There is a misconception that those on the right (including myself) have nothing good to say about the President. While it is true that there is much to criticize about this President, and I have been a regular critic of his policies, the fact is he is capable of positive action and wise choices.
Two instances come to mind, one a few weeks back, one just yesterday. While on the whole the President’s trip to Asia failed to produce any substantive benefit for our country, Obama’s overtures to India are to be lauded. India is a natural ally and has been too often ignored by previous administrations; it is a competitor to China, and a democratic one at that.
He also gets kudos for his announcement yesterday that he intends to seek a freeze of federal wages. It’s a rather obvious move; one Republicans have been calling for the last few weeks, but it shows he got some sense of what needs to happen with spending from the last election.
The bad news for President Obama is the Korean situation. Though the press seems to have already forgotten this is the second attack by North Korea this year, the first being the sinking of a South Korean ship in March by North Korea. At that time our response was tepid and in retrospect ineffective in preventing further attacks. South Korea has promised that the North will ‘pay the due price’ for their attack. And it is now clear North Korea is completely committed to the development of nuclear weapons, which coupled with their willingness to use unprovoked force, only makes the future even direr.
Like many problems he faces Obama inherited this situation; but he has only made it worse with a vacillation on foreign policy and his perceived weakness around the world. If he cannot engage North Korea in a way that reduces their aggressiveness, they will only continue to advance their military advantage in the region.
The ugly reality is the recent Wikileaks dump of government documents that has embarrassed the administration and caused anxiety amongst our strategic partners. In one sense the release will be minimized by the sheer volume of documents available. With its short attention span and it inability to document detail, the media will have a difficult time making a cohesive story out of the documents available.
The bigger problem of course is the way the event undermines trust in the US government and this administration. It will certainly diminish our ability to communicate strategically with other countries and thus diminish our ability to deal with various international problems in a way that protects our interests. But it is not only our international concerns that will suffer; much government policy is predicated on the notion that information held by the government is ‘private’, whether one talks about financial records of citizens, medical records that the government will access via our new healthcare laws, or the exposure one faces at the airport. Obama’s administration has sought to greatly expand the intrusiveness of government into our lives – and given its failure to protect critical foreign policy secrets, their will be less confidence that the government can be trusted to run other programs that require the expanded collection of the personal details of our citizens.
Optimally a government would handle such an event with the sharpest possible reprisals – trying the leaker with treason and using international pressures to pursue some sort of sanction against Wikileaks, but given his track record it seems unlikely Obama will deal act so decisively.
In short with an antagonistic Congress, a failing economy, increasing tensions in Asia, and the exposure of millions of classified documents Obama faces a Sergio Leone style Mexican Standoff of epic proportions – so far though he seems to be the one with no bullets.