Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Obama's Nobel Could Do But Won't

Worrywarts are good for at least one thing: they make plain what events make more probable. Since the Israeli elite is comprised of world-class worrywarts, Israeli elite opinion is therefore good for that too. Witness the piece by Leslie Susser for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (October 12), “Obama’s Nobel, Israel’s Problem?” Evidently, there is great concern in the Holy Land that, having been anointed a Man of Peace, Barack Obama will be much less likely to permit Israel to make war on Iran (and a fortiori to let the United States be drawn into any such venture); and, since Obama’s professed nuclear abolitionism was reportedly a factor in the Nobel Committee’s deliberations, there is a "danger" that he will now press as well for a nuclear-free Middle East. Israeli elites are particularly worried that Ahmadinejad will have the wits to make definitive, Iranian renunciation of nuclear weapons contingent on the West’s insistence that Israel lose its more than two hundred nukes.

Too bad that Israeli worrywarts, along with so many others throughout the world (and on the Nobel Committee), “misoverestimate” Barack Obama. But the Nobel Committee’s folly does indeed open up the opportunity Susser identifies. It also provides an occasion for massive cuts in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. And that’s not all, inasmuch as the time is long past due for Britain and France to go non-nuclear – and why not, inasmuch as the rationale for their puny, but costly, nuclear forces vanished two decades ago along with the Soviet Union. There is, of course, the question of national pride, but the British lost theirs the moment they decided that a “special relationship” with the United States was in their national interest, and the longstanding determination of the French not to be too blatantly subservient to the United States vanished along with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy. But, alas, in hoping for a nuclear free Western Europe, I am misoverestimating the British and the French.

Then there is the opportunity to deflate the worst danger inherent in Obama’s senseless determination to continue the occupation of Afghanistan and to extend his war there into Pakistan. Neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis are quite as bellicose as the Israelis, but geographical and historical circumstances put the India-Pakistan theater at far greater risk for a nuclear conflagration. Surely, the first order of business, even for those determined to keep the United States in a state of perpetual war, should be to press for nuclear disarmament on the Indian sub-continent.

The realization of these hopes, along with so many others, depends on the President of the United States being the man the Nobel Committee thinks he is. Although the evidence never supported that belief, had they made the award four or five months ago, they would have found many Americans thinking similarly. Now, there are not so many. Evidently, the news has yet to reach Norwegian shores. But, even on this side of the Atlantic, the hopes that led so many to believe (and be disappointed) survive. What many Israelis fear and what most of the rest of the world hopes for is indeed “change we can believe in.” But if it wasn’t clear enough before, it should be clear to all by now that delivering on that promise, as opposed just to talking about it or seeming to promote it, is not what Barack Obama is about.

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