The Sound of Rattling Saber’s: North Korea and China Test Obama’s Mettle

 

 

The young president is said to be so focused on the economy that he’s unable to manage even pretence of concern for foreign policy as his faux pas with the British and the fiasco of the letter to Russia indicates.  This inattention has doubtless been the object of speculation from friend and foe alike and the line to “test” Obama seems to be queuing up as the world smells weakness.  It seems that the 47 year old President of the United States is overworked to the point of not being able to cope with foreign policy as indicated by this clip from the Telegraph.co.uk:

Barack Obama’s offhand approach to Gordon Brown’s Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America’s economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

 Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

But Washington figures with access to Mr Obama’s inner circle explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.

Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president’s surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.

The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” The apparent lack of attention to detail by the Obama administration is indicative of what many believe to be Mr Obama’s determination to do too much too quickly.

In addition to passing the largest stimulus package and the largest budget in US history, Mr Obama is battling a plummeting stock market, the possible bankruptcy of General Motors, and rising unemployment. He has also begun historic efforts to achieve universal healthcare, overhaul education and begin a green energy revolution all in his first 50 days in office.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/4953523/Barack-Obama-too-tired-to-give-proper-welcome-to-Gordon-Brown.html

Earlier Mr. Obama made a rookie mistake in allowing a deal he was proposing to Russia, involving giving up the European Missile Shield for Russian “Help” with Iran, and the Russian Government leaked the contents and made Obama look weak and foolish.  A savvy politician like Barak Obama should know that politics is perception and as he commits one foreign policy mistake after the other the perception is that he can’t handle foreign policy or is so distracted by the economy that it’s open season for shenanigans in the rest of the world because the world’s policeman is “too tired”. He better learn to delegate because even the American Government today admits that Iran could build 50 nuclear bombs with what they’ve got right now and no sane person believes that Israel will be able to avoid war with Iran this year.  The Iranian nuclear program is too big a threat and Israel has gone to great lengths to telegraph their willingness to go it alone and indeed their determination to negate the Iranian program.  It clearly is an existential threat: What choice does Obama think the Israeli’s have?

So who else is giving Obama grief in the big bad world?  North Korea has seized on the idea that at the direction of the President we might shoot down some missile test they’re planning and so now North Korean troops are on full alert.  They’ve made it clear that if Obama shoots down the missile they will precipitate a war.  Consider this clip from Fox News:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,506843,00.html

SEOUL, South Korea —  North Korea put its armed forces on standby Monday and threatened “a war” if anyone tries to shoot down what regional powers suspect is an imminent test-firing of a long-range missile.

Pyongyang also cut off a military hot line with the South, causing a complete shutdown of their border and stranding hundreds of South Koreans working in an industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

Monday’s warning — the latest barrage of threats from the communist regime — came as U.S. and South Korean troops kicked off annual war games across the South, exercises the North has condemned as preparation for an invasion. Pyongyang last week threatened South Korean passenger planes flying near its airspace during the drills.

Analysts say the regime is trying to grab President Barack Obama’s attention as his administration formulates its North Korea policy.

The North also indicated it was pushing ahead with plans to send a communications satellite into space, a provocative launch neighboring governments believe could be a cover for a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska.

U.S. and Japanese officials have suggested they could shoot down a North Korean missile if necessary, further incensing Pyongyang.

“Shooting our satellite for peaceful purposes will precisely mean a war,” the general staff of the North’s military said in a statement carried Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Any interception will draw “a just retaliatory strike operation not only against all the interceptor means involved but against the strongholds” of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, it said.

The North has ordered military personnel “fully combat ready,” KCNA said in a separate dispatch.

 

As if this were not enough for our “tired” fearless leader, as he somehow manages to summon the energy to allow massive experimentation with embryos, the “Kings of the East”, otherwise known as China, is engaging in harassment of a US Navy Ship in the South China Sea.  Thank God it’s Monday because my theory is that all those star studded parties Obama has on Wednesday Nights (with the $100 a pound Japanese beef) might be the real reason for his lack of energy.  I sure hope Obama manages to get his beauty rest tonight because this incident in the South China Sea is very much a Chinese test upon which they will make many decisions about how far they can push the Obama Administration in the future.  Once again from Fox News consider the following clips:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/03/09/pentagon-chinese-ships-harassed-unarmed-navy-craft-international-waters/

WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that U.S. Navy ships will continue to operate in the South China Sea, where five Chinese vessels shadowed and maneuvered dangerously close to a Navy surveillance ship, prompting an American protest.

“We’re going to continue to operate in those international waters, and we expect the Chinese to observe international law around that,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said during a Monday press conference.

Gibbs said U.S. officials had “protested the actions of the Chinese ships.” A formal protest was relayed to the Chinese government from the U.S. embassy in Beijing and it was to be repeated to a Beijing military attache at a Pentagon meeting Monday.

Defense officials in the Obama administration said the incident Sunday followed several days of “increasingly aggressive” acts by Chinese ships in the region. The episode took place in international waters in the South China Sea, about 75 miles south of Hainan Island.

The USNS Impeccable,a surveillance ship, resorted to spraying one Chinese vessel with water from fire hoses to force it away. Despite the impact of the water, Chinese crew members stripped to their underwear and continued closing within 25 feet, the Defense Department said.

The Impeccable is one of five Navy surveillance ships that probe the ocean to gather acoustic data in an effort to detect underwater threats. The craft was specifically designed to use underwater listening devices to augment the Navy’s anti-submarine capability.

“On March 8, 2009, five Chinese vessels shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to USNS Impeccable, in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the U.S. ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations,” the Pentagon statement said.

The Chinese ships included a Chinese Navy intelligence collection ship, a Bureau of Maritime Fisheries Patrol Vessel, a State Oceanographic Administration patrol vessel, and two small Chinese-flagged trawlers, officials said.

Two of the Chinese ships closed “to within 50 feet, waving Chinese flags and telling Impeccable to leave the area,” officials said in the statement.

“Because the vessels’ intentions were not known, Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the vessels in order to protect itself,” the Defense statement said. “The Chinese crew members disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet.”

Impeccable’s crew radioed to tell the Chinese ships that it was leaving the area and requested a safe path to navigate, the Pentagon said.

But shortly afterward, two of the Chinese ships stopped directly ahead of the Impeccable, forcing it to make an emergency stop to avoid collision. The Chinese also dropped pieces of wood in the water directly in front of Impeccable’s path.

It’s clear that foreign governments are lining up to test our new President: and it’s an unfortunate fact that in the few foreign policy chores Mr. Obama has attempted, prior to these provocations in Asia, that Mr. Obama does not excel at international relations.  History has shown that to be a very dangerous state of affairs because the learning curve of a weak US president can be very expensive; usually paid in the blood of others.  Perhaps President Obama could take some time away from his ambitious plans to socialize medicine and pay attention to some of the other inhabitance of this old world.  As the challenges to our “tired” commander and chief mount up; I wonder if Mr. Obama will still be keen on cutting the defense budget and depend on his soaring oratory and inspiring speeches to pacify the likes of Ahmadinejad, Putin, Kim Jung Ill or the politburo of Red China.

 

 

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