Reagan Sets 'Acid Test' for Crisis-Beset Obama (La Stampa, Italy)
six years of his presidency, Obama has never yet shown the strategic ability to
change the rules of the game, the courage and charisma to inspire other leaders
to follow him, or faith enough in his own ideas to intimidate enemies. Above all,
he lacks the talent which Gorbachev maintained was most important in an
American president: Barack Obama does not enjoy, deep down, the trust of the
American people. That is why all the players in the Middle East - allied,
neutral, and deadly adversaries, feel free to act."
In between rounds
of golf and appeals for calm in Ferguson, which is reeling from the death of an
Afro-American, it would have been helpful for American President Barack Obama to
have brought Ken Adelman's new book Reagan
at Reykjavik to read on his vacation in Chilmark, a rustic suburb of
the up-market island of Martha's Vineyard [watch Reagan address on the Reykjavik summit, top-right. Other videos relate to Reagan-era relations with the Soviet Union].
Pressured by a world at war, with Libya having been attacked
by surprise with aircraft from Egypt and United Arab Emirates - countries which
in the past did nothing without Washington's "OK," and with
Syria having watched its mighty Tabqa Air Base torn
from the Assad regime by ISIL militants, the president
might find inspiration in the saga of Ronald Reagan. In Iceland, in the autumn
of 1986, Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leaders of the U.S. and USSR, met for a
difficult summit session.
Reagan is the man who defined Russia as the "Evil
Empire"; Gorbachev was the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. Surprisingly, through their intelligence, passion and strategic capacity
to move beyond their contrasting backgrounds and ideological differences, these
two men understood that the Cold War was over and it was time to turn the page.
Adelman recounts how the two statesmen achieved their vision for
a common agreement, which their associates judged too far reaching and sought to
slow down. The newspapers spoke of a "failure," but Reykjavik really marked
the collapse of the Iron Curtain. All polemicists remember Reagan's slogan "Evil
Empire," but serious historians remember his triumphant 1988 lecture at
Moscow University when, to a standing ovation by students, the Republican president
responded to those asking him, "Is Russia still the Evil Empire?"
with the words "No: those were other times, other places …" [watch
Reagan knew how to change direction without renouncing his
principles, impose negotiations on his adversaries, concede some points and obtain
others. When the president died in 2004, his best eulogy came from Gorbachev in The New York Times: "Reagan was
a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one
could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations
and cooperation. And this was the most important thing to me: he had the trust
of the American people."
President Obama has every possible option on the table:
military force, diplomatic astuteness, America's energy boom and high
technology, a formidable intelligence and an academic background possessed by neither
Reagan nor Gorbachev (a former minor Hollywood actor and a one-time grey local functionary
of the CPSU). But in the six years of his presidency,
Obama has never yet shown the strategic ability to change the rules of the
game, the courage and charisma to inspire other leaders to follow him, or
faith enough in his own ideas to intimidate enemies. Above all, he lacks the talent which
Gorbachev maintained was most important in an American president: Barack Obama
does not enjoy, deep down, the trust of the American people.
That is why all the players in the Middle East - allied,
neutral, and deadly adversaries, feel free to act. Egypt and the UAE are bombing fundamentalists in Libya because Obama has
vacillated between statements of support for the so-called "Arab Spring",
i.e., giving free rein to the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, and attempting to
save Mubarak, and then abandoning him. Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, after a phony attempt at shifting blame for the raids
on fundamentalists to former Libyan General KhalifaHifter, let it be understood that without the
blitz, Tripoli Airport would soon have fallen into the hands of Islamist
A year ago, squeezed by pressure from the British
Parliament, Pope Francis, and the U.S. Congress, Obama backtracked from a
threatened blitz against Assad, despite the fact that his regime had gassed civilians.
He then he refused to support pro-West rebels in Syria, as Senator McCain and
Hillary Clinton had asked him to do. Today Obama is in a corner. If he strikes
at ISIL in Syria, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are
crying out for him to do, and as suggested by pragmatic General William
Mayville, he risks being taken for an "ally" of Assad.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
Syrians, to general indifference, have for the last four years
been fighting a civil war on behalf of third parties, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the
Emirates, Turkey and the Kurds, all through the filter of hatred derived from
the ancient Sunni-Shiite split. At stake is who rules the
Arab Middle East. When ISIL tears the mask of extremism from Hamas, Hamas attacks Israel, and Prime Minister Netanyahu
reacts despite the pleas of Secretary of State Kerry, it is because given the chaos
in that region, they know that showing weakness is madness.
To place all the blame on President Obama for the disaster
we are experiencing would be ungenerous, mistaken and anti-historical. America,
Europe, Arabs and Israelis - no one is innocent. The prevailing propaganda
divides responsibility according to convenience: Bush's invasion of Iraq, failed
Israel-Palestinian negotiations, fundamentalist terrorists, the impotence of
Europe, the conspiracies of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Erdogan's short-sighted calculations in Turkey, the extremism
of Putin (a far cry from Gorbachev!), the ferocity of Assad. Everyone has their
But what we are asking of Obama and his European allies now,
if it isn't already too late, is to look at Bush Sr., stitch together a U.S.-E.U.-U.N.
coalition with Arab countries as quickly as possible, reassure Israel and the
Palestinians in the short term, and cut the claws of the principal enemy: ISIL.
Illusions of world peace, global harmony and
all-encompassing negotiations like Obama had in his early days led to the frustrated
paralysis of Obama in 2014. Modest but concrete objectives, not universal ones,
are the way to go: defeat ISIL with anyone who will
help, then resume the difficult journey in whatever unknown direction
eventually becomes clear. Assad will have his turn. Former chess master Gary Kasparov
stated it perfectly: "Obama will discover that that the price of doing
nothing now is having to handle ever more difficult