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 November2008.
A moxie sound bite in an exhilarating moment: Emanuel, andhis election-winning candidate, Barack Obama, were still ascending, thepassionate rhetorical rockets of hope and change only two mere months fromempowering policies guaranteed to place America in a far superior globalposition, an in-sync-with-the-planet, non-confrontational orbit guided by"smart diplomacy," multilateral cooperation and Obama's own unique,enlightened personality.
Obama's thrilling campaign rhetoric, however, has proved tobe a transitory opium of the masses, and time and events have revealedEmanuel's zest for the opportunity a crisis offers ambitious men to be nothingmore than embarrassing, hubris-drenched immaturity.
Indeed, time and events have cruelly rephrased Emanuel'sbrash declaration. Crises -- serious international and domestic crises -- arewasting the Obama administration, eroding its political capital, and exposingits 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, aNorth Korean nuke striking Seoul, for example, or a Greek default, couldradically order any precedence:
1) The economy, 2) the Middle East, 3) Gulf of Mexico oilspill, 4) Korea on the brink, 5) Global War on Terror (GWOT), 6) illegalimmigration and border security, 7) divisive domestic agenda (health care,taxes, cap and trade).
The crises, of course, interweave, wickedly. The economyinvolves tax policy, but also global relations, such as Chinese and Greekdomestic fiscal policies, over which Washington exerts minimal control. Theeconomy also involves energy markets, which links to Middle Eastern stability,and domestic production, which connects to the oil spill, which links back tothe divisive domestic agenda's "green initiatives."
Obamites may objectto GWOT, since the president ditched the GWOT in favor of "overseascontingency operation" (OCO). He insisted on his rhetorical frame.However, events like the Christmas terrorist, Maj. Hasan's Ft. Hood massacreand 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 ofhistory.
The dispute could fizzle for several reasons (includingTurkey's and Israel's numerous common interests), but if it does not, where isthe U.S. leverage in this tangle between the Eastern Mediterranean's (andMiddle East's) two most powerful nations, who are both ostensible U.S. allies?
Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize (the unique personalitycomponent of his November 2008 policy tool kit), so he should want to stop ashootout if Turkish warships escort another aid convoy to Gaza, as the Turkishgovernment has threatened to do, right?
Obama may have very little clout with Israel. In diplomaticposture, the Obama-led U.S. does not act like a reliable Israeli ally. Obamauses his own personal indignation to send macro-political messages, and hetreats Israeli leaders with disdain. Israelis may have a reached a point wherethey will do what they conclude they must do to assure their own survival, andthat includes openly confronting the so-called "peace activists" whoare really propagandists for terrorist groups committed to Israel'sdestruction.
Obama administration support for an Armenian genocideresolution miffs Turkey. Ankara also insists it kept Obama senior officialsfully informed as it conducted nuclear program negotiations with Iran, only tohave the U.S. condemn the deal. Turkish regional diplomacy since 2008 suggeststhe Turks have concluded President Obama is going to let Iran get a nuclearbomb, and they are going to accommodate themselves to that dangerous reality.Kiss off, Washington.
Obama confronts converging crises -- crises exacerbated bythe perception he is weak. Hope has turned to cope, and just barely so. HowObama succeeds or fails in each of these immanent crises will either make orbreak his administration.