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That 3 a.m. Phone Call

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Hillary Clinton’s campaign ad was memorable. It featured a telephone ringing at 3 a.m. It strongly suggested that Barack Obama was not prepared to take that phone call at that critical hour. Somewhere, a crisis would mount, and the inexperienced Illinois senator was not ready to tackle it, she wanted primary voters to understand.

The ad occasioned much comment in the media. Many commentators thought it was Hillary’s best argument against her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. But commentators aren’t the ones who nominate candidates for the White House. And Democratic primary voters preferred that young Hope and Change over old Tough and Ready.

Now, we have two years experience with the foreign policy team of Obama and Clinton. Right after his sweeping election, Barack Obama assuaged many disappointed Democrats and glass ceiling breakers by tapping the New York senator as his Secretary of State.

A comprehensive, 19-page article by Ryan Lizza in the May 2nd issue of New Yorker Magazine paints a vivid picture of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy team. Interestingly, Joe Biden—once the Democrats’ chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--doesn’t even make a cameo appearance in this exhaustive survey.

Lizza is one of the most-read writers today. He relates how the young, untested president had written a “forgettable” essay promoting the nuclear freeze when he was a student at Columbia. Forgettable the article may be, but it would be nice to see if there has been any growth whatever since he sowed his nuclear wild oats.

We now know that the nuclear freeze was promoted by the Soviet KGB to gullible western liberals and socialists. Lizza’s citing of Obama’s early support for the Freeze suggests that he has been a man of the left forever. What the Freeze meant was that the Soviets could move aggressively to place SS-19 and SS-20 medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Eastern Europe, but that NATO would not respond in kind. The U.S. and our Western European allies would simply, voluntarily, abstain from matching the Soviets’ buildup. Think frozen in terror. This was a policy so obviously wrong that even France’s Socialist President Francois Mitterrand rejected it.

But Barack Obama is much more mature now, Lizza tells us. And his article shows the results of this new maturity. Obama wanted to test the idea that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was essential to our interests in the Mideast. So he did. Mubarak soon was toppled, but not without a shove from President Obama.

Mubarak wasn’t booted before Obama sent our former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, to have a heart-to-heart talk with the 30-year dictator. Wisner told journalists that the U.S. policy was not to throw Mubarak under the bus. Instead, Wisner was soon thrown under the bus by White House operatives he sarcastically calls “the re-election committee.”

With the Muslim Brotherhood standing by ready to pick up the pieces of Obama’s bull in a china shop Egypt policies, we now move on to Libya. As soon as demonstrators appeared in the streets against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime—he’s been in power even longer than Mubarak—Hillary thought we needed to act.

Now, Hillary admitted to Ryan Lizza that people are being killed all over the world by nasty dictatorships. But she knew we needed to act in Libya. “People are being killed in Cote d’Ivoire; they’re being killed in the Eastern Congo,” she acknowledged over breakfast with Lizza. “What is the standard?”

Apparently, the standard is that we will intervene only if the U.S. has no vital interest in the threatened area and only if the victims are Muslims and not Christians.

Hillary is quite proud of her achievements in the UN. She managed to get the Arab League to demand UN action in Libya. This is big. “So now we’re going to see whether the [UN] Security Council will support the Arab League. Not support the United States—support the Arab League.” Well, why didn’t you say so? That resolution of support went through the Security Council like greased lightning.

We should certainly not be so pushy as to demand the UN support the United States. After all, it was the United States that went to war in Korea in 1950 to back up the UN. It is the U.S. that puts 37,000 troops in Korea to this day to support the UN effort there. It is the United States that provides 24% of the UN budget.

By all means, let’s make sure we have a UN that does the Arab League’s bidding. The Arab League had no problem putting Gaddafi on the UN Human Rights Council. But in those happy earlier days, Gaddafi was only killing Israelis, killing Africans, and killing Americans over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Only when Gaddafi began killing brother Arabs did the Arab League think maybe he should not remain on the Human Rights Council. Some humans’ rights are more important than others.

Lizza tells us that if there is an Obama Doctrine, it is this: The U.S. must act more humbly in the world. We must “lead from behind,” and adapt ourselves to our declining power in the world.

After two years, we finally know which one—Barack or Hillary—is ready to take that 3 a.m. crisis phone call: neither.

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