With a deft series of domestic political moves followed by vigorous international maneuvers, Barack Obama triggered a diplomatic revolution and forced flip-flops on one of his main rivals -- incumbent President George W. Bush -- that have paralyzed the campaign of Senator John McCain.
For many months, Obama called for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and direct negotiations with the governments of the Axis of Evil and other nations with which the US government has disagreements.
For just as many months, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Condoleezza Rice and their ideological guru, John Bolton, argued -- strenuously and vociferously -- against Obama's timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and his "naïve" proposal for negotiations the neocons described as talks with terrorists and states that sponsor terrorism.
However, when Obama revealed his plans to tour Europe and the Middle East, the captain, midshipmen and swabs rapidly rearranged the deck chairs on the political Titanic aka "USS Bush White House." Aides to Obama released the destinations of his international fact-finding mission: Afghanistan; Iraq; Jordan; Israel; the West Bank; Germany; France and Great Britain.
In political time, it did not take long for the repercussions of Obama's bold foreign policy initiative to start hitting the Potomac shoreline. Last week, in a historic climb-down George Bush flip-flopped and authorized a US diplomat to meet with representatives of Iran in Geneva - a bitter pill for the lame duck to swallow. Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice followed Bush's reluctant footsteps and met with North Korean diplomats in Singapore.
In virtual synchronicity with Bush's acquiescence to Obama's policy on Iran, the government of Israel exchanged prisoners and remains with Lebanon and Hezbollah. Two days before Obama's arrival in Israel the government announced the construction of a new Arab city in Galilee, the first such project since 1948. In his June address to AIPAC, Obama specifically recommended his own prescription for peace that included the following sentence,
"Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps consistent with its security to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians and improve economic conditions in the West Bank."
It is now abundantly clear that the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, is having an impact on international diplomacy even though he is still merely the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Four days ago, Barack Obama flew to Afghanistan where he touched down in Kabul to meet with US troops and President Hamid Karzai. The following day while Obama was still in Afghanistan, the influential magazine, Der Spiegel, published an interview with Iraqi President Nuri Al-Maliki who explicitly endorsed Obama's timetable for withdrawal. Maliki's endorsement of Obama hit the Bush White House like Batman slugging the Joker.
The White House klaxons sounded the alarm, and all hands hit the deck and manned their panic stations. Over the next twenty-four hours, the White House spin-doctors perspired in tortuous negotiations with Baghdad. Ultimately, the White House accomplished nothing. Of course, they coerced Maliki's office to issue a clarification that clarified precisely nothing. On Monday in an embarrassing repudiation of Bush and McCain, the Iraqi government confirmed their support for a short Obama-style timetable for withdrawal by 2010. The US client state had become the mouse that roared into the lion's ear, and the message was not subtle, "Get Out! And make it snappy -- on Obama's timeline!"
Three days into his international fact-finding mission, the junior Senator from Illinois had polished his foreign policy credentials considerably. For starters, he achieved a revolution in American diplomatic history. It is now official: the USA talks with representatives of states she finds unfriendly, inimical and downright hostile: Iran and North Korea.
The second part of the Obama revolution is simplicity itself -- the now universal consensus that US military withdrawal from Iraq should be based on a timetable. Obama's impact on the potential for peace between Israel and Palestine will be more obvious after he departs the strife-torn region tomorrow.
The rapidly morphing foreign policy situation has been difficult -- even painful -- for George W. Bush, a man so filled with hatred for Barack Obama that he went on an international mission of his own in May to destroy the junior Senator when he was still just one of two viable candidates for the Democratic nomination. Bush cannot suppress his feelings for Obama -- for months he has steadfastly refused to utter his likely successor's name in public.
While Bush is being forced - like a recalcitrant five year old - to swallow those bitter herbs that will ultimately be good for the nation he serves, Obama's diplomatic impact on John McCain may prove to be politically fatal. Obama forced flip-flops on George Bush compelling John McCain to drink the poisoned chalice brimming with the toxic potion of neoconservative ideology and suicidal statecraft laced with the imperial cyanide of military mis-adventurism -- a surefire prescription to trigger political apoplexy.
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