Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote Obama to keep Israel safe



I’m taking a brief break on my moratorium of all things political to write down some thoughts that crystallized over Shabbat and try to convince wavering voters who are supporters of Israel that Barack Obama will be better for Israel than John McCain.

It basically boils down to this. To paraphrase the traditional political question “Are you better off than you were 4 or 8 years ago”, I’m asking: Is Israel more secure than she was 8 years ago, when that “great friend of Israel” George W Bush came into office?

Before Bush there was no peace and Israel’s enemies hated her. But the existential threat was kept to a relative minimum. Then Bush, with John McCain’s wholehearted support, attacked Iraq, destabilizing the Middle East. The big winner? Iran and its madman president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran may have been developing nuclear weapons before Iraq was removed as a rival, but the program accelerated afterwards. Iran’s influence and power in the region were kept in check by the balance of power between themselves and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Yes, both regimes hated Israel, but they kept each other too busy.

Once that balance of power was removed, Iran’s influence in the region grew tremendously and in 2005 they elected Ahmadinejad, who swore to destroy Israel. This was far from the first time that an Iranian leader had made that promise. But it was the first time that an Iranian leader had so much power and influence in the region, plus the promise of a viable nuclear weapons program.

In the past, there might have been a strong coalition of countries, both western and eastern, that could have isolated Iran and brought tremendous pressure on it, such as the international coalition of the first Iraq war. But George W Bush, again with McCain’s support and with a foreign policy McCain has promised to continue, shredded the idea of international cooperation, showing contempt for diplomacy and a contempt for the opinions even of Western European allies. Many of those allies may have their own issues with foreign policy, and may be biased against Israel. But that is not a reason to ignore international coalitions that have kept us in good stead for decades and have kept Israel safe despite the shrillness of hatred for Israel by many in Europe.

Without those alliances, and with the now natural reluctance of any traditional allies to help the Bush administration in international crises, and with the America military stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has very little influence left to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

International diplomacy should not be carried out with a hammer. Diplomacy takes skill and an understanding of the realities of the interactions of the world’s regimes. McCain shows very little of that understanding and intelligence, preferring bravado instead, and “talking tough”. Has talking tough helped Israel be safer over the last 8 years?

Barack Obama is untested, true. But he shows great potential and a deep understanding of the intricacies of international relations and threats from rogue regimes. His style of diplomacy shows promise and at the very least it will return America to a time when presidents understood that the way to lead the free world was compromise and rational diplomacy backed up by military might. McCain wants to continue the disastrous Bush policies that spit on diplomacy and centered on now empty threats, since the US military currently does not have the resources to carry out those threats. The US presidency can no longer be called the leadership of the free world.

So I ask you again: Is Israel safer than it was 8 years ago?

Please vote Tuesday for Barack Obama, because at this dangerous time in history, and with an existential threat to Israel, we cannot afford to gamble on John McCain.

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