Saturday, September 5, 2015

Obama and that Nobel Peace Prize thing

The president scores on Iran, whiffs on Afghanistan and drones

Obama and that Nobel Peace Prize thing

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When they give you the Nobel Peace Prize before you've actually done anything, you've got to earn it every day. Unfortunately, as Barack Obama's presidency closes in on the 5-year mark, most of us have been waiting to see what those folks over in Sweden saw. He inherited two wars -- and ended one while escalating the other. Which is pretty much the way it's been for our 44th president when it comes to war and peace...one step up and one step back.

Lately, there's been a lot of diplomacy by the Obama administration (a lot more than when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, which might be something to explore some other time) and the results have been surprisingly successful. Remember, it was in 2008 when Obama said he would talk to our enemies -- a promise that the old-timers in the Beltway-military industrial complex ridiculed -- and the electorate responded by making Obama president. Now he's talking to our enemies. What took so long?

Time will tell, but a turning point in Obama's presidency may have come that Friday night last summer when he went for a walk and pulled back from that expected attack on Syria, which wouldn't have just tarnished that Nobel but shattered it into a million pieces. Obama's pullback was a gamble, but with help from an unlikely source, it was the most positive foreign affairs move for the U.S. in 15 years.

Now a tentative breakthrough with Iran -- testing the cooperation of the new regime there with a six-month deal that freezes Iran's nuclear enrichment program in place, calls for extensive international inspections and eases what have been crippling sanctions on the Iranian people. It's a deal, not the capitulation some wanted, but it's a promising deal. If the inspectors find that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, the sanctions can resume or stronger measures can be taken.

This is Obama's plan. The plan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from what I've been able to gather, has been to launch a massive military assault on Iran that has no guarantee of success in ending the nuclear program but would almost certainly unleash a region-wide war and cause you to look back on the days of $4-a-gallon gas as a blissful memory. So of course, the majority of our ever-popular Congress seems angry that Obama is pursuing a peace plan as opposed to either a war plan or an at-least-let's-starve-some-everyday-folks plan.

A couple of quick thoughts. If Obama's Iranian gamble works, he might look to undo some of his backward steps elsewhere -- especially in Afghanistan, where the administration is looking to extend a military operation that's been devoid of purpose for years, until 2024. Why? Meanwhile, there are reports that the White House's counterproductive drone warfare campaign -- which has killed a few terrorists and a bunch of innocent civilians while creating multitudes of America haters -- has been scaled back, but Obama's promise of greater transparency has, so far, been a lie. Just ask Faisal bin Ali Jaber of Yemen, who came to Washington seeking to learn why his fiercely anti-al-Qaeda brother-in-law and his nephew were killed by an American drone -- but went home empty handed.

More importantly, all those angry Congress folks who were on the telly this morning, calling an Iran peace deal an unacceptable gamble,,,where were they 10 years ago complaining about the gamble that then-President Bush took, to invade an entire nation and cost hundreds of thousands of lives over weapons of mass destruction that were not even there?  There seen to be no consequences in American politics for rolling the dice on war, even when that bet goes horribly, horribly wrong. But a measured gamble on peace seems to be something that too many people in Washington simply cannot bear.

It's time for people to change their perspective.

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About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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