THE NOT SO HIDDEN NEW AGENDA
BY DAVID SOLWAY
There is one issue that eclipses them all. Iran is racing to the nuclear finish line, determined to become what Middle East Terrorism expert Walid Phares has called a “Jihadist USSR.” It is developing solid fuel missiles capable not only of reaching American military bases in the region but of targeting major European cities. It is perfecting an EMP platform that constitutes a devastating menace to the United States. Disregarding the United Nations Charter, it has promised to annihilate a sovereign nation, with which it is not officially at war, by atomic holocaust. The potential for a planetary cataclysm is enormous and dwarfs by several orders of magnitude any other geopolitical concern in the world today. Yet Obama is intent on preventing Israel from constructing apartment units in East Jerusaelm while doing nothing to prevent Iran from constructing centrifuges in Natanz.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mubarak of Egypt, nominal allies of the United States, must be asking themselves why their distinguished counterpart gets so excited over these Israeli apartment annexes when Iran is about to launch a veritable game-changer, one that will alter the entire political complexion of the Middle East, putting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Emirates at risk—and, indeed, the world along with them.
The President’s stance vis à vis Israel has little to do with America’s national interests or with an accurate reading of political and historical dynamics. It smacks much more of a private agenda on the part of a man who sat for twenty years worth of Sundays in a pew in Pastor Wright’s church, absorbing his anti-Jewish sermons and jeremiads; who counts among his personal acquaintances the director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi, as well as many other Islamic and pro-Islamic supporters such as his campaign coordinators Mazen Asbahi and Minha Husaini and consultant Shakir Muhammad; and who has surrounded himself with demonstrably anti-Israeli advisors and colleagues, too numerous to name here.
The President also knows that dumping on Israel is a popular move in the current international climate and will not be faulted by his legionary supporters at home, in Europe and in the radical sectors of the Arab realm. As noted columnist and author Barry Rubin writes in the GLORIA center bulletin (June 3, 2009), “Israel is a soft target against which to play hardball.” But in focusing so relentlessly on Israel, Obama is taking the easy way out, for the fact of the matter is that he has absolutely no idea what to do about Iran—the very question that will ultimately define his Presidency—except to extend his open hand and, when that is ignored, to smooth down his hair.
When it comes to the principal dilemma confronting American foreign policy, Obama is utterly clueless. He is the wrong President for the wrong time. The undeniable truth is that he is totally out of his depth—or shallows. And that his main talent resides in the art of parrying instances of political awkwardness, diplomatic gaffes and visionary impotence by drawing on his undoubted charm and self-assurance, which his admirers interpret as presidential savvy. As for Israel, a country to which he is anyway ill-disposed, it serves Obama’s purposes wonderfully, allowing him to preserve his sense of aplomb and to keep his ostensible gravitas intact as the international situation continues to worsen.
Obama is not unintelligent nor is he overly impressionable—at least, not any longer—but he is, on the evidence, exceedingly vain and disturbingly arrogant. This is a man who relies on his urbanity and pizzazz to impose his will upon an awed electorate. A man who responds to an unwelcome query with the rejoinder, “I won” and who appears to regard himself as pretty well infallible, irrespective of what reality is telling him. It is this character trait which likely disables him from scrupulously assessing the real nature of the world’s preeminent conflict. It is this which may well account for his obvious reluctance to develop a robust and workable strategy on the Iranian file.
Obama is very good at stalking his smaller domestic adversaries but is extremely wary of anything that imperils the suave kinetics of his savoir faire. Obama is wholly cat, supple in his manifestations and graceful in his demeanor, but a cat who has faltered upon an issue before which he cannot admit his helplessness and lack of moral resolve, his failure of audacity. All he can do is divert attention from his incompetence and partisanship by seizing upon a lesser and comparatively nugatory matter—the natural growth of several previously accepted Israeli settlements. By concentrating on a few square kilometers in the Middle East, he is able to avoid facing the greater problem of the danger to his own nation and to the world as well, a problem he is simply not equipped to manage.
It is obvious that Obama has stumbled over Iran. It is equally obvious that he is intensely preoccupied with grooming his image.
David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. His most recent book is The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity.