When Character is the Defining Issue

Vice President Joe Biden is most noted for his routine gaffs, malapropisms and estrangement from the facts. But, as the saying goes, even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then. In October of 2008, in the middle of the presidential campaign, Biden said of his running mate — now President Barack Obama:

“Mark my words, 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.
“Watch. We’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.
“And he’s going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it’s not going to be apparent initially; it’s not going to be apparent that we’re right.”

Biden was right. Not that he was prescient, but rather every new president is tested.

And Biden didn’t do Pres. Obama any favors by comparing him to John Kennedy. The world tested Kennedy and found him weak and indecisive. The Soviet Union was so emboldened by Kennedy’s lack of resolve that it dared to begin placing nuclear missiles in Cuba. What Kennedy supporters describe as his greatest act of courage — facing down the Soviet Union as they were about to deliver the first missiles — was, in reality, Kennedy’s last chance and, even then, the decision was engineered more by his brother Bobby than it was by Kennedy.

Between North Korea and Iran, Pres. Obama has been tested and found wanting. So much so that the frequency and intensity of those tests has been increasing.

On April 5, 2009, Peter Foster of the UK Telegraph noted:

“The launch of the missile at 02.30 GMT (11.30am local time) from a coastal site in the country’s northeast presents US President Barack Obama with his first major foreign policy test since he took office in January, analysts say.
“It came after weeks of escalating tensions in which North Korea has threatened to pull out permanently from the stalled Six-Party nuclear disarmament talks if any country attempted to interfere with its missile test.
“The United States immediately announced it would take steps to show the regime of Kim Jong-il that it could not threaten the security of other nations with impunity.
“U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement that North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, had violated U.N. resolutions and increased its own isolation.
“‘With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations,’ said Mr. Obama.”

And what did Pres. Obama do about. Nothing. He punted to the United Nations, which promised to hold its breath until Kim Jong-Il stopped being a meany.

On May 25, 2009, Jean Lee (AP) reported:

“North Korea defied world powers and carried out an underground test Monday of a nuclear bomb Russian officials said was comparable to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The incident drew condemnation from Washington to Beijing and set the communist regime up for a showdown with the United Nations.
“The U.N. Security Council was meeting later Monday in New York to discuss what President Barack Obama called Pyongyang’s “˜blatant defiance’ of resolutions banning the regime from developing weapons of mass destruction. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the test as a “˜danger to the world.’ Russia’s Foreign Ministry called it “˜a serious blow to international efforts’ to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Well, why wouldn’t they defy the world powers? The last thirty years of history have proven that the United Nations is incapable of doing anything besides stamping its collective feet in a hissy fit. Diplomacy only works when dealing with civilized societies or rational leadership. For instance, one would not describe the brutal Soviet Union as a “civilized society” but it did have rational leadership that recognized the danger of “mutual assured destruction (MAD)” and thus refrained from using its nuclear arms.

Then on May 29, 2009, Ann Gearan (AP) reported:

“North Korea on Friday vowed to retaliate if punitive U.N. sanctions are imposed for its latest nuclear test, and U.S. officials said there are new signs Pyongyang may be planning more long-range missile launches. With tensions rising, the communist nation punctuated its barrage of rhetoric with yet another short-range missile launch “” the sixth this week.
“Perhaps more significantly, officials in Washington said there are indications of increased activity at a site used to fire long-range missiles.
“The nuclear test and flurry of missile launches, coupled with the rhetoric from Pyongyang that it won’t honor a 1953 truce ending the fighting in the Korean War, have raised tensions in the region and heightened concerns that the North may provoke a skirmish along the border or off its western coast “” the site of deadly clashes in 1999 and 2002.”

Sure enough, North Korea is now preparing to fire yet another missile — this one a long-range missile pointed towards Hawaii. By the time this column is published North Korea may well have launched that missile and despite Obama’s claim that the United States is “ready” we can expect more of the same — nothing.

In Southwest Asia, (Afghanistan and Pakistan) where Pres. Obama has promised to “take the fight” to al-Quiada and the Taliban what we have seen instead is one new limitation after another on our fighting forces. Despite the declaration that the use of armed drones has been one of the most effective tools in finding and fighting al-Quiada and the Taliban in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Obama administration has substantially reduced the use of those drones. And this week, the Obama administration announced new rules of engagement that limits the use of air strikes and bans firing on structures where insurgents may have taken refuge among civilians.

We’ve done that before — in Vietnam where the rules of engagement were so limited that the enemy could stage its attacks and quickly return to its sanctuaries which Pres. Kennedy and Johnson had declared “off-limits.”

In the latest mark of the brutality of the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which Iran’s thuggish Iranian militia fired upon and killed unarmed protestors, Pres. Obama could not even bring himself to condemn such acts until pushed by critics to do so. In what is becoming a trademark of the Obama Administration, the President continued to revise his responses until they coincide with what he believes his audience wants to hear.

Apparently, the only nation that Obama can bring himself to condemn is our best ally, Israel. Obama used his time in a recent Mideast trip to demand that Israel refrain from opening new settlements in what is described as “the disputed territories” and to recognize a separate Palestinian state. Obama has previously backed up that demand by threatening to disclose information on Israel’s nuclear weapons.

The only question left is whether Pres. Obama, like Kennedy, will allow his weakness to continue until it results in an avoidable crises as dangerous as the Cuban missile crises; or like Jimmy Carter it results in a national shame in which a pipsqueak regime run by religious zealots and student militias overran our sovereignty.

As a postscript, before all of the Obama apologists launch into yet another tirade about George Bush, Bush isn’t the president any longer. What he did or didn’t do is irrelevant to the conduct of the current president. Today, Pres. Obama stands alone — his decisions, not Bush’s, are what are being tested by a very hostile world. And thus far the judgment is that he is irresolute and unready.

Until Pres. Obama understands that war is a brutal contest in which people die and things are destroyed and is prepared to make the decisions necessary to win a war, we should not deploy our young men and women in harm’s way. We have done that before — in the Bay of Pigs, in Vietnam, in Cambodia where two million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and in Mogadishu. In each instance, people were sacrificed because we lacked the will to win.

My friends and classmates died in Vietnam. I don’t want to see the friends and classmates of my children die for a similar irresolute commander-in-chief.