Archive for Friday, February 20, 2009

Early Obama responses not promising

February 20, 2009


— The Biden prophecy has come to pass. Our wacky veep, momentarily inspired, had predicted last October that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.” Biden probably had in mind an eve-of-the-apocalypse drama like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead, Obama’s challenges have come in smaller bites. Some are deliberate threats to U.S. interests, others mere probes to ascertain whether the new president has any spine.

Preliminary X-rays are not very encouraging. Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:

(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.

(b) Announcing the formation of a “rapid reaction force” with six former Soviet republics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.

(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.

(d) Declaring Russia’s intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.

President Bush’s response to the Kaliningrad deployment — the threat was issued the day after Obama’s election — was firm. He refused to back down because giving in to Russian threats would leave Poles and Czechs exposed and show the world that, contrary to post-Cold War assumptions, the U.S. could not be trusted to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying.

The Obama response? “Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal,” as The New York Times headlined Biden’s Feb. 7 Munich speech to a major international gathering. This followed strong messages from the Obama transition team even before the inauguration that Obama was not committed to the missile shield. And just to make sure everyone understood that the Bush policy no longer held, Biden in Munich said the U.S. wanted to “press the reset button” on NATO-Russian relations.

Not surprisingly, the Obama wobble elicited a favorable reaction from Russia. (There are conflicting reports that Russia might suspend the Kaliningrad blackmail deployment.) The Kremlin must have been equally impressed that the other provocations — Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the rapid reaction force — elicited barely a peep from Washington.

Iran has been similarly charmed by Obama’s overtures. A week after the new president went about sending sweet peace signals via al-Arabiya, Iran launched its first homemade Earth satellite. The message is clear: If you can put a satellite into orbit, you can hit any continent with a missile, North America included.

And for emphasis, after the roundhouse hook, came the poke in the eye. A U.S. women’s badminton team had been invited to Iran. Here was a chance for “ping-pong diplomacy” with the accommodating new president, a sporting venture meant to suggest the possibility of warmer relations.

On Feb. 4, Tehran denied the team entry into Iran. Then, just in case Obama failed to get the message, Iran’s parliament speaker rose in Munich to offer his response to Obama’s olive branch. Executive summary: Thank you very much. After you acknowledge 60 years of crimes against us, change not just your tone but your policies, and abandon the Zionist criminal entity, we might deign to talk to you.

With a grinning Goliath staggering about sporting a “kick me” sign on his back, even reputed allies joined the fun. Pakistan freed from house arrest A.Q. Khan, the notorious proliferator who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran. Ten days later, Islamabad capitulated to the Taliban, turning over to its tender mercies the Swat Valley, 100 miles from the capital. Not only will sharia law now reign there, but the democratically elected secular party will be hunted down as the Pakistani army stands down.

These Pakistani capitulations may account for Obama’s hastily announced 17,000 troop increase in Afghanistan even before his various heralded reviews of the mission have been completed. Hasty, unexplained, but at least something. Other than that, a month of pummeling has been met with utter passivity.

I would like to think the supine posture is attributable to a rookie leader otherwise preoccupied (i.e. domestically), leading a foreign policy team as yet unorganized if not disoriented. But when the State Department says that Hugo Chavez’s president-for-life referendum, which was preceded by a sham government-controlled campaign featuring the tear-gassing of the opposition, was “for the most part ... a process that was fully consistent with democratic process,” you have to wonder if Month One is not a harbinger of things to come.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Harpo 9 years, 4 months ago

Understandably, domestic/economic issues are the immediate primary focus of the new administration. But I think Krauthammer raises a legitimate concern. We can argue the individual examples that he cites, but in a general sense I think Obama needs to get his foreign policy team focused and more engaged in these issues than they have been up to now. I'm all for calling on the expertise and diplomatic skills of guys like Mitchell and Holbrooke, but putting together this "best and brightest" group runs the risk of decentralizing things to the point that whatever Obama's foreign policy vision, it can easily be lost in the lack of clarity that could ensue.

I've never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she's the pick for Secretary of State, so get her "out there" with a clear message, or run the risk of events and adversaries forcing us to react, rather than to effectively anticipate and attempt to neutralize the inevitable "tests" that Biden warned about.

Satirical 9 years, 4 months ago

tumbilweed... " would say that it would be prudent for America to abandon all expectations for the future to be anything at all similar to our past, including the way our leaders approach their jobs."

I totally agree. I mean can you believe the gall of some people still thinking that it is the job of the POTUS to keep this coutry safe!? Times are changing people. When you have a POTUS who is learning on the job there are going to be numerous blunders and concessions. I am sure in 4 years he will almost be ready to tackle some of these tough international challenges. Give him some time, he has barely been in office. No one should critize Obama until all of our allies have been wiped out and the U.S. is down to 45 states.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

Dammit, Obama's been in office for almost a month, and he still hasn't cleaned up the disasters left to him in every conceivable area by BushCo.

Satirical 9 years, 4 months ago


Maybe you should try reading, but these problems are NEW that arose AFTER Bush left office. My guess, is that you will still be blaiming Bush in 4 years for all of Obama's mistakes. I wonder if the liberals can squeeze two elections out of that tactic.

Satirical 9 years, 4 months ago

Flamingdragon… “Why don't you go write about something that matters”

I totally agree. I mean who cares about foreign relations anyway, and whether the U.S. is naively sacrificing allies? I care much more about how Obama can control the weather than about whether I am safe. And oil speculation, just like all types of speculation which has been around for over 100 years and leads to price stability in the market, is a huge problem that deserve much more attention than whether our allies and our interests are being threatened. Some people just don’t understand that since I don’t care about foreign affairs, they shouldn’t either.

monkeyhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

Can anyone remind me how much defense spending was in the stimulus spree? I know there were millions for some rat in Pelosi's house and the zephyr from Disneyland to Vegas, but what was in there to keep the country safe?

I hope we are not about to find out who the real cowards are.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 4 months ago

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group....and an idiot.

Just because the last president created a disaster, doesn't mean history will repeat itself. Maybe we can give the new president ( at least ) a fighting chance to clean up this mess.

monkeyhawk 9 years, 4 months ago

...."how big bad Obama didn't support the surge and therefore must be wrong about eveything?"

Didn't you hear? The president is sending 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, sort of a surge of his own. Why didn't he announce that on his recent whirlwind?

I have the feeling some of those "new jobs" might just be in the military when the draft is reinstated.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 4 months ago

I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a victory celebration today. "Chicago has yet to recoup the $1.74 million cost of President Obama's victory celebration in Grant Park -- despite a burgeoning $50.5 million budget shortfall that threatens more layoffs and union concessions. "The Democratic National Committee has not yet paid us,'' Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city's Office of Budget and Management, said Thursday after questions from the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're reaching out to them this week."",CST-NWS-rally20.article

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"Can anyone remind me how much defense spending was in the stimulus spree?"

None, and for good reason. Military spending does almost nothing to stimulate the economy. Its multiplier effect is much smaller than any other kind of spending.

Satirical 9 years, 4 months ago


"Sour Kraut". That is pretty funny. Of course I disagree, but I appreciate witty humor.

Sharon Aikins 9 years, 4 months ago

Well, this isn't kindergarten where a simple game of ring-around-the-rosey will make it all nice nice again. Face it, we're vulnerable right now with our econmic situation. We can't afford to ignore threats from other nations. It's time to hit the road on foreign policy in spite of all the other problems. Just hope that Hillary has what it takes to make this happen. You can pat a sleeping giant on the head but better be ready for when it wakes up and realizes it is only a little girl standing there with no big brothers behind her. Russia and Iran don't care if we let partisanship tear us apart, more candy in the box for them. We can sit around all day and point fingers but if we don't do anything, we're sunk while blaming the other guy for putting a hole in the life raft.

Satirical 9 years, 4 months ago

“I just read in CNN that according to the IAEA, Iran now has the capability to produce a nuclear warhead. What will this administration do?” - madmike

Given Obama's track record thus far, I am guessing one of two things:

(1) Throw America under the bus by apologizing for how horrible we have treated them in the past, beg their forgiveness and kow tow. (2) He will close his eyes and pretend the problem doesn't exist.

MyName 9 years, 4 months ago

This article is ridiculous. The thesis seems to be: "Let's just pick a few obscure things that don't matter and then try and put them together in a way that smears Obama".

(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.

Russia only cares about Kyrgyzstan because we're in Afghanistan, and they've only started caring about Afghanistan because we've been there for 7 years and they don't want us to stay (anymore than we'd want them to stay if they had a base in Mexico or Cuba). The only reason they have the opportunity, by the way, is because Krygystan's economy is in the tank and they're open to bribery.

(b) Announcing the formation of a “rapid reaction force” ... meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.

Again, this isn't an anti-US action, they think we're going to lose in Afghanistan and want to be ready to keep the Taliban out of their borders.

MyName 9 years, 4 months ago

(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.

How is this a test of Obama's presidency? Bush already proved last summer that America isn't going to go to the mat for marginal allies like Georgia.

(d) Declaring Russia’s intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.

Again, how is this a test of Obama's presidency? The missile stations were something that the Bush Administration wanted and Obama didn't, so it's not exactly a surprise to say that they are "negotiable".

On Feb. 4, Tehran denied the [U.S. women's badminton] team entry into Iran.

This was because of the restart of hostilities in Gaza. Iran can't claim that they're supporting the Palestinians then invite America over for a visit. It'd be like the U.S. claiming to support the people of Darfur, then invite the Sudanese gov't over for chess.

craigers 9 years, 4 months ago

madmike, to be fair I think Babboy was making a comparison to the way of thinking that Obama is a failure because of all the stituations going on right now. We don't know exactly how he will react and until he does or doesn't react, we can't judge him as a good or bad president as a whole. Babboy wasn't saying 9/11 was the republicans fault.

Kyle Reed 9 years, 4 months ago

Actually that's exactly what he said craigers. A direct quote, "911 was the fault of all republicans and you should leave the country in shame immediately."

Nobody said all democrats are to blame for Obama's misteps. Blabboy however did take it to that level with his idiocy.

jaywalker 9 years, 4 months ago

babboy: "911 was the fault of all republicans and you should leave the country in shame immediately"

Perhaps the dumbest post of the day, but it's early.

salad 9 years, 4 months ago

"If I hear “failed policies” one more time, I may vomit."

Bush=Failed Polices!!!

...please....please....please make him/it barf....please....

salad 9 years, 4 months ago

Just remember that this column was written by Charles Kraphammer, who believes that torture works, deficits don't matter, Isreal is always right....always, we should spend ALL our money on the millitary, and that Palestineans need bombin'...always. Bush would say, "Yer doin' a heck of a job Chucky!!!"

Flap Doodle 9 years, 4 months ago

"Charles Kraphammer, who believes that torture works..." So does Barry.

Random56 9 years, 4 months ago

What good has our spending package done in the first week of approval? Stock market down about 1000 pts. His 75b. mortgage plan only rewards the banks and people who took risky loans with low initial intrest rates (3% to 5%) and now they can't afford a house payment with a 10% int. rate. Banks will get paid $1000 to restructure these bad loans,this bail's out the buyers that have overextended them selves, not the people who lost jobs, because you have to have a job to qualify for a loan. reward the people who put us where we are at now? So why does anybody think he knows what he is doing when it comes to any foreign policy?

Random56 9 years, 4 months ago

Alot of bleeding heart libs here will never accept any wrong doing by Obama. It will always be Bushes fault (which he made plenty of mistakes) whether it's about our economy, or world politics.

craigers 9 years, 4 months ago

Akreed and others... reread his post. He said...

Impossible to draw conclusion so early unless you made up your mind and are biased. So, with same stupid logic, consider this:

Clinton— both towers still standing. Bush— Towers go down.

911 was the fault of all republicans and you should leave the country in shame immediately.

He drew the conclusion that if you don't reserve judgment for later about how good or bad of a president Obama is, then your knee jerk reaction is just as bad as blaming 9/11 on all republicans.

As for me, I don't think Obama is doing well so far when it comes to the economy but part of that is the congress that drafted a stimulus package that probably won't stimulate the economy and penalizes those that made smart decisions by giving a handout to banks and individuals that lived beyond their means. Now we are going to make their current lives within their means, which is not right at all.

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 4 months ago

The GOP has failed this country miserably, and their response is to criticize anyone who does not do what they want.

It bodes well for the next election, the GOP has learned nothing.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 4 months ago

Having been born and raised in a small Kansas town, I lack the world view of this Kraut Hammer guy but as far as putting missiles in Poland to stop the Iranians...

If you want to shoot pheasants I think you should be a little closer to where they live.

Can somebody tell me when was the last time Iran invaded Poland?

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 4 months ago

I don't think I have ever seen more bias in a columnist than Krauthammer and his world view is very much Authoritarian. Scary.

The only thing I get from his column is that he wants to undermine our President. Doesn't sound like a patriot to me.

Random56 9 years, 4 months ago

Change??? The most liberal "change" in direction our country has ever seen. Get ready socialism here we come!He really meant change didn't he.

jaywalker 9 years, 4 months ago


You're absolutely right in regards to babboy's post. I screwed up, didn't pay attention. Sorry for calling your post dumb, babboy. That'd be me.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 4 months ago

So is this an anti-Russian missile system or an anti-Iranian missile system?

Are we going to maintain a cold war stance or move in a different direction. I don't like the strategy.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 4 months ago

I grew up believing that there were a lot of very smart guys making these decisions regarding our national defense.

After watching Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld the last 8 years and listening to Limbaugh and the rest of the media right wingers, I now realize (like most Americans) that I was very mistaken.

The past strategies are obsolete. It is time for new and better strategies to decrease the threat of nuclear holocaust.

Hoots 9 years, 4 months ago

Tumbilweed ..yes...we are making history every minute but in our culture we are repeating the mistakes of early Greek and Roman society but in this age at light speed. For some reason our leaders whether that be president or congress can't seem to see the parallel.

Stop blaming one party or the other. This mess goes back years. Things were done under both Clinton and Bush that made this mess. The economy is not a light switch you turn on and off. It is something that takes years in many cases to disrupt. The type of trading practices that destroyed us were outlawed around 1907 but the lobbyist and your congress thought it was a good idea to remove these checks on the banks and Wall Street. It almost broke us once at the turn of the last century and the same activity has done it once again. Congress passed that and Clinton signed it into law. We ignore our forefathers and wonder why we have a mess. It IS called History my friends...pure and simple. History is much like math. I can tell you 2 + 2 = 5 but eventually it will always come up 4 no matter what I'm trying to sell you and has done so from the beginning of time. Ignoring history is the true failure here and right now.

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