- Posted October 21, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
President Obama and the Phone Call That Endangered America
The exchange was tense. Toward the end Bonaparte was so frustrated, gesticulating so furiously, he accidentally dropped his hat. But it was no accident. Wily Bonaparte was measuring Metternich’s subservience. A fearful subject would bow and pick up the hat. Instead, Metternich ignored the hat and carried on as if he hadn’t even noticed. “Napoleon,” he later wrote, “seemed to me small.” Metternich’s action was more powerful than 10,000 words. His message, to Napoleon and Europe, resonated: Europe would no longer bow before Bonaparte.
In the high-stakes world of geopolitics, small gestures matter greatly.At the Postdam Conference in 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin couldn’t agree on who should enter the main door into the meeting room first. After much debate, they finally settled on an agreeable plan: The leaders would enter the room at precisely the same time using three separate doors. It sounds childish and silly. But far more was at stake than the vanity of these men.
Each leader represented the power and place of a great nation, Britain, America and the USSR, respectively. On such an important and public occasion, the leader who entered the room first would be perceived as having precedence, a greater sense of importance, over his counterparts. By entering the room synchronously, all three had equal importance.
This is geopolitics in the age of man: infantile, embarrassing, and so often—in a shake-your-head, let-out-a-big-sigh sort of way—entertaining.
In 1946, Russia’s foreign minister stormed from a post-war victory celebration in Paris after he was seated in the second row, behind his counterparts in the first row from France, Britain and America. The man was livid! The war had ended, and Stalin had helped defeat Germany and Japan. The USSR was a first-rower now!
The history of international relations is filled with anecdotes like this. Why bring this up? Because human nature hasn’t changed in 6,000 years, and it sure hasn’t changed over the last 70. Even today, in our age of “sophisticated” international politics, small gestures continue to carry great meaning.
Which brings us to America’s president, and his chronic habit of committing gestures of disrespect and hostility to allies—and worse, gestures of weakness and subservience to competitors. Most recently, it was Mr. Obama’s phone call to new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. This happened weeks ago and was fairly widely reported on, but have we really thought on the significance of this gesture?
This “the most shameful phone call that’s ever been made by a leader of this land.” The president initially wanted to meet Rouhani on the sidelines of last month’s UN General Assembly in New York. But the meeting never happened because, as Haaretz and others reported, “Iran decided a meeting [during the UN conference] would be too complicated.” Rejecting Obama’s advance was a play designed to establish dominance in the relationship. Rouhani might be a rookie among world leaders, but he plays the game like a veteran. Once jilted, Mr. Obama should have left Rouhani alone. After all, Iran is feeling the pain of economic sanctions and domestic pressure is intensifying. Instead, Mr. Obama “hurriedly” grabbed the phone and made the call.
The call that every American president since Jimmy Carter, Democrat and Republican, was smart enough not to make. It was :
The call to the regime that longs to destroy America, Israel and the West, and thus create the global violence and anarchy needed to usher in the Islamist’s messiah, the Mahdi..
The call to the regime that sustains and leads global Islamist terrorism.
The call to the regime most responsible for Middle East tension and instability.
The call to an undemocratic, radical Islamist regime that rejects every basic human right of its citizens.
The call that struck fear into the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States.
The call that punctuated the reality to Israel, yet again, that America couldn’t care less about the threats encompassing America’s most loyal friend and partner in the Middle East.
In America, the reaction to Mr. Obama’s call, especially in the mainstream media and among liberals, was largely positive. Many considered it a major breakthrough, the start of a fresh new dialogue with Iran. Meanwhile, few stopped to consider how Iranperceived the phone call. “Wow, this is fantastic,” said Armin Kay, an Iranian engineer reacting to the news. “The most important thing is that Obama took the initiative. This will go down really well with our leadership.” Rouhani boasted about it on his Twitter page, though the tweets were later removed.
Iran’s currency, the rial, rose 2 percent against the dollar on the open market following the landmark call.
Who cares what the New York Times or naive journalists think? They have no practical bearing on the end goal. What really matters is the impact of this gesture on the regime in Tehran. AND IT WAS TAKEN AS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS AND COMPROMISE!
We see gestures conveying this message regularly from Mr. Obama. Remember the now infamous photo of his bowing before Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah? Aides at the time said the president was merely leaning forward to shake the king’s hand. But that lie was exposed a few months later when he visited Japan and bowed, this time convincingly, deliberately and unapologetically, before Emperor Akihito. Like the phone call to Rouhani, this was a first in history: the first bow by a U.S. president before a foreign leader.
Mr. Obama has made gestures of equal significance to friends and allies—only on these occasions they’ve been gestures conveying disrespect and hostility. One of his first actions upon moving into the Oval Office was to get rid of a bust of Winston Churchill, a gift from the British government signifying the historic friendship between America and Britain. When Britain’s former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, died earlier this year, President Obama didn’t attend the funeral, and refused to send even a single serving member of his administration.
In 2009, when he met Israel’s prime minister for the first time, Benjamin Netanyahu was made to enter the White House through a side door and into a meeting room where press cameras were not allowed. In September last year, when Netanyahu visited New York and Washington, the president refused to see him—the first time a U.S. president refused to meet a visiting Israeli prime minister.
Each of these gestures conveyed a powerful message to the nation and leader involved, and to the world at large.
What is going on here? Why is the White House doing this? It isn’t a matter of mere inexperience or poor schooling in the symbolism of international relations. To the contrary, the precision, the attention to detail, the growing list of such gestures, reveals an astonishing malevolence for America and its role in the world. Something deeper is afoot here. One can sense it in multiple facets of the government too, not just foreign policy. What is it?