I don’t envy the position of President-elect Barack Obama.
He inherits a presidency that faces some of the most momentous problems the country has encountered in decades.
Domestically, the nation is in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Abroad, after eight years of President Bush, America’s standing has deteriorated significantly. And there is a strong possibility that a Mideast war will break out in the next two years, sparked by an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
While Obama has assembled a moderate and centrist Cabinet — a move for which he should be applauded — he has given conflicting signals as to the United States’ position vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
During the heated Democratic primary, Obama argued that he would meet with Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, without preconditions.
Despite being heavily criticized for such a ridiculous position, Obama stood his ground. Since he was elected, there have been reports that he has promised to put Israel under the United States’ nuclear umbrella.
This means that if Iran ever attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the United States would use nuclear weapons to retaliate directly against Iran.
On the face of it, the idea sounds reasonable. But then this sobering thought occurs: If the tiny state of Israel, with a population of 7.2 million squeezed into a narrow strip of land the size of New Jersey, were attacked with nuclear weapons, would there even be an Israel to avenge?
On the other hand, Obama has made a wise choice in picking Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. Hillary strongly argued in the presidential primary for a tougher line on Iran, even suggesting a nuclear guarantee to Israel and declaring in a debate: “Iran must know that an attack on Israel will draw a massive response.”
Obama’s approach is apparently different from Sen. Clinton’s realpolitik. On many matters he appears to be conciliatory toward his enemies.
At its base, such a philosophy suggests that the new president wants to be loved more than respected. Paul Johnson, the eminent historian, once told me that under Jimmy Carter’s presidency, fraught with naiveté about the world, the United States “almost committed suicide.”
It is clear that tyrants don’t respect conciliation and moderation. I believe we have such a circumstance in Iran today. Ahmadinejad has made it very clear what he plans to do with Israel.
He has called Israel a “disgraceful blot,” said the Jewish state “should be wiped off the map,” and called on the Muslim world to “prepare for the great war, so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime and remove this cancerous growth.”
The Western media spin on all of this is that Ahmadinejad is simply a “wild man” who is not really representative of Iran’s establishment.
In truth, he did not develop Iran’s nuclear program. It has been under way for more than a decade under the leadership of the mullahs, who invested billions of dollars in it. Ahmadinejad offers a radical face to a radical regime, still run by the mullahs.
The Iranian president has made it crystal clear that the regime is willing to use nuclear weapons against the “Great Satan” — the U.S. and Israel.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described Iran as “ground zero” for the Islamic revolution against the West.
In the coming months, Israel probably will launch a pre-emptive strike to protect itself and prevent a second Holocaust. If that happens, America, and its new president, should stand behind its democratic ally.
Jim Meyers contributed to this column.
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