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Innocents Abroad: Obama Goes Global
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 8/1/08

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama embarked on his much-heralded overseas tour to burnish, as his adoring fans in the media put it, his foreign policy credentials. One is tempted to ask, “What foreign policy credentials?” And how much burnishing can be done during a carefully-guided whirlwind tour of a half dozen countries?

Be that as it may, travel is a broadening experience, especially if one can take the time to mix with the population and find out how the real people, as opposed to politicians and other members of the ruling classes, think and live. And it’s not a bad idea for the man who may soon become the most powerful ruler in the world to meet some of the other rulers he may soon be dealing with. After all, President George W. Bush, after just one short visit, said that he was able to look into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and see his soul. But Obama’s brief boondoggle during the campaign season certainly does not magically bestow foreign policy credentials upon this youthful candidate with the slim political portfolio. It’s hard to make up for a lack of foreign policy experience in just a ten-day trip. There’s a lot more world out there to learn about and it includes, among other powers, China, India and Russia.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

In Israel, Sen. Obama sought to reassure America’s Jewish voters of his support of Israel and his commitment to its security. He didn’t spend much time assuring Palestinians of his support for them, but then there aren’t that many Palestinian-American voters to worry about. The American Jewish vote tends to be heavily Democratic normally but some American Jews are concerned that an Obama administration might lean too heavily on Israel to make concessions in what is euphemistically referred to as the peace process. Once elected, he can safely flip-flop back to the center and urge both sides, especially Israel, to make concessions for the sake of peace.

In Europe, Obama predictably stressed the importance of traditional American ties with the continent and promised that an American government under him would be more humble and would consult more with its European allies, a standard Democratic theme that reflects the liberal notion that America should never act alone and should always seek approval in the major European capitals before taking any military action. This is, of course, a not-very-subtle criticism of the Bush administration. The large crowds in Berlin and Paris displayed as much affection and giddiness over the candidate with the rock star-like appeal as the press corps, a huge contingent of which accompanied him on the trip, hanging on his every word and gesture.

This was a campaign trip, pure and simple, designed to project a statesman-like demeanor. His primary audience was American voters who were assured step-by-step coverage by an enthralled press corps who follow him so closely that they bump into him whenever he stops suddenly. It’s a given, of course, that a majority of journalists are liberal and tend to vote Democratic but the deference they show this candidate is comical. Like fawning rock star groupies, they just can’t seem to help themselves.

Age, experience and wisdom often win out over youth and enthusiasm in the end but not in the competition for media coverage. Older people, however competent, just can’t seem to hold the attention of our youthful, impatient people for whom change, even if undefined, is a siren song. The lurking question, however, is whether or not they will bother to show up to vote after they get bored with this interminable campaign or detect that their champion is flip-flopping toward the center as he must to get elected.

Back home where the voters actually live, Sen. John McCain had trouble gettingNew York’s largest daily newspaper to print his op-ed in response to one by Obama. Mr. McCain groused about all the Obama press coverage which, of course, comes across like sour grapes. He chided his opponent for having opposed the surge which, ironically, restored enough security for him to walk around without body armor. No doubt members of the McCain campaign secretly hoped that Obama would commit a major gaffe while abroad or in some way reveal his inexperience. He didn’t. No goofy pictures posing on a tank in full combat gear. No throwing up on the host at the dinner table. To his credit, Mr. McCain said that the trip was a good thing, albeit somewhat belated.

Mr. Obama demonstrated the poise and bearing of a leader. These are indeed useful attributes but, in themselves, hardly enough to qualify him for the most important office in the world. For all his charm, charisma, optimism and promise of change, is one so lacking in executive and foreign affairs experience the best choice at this point to lead America in a dangerous world? CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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