I recently attended a lecture at ORT Braude College given by Dr. Ira Sheskin, Project Director for the The Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami. His message: Despite increasing numbers of Jews who call themselves Republican, the vast majority of Jews who vote will vote to re-elect Barak Obama. Why is this important? In many larger states with the greatest Jewish concentrations, our vote can and often does swing elections due to the high percentage of Jews who vote compared to other ethnic groups.
Like it or not, there is a general consensus that Obama will win the 2012 presidential election. Agree or disagree, considering the current crop of Republican candidates to choose from, Obama is generally seen as either more competent at statesmanship or alternatively, the lesser of two evils. There is also a general consensus that the election is still Obama’s to lose to Mitt Romney.
During the Republican debates, Romney has promised to attack Iran in order to stop its nuclear program. Not to worry, he has an abundant history of switching positions and views, not unlike the heads of fans at a NASCAR race, or the Titanic’s deck chairs.
Despite Obama’s immutable support for Israel, professed in Cairo, before Congress, the U.N. General Assembly and AIPAC notwithstanding, it is nothing short of perplexing that although he has previously visited Israel (http://www.timesofisrael.com/obama-there-is-still-time-for-diplomacy-to-work-on-iran/), he has not even once paid an official visit during his first term as President. What’s that all about?
This fact represents not just a missed opportunity: it is at one and the same time in world history a political, diplomatic and strategic sin of omission, now compounded with the announcement that one of the world’s truly great statesmen and Russia’s undoubtedly most popular proponent of democracy (I kid!), President-elect Vladimir I. Putin, will be visiting Israel in June following his inauguration. (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/russian-president-elect-vladimir-putin-to-visit-israel-in-june-1.420873) How can or should Obama possibly follow an act like that?
It’s pretty much a given that Obama is not so popular here in Israel for many reasons – not all of them strictly legitimate. Some Israelis are skeptical because of his stated positions about freezing the settlements, his apparent naiveté regarding Palestinian aspirations for statehood, his less than cordial relationship with Bibi Netanyahu, or his speech to Middle Eastern Muslims from Cairo that preceded and perhaps contributed in some small way to the onset of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Others simply don’t like him – forgive the understatement – again because of the Cairo speech, or his given name and yes, let’s be frank, his race.
Speaking before the AIPAC convention Obama said, “I have Israel’s back.” (http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-president-obamas-speech-at-aipac/) But what exactly does that mean? To repent his sin, Obama should, nay, must tell us – and the world – now, before the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions are held, even if that takes place after Putin’s visit. What should he say, and where should he say it?
Referring to Wikipedia for the sake of convenience, it describes the “Obama Doctrine” thusly:
“The Obama Doctrine is a term frequently used to describe one or several unifying principles of the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Unlike the Monroe Doctrine, the Obama Doctrine is not a specific foreign policy introduced by the executive, but rather a phrase used to describe Obama’s general style of foreign policy. This has left journalists and political commentators to speculate on what the exact tenets of an Obama Doctrine might look like. Generally speaking, it is accepted that a central part of such a doctrine would emphasize negotiation and collaboration rather than confrontation and unilateralism in international affairs. This policy has been praised by some as a welcome change from the more interventionist Bush Doctrine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama_Doctrine) (Footnotes omitted.)
To further paraphrase Wikipedia, critics, such as former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, have described the Obama Doctrine as overly idealistic and naïve, promoting appeasement of the USA’s enemies. [Further reason for rightwing and even some centrist Israelis to dismiss him.] Others have drawn attention to its radical departure from not only the policies of the Bush II administration but many former presidents as well. Meanwhile, additional political pundits have disagreed entirely, accusing Obama of continuing the policies of his predecessor.
On October 22, 1962, at 7:00 pm EDT, President John F. Kennedy delivered a nation-wide televised address to the people of the United States on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba. He declared: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” “1962 Year In Review: Cuban Missile Crisis”. United Press International, Inc.
The Monroe Doctrine warning against European intervention in the western hemisphere as a strategic threat to U.S. vital strategic interests was a formal declaration of a fundamental tenet of U.S. foreign policy. Derived from that doctrine, so was President Kennedy’s declaration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. By contrast, as described above, the Obama Doctrine is but a mere a declaration of “style” that omits to specify any geographic region of vital strategic U.S. interest in this still new era of globalization.
It is generally accepted that at least one of the objectives of Iran’s nuclear program is a nuclear weapons capability, notwithstanding its too much repeated, disingenuous protests to the contrary, factually belied by its less-than-artful dodging. It is also reasonable to consider it unthinkable that Iran would ever lob a nuclear weapon at hundreds of thousands if not millions of its Palestinian coreligionists, destroying many of Islam’s holy shrines in the process. Many would also agree that ultimately, Iran’s ersatz stealth nuclear weapons initiative is intended not so much to “wipe Israel from the map” as it is to advance its long-term objective of attaining hegemony over the Islamic Middle East, triggering a much and justifiably feared regional sprint for the Bomb. So it is also a fact of U.S. foreign policy that stability in the Middle East, and the lasting security of the State of Israel, it’s only truly democratic ally in the region (more to come on that in a later piece) will always remain a vital strategic U.S. interest.
It’s time for Obama to borrow that line from President Kennedy – after all, there’s ample precedent for it. It’s time Obama formally declares as a fundamental tenet of U.S. foreign policy, here in Israel (if not in Jerusalem – it would just be too much to ask, let alone expect, and anyway, Mrs. Clinton would probably nix that):
“It shall be the policy of the United States of America to regard any nuclear or conventionally armed ballistic missile launched from the Islamic Republic of Iran or any of its proxies against the Jewish State of Israel or any other sovereign nation, without provocation, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Islamic Republic of Iran.”