Leadership always negates personality

Stephen Ontko

If only we had a president who was respected and liked in the world, then all of America’s problems would just dissipate, and world peace and prosperity could finally be achieved.

This argument was laid out, if you recall, in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention by the party’s nominee, John Kerry. “We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden. that won’t happen until we have a president who restores America’s respect and leadership – so we don’t have to go it alone in the world.”

As CNN reported on Sept. 24, 2002, Al Gore certainly didn’t think Bush to be this president, claiming, “‘In just one year, the president has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed Sept. 11 ‘and converted it into anger.'”

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is finally someone Kerry and Gore would approve of, with crowds of 200,000 attending a speech of Obama’s in Berlin as reported by the BBC on July 25, 2008. A Gallup poll released on Oct. 28, 2008 found out of 73 countries, 24 percent supported Obama as opposed to just seven percent for McCain. The rest had no opinion.

Now, with just over 90 days of the Obama presidency, some insight is provided to see just whether a president who is likable, or at least a president who personifies an American ‘change’ of heart, gets the desired results.

So far it appears the world hasn’t stopped spinning for Barack Obama. On March 20, Obama released a video to Iran, attempting to persuade them to abandon their status as an international renegade, reaching out to Iran and disassociating with “those who insist that we be defined by our differences.”

Despite his flowery address, Iran has taken no serious adjustment to its policies since Bush has left office, with Iran’s nuclear program still continuing. Agence France-Presse reported on March 10 that U.S. intelligence departments estimate Iran’s ability to create highly enriched uranium by as early as 2013.

Iran also continues to lapse on human rights issues, the LA Times reporting last Sunday of Roxana Saberi’s sentence to eight years in prison based on charges of espionage. Although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has signaled concern over the sentence and possible talks concerning Iran’s nuclear program, it remains far to be seen if this newfound show of willing collaboration will yield positive results, or is merely a tactical ploy to further Tehran’s ambitions similar to North Korea’s.

Obama’s popularity unfortunately hasn’t increased peace in anyway on the Korean peninsula either, with North Korea dispelling all of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors after Kim Jong-il’s April 5 rocket launch, the Associated Press reported April 14.

At the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez had more praise for Obama than Bush, calling our current president much smarter than the former president, CBS reported Sunday. Yet again, goodwill surrounding Obama will do nothing to change the oppressive and economically dismal reality in Venezuela. In Venezuela’s most recent elections for regional governors last year, Chavez threatened with the use of force via tanks in the streets against anyone who would protest the election results, according to the Associate Press on Nov. 19, 2008.

Finally, John Kerry’s claim that our allies will come to our aid when they like us more hasn’t panned out either. As Josef Joffe points out in an April 18 column in the Wall Street Journal, there were no new troop commitments from our European allies after the last G20 summit meeting, or any real shift in scope of NATO troops already stationed there (the brunt of the fighting still being done by U.S. forces).

As a measure of promoting liberty, safety and global prosperity, relying on a politician’s personality and global popularity will fall short every time. In order for real results to take place, policy actions, as opposed to diplomatic perceptions, must be the driving force behind a nation’s position.

Receiving goodwill from our allies may do nothing but give everyone a psychological boost, but if this is at the cost of our national interests, crisis will never be solved, and this is a higher price to pay than a few allies acting ornery toward us.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].