29 December 2008

29 December 2008 - Where is Obama on the Gaza War?

President-elect Barack Obama's response to the Gaza War, according to the New York Times:

He and his advisers have deferred questions — critics could say, ducked them — by saying that until Jan. 20, only President Bush would speak for the nation as president and commander in chief.

This marks the second international crisis in a row during which Obama has been on vacation in Hawaii. He's entitled to his rest--though it does seem rather inappropriate to be luxuriating while the rest of the country faces job losses and recession. But when he was still running for president, Obama at least emerged from his beach house to say something about Russia's invasion of Georgia.

President Bush was in charge then, too, and that didn't stop Obama from reacting. He was eager to prove his leadership credentials--but that was before he had victory in hand. Back then, he also touted himself as a great friend of Israel--but he's yet to issue a statement of support. And on the campaign trail, he attacked Bush's foreign policy in vicious terms--but now he is prepared to defer to Bush's judgment.

The election is over, so let's move on--but not before recognizing that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were right about Barack Obama, at least as far as foreign policy is concerned. The 3 a.m. call came, and Obama was on vacation, not ready to lead. Furthermore, he's not ready to offer Israel unconditional support against terrorism. That was already apparent during the campaign, when he spoke of Hamas's "legitimate claims," but no one noticed.

Instead of wondering about Obama's silence and inaction, the press is lamenting that the Gaza War may have made Obama's job as president more difficult. As if it should have been easy, as if simply electing the man ought to have made all of the world's problems go away, as if he deserves (or needs) more slack than any of his predecessors have had. How much effort does it require to take a clear stand--to say something like the following:

"I stand together with Israel in its fight against terror. For years, Hamas defied the basic demands of the international community by continuing to attack innocent civilians. Israel has shown exemplary patience and has been careful to avoid civilian casualties where possible. Ultimately, the solution to the conflict must be found at the negotiating table. Israel understands that. The Palestinians must as well. I will continue to monitor the situation."

Is that really so hard? And if it is--why? Deferring to Bush is not an acceptable answer, not even on vacation.

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