THE American people have spoken, and whatever our personal
preferences, our duty as citizens is to support our next president. And
he's going to need support: The international vultures are already
Immediately upon his inauguration, President Obama will have to
demonstrate to allies and enemies alike that he won't be a pushover.
Justified or not, the international perception of Obama is that he'll
be both passive and a pacifist.
He's going to have to show some Southside Chicago street grit. Fast.
Our enemies haven't wasted any time. The day after our election,
President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, speaking for Vladimir Putin, gave
a Gucci-loafer version of Premier Nikita Krushchev's
shoe-heel-on-the-podium rant of a half-century ago.
In a direct challenge to our president-elect, Medvedev announced
that Russia would deploy its latest-generation battlefield missiles to
the Kaliningrad exclave between Lithuania and Poland. The Russian
president made it clear that the target would be the US
ballistic-missile interceptors to be based on Polish soil.
Medvedev's speech then elaborated on the Putin Doctrine: Russia
will do what it wants, when it wants, where it wants in the territories
that once belonged to the czars.
A day later, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran played good cop
to the Russian bad cop, inviting the new US administration to enter
direct talks with Tehran. Now, negotiations can be useful - but only
when conducted from a position of strength. Unfortunately, the Iranians
view our election results as reflecting a greatly weakened American
They assess Obama as the perfect patsy, a man who believes in his
own powers of persuasion. Drawing out fruitless talks year after year
has been Iran's primary technique to protect its pursuit of nukes.
Persians are brilliant negotiators. Their position is always, "Well, we might sleep with you . . . next time . . . if you just give us one more present . . ."
And we rush off to Tiffany & Co.
Only the Chinese come close to the Iranian genius for castrating
opponents under the negotiating table. Of course, our European allies
show up already missing key parts.
By the end of last week, even the Iraqis had swooped down for a
bite of roadkill. Brushing President Bush aside (as the Russians,
Iranians, Venezuelans and others already have done), Iraqi
representatives working on the status-of-forces agreement for our troop
presence balked at the previously agreed terms, expecting a better deal
from an Obama administration.
One key demand of radical Iraqis is the right to try our troops in
Iraqi courts for alleged crimes. Given the present politicized state of
the Iraqi legal system, accepting such terms would betray our soldiers.
As a candidate, Obama praised our troops. Will he stand up for them now? Or was his praise pure hypocrisy?
There's much more to come. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and
the Castro regime in Cuba have welcomed the election results,
anticipating an American retreat from the fight for freedom. As
president, it will be Obama's duty to disappoint them. China is facing
a serious internal crisis, while terror-tormented Pakistan is broke and
begging. A bumper crop of crises is sprouting on every side.
At home, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - a magnificent public
servant - has tried to sound the warning that our nuclear arsenal, the
ultimate backbone of our national security, has deteriorated badly and
must be renewed (not expanded, just updated).
May we hope that the Obama administration, indebted to an extreme
left-wing base, will have the audacity to do what is necessary and
upgrade our nuclear weapons so that our deterrent remains dependable?
The grim paradox of the last 60 years is that humankind's worst weapons
were all that prevented another world war.
Today, with faith-drunk fanatics pursuing nukes and old adversaries
resharpening their atomic swords, we had best remember that peace is
only preserved through evident strength.
President Obama isn't going to enjoy a honeymoon with terrorists,
rogue states or opportunistic vultures around the globe. He'll have to
establish his leadership credentials immediately, to make it clear that
he's America's president, not our liquidator-in-chief.
What could he do to help himself? Three things:
* First, make it clear to all that while America is willing to talk
with serious counterparts, we'll expect results, not endless
* Second, beg Secretary Gates to stay on at the Pentagon for at least the first year of transition.
* Third, Obama should nominate that brilliant thug, Richard
Holbrooke, as secretary of State. Holbrooke may be the most arrogant
man ever to serve in our diplomatic corps (where arrogance has long
substituted for competence). But he's also tough, superbly capable and
the savviest star in the Democratic constellation when it comes to
If Obama wants to project an idealist's image to the world, he's
going to need a realist at Foggy Bottom. And someone's going to have to
clean up Vice President Joe Biden's inevitable messes. The next four
years are going to be interesting.