On Point: The International Crisis Testing Obama’s Mettle


by Austin Bay
October 21, 2008

“Markmy words,” Joe Biden told a group of wealthy contributors. “It will not be sixmonths before the world tests Barack Obama like it did John Kennedy.” A momentlater Biden added, “Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, agenerated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

Solet’s play Name That Crisis, the one Biden says will test Obama within sixmonths of his inauguration. Understand any answer will be tentative. Even if theprognosticator correctly identifies the antagonists and the battlefield, theactual sequence of events will defy astrologers, political science-fictionscenarists and intelligence agencies.

Gomer Pyle’s kitsch litany (from “The AndyGriffith Show”) will damn us once again: “Surprise, surprise,surprise.”

Pyle’s flabbergast served as a plot devicein a family comedy. Obama’s test will be an American tragedy. Hope for a bettertragedy, one where the body count -- friendly, enemy and in-between -- isminimized and the material destructionmanageable.

I know the keyword in that last sentence is“hope,” a word that plays an energizing poetic and emotional role in Obama’scampaign litany.

As president, Obama was supposed to avoidnasty conflicts because he in his very person brings hope and embodies change --galvanizing hope and fundamental, perhaps utopian change. Review his primaryspeeches and his oration in Berlin. That’s the messianicmessage.

Diplomatic and military planners“operationalize” a policy. Obama promised us a messianic operation: Personalnegotiations conducted by himself with some of the world’s worst dictators andAmerica haters, with the implicit point that his bold and sacrificial personaldiplomacy would rearrange planetarypolitics.

Of course, lurking behind this megalomaniaare two hideous assumptions that are the passionate garbage of anti-Americanseverywhere. The first one is the lesser lie -- the U.S. and specifically theBush Administration “don’t talk” to rogues like Iran. Recall Ambassador RyanCrocker’s testimony in September 2007 when he related, in stoic detail, theresults of low- and mid-level diplomatic meetings with Iran: Iranian posturingand rhetorical thrashing.

The U.S. talks to everyone including rogues.Spies chat with spies. The State Department employs “third parties” and “thegrapevine.” The trick is to avoid giving a propaganda coup to a thug. Denyinggangsters and vitriolic liars equal footing with an American president isn’tstupid or backward or change frustrating behavior -- it’s savvyprocedure.

The second lie, the greater lie, is that theU.S. is somehow directly or indirectly at fault when a crisis occurs. This wasthe agitprop line of anti-Americans throughout the 20thcentury, stoked by Nazis in World War II, Communists from Stalin and Mao toGorbachev, and America haters in general. Obama’s forgotten spiritual guide, theRev. Jeremiah Wright, echoed this theme in his noxious sermon that said with the9-11 terror attacks America’s chickens were “coming home to roost.”

Sowhat is coming home to roost with what Biden assures us is Obama’s imminenttest? Obama’s blatant naiveté is a strong candidate for the triggering incident,and in that light Biden’s speech is a “pre-emptive” inoculation. “Iguarantee you,” Biden said, “it's going to happen. I can give you at least fouror five scenarios from where it might originate."

His scenarios included Afghanistan andPakistan. Say what? Osama bin Laden challenged America from Afghanistan in 1998when he declared war on the U.S. Pakistan? That’s where Obama called for apre-emptive invasion earlier this year. What about Iraq? The certain trigger fordebacle in Iraq is wavering U.S. commitment -- and Obama is committed toquitting based on his political schedule, not conditions on the ground. Perhapsa war with Iran over Iraq or the Persian Gulf or in the aftermath of an Israelistrike on Iranian nukes?

Suddenly Obama will face change -- changingconditions that require blood, sweat, toil and tears to sustainhope.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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