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What Hath Obama Wrought

Oct 3, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 03 • By LEE SMITH
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It’s unpleasant for many people to think of the United States as the world’s policeman. So perhaps it’s better to think of Washington as a financial adviser, whose role is to make sure its clients have the wherewithal to do the things they really want to do without unnecessary risk. As we saw last week at the U.N., the Obama administration, by mishandling the peace process portfolio, exposed American clients—both Israel and the PA—to too much risk.

The result is that other powers are eager to step in where the United States has faltered. French president Nicolas Sarkozy is drooling at the prospect of picking up an account as prestigious as the peace process. What he fails to recognize is that France is no more qualified to manage this portfolio than, say, Turkey was able to mediate between Israel and Syria. The fact is that no one is able to offer the goods and services that Washington provides its allies, in the region and throughout the world.

If the president is beginning to see the nuances and difficulties of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in many of its details, he still lacks an understanding of the larger architecture that everything hangs on: American leadership. Nations, like individual investors, do not always know what’s best for them. Both history and Wall Street are replete with the tragic stories of those who confused opportunities and risks. When Washington fails to lead competently, the world is a riskier place, for our friends and for ourselves.

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