May 13, 2008
Scary Signals: Obama's Ideology Hints At Dangerous PolicyBy Barry Rubin
One of many scary things about Senator Barrack Obama is how mistaken his ideology makes him, even when he thinks he's getting it right. If Obama shows disastrous positions even when still trying to make voters think him supportive of Israel or tough on Hezb'allah what would he do if he actually were to become president?
Let's examine two official Obama statements to see why they appear good superficially and incredibly worrisome when analyzed.
Senator Barrack Obama's official statement on Israel's sixtieth birthday is, on the face of it, good. But it is in fact almost contemptuous. It is boring boiler plate, which could have been written by anyone at any time in the last forty years, with no personal touch.
One thing he doesn't do is to associate himself personally and his program with Israel. It would have been easy if he cared -- or if his campaign saw this as anything but throwing a bone to the Jews -- for him to put in something distinctive like: "Israel is living proof that change can happen. It is a country that has always said `Yes, we can!' despite great obstacles."
But no, he just puts in a few clichés as if to highlight his belief that he can get away with anything and still keep gullible Jewish voters.
When, however, there is something distinctive it is negative intentions disguised as idealism. The statement says:
Obviously, peace is good. But it is no longer the Oslo era. Things should have been learned. A combination of factors, notably Hamas, makes the chances for peace quite low, a point unrecognized in the statement. And despite the fine, carefully worded sentence the subliminal message screams out: Pressure Israel for its own good AND peace at any price.
What if the neighbors don't want to make real peace? What if they don't keep commitments already made? Is there some point where the United States reaches this conclusion and gives Israel strong support? What happens after Obama talks to Bashar al-Asad of Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hamas and Hezb'allah? Is it possible that he could conclude that dialogue is no good and full backing for Israel is required? No.
And how about supporting a strong Israel as a means of getting the radicals to back down and the semi-radicals to act a bit moderate? No sense of this concept.
Compare to what he could have said. My rewrite:
Also, while of course the United States must set its own policy, there is no hint of consultation, or that Israel should itself be able to determine its security needs and goals. If America must "do everything it can to reduce and ease the conflict," it will be Obama who will decide what that is. Bargain with Iran and Syria? Engage with Hamas and Hezb'allah? Demand Israel close down roadblocks which -- I will trust Israeli services on this matter -- stop terrorists?
Senator Obama has zero experience on this issue. And the idea that he -- and some of the people he will appoint (judging by the terrible, overwhelmingly anti-Israel choices he has made as advisors) -- is not likely to make choices in determining what makes Israel better and more secure.
If this is the best Obama can do as a candidate courting Jewish votes I shudder to think what he would do if elected.
Yet it is very important to understand that this is not at all about Israel. It is about the Middle East as a whole. The question is how Obama would manage the issues of Iranian nuclear, Iraq, Lebanon, radical Islamism, and terrorism. In each case, there is much to worry about. And a lot of the worrying is being done by Arabs.
The relative moderates have good reason to fear an Obama victory. Consider, for example, Obama's May 10 statement on Lebanon. He starts out sounding tough, talking about "Hezbollah's power grab in Beirut...This effort to undermine Lebanon's elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately," support for the Lebanese government, "strengthen the Lebanese army," and "insist on disarming Hezbollah."
But how to do this? By "working with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet."
In other words, according to the Obama world view, it's a problem of economic development. If people have more money they won't be terrorists. (Presumably, like people in Pennsylvania, only the lack of jobs makes people in Lebanon cling to guns and religion.)
Of course, however, an energetic (albeit flawed) economic development policy was what Hariri tried and it worked to some extent. Nevertheless, the Syrians blew him up. In politics, bombs trump business. And anyway you can't have a strong economy with political chaos and armed militias. If you ask Hezb'allah supporters whether they prefer guns, Islamism, and power or Western economic aid, they will not say, "It's the economy, stupid."
Obama then goes to his second way to avoid the need for a tough stance and the use of American power -- the UN. His statement continues: "We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria."
Great. But that only begs the question. Are you willing to fight on this issue; commit troops; defy, if necessary, an "international community" which opposes action? And, again, there is the paucity of serious analysis of an issue, instead merely sweeping a magic wand. There are reasons why those resolutions have not been implemented: doing so requires some shooting and dying.
Of course, a lot of Obama's appeal is his offer of painless solutions, vague and soothing. At every turn, however, we see that he has no concept of the use of political power, deterrence, sanctions, leverage, military assets, facing down an enemy rather than having face time with him.
His third way to avoid all this is the idea that the Lebanese army will solve the problem. Perhaps he isn't aware that its commander is Syria's presidential candidate, its soldiers are mostly pro-Hezb'allah, and it is famously ineffective. Unfortunately, giving money to the Lebanese military may be only one step better than giving it to Hezb'allah or Syria.
But here's the worst part that few in America but everyone in Lebanon will understand all too well:
This is the Hezb'allah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. It advocates an electoral reform that will give Hezb'allah more votes. President George W. Bush helped elect Hamas in the Palestinian territories by a similar strategy; Obama would put Hezb'allah into power in Beirut.
What's needed in Lebanon is not consensus -- the equivalent, which Obama would probably favor, is getting Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences, and another he openly supports is bringing in Iran and Syria to determine Iraq's future -- but the willingness to fight a battle. In effect, Obama is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hezb'allah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair.
The Lebanese-American blogger at "From Beirut to the Beltway" shows how Lebanese government supporters regard Obama's dangerous naiveté:
One can debate about the efficacy of Obama's world view and (lack of) experience applied to domestic American issues. In the Middle East, however, it would be quite disastrous.