Obama ain’t no Spock

A US resolution to the Middle East conflict has become a national imperative and a logical necessity. Therefore it will happen.

At least it would if we lived in a world governed by logic…

I confess I don’t pay unswerving attention to everything that’s happening in Washington, so when I saw a headline in today’s New York Times, Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle East, my first reaction was: Huh. Obama gave a speech on the Middle East and I never even heard it was scheduled. How about that?

Then I read the article to find out when and where he gave this speech but it wasn’t mentioned. Then I read the headline again. Aha! Caught again by those cunning New York Times headline writers – Obama speech, not Obama’s speech.

Why does the so-called newspaper of record have to be parsed as carefully as the Soviet Izvestia?

OK. So the speech in question turns out to be a phrase: “vital national security interest.” That being, the vital national security interest that will be served to the United States by a resolution to the Middle East conflict.

This does indeed mark an important shift in perspective. But here’s the real question: Will that shift in perspective lead to a significant shift in policy?

Generally speaking, to call something out as a “vital national security interest” should demand a bold course of action. You can’t point to a vital national security interest and then do little to address it, can you?

In the minds of many observers, the shift Obama has signaled, will almost inevitably lead to a US peace plan. “It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state,” the Times reported.

But did anything else Obama said at the same juncture indicate that he’s ready to act decisively? No.

Progress will be halting, Obama said. Indeed.

Moreover, and this might have been the most telling remark he made: “we can’t want it more than they do.”

So, if resolving the Middle East conflict is a vital national security interest of the United States, the US will nevertheless be held hostage by the willingness of the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict.

We must, but we can’t…

I guess it won’t become a campaign slogan.

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5 thoughts on “Obama ain’t no Spock

  1. delia ruhe

    Obama can really do nothing — unless he slips the other shoulder under the Bush mantle, declares himself a “war president,” and does everything he wants by presidential decree. To get away with that, he and his staff would have to initiate a heavy propaganda campaign and do some serious fear-mongering. It got Bush a second term, and by the look of things it’s the only thing that could keep Obama in office after 2012.

    But on the matter of Middle East peace, “we can’t want it more than they do” means that he doesn’t want it either. In that context, the latest speech by Chas Freeman should be on the required reading list of every American:

    http://www.mepc.org/whats/cwf032410.asp

    Clearly, Freeman’s blunt honesty is what undermined his nomination as head of Intelligence.

  2. DICKERSON3870

    RE: Moreover, and this might have been the most telling remark he [Obama] made: “we can’t want it more than they do.”

    MY COMMENT: Who says? George Baker? Dennis Ross? Elliott Abrams? What exactly happens if “we” do in fact want “it” more than “they” do? Does the sky fall on Chicken Little?
    Is it impermissible for a parent to want happiness for a child more than the child wants happiness for himself. It might be frustrating/challenging for the parent, but is it counterproductive per se? Might the child be happier just knowing how much the parent wants them to be happy? If a child simply does not want happiness, then should the parent be advised not to want happiness for the child? Would that be constructive?
    Assuming that “we” do in fact want “it” more than “they” do, is there nothing “we” can do to foster their wanting “it” more than “they” do?

    Main Entry: fa·tal·ism / Function: noun /Date: 1678
    : a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them; also : a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine

    Main Entry: de·feat·ism / Function: noun / Date: 1918
    : an attitude of accepting, expecting, or being resigned to defeat

  3. DICKERSON3870

    RE: Moreover, and this might have been the most telling remark he [Obama] made: “we can’t want it more than they do.”

    SEE – “Interview with Dennis Ross: Living the Peace Process”, by Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson, Middle East Quarterly, June 1996

    …MEQ: Is there a danger of Americans’ seeming more eager for an Israeli-Syrian peace than are the two parties?

    Ross: Were that the case, we would have no chance of ever producing an agreement. The interest and intention for peace must reflect something fundamental to both sides. Not only can we not want an agreement more than them but we cannot impose an agreement. Any agreement that emerges must reflect the fact that it is their decision, for, ultimately, they have to explain and defend an agreement. If it doesn’t reflect what they value, it will not endure. We see ourselves prepared to help them reach an agreement, but we can’t want it more than they do.

    MEQ: What does this mean operationally?

    Ross: The burden of negotiating must be theirs. There are always those who say, “Why can’t there be an American blueprint to solve this?” We don’t accept that because we are not party to the conflict. The agreement must reflect what they are prepared to accept — not what we’re prepared to accept. We will support them. From time to time we offer ideas, but always in the context of their discussions. They have to show that they are making a serious effort to overcome their differences…

  4. Norman Morley

    I would say that Obama seems to have only one suit that he can use, that being very good at Spin. He certainly hasn’t used the bully pulpit like he should have been doing from the beginning of his Presidency. Great speech’s are just that, unless they are backed up with action. It’s just like telling someone who has fallen down that you will help them up, but then turn your back and walk away.

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