A cork bobbing on a stormy political ocean 55

 Victor Davis Hanson wrote in yesterday’s Investor’s Business Daily:

Once upon a time, Obama and his fans asserted that Iran was a hyped-up threat, that we could go openly into Pakistan if need be to beat al-Qaida, that the surge wouldn’t work, that the Patriot Act and the Guantanamo Bay prison have torn asunder the Constitution, that we have alienated our European allies, that defeating terrorists is more a matter for criminal justice than military force, and that pushing democracy on traditional Islamic societies is culturally chauvinistic and naive.

But like his predecessors, the Obama administration will quickly learn that present U.S. foreign policy is mostly a result of reasonable decisions taken amid bad and worse choices. Therefore, don’t be surprised if a President Obama continues much of what we are now doing — albeit with a kinder, gentler rhetoric of "multilateralism" and "U.N. accords."

Obama has not assumed office yet, and already Iran has mocked the president-elect’s campaign suggestions for unconditional diplomacy. Already, old-new Defense Secretary Robert Gates has indicated a desire to stabilize Iraq before withdrawing forces.

Already, commanders have told the president-elect that a simple surge of more troops into Afghanistan offers no magical solution. Already, we are learning that whether we try more aid or ultimatums, Pakistan will remain Pakistan — a radical Islamic, nuclear failed state that is deeply anti-American rather than merely anti-George Bush.

As Inauguration Day approaches and campaign rhetoric ends and governance begins, words begin to have consequences. Truth is, there are not many alternatives to the present strategy against Islamic terrorism.

Obama doesn’t want a terrorist attack after seven years of quiet — certainly not of the sort that occurred in Mumbai last month. He may tinker with, but not end, Homeland Security measures. He may better articulate the complexities of a tribal Middle East, but he won’t stop American efforts to foster democracy there.

A President Obama may show more anguish over the necessary use of violence, but I suspect he won’t cede a military victory to terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. He will talk up the Atlantic Alliance, but likely complain in private that the U.S. inordinately does the heavy lifting in NATO. And if terrorists dared again to kill hundreds of Americans here at home, our new president would probably take military action.

Most conservatives and moderates expected that candidate Obama’s grand campaign talk of novel choices abroad would end with President Obama’s realist admission of very few new options.

His problem is instead his left-wing base, which for some reason believed Obama’s electioneering bombast that he could magically make the world anew — and so now apparently should do just that or else!

We think this is a fair prediction. But it implies that Obama himself will make decisions. We doubt that he will. We doubt that he can. A man who voted neither yes nor no most of his time as a Senator is not likely to become suddenly decisive. He will float above the hurly-burly of decision-making for as long as he can. Eventually, however much it will pain him, he’ll have to take responsibility for the decisions made for him by others – such as Rahm Emanuel (if he survives the Blackguardovich scandals), and, in foreign affairs, the Clintons. 


Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Saturday, December 20, 2008

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