Vice President Joe Biden, wrong on virtually every major foreign policy issue since his election to the Senate in 1972, nailed this one: He warned that actors on the international stage would test the new, inexperienced President.
He knew that President Barack Obama's enemies would perceive his strength-through-peace (versus peace-through-strength) approach as weakness. They do and are acting accordingly.
Candidate Obama vowed to hold high-level talks with Iran and North Korea without "preconditions." Obama promised a "reset" of all things President George W. Bush, with no more talk of "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reneged on the promised missile shield defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. He waits for countries like China and Russia, both of which have business interests in Iran, to agree to "tough, crippling" sanctions.
The President dropped the term "war on terror" and refuses to call Islamofascists "Islamofascists." He apologetically says America is vital in maintaining world peace "whether we like it or not." He sent a videotaped message to Iran telling of our willingness to re-engage the country — if only it would unclench its fist. It unclenched more time for Iran to pursue a nuclear bomb. The administration was painfully slow to acknowledge that the Times Square truck bomb attempt involved foreign Islamic terrorists.
The administration chastised Israel for settlement construction in an area of east Jerusalem that President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush and even Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat assumed would be part of Israel in any peace agreement. During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's state visit, Obama treated him worse than a White House dinner gate-crasher.
How's the hope and change working out?
North Korea, in an act of war, sank a South Korean ship. Iran may now have sufficient materiel and technical knowledge to build a nuclear bomb. The Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah — under the nose of United Nations "peacekeepers" — continues to stock southern Lebanon with weapons that threaten Israel.
Now comes the anti-Israel "humanitarian" flotilla.
After Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, the terror group Hamas seized power. Israel and Egypt began a naval blockade of ships in and out of Gaza. Though Israel had uprooted every Israeli settler from Gaza, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, a bombardment that continues today.
Israel already sends humanitarian aid into Gaza and allows others to do so. Israel even agreed to allow the supposed humanitarian flotilla cargo to enter, provided Israeli security could check it for weapons. And never mind that some of the flotilla's "humanitarian activists" appear to have ties to terror organizations.
The flotilla's attempt to run the blockade resulted in nine deaths when the Israeli military boarded ships to inspect the cargo. As Israel's enemies hoped, Israel stands accused of a "disproportionate" response.
But why the flotilla now?
The most significant intervening event is the election of President Obama. Now Israel's most important ally considers Israeli intransigence the principal obstacle to peace with the Palestinians in particular and in the Middle East in general. The activists got the message: Israel is on the defensive.
Israel, with good reason, feels alone.
Obama, like Bush in his second term, seems willing to accept a nuclear-armed Iran — even as Iran threatens Israel with annihilation. Obama apparently considers a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable, even if it ignites a regional nuclear arms race — since Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan fear Iran more than they do Israel.
Give Obama credit for continuing many of Bush's policies. Gitmo remains open, the administration finally understanding that the prison exists for a reason. He continued rendition, the terror surveillance program and the increased use of drone predators in Pakistan. He used the same "state secrets" argument to fight courtroom disclosure of sources and methods. He increased troop strength in Afghanistan and continues the Bush "clear and hold" strategy for that country and Iraq.
But Jimmy Carter governed as a strength-through-peace president. He pressured the Shah of Iran to release "political prisoners." The shah was toppled, only to be followed by the repressive and threatening Islamic Republic of Iran. Carter urged Americans to abandon their "inordinate fear of communism." Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev considered Carter weak and rewarded him by invading Afghanistan. This triggered a chain reaction from which the world continues to suffer. The Arabs and Muslims who fought to expel the Soviet Union then turned on the United States and the West in a grand plan for an Islamic world.
Israel's response to the flotilla was an act of self-defense. The Western world's reaction has been shameful. Western countries once again fail to distinguish the arsonist from the firefighter.
In 1962, the United States imposed a naval blockade — a "quarantine" — on Cuba. What would we have done to a "humanitarian" flotilla determined to help Fidel Castro place Soviet missiles 90 miles from Florida?
Larry Elder is a syndicated radio talk show host and best-selling author. His latest book, "What's Race Got to Do with It?" is available now. To find out more about Larry Elder, visit his Web page at www.WeveGotACountryToSave.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.