(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
I've been back home in California since the second week in August, and am now getting ready to head back home to Israel in about 10 days. Being back in Sacramento is always fun. Family, friends, the Sierras, the San Francisco Bay Area, calm suburban living, baseball, easy parking. Hard to argue with.
But as much fun as it has been, it also has been depressing to watch some of American policies from here. Things seem upside down. At a minimum, it's very confusing. Here are a few reasons why:
President Obama said that it would be crossing a red line if chemical weapons were moved in Syria. (They were and the U.S. did nothing.) Yet the Administration says we don't draw red lines when it comes to Iran's development of nuclear weapons, although it is clear that what we have been doing has not yet worked.
The U.S. got involved in Libya. No one can disagree with saving lives and overthrowing a dictator, but I have yet to find anyone who can identify what U.S. strategic interest was served there. On the other hand, the Syrian government is slaughtering its own people at an incredible rate, it is possible that its chemical weapons will fall into the hands of Hezbollah and be used against Israelis or Americans, and Iran is actively supporting the Syrian government.
Iran is developing nuclear weapons with all of the possible disastrous consequences of that for U.S. interests, Israel, Europe, and a Middle East nuclear arms race. U.S. intelligence experts have testified that Assad's overthrow would be the biggest foreign policy blow to Iran in 25 years. And. yet, the U.S. is doing next to nothing in Syria, not even "leading from behind."
The Obama Administration refuses to draw red lines for Iran and it undermines Israel every time it tries to make a credible threat of its own military action, despite the fact that it is clear that sanctions alone will not now stop Iran but perhaps sanctions and a credible threat of immediate action might have a slight chance.
The September 4th N.Y. Times reported that President Obama recently approved the cutting off of Iran's nuclear facilities from its electrical grid. He reportedly previously rejected that option because it would have inconvenienced Iranian civilians.
Let's see: helping to prevent mad men who openly declare their intention to eliminate a country and slaughter its seven million people from obtaining the most deadly weapons ever devised versus causing some people to go without electricity for awhile. Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it was not.
The Administration supported the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak and welcomed the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president. The U.S. pledged to continue to provide billions in aid to the new democratic government. Then the President declares that Egypt is not a U.S. ally. The next day the Administration declares that Egypt is a U.S. ally.
The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is attacked on September 11th by trained, disciplined terrorists using high-powered, sophisticated weapons. Libyan authorities characterize the attack as a planned, well-executed operation using the riots protesting a dumb video about Mohamed as cover.
For close to a week, despite all evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Administration says the attack was not a planned terror attack but simply part of the spontaneous demonstrations. Then the intelligence services say the Libyans were right in the first place.
When L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ruled on his third try and over a chorus of boos that two-thirds of the Democratic Convention delegates had voted to reinsert Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the Convention platform, the word was that President Obama had personally directed that the language be adopted.
If so, why doesn't he direct the State Department to implement his policy position, starting with dropping its defense of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court over the denial of the right of a young American-Israeli to identify Jerusalem, Israel as his place of birth in his American passport? After all, to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, what the hell is the power of the presidency for?
Given America's ongoing, deep economic problems and the disarray that much of our foreign policy is in, one would reasonably conclude that the President should be in deep reelection trouble or, at the very least, the race should be close. That it now appears that, barring a jolting and unforeseen development, the President will win fairly comfortably, is testimony to the fact that most people find him and his family likable, to the fact that the Republican Party has gone so far to the right that it manages to alienate a huge number of American voters, and to the fact that the Romney campaign might very well be the worst campaign since the 1988 Dukakis campaign. As a friend of mine recently said, all that is needed now is for Governor Romney to hop in a tank and put on the helmet.
How does a party expect to win an election in 2012 when it alienates gays, their parents, their friends, and their sisters and brothers; Hispanics and other large immigrant populations; and at least half of the women in the country?
How does it expect to win when it seems to have an overabundance of hate-filled people who cannot edit themselves, from a backbench congressman who thinks that rape can be categorized as "legitimate" versus, presumably, "non legitimate," to Republican convention attendees who think it is acceptable to throw peanuts and hurl epithets at an African American reporter? What century are these people in?
It's been great to be back in the States for a couple of months. Lots of fun. But I do think that perhaps I paid a little too much attention to the news. So I am feeling a bit upside down and confused.
My remedy: head to the Middle East.