Monday, August 06, 2007

Barack to the wading pool for you, kid

Are you starting to get the feeling that Barack Obama is out of his depth in running for president? I don’t think he’s an idiot, like John Edwards (has anybody ever seen Edwards and Dan Quayle in the same place?), and I think he’s basically a good man even if I disagree with many of his policy positions, but he’s just not experienced and savvy enough for this stage at this point in his life.

Take his naïve promise to meet separately, without precondition, the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il respectively) during his first year in office, first stated in a debate and reinforced later so it is his actual position. Even the most casual of political observers knows that brutal tyrants like these would only meet with a high US official in order to score propaganda points and justify more oppression of their unfortunate populations. Yes, I know that Nancy Pelosi allowed herself to be used by Assad in just this manner, but having a stupid Speaker of the House does not preclude us from asking for some basic diplomatic competence from a presidential candidate.

Then there’s his pledge to invade Pakistan, a rare US ally in the radical Muslim world, in concert with withdrawing from Iraq. Never mind that such an action would weaken, and probably ultimately remove, President Musharraf and leave an Iran-style (and already nuclear!) fascist Muslim regime in his wake. In Obama’s mind, the creation of a jihadist state where radical mullahs have their fingers on nuclear triggers is a small price to pay if it paves the way for unilateral and unconditional surrender in Iraq. This would be mildly amusing if it appeared on some far left blog, but from a leading presidential candidate it is just sad. The thing is, Obama could have sponsored a resolution to send troops into Pakistan at any time; that he has not is a sign that this is just another twisted justification for insisting on US defeat in Iraq.

And don’t forget Obama’s disturbing contention that a genocide in Iraq (which everybody agrees is a strong possibility) would be an acceptable price to pay for a US pullout. James Taranto nailed the disturbing implications of using our inaction in the Congo and Darfur to justify this position:

[T]here is an obvious difference between taking an action that you believe is likely to bring about genocide (as Obama urges in Iraq) and refraining from taking action to prevent genocide--between omission and commission. An unstated Obama premise is that America, despite having intervened militarily in Iraq for nearly 17 years, has no responsibility to the Iraqis.

Worse, Obama's argument leaves no room for any kind of humanitarian intervention. He comes perilously close to arguing that it is worse to prevent one genocide while failing to prevent others than never to act against genocide at all. To put it kindly, this seems morally obtuse

Bottom line, Obama is a foreign policy novice whose childlike ideas on how to solve real world problems would be charming coming from a young student, but coming from an adult with presidential aspirations they reveal a man who is just not ready for prime time, and indeed a little scary. As I said, I think he’s a good man and has potential, but let’s back off until 2016 or so, shall we?

UPDATE 8/6/07: Pakastanis are even less enthused about Obama than I am.

UPDATE 8/9/07: Obama let loose another gem in the August 7 AFL-CIO forum: "I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA." Not sure who the president of Canada is supposed to be, but my money's on Geddy Lee.

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