Five world flashpoints confront Obama

(Washington, Mar. 1) While it seems strange to be hailing the prophetic gifts of Joe Biden, his prediction last fall about very serious foreign policy challenges to a President Obama within six months of his inauguration retrospectively appears as one of the most astute and honest insights of the election year. While the buzz in this company town remains dominated by Democratic self-congratulation over their world historical spending spree there is yet detectable an underlying apprehension that further socialist triumphs could be jeopardized by unanticipated eruptions on the international front.

Let us glance quickly at five areas of potential crisis in ascending order of probable importance. North Korea, Russia, Mexico, Israel and, worst of all, Afghanistan head the list of places where Biden's prophecy could soon come true.

Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to the Far East brought renewed attention to continuing instability in the Korean peninsula. The indefensible Bush blunder of formally removing North Korea from the list of terror-sponsoring nations against all evidence and in return for absolutely nothing gravely disturbed Japanese-American relations, validated the blackmailing policies of Kim Jong-I L, and sent strong signals of American inconstancy and indecisiveness throughout the region.

Copying a play patented by fellow nuclear wannabe Iran, North Korea recently announced that its’ “Space Program” would soon be testing a new rocket that incidentally has the capacity to reach the West Coast of the United States. Secretary Clinton boldly described this move as “unhelpful”.

As President Obama has his first personal encounters with Western European leaders a major topic will be how to deal with the ever feisty Vladimir Putin. Currently the Obama Administration is “studying” the Bush promise to install an SDI-like missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The result of this evaluation will tell all of East Central Europe, particularly Ukraine, the extent of their “aloneness” vis a vis their former masters in the Kremlin.

In general beyond “feeling their love” President Obama will find that regarding increased military assistance in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the NATO allies aren’t going to do anymore for him than they did for George Bush- probably even less considering their withdrawal timetables on current troop commitments and their continually shrinking defense budgets.

When a recent National Intelligence Estimate declared Mexico to be in a flat footed tie with Pakistan as the world’s leading candidate for “Failed Nation” status, America was suddenly awakened to the fact that things haven’t been going swimmingly for our amigos south of the border. In a bizarre act of collective non-attention the U.S. media paid almost no heed to thousands of assassinations (including many spectacular beheadings), nonstop violence by drug cartels who effectively rule large parts of the country, the total ineffectiveness of the corrupted National Police and the recent calling out of the Army to regain control of certain provinces along the U.S. border. Even worse, multi-billion dollar drug smuggling into the U.S. has caused a wave of violence to spill hugely across our borders. Today Phoenix has the second highest kidnapping rate of any city in the world.

In the Middle East the post-election emergence of Benjamin Netanyahu as leader of a very hawkish Israeli government dashes the hopes of the Obama Administration for advancing the endlessly fruitless “Peace Process”.

While Netanyahu will bide his time pending talks with Obama and the Iranian elections in June virtually all Israelis have been persuaded by the 7,000 rockets that landed on their country that talking to the Palestinians is useless until Iran’s proxy Hamas is destroyed.

Finally the number one foreign challenge for President Obama is clearly Afghanistan. In a masterful political sleight of hand during the campaign Obama demonstrated his toughness by defining Afghanistan as the “Right War” that he would “win”, while Iraq was the “Wrong War” that George Bush had “lost”. It would be a supreme irony if in the end History records Bush as the “Victor of Iraq” and Obama as the man who had “lost” Afghanistan ( and Pakistan as well).

A recent USA Today story on Afghanistan was titled “Obama’s War”. That story and several others have noted that the anti-war passions that have been the hallmark of the Democratic Party for over forty years are already rising. The exceedingly low key announcement of 17,000 more troops going to Afghanistan and the ongoing “strategic re-evaluation” suggest that the President is very aware of his dilemma.

As the world watches the Obama Drama continues to unfold.

William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News.