On Point: The Land Beyond Chitchat and Oughtta Be

by Austin Bay
April 20, 2010

Barack Obama isn't leading. Instead, events are leading thepresident -- and I don't mean stage-managed summits, puppet press conferencesor White House dinners, but the international events that matter, the ones paidfor in blood.

Iran and North Korea are immediate cases where rogue regimesseeking nuclear weapons follow calculated strategies that harm Americaninterests and allies.

North Korea is impoverished, but its gangster dictatorshipknows how to run a nuclear extortion racket to obtain cash and politicalconcessions from its neighbors.

Iran's mullah regime surveys the Middle East's oilfields andconcludes a similar scheme -- with a few local twists -- will shakedown itsregion. One difference makes Iran's ploy potentially more dangerous than NorthKorea's. North Korea has quit the communist expansion business (that religionfailed). Tehran, however, harbors international aspirations. Radicals in highgovernment office insist nuclear weapons will advance their version of globalIslamic revolution.

Both nations bluster, but they also act. Last month, anevent caught South Korea by surprise: an explosion sank a South Korean warship,killing 46 sailors. Last week, investigators examining the wreck said itappeared an external explosion (possibly a torpedo or mine) sunk the ship.

An accident? Or did North Korea launch a sneak attack? TheSouth 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 theObama administration do if the situation deteriorates?

From its inception, the Obama administration has talked andtalked a great deal about the way it wants the world to be. Rhetoricaltheatrics, to include sermons promoting visions, and emotionally charged mediaspectaculars hold pre-eminent and almost holy positions among administrationelites.

This is understandable, for these are the tools of domesticpolitics in a free, secure nation of laws -- the terrain where Americancommunity organizers operate. Obama believes that if he can chitchat longenough and with sufficient eloquence, the world will align with his words --his rhetorical "oughtta be" becomes the way it is. It worked inChicago.

But talk does not stop mass-murdering dictatorships. Events-- especially unexpected, game-changing events -- demand action. Failure tostop Adolf Hitler's militarization of the Rhineland encouraged the Nazis.Khomeinists probing for weakness aren't any different. Claims of grievance andhistorical wrongs masked Hitler's first moves. He knew the Western allieswanted to avoid war. If France and Great Britain had only been pre-emptive ...

Obama, however, wears a pair of a self-forged handcuffs whenit comes to military action. He damned, with deep personal indignation, theBush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes. Hard-left academiciansalso littered his mind with anti-American tales of grievance and historicalwrong -- hence his Cairo apology to the Muslim world.

I suspect Obama's preference for chitchat and scorn ofdecisive action lies behind Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' leaked memo.

 The New York Timeswrote on April 18 that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the White Housein January, via a secret memo, that the U.S. lacks "an effectivelong-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclearcapability."

After the story ran, Gates' press office claimed the Times"mischaracterized" the memo's "purpose and content." Gatessaid "the memo identified next steps in our defense planning process wherefurther interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in themonths and weeks ahead. ... It presented a number of questions and proposalsintended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process."In other words, the memo pushed for serious contingency planning, to includepreparing military options.

Gates understands the consequences of surprise and wishes toavoid it by thorough preparation. Gates is telling the president to focus onachieving objectives with concrete actions, instead of relying on vagueprocesses, sound-bites and hope.

Leaking rarely involves leadership. One-upmanship, garbed invarious psychological costumes, drives Washington's little world of leaks. Themedia operative gets her story, the leaker's target grapples with anuncomfortable headline followed by a barrage of questions, televised gossip,and -- a new vexation -- Internet innuendo.

There are, however, occasional exceptions, and this is oneof them. 

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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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