by Austin Bay
April 20, 2010
Barack Obama isn't leading. Instead, events are leading the
president -- and I don't mean stage-managed summits, puppet press conferences
or White House dinners, but the international events that matter, the ones paid
for in blood.
Iran and North Korea are immediate cases where rogue regimes
seeking nuclear weapons follow calculated strategies that harm American
interests and allies.
North Korea is impoverished, but its gangster dictatorship
knows how to run a nuclear extortion racket to obtain cash and political
concessions from its neighbors.
Iran's mullah regime surveys the Middle East's oilfields and
concludes a similar scheme -- with a few local twists -- will shakedown its
region. One difference makes Iran's ploy potentially more dangerous than North
Korea's. North Korea has quit the communist expansion business (that religion
failed). Tehran, however, harbors international aspirations. Radicals in high
government office insist nuclear weapons will advance their version of global
Both nations bluster, but they also act. Last month, an
event caught South Korea by surprise: an explosion sank a South Korean warship,
killing 46 sailors. Last week, investigators examining the wreck said it
appeared an external explosion (possibly a torpedo or mine) sunk the ship.
An accident? Or did North Korea launch a sneak attack? The
South Korean government is avoiding talk of reprisal, but East Asia is on edge.
North Korea announced it might test a nuclear weapon next month. What will the
Obama administration do if the situation deteriorates?
From its inception, the Obama administration has talked and
talked a great deal about the way it wants the world to be. Rhetorical
theatrics, to include sermons promoting visions, and emotionally charged media
spectaculars hold pre-eminent and almost holy positions among administration
This is understandable, for these are the tools of domestic
politics in a free, secure nation of laws -- the terrain where American
community organizers operate. Obama believes that if he can chitchat long
enough and with sufficient eloquence, the world will align with his words --
his rhetorical "oughtta be" becomes the way it is. It worked in
But talk does not stop mass-murdering dictatorships. Events
-- especially unexpected, game-changing events -- demand action. Failure to
stop Adolf Hitler's militarization of the Rhineland encouraged the Nazis.
Khomeinists probing for weakness aren't any different. Claims of grievance and
historical wrongs masked Hitler's first moves. He knew the Western allies
wanted to avoid war. If France and Great Britain had only been pre-emptive ...
Obama, however, wears a pair of a self-forged handcuffs when
it comes to military action. He damned, with deep personal indignation, the
Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes. Hard-left academicians
also littered his mind with anti-American tales of grievance and historical
wrong -- hence his Cairo apology to the Muslim world.
I suspect Obama's preference for chitchat and scorn of
decisive action lies behind Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' leaked memo.
The New York Times
wrote on April 18 that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the White House
in January, via a secret memo, that the U.S. lacks "an effective
long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclear
After the story ran, Gates' press office claimed the Times
"mischaracterized" the memo's "purpose and content." Gates
said "the memo identified next steps in our defense planning process where
further interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in the
months and weeks ahead. ... It presented a number of questions and proposals
intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process."
In other words, the memo pushed for serious contingency planning, to include
preparing military options.
Gates understands the consequences of surprise and wishes to
avoid it by thorough preparation. Gates is telling the president to focus on
achieving objectives with concrete actions, instead of relying on vague
processes, sound-bites and hope.
Leaking rarely involves leadership. One-upmanship, garbed in
various psychological costumes, drives Washington's little world of leaks. The
media operative gets her story, the leaker's target grapples with an
uncomfortable headline followed by a barrage of questions, televised gossip,
and -- a new vexation -- Internet innuendo.
There are, however, occasional exceptions, and this is one