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by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado President Barack Obama clearly has his hands full with the economic crisis and he is still far from having his arms around the problems. His attention seems to be focused almost exclusively on reversing the economic meltdown so that he can get on with his ambitious domestic agenda. But first he has to figure out what works. It would perhaps facilitate this process if he could impose some measure of discipline on those in his party who would exploit this crisis to ram through their social and political agenda under the guise of stimuli. Meanwhile, other priorities beckon and in troublesome economic times like these, it’s easy to forget that job one is, and will always be, the defense of the nation and its citizens. How much should he worry about the outside world just now? Let me count the ways. Nuclear proliferation is perhaps the biggest threat. North Korea, a hostile, rogue state, has nuclear weapons and is testing the means to deliver them. By all indications, Iran will also soon have them, also, and you all know their feelings about the west and Israel’s right to exist. Mr. Obama has apparently gone wobbly on plans to establish missile defense sites in Eastern Europe, hoping to win cooperation from Russia in restraining Iran. Good luck on that. Pakistan, an unstable, nominal ally, has nuclear weapons, also. It seems more focused on massing troops and weapons on its border with rival India rather than on eliminating Taliban terrorists in its western tribal areas along the Afghan border. There is growing concern in Washington that nuclear weapons could be acquired by terrorists hostile to the West which could be a game changer in the war on terrorism. And speaking of Afghanistan, what exactly is the plan regarding the buildup of forces there as Iraq winds down? Is it to drain the swamp or to just kill some alligators, so to speak? How will we know when we have won that one? When Afghanistan becomes a stable, West-loving democracy? Good luck on that one, too. Mr. Obama said that the objective is to hunt down and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. But what will that accomplish? There’s no shortage of replacements. Mr. Obama needs to appreciate that Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is infinitely more rugged , remote and inaccessible. He might consider consulting with the Russians on this matter. They have ten years of experience in how to lose a war in Afghanistan with over 175,000 pairs of boots on the ground. Perhaps Mr. Obama could afford to be so pre-occupied with domestic concerns if he had, say, a Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton may be a smart, tough lady but she is a politician, not a diplomat, and has a scant two months of experience in her new role. Which brings us to Israel v. Palestine. The world believes that we are somehow responsible for brokering a solution here and Mr. Obama has obligingly stated that he believes a two-state solution is key. He dispatched Ms. Clinton to that troubled region where she participated in the Great Gaza Giveaway, agreeing to provide U.S. aid to rebuild Gaza, even as Gaza rockets continued to fall on Israel which precipitated the Israeli attack in the first place. Americans are losing jobs, homes and health coverage and we are rebuilding Hamas-run Gaza while Hamas is in the process of provoking another Israeli attack? Is this a joke or what? Elsewhere on the foreign fronts, our nearest neighbor to the south seems to be self-destructing. Well-armed drug cartel gangs battle the police, the military and themselves, using mostly weapons obtained from the United States. Here’s the way it works. Illegal aliens and drugs are smuggled north across the border and guns and money are smuggled south. It’s a two-way street. The good guys are not winning this civil war and our Defense Department says that Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state. Murders and kidnappings for revenge and ransom have finally spread across the border big time. We are responsible for supplying the demand, the money and the weapons and now we are reaping the consequences of a broken border. Defense funding is notably absent from the stimulus package and dangerously under-funded in the budget. That’s probably just fine with the president’s liberal, dovish base who believe that every dollar spent on defense is a wasted dollar, better spent on stimulus projects like, for example, studying the odors emanating from swine manure. (I am not making this up.) But Mr. Obama had better think twice about under-funding defense, especially since he plans to surge into Afghanistan in search of Osama. The army and marines are fully extended fighting two wars and they are even using sailors and airmen to free up soldiers. And in case Mr. Obama hasn’t noticed, the Navy is down to fewer than 300 ships and shrinking. The shipbuilding rate is insufficient to sustain even current force levels. Our aviation assets are likewise shrinking and ageing. Rebuilding the fleets would be a real stimulus package with a purpose. Hopefully, Mr. Obama is up to all this multi-tasking and can keep all the balls in the air. Our future may depend upon it. As he himself famously said during the campaign, a president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time. CRO copyright 2009 J.F. Kelly, Jr. J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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