Friday, July 19, 2013

Is Obama a Squib?

In the Harry Potter universe, a squib is someone who is born to a magical family but cannot use magic.  The most noted one in the HP books is Filch, caretaker of Hogwarts.  Anyhow, is Obama a squib?  Well, many folks seem to think he has magical powers.  Well, specifically one magical power--the ability to get leaders of other countries to ignore their domestic political constraints. 

This, of course, is most ironic, since Obama himself has faced quite significant constraints at home with a Congress that has been most willing to try to handcuff him in any way possible.  Indeed, John McCain is even now threatening to put a "hold" on the General Martin Dempsey's second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff due to McCain's Syria fixation.*
* Someone tweeted that McCain was wrong in using something he is entitled to use, a hold, in this case.  I would disagree.  I don't think the founders had any clue that individual Senators would hold up the administration over appointments.  Otherwise, why set rules about majorities and super-majorities for appointments? 

The topic du jour is the failure of Obama to get a deal signed with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai to deal with the US sticking around after 2014.  This Bilateral Security Agreement has hit more than a few bumps in the road with the most recent moves being the US govt saying that without a BSA, the US will leave Afghanistan and with Afghanistan now starting to levy fees on the "cans" taking equipment out of the country as the drawdown proceeds

Obama could not revise (nor had any interest in revising) the deal that Bush had struck with the Iraqis, which led to the complete American military withdrawal from Iraq.  Even if he had wanted to, Obama would not have been able to get Iraq's leaders to agree, given the nationalist resentment about the Occupation--a vote would not have passed in Iraq's parliament.  In Afghanistan, things are a bit different as it is not clear at all that there is much opposition to a BSA/SOFA [status of forces agreement] within Afghanistan's legislature.  Karzai is being recalcitrant (that is being kind), perhaps due to his reading of the domestic landscape, but it is not as clear this time that there is a legislature that is deadset against a continued American presence. 

Still, Obama does not have the wand or the magical education necessary to make Karzai or his resistance disappear.  If he had, Obama would have used the wand and the magic in 2009 when Karzai undermined the western effort via his gratuitous corruption of the Presidential election. 

Alas, Harry Potter is fiction, and anyone believing that Obama can wish away the domestic constraints limiting his negotiating partners (or himself) are confusing fantasy and reality.

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