle East has descended into a state of disarray unusual even for that troubled region, imperiling President Barack Obama’s policy dreams and leaving him with limited ability to control events.”

The president’s people can say that the WSJ is coming at him from the other side of the congressional aisle. But they cannot accuse the Washington Post of not being at least centrist, if not still tilted to the left.

A recent item under the authorship of the WP editorial board

“As the Obama administration pushes to complete an agreement-in-principle with Iran on its nuclear program by Tuesday, it has done little to soothe concerns that it is rushing too quickly to settle, offering too many concessions and ignoring glaring warning signs that Tehran won’t abide by any accord. . . . Iran will have some sanctions lifted before it complies with a commitment it first made eight years ago... The question this raises was articulated months ago in congressional testimony by nuclear weapons expert David Albright: “If Iran is able to successfully evade addressing the IAEA’s concerns now, when biting sanctions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted?” In its rush to complete a deal, the Obama administration appears eager to ignore the likely answer.

Among the possibilities are that the U.S. will sign an “agreement in principle,” or a “framework agreement,” or claim success with an “oral accord,” each of which would leave important details to what seems likely to be an endless process of discussion and evasion.

And if that step comes along with a lessening of sanctions, the folly is all the more apparent. 

What the civilized of the world must then hope for is an expansion of the Shiite-Sunni war in Yemen, to lead through one unknown phase or another, perhaps with U.S. participation in one form or another, to hurt, limit, or even bring down what seems to be the world’s most dangerous regime.

Imagine the future of the Middle East, Europe, and North America resting on the Saudis and Egyptians, along with Israelis cheering them on.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


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