Looking for a world leader

By Jennifer Rubin 

Washington Post

March 5, 2015

Looking over the past week, it is hard to miss how unfavorably President Obama compares to other world leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with excessive graciousness toward his tormentor, gave a powerful, important address. His clarity and presence command our attention. When Obama sneered at a press avail that there was nothing new in Netanyahu’s remarks, he looked so very small, so very petty. (By the way, Obama has not bothered over the course of the year to give any major address in which he has included anything more than a few platitudes about Iran; he simply never makes the case for what he is doing — maybe because the rationale for appeasement is nonexistent.)

It is not just Israel’s leader who regularly proves to be more clear-headed and inspiring than Obama. Consider Czech President Milos Zemen, who declared at AIPAC this week: “The Czech Republic has been the single island of democracy in central Europe. And [Israel] is the single island of democracy in the Middle East. And there must be the solidarity between those islands against the ocean of dictatorship.” And he announced his approach to fighting jihadists: “The first phase … is expression of solidarity … now we all must say, ‘I am a Jew.’ Ani Yehudi. But this is not enough. Of course, your discrimination is our discrimination. Your victims are our victims. But, our society is too hedonistic, too consumption oriented. And there is cowardness and appeasement .… It is not enough. What I propose is [a] systematic and coordinated fight against the bases of Islamic terrorism. … Superpowers have many conflicts, but one common enemy: Islamic terrorism.”

Then there is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a brave and stalwart friend of the United States and of Israel. In a speech in Israel last year, Harper had this to say about the BDS movement (recall that Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Israel didn’t make a deal with the Palestinians, there’d be nothing to stop the BDS movement’s growth.)

Some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel. … Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state. Think about that. Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that. A state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history. That is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.

In short, the world has grave problems, but the biggest may be that there is a complete void where the leader of the free world usually stands. Instead of a U.S. president, confident and resolute, we see a petulant figure who bad-mouths our allies, complains that options are limited, and does not bring the powers of office (militarily, rhetorically, politically) to bear to defeat aggression by evil actors and nation states. No qualms about allowing 200,000 Syrians to die? Rest easy as Iran slides into nuclear breakout capacity? He certainly does whistle in the graveyard of Western civilization.

It is not that the public is “war weary” — Obama’s excuse. To the contrary, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows how supportive the public is of strong action:

American voters support 62-30 percent sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with strong support across all party, gender and age groups, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released [Wednesday].

Men back U.S. troop deployment 68-28 percent, while women support it 57 – 33 percent. … A total of 69 percent of American voters are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that the U.S. and its allies will defeat ISIS. Only 39 percent of voters are concerned that U.S. military action will go “too far” in getting involved in the situation, while 53 percent are more concerned the U.S. military “will not go far enough in stopping ISIS.”

Voters say 64-23 percent Congress should grant the authorization requested by President Barack Obama to use military force against ISIS.  And voters say 72-19 percent that the U.S. should never pay ransom to terrorists who are holding American hostages. This opinion is shared by every listed group. “Send in the troops and eliminate ISIS: The resounding hardline message from Americans who say, ‘Don’t negotiate with terrorists; destroy them,’ ” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

When it comes to Iran the public is even more hawkish. A new Fox News poll finds, “Overall, two-thirds of voters (65 percent) favor the U.S. using military action, if necessary, to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Just 28 percent are opposed. To varying degrees, majorities of Republicans (81 percent), Democrats (54 percent) and independents (53 percent) agree on using force to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” In direct opposition to the reported deal in the works that Netanyahu criticized, “84 percent — including 80 percent of Democrats — think it’s a bad idea to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons 10 years from now in return for agreeing it won’t obtain nukes before then.”

 

Why then is the Islamic State still on the march? Why can’t we force a third world country hobbled by economic restrictions to give up its nuclear weapons program? Increasingly the answer is because we have a non-leader in the White House. Presidential candidates for 2016 should pay attention to their demeanor, their policies and their language. We are looking for someone of presidential stature, who can fill that void in world leadership. This is a very, very big role, and we tend to forget under this president how real leaders act and sound. We need someone as morally astute as Zemen, as stalwart and articulate as Netanyahu, and as courageous as Harper. It’s not enough to be better than Obama or better than the other GOP competitors; we need greatness, if only the promise of it.