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Jewish World Review
Oct. 20, 2009 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan 5770
Obama's Moral Leadership Balloon Crashes No One Inside
The world thinks better of the United States, we are told, because
Barack Obama is in the White House. Maybe the world is wrong.
It's fanciful, of course, to speak of what "the world" thinks about
anything. It's safe to say that among Norwegian prize givers and
Canadian avant-garde filmmakers, Obama is extremely popular. And
certainly among bien pensant Americans, the advent of Obama is viewed as
the moral pinnacle of American history. It has always been a particular
vanity of the left to believe itself morally superior to others. But the
claims for this presidency have been beyond extravagant. Global human
rights, morality, and justice took a "great leap forward" (as Anita
Dunn's favorite political philosopher might say) on Jan. 20. But in the
space of just nine months, the Obama administration has betrayed the
cause of human rights around the globe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped set the tone in February by
swatting away a question about human rights abuses in China. Those
issues, she said, "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the
global climate change crisis, and the security crisis." Political
prisoners, Tibetans, and religious minorities may have been dejected by
this stony dismissal, but the Chinese government was delighted. "This
type of realistic attitude could be followed by other Western leaders,"
an official newspaper noted with satisfaction.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians endured teargas, bullets, arrests, and
torture in an attempt to topple one of the most vicious and dangerous
regimes in the world. Yet day after day, President Obama, moral beacon
to the world, dismissed and even denigrated them. He was not going to
allow a bunch of Democrats to interfere with his meticulously planned
overture of friendship toward the mullahs. His condemnation of the
violence and brutality of the regime was so tepid, tardy, and grudging
that it amounted to tacit support for the government. Another blow to
human rights and morality.
The people of Honduras, who have struggled painfully to achieve a
successful democracy, threw off a would-be dictator who threatened to
plunge the nation back to autocracy. Rather than help to solidify
Honduras' devotion to its constitution, Obama (together with those
well-known human-rights avatars Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers)
sided with Manuel Zelaya and imposed sanctions on the legitimate
government. Which side better represents human rights and morality?
But surely on a matter as grave as mass murder, President Obama will not
permit real politick or misplaced faith in diplomacy to trump human
rights? Who can forget Sen. Obama's eloquent condemnation of the Bush
administration for negotiating with the Sudanese regime? "I am deeply
concerned," candidate Obama intoned, "by reports that the Bush
Administration is negotiating a normalization of relations with the
Government of Sudan that would include removing it from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism. ... This reckless and cynical initiative
would reward a regime in Khartoum that has a record of failing to live
up to its commitments. ... Before we improve our relationship with the
Government of Sudan, conditions must improve for the Sudanese people. We
cannot stand down we must continue to stand up for peace and human
rights." Why did the senator feel so strongly about it? Because "the
United States has a moral obligation, anytime you see humanitarian
catastrophes. … And when you see a genocide, whether it's in Rwanda,
or Bosnia, or in Darfur, that's a stain on all of us, that's a stain on
How are our souls looking today? On Monday, the Washington Post reported
that that the U.S. "will shift its policy toward Sudan to one based on
working with the country's government instead of isolating it." Whereas
he had once demanded that "The international community must, over the
Sudanese regime's protests, deploy a large, capable U.N.-led and
U.N.-funded force with a robust enforcement mandate to stop the
killings," the president now says that "If the government of Sudan acts
to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will
be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure
imposed by the United States and the international community."
Incentives? For Omar al-Bashir, the only head of state currently under
indictment by the International Criminal Court for crimes against
humanity? That threat of "increased pressure" must really terrify him.
It's the fierce urgency of the kowtow.
Finally, by joining the Human Rights Committee of the U.N., President
Obama has granted U.S. prestige to the howling claque of Israel and
This is moral uplift?
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