Remember what Joe Biden said during the Campaign:
“It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”
“I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate,” Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. “And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”
In the few weeks since President Obama took office he has been tested by Russia, Iran, and Pakistan, each time the reaction of the United States Government was tentative at best. Columnist Charles Krauthammer says Obama failed his first foreign policy tests:
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER | Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009 4:20 PM PT
The Biden prophecy has come to pass. Our wacky veep, momentarily inspired, had predicted last October that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.”
Biden probably had in mind an eve-of-the-apocalypse drama like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead, Obama’s challenges have come in smaller bites. Some are deliberate threats to U.S. interests, others mere probes to ascertain whether the new president has any spine.
Preliminary X-rays aren’t encouraging.
Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:
(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.
(b) Announcing the formation of a “rapid reaction force” with six former Soviet republics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.
(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.
(d) Declaring Russia’s intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.
President Bush’s response to the Kaliningrad deployment—the threat was issued the day after Obama’s election — was firm.
He refused to back down because giving in to Russian threats would leave Poles and Czechs exposed and show the world that, contrary to post-Cold War assumptions, the U.S. could not be trusted to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying.
The Obama response? “Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal,” as the New York Times headlined Biden’s Feb. 7 Munich speech to a major international gathering. This followed strong messages from Obama’s team even before the inauguration that Obama wasn’t committed to the missile shield. And just to make sure everyone understood that Bush’s policy no longer held, Biden said the U.S. wanted to “press the reset button” on NATO-Russian relations.
Not surprisingly, the Obama wobble elicited a favorable reaction from Russia. (There are conflicting reports that Russia might suspend the Kaliningrad blackmail deployment.) The Kremlin must have been equally impressed the other provocations — Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the rapid reaction force — elicited barely a peep from Washington.
Iran has been similarly charmed by Obama’s overtures. A week after the new president went about sending sweet peace signals via al-Arabiya, Iran launched its first homemade Earth satellite. The message is clear. If you can put a satellite into orbit, you can hit any continent with a missile, North America included.
And for emphasis, after the roundhouse hook, came the poke in the eye.
A U.S. women’s badminton team had been invited to Iran. Here was a chance for “ping-pong diplomacy” with the accommodating new president, a sporting venture meant to suggest the possibility of warmer relations.
On Feb. 4, Tehran denied the team entry into Iran.
Then, in case Obama failed to get the message, Iran’s parliament speaker in Munich responded to Obama’s olive branch.
Executive summary: Thanks very much. After you acknowledge 60 years of crimes against us, change not just your tone but your policies, and abandon the Zionist criminal entity, we might deign to talk to you.
With a grinning Goliath staggering about sporting a “kick me” sign on his back, even reputed allies joined the fun. Pakistan freed from house arrest A.Q. Khan, the notorious proliferator who sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran.
Ten days later, Islamabad capitulated to the Taliban, turning over to its tender mercies the Swat Valley, 100 miles from the capital. Not only will Shariah law now reign there, but the democratically elected secular party will be hunted down as the Pakistani army stands down.
These Pakistani capitulations may account for Obama’s hastily announced 17,000-troop increase in Afghanistan even before his various heralded reviews of the mission have been completed.
Hasty, unexplained, but at least something. Other than that, a month of pummeling has been met with utter passivity.
I would like to think the supine posture is attributable to a rookie leader otherwise preoccupied (i.e. domestically), leading a foreign policy team as yet unorganized if not disoriented.
But when the State Department says that Hugo Chavez’s president-for-life referendum, which was preceded by a sham government-controlled campaign featuring the tear-gassing of the opposition, was “for the most part . . . fully consistent with democratic process,” you have to wonder if Month One is not a harbinger of things to come.