U.S., West are in need of a genuine leader

By Dale R. Herspring

It is hard to understand President Barack Obama’s seeming failure to exert even a modicum of leadership. Clearly, he set out to climb to the top of the political ladder — and he succeeded. He now holds the most important position in the world. He is one of the most effective speakers we have had as president, and he seems to enjoy politics. 

His major weakness is his failure to show leadership on either domestic or foreign policy issues. He often acts as if he does not understand an issue or its long term implications, or is simply not interested in it.  There are signs that his left-wing orientation sometimes gets in the way of his decision-making. Whether on the left or the right, ideologues often find themselves tilting at windmills.  In this country, there is a tendency to push policies toward the middle. This is one of our country’s problems; Obama is pushing leftist policies, which has led the opposition to push toward the right, giving us the gridlock we have in Washington.

No president can be an expert on the myriad issues he faces every day. Jimmy Carter was extremely intelligent, but his tendency to micro-manage often led to logjams in decision-making. What is important is for the president to know the outlines of important domestic and foreign policy issues. He has experts to break issues down so civilians can understand them.  

Obama does not like to make hard decisions. The Washington Post recently ran a lengthy article on the border crisis. More than two years ago, a team from the University of Texas at El Paso warned that the illegal immigration of children was getting out of hand.  The report was sent to the Department of Home-land Security which, with the Department of State, reportedly warned the White House that the situation was rapidly turning into a disaster. Yet it was only last month that Obama called the situation a “humanitarian crisis,”

Another example involves the war between Israel — our closest ally in the Middle East — and the terrorist group Hamas.  Unlike his predecessors, Obama has refused to unconditionally back Israel. Instead, Obama has danced around the issue, calling on both sides to work for peace — a concept that for Hamas means the end of Israel. 

I don’t question the Palestinians’ right to a homeland. The problems are complex, and every president since Harry Truman has tried to bring peace to that region. Now Iran has entered the picture, providing Hamas the many missiles it has fired recently at Israel.   

Private reports from Israel suggest that the Israeli government is furious about Obama’s behavior and uncertain whether it can count on him.

The latest crisis in Ukraine also demonstrates Obama’s limited understanding of U.S. national interests. Obama continues to hold the liberal view that if one is nice to others, they will reciprocate. Russian Presi-dent Vladimir Putin is a different kind of leader. He understands power and respects power. Obama last week called for a fair and thorough investigation into the downing of the Malaysian airliner and the deaths of the 298 people on board. For his part, Putin blamed the Ukrainians — a far-fetched notion, at best. Obama is right in calling for an investigation, although it is unlikely that one can be conducted now after pro-Russian forces desecrated the crash site.

Obama’s response contrasts sharply with that of President Reagan in a similar situation. Reagan reacted in a way that most upset the Soviets. He increased the military budget, putting Russia’s military even further behind the U.S. military.  The Kremlin was furious. Reagan’s action was one the Russians understood and respected.   

In contrast, Obama made no threats. Maybe that’s good because he never follows through. Putin looks for weaknesses, and he has found them in Washington. A plane is shot down and what does Obama do?  Issue a milquetoast statement and leave to raise money!  

These events are complex and tear at our emotions. One reaction that hit home for me was from a peasant near where remnants of the plane landed. “I was in World War II, and I have experienced starvation,” he said. “But seeing bodies fall from the sky was the worst experience in my life.”

It is time for Obama to stand up and be tough for once.

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