Obama, The War President

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The Albany Times-Union (New York)

Obama, The War President

President Barack Obama does have a foreign policy. It's called war.

The President has not defined any real difference between his hawkish approach to international issues and that of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.

Where's the change we can believe in?

Bush left a legacy of two wars, neither of which was ever fully explained or justified. Obama has merely picked up the sword that Bush left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the struggle against terrorism, one might say, "Who cares?"

One group that cares consists of Americans who follow the rules and think we should honor all the treaties we have promoted and signed over the years.

The President gave short shrift to foreign policy in his State of the Union address, mentioning neither the lives lost nor the cost of the global hostilities that the U.S. has involved itself in. He also didn't mention U.S. policies in the Middle East, though those are the root cause of many of our problems.

While U.S. special envoy George Mitchell has a hopeful outlook for the resumption of the stalemated talks between the Israelis and Palestinians after a year of trying, Obama seems to have temporarily thrown in the towel.

Obama said he was keeping his promise to leave Iraq by the end of August.

Meanwhile, frequent suicide bombings continue in that beleaguered country.

Afghanistan is a different story. U.S. forces there are involved in manhunts of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. But the cost in civilian life is heavy when drones are used and whole families have been wiped out to get one suspected leader.

The U.S. seems to have convinced the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan that it's their war too. The Washington Post said the loss of Hakimullah Mehsud has dealt a fatal blow to his followers.

The U.S. military web has spread to Yemen, where American intelligence teams have joined Yemeni troops in planning missions against al-Qaida elements. Scores have been killed there.

Then there's the ramped-up U.S. saber-rattling toward Iran.

In his speech, Obama warned Iran of "consequences" if it didn't play ball and co-operate on nuclear inspections. It's unclear whether those consequences are of the financial variety or of a pre-emptive military strike by the U.S. or Israel.

All this comes at a time when the U.S. has bolstered its naval presence in the Persian Gulf and the neo-conservatives are calling for "regime change" in Iran.

But neo-con Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, sees the possibility of peaceful regime change in Iran. Organic regime change could change the Iranian equation, Kagan concludes in a Washington Post article.

Iran, reacting to Western pressure or from fear of an attack, recently offered to send its uranium abroad for enrichment for industrial use.

There are new tensions in other parts of the world. China is upset with the U.S. $6 billion-plus arms sale to its nemesis, Taiwan. China's also irked at Google for its belated push-back against Chinese hacking into Google's G-mail accounts.

So while the President's Democratic base of support mutters about his abandonment of health reform and immigration reform, Obama can take solace in support from the Republican Party whenever he flexes U.S. military muscle.

And so this president takes his place among other U.S. chief executives who have sought the glory of leading the nation in military conflict. He has attained the desired status of "War President."

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an American author and former news service reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and columnist. She worked for the United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau chief. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. Among other books she was the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times. Helen passed away on July 20, 2013.

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