At Large

Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Obama

Our nation's quarterback is getting blitzed but he refuses to use blockers or throw downfield.

By 5.29.09

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The challenge that President Obama had faced so successfully with adoring foreign leaders came to naught in his recent meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. The charming pedantry of Barack Obama, late of Harvard Law and Columbia University, had no impact on "Bibi" Netanyahu with his two degrees from MIT and experience as a captain in an elite commando unit of the Israeli Defense Force.

The American president argued forcefully, but the Israeli PM made it quite clear that his country was not going to cease all new settlement construction nor acquiesce to U.S. veto power with respect to an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear weapon development. It was a "welcome to the NFL" moment for the new American quarterback.

Obama was still reeling from Bibi's private pounding when their press conference began. The American leader rambled on with strained grace, not once looking at his guest. Netanyahu, for his part, sat looking directly at Obama with the palms of his hands on his knees in a ready position, as if he were about to enter one of those caged fighting bouts. This had been something much more than a "frank" meeting.

The past few weeks have contained a sharp dose of reality therapy for a person who had become used to gliding through complicated issues like a traveling preacher expounding on the evils of sin. While exhorting the public to accept sacrifice, Pastor Obama laid out pat answers to all questions only to have to change his positions as he and his staff actually studied the problem.

President Obama repeatedly has supported the concept that military risk can be avoided if the United States only would designate diplomacy and negotiation as the principal instruments of its international power. Unfortunately, world reality dictates that the military and diplomatic aspects of national power projection go hand-in-hand and cannot, nor should not, be separated.

Just as the Obama Administration has had to face the realities of dealing with captured terrorists as something other than common criminals, the White House finds itself having to recognize that sending Americans off to fight for other people's freedom is at the core of that term Mr. Obama uses so repeatedly -- American values. At the same time the United States has found that the altruism of fighting for others is buttressed by the strategic practicality of keeping aggression away from our own shores.

Apparently Mr. Obama wants to restrict this strictly defensive proposition while at the same time being protective of the "human rights" of those who attack us. Clearly his philosophy is confusing to the very Americanized Mr. Netanyahu. Certainly his ambitions must be confusing to the far less worldly Kim Jong-il.

Faced with an American president who professes he has not a belligerent bone in his political body, the North Korean leader can believe only that this odd American would never react militarily to a cleverly obfuscated nuclear weapon development policy. After all, this Obama appears to be willing to accept Iranian protestations of pure nuclear energy motives. So off goes another underground nuclear explosion north of the 38th parallel, tests of several tactical range missiles, and the unilateral rescinding of the 1953 armistice accord.

It appears many nations, pro and anti-U.S., enjoy the prospect that once again an American administration is in office that is fearful of physical contest and aspires to peace no matter the cost. To gain their own advantage, some even count on it.

One thing is obvious: Barack Obama must have never understood much about the American history he read at Columbia and Harvard. This nation was carved out of a wilderness, geographically, economically, and politically. Slaves were exploited then freed at the price of hundreds of thousands of lives; territories were bloodily wrenched from their original inhabitants who fought to retain what had been theirs. This has never been a kind and gentle nation, even when our people were.

Recessions and depressions were overcome by hard work, speculative investment, economic expansion, and wars. Incompetent leaders were removed from office. This is hardly a nation of losers. Winning at all costs is the true national goal: it lacks the sophistication of our European cousins, but it's also what has guaranteed our freedom and strength. Are these not the true American values?

The preamble to our Constitution guides us well enough as to our national objectives: "… in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…"

Is that clear enough, Mr. President?

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About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.