by Austin Bay
June 2, 2010
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,"
Rahm Emanuel told a conference organized by The Wall Street Journal in November
A moxie sound bite in an exhilarating moment: Emanuel, and
his election-winning candidate, Barack Obama, were still ascending, the
passionate rhetorical rockets of hope and change only two mere months from
empowering policies guaranteed to place America in a far superior global
position, an in-sync-with-the-planet, non-confrontational orbit guided by
"smart diplomacy," multilateral cooperation and Obama's own unique,
Obama's thrilling campaign rhetoric, however, has proved to
be a transitory opium of the masses, and time and events have revealed
Emanuel's zest for the opportunity a crisis offers ambitious men to be nothing
more than embarrassing, hubris-drenched immaturity.
Indeed, time and events have cruelly rephrased Emanuel's
brash declaration. Crises -- serious international and domestic crises -- are
wasting the Obama administration, eroding its political capital, and exposing
its debilitating combination of inexperience and weakness.
Consider this list of major crises President Obama confronts
-- and this is a list, not a rank order, for events within the next 24 hours, a
North Korean nuke striking Seoul, for example, or a Greek default, could
radically order any precedence:
1) The economy, 2) the Middle East, 3) Gulf of Mexico oil
spill, 4) Korea on the brink, 5) Global War on Terror (GWOT), 6) illegal
immigration and border security, 7) divisive domestic agenda (health care,
taxes, cap and trade).
The crises, of course, interweave, wickedly. The economy
involves tax policy, but also global relations, such as Chinese and Greek
domestic fiscal policies, over which Washington exerts minimal control. The
economy also involves energy markets, which links to Middle Eastern stability,
and domestic production, which connects to the oil spill, which links back to
the divisive domestic agenda's "green initiatives."
Obamites may object
to GWOT, since the president ditched the GWOT in favor of "overseas
contingency operation" (OCO). He insisted on his rhetorical frame.
However, events like the Christmas terrorist, Maj. Hasan's Ft. Hood massacre
and the Times Square terror attempt have exposed his verbal hocus pocus.
Afghanistan, Iraq and Times Square are linked battlefields in a global war.
The Middle East is shorthand for a snake's nest of crises,
Iran's nuclear bomb and Iranian finagling in Iraq being the most dangerous.
However, the Gaza Flotilla fracas, which today pits Israel against Turkey,
ought to drop Obama's claim of "smart diplomacy" into the dustbin of
The dispute could fizzle for several reasons (including
Turkey's and Israel's numerous common interests), but if it does not, where is
the U.S. leverage in this tangle between the Eastern Mediterranean's (and
Middle East's) two most powerful nations, who are both ostensible U.S. allies?
Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize (the unique personality
component of his November 2008 policy tool kit), so he should want to stop a
shootout if Turkish warships escort another aid convoy to Gaza, as the Turkish
government has threatened to do, right?
Obama may have very little clout with Israel. In diplomatic
posture, the Obama-led U.S. does not act like a reliable Israeli ally. Obama
uses his own personal indignation to send macro-political messages, and he
treats Israeli leaders with disdain. Israelis may have a reached a point where
they will do what they conclude they must do to assure their own survival, and
that includes openly confronting the so-called "peace activists" who
are really propagandists for terrorist groups committed to Israel's
Obama administration support for an Armenian genocide
resolution miffs Turkey. Ankara also insists it kept Obama senior officials
fully informed as it conducted nuclear program negotiations with Iran, only to
have the U.S. condemn the deal. Turkish regional diplomacy since 2008 suggests
the Turks have concluded President Obama is going to let Iran get a nuclear
bomb, and they are going to accommodate themselves to that dangerous reality.
Kiss off, Washington.
Obama confronts converging crises -- crises exacerbated by
the perception he is weak. Hope has turned to cope, and just barely so. How
Obama succeeds or fails in each of these immanent crises will either make or
break his administration.