- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ROME

What did President Obama achieve for himself and for America during last week’s summit of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations in L’Aquila, Italy? Not much.

Despite what presumably was his best effort at using the charm, personality and teleprompter that catapulted him into office, he was unsuccessful in persuading either wealthy or developing nations to sign off on a plan to combat global warming. It’s not that he lacks support from the European media. CNN International and the BBC, among others, continue to blanket their networks with “green” propaganda in a disinformation blitz that would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.

If Mr. Obama can’t persuade 17 of the world’s leading polluters to do more than pump out political hot air with nothing meaningful beyond unspecified pledges to reduce carbon emissions, why should Americans go it alone or with just some European nations joining us (maybe)? Congress favors a far more restrained approach to global climate change than those who pollute the planet far more than we do.

The president announced more aid for poor African nations, something that will have a limited effect given the track record. The British, especially, are fixated on African poverty, perhaps as atonement for past colonial sins. Mr. Obama persuaded the G-8 to increase from $15 billion to $20 billion over three years the money wealthy nations will send to poor African countries. Given the corruption that has siphoned off huge amounts of aid in the past — a fact Mr. Obama acknowledged even while committing and asking for more money — it is unlikely new money will produce different results from old money when poured down the same rathole. What Africa needs is political, religious and economic reform, and only then might aid help poor Africans become self-sustaining.

In the most important arenas — foreign policy and domestic security — nations and terrorists who mean America harm have a right to think Mr. Obama is weak and can be challenged with few consequences. While the response to the Somali pirates offered an initial sign that the president was prepared to use force against bad people with evil intent, subsequent statements and inaction to other threats are not encouraging. Islamic insurgents in Somalia purportedly tied to al Qaeda recently carried out a series of killings, bombings and other attacks against Westerners and African security forces without even a rhetorical response from the president.

After his initial reluctance to say much about the fraudulent election in Iran and the huge demonstrations that led the government to bloody and kill unarmed civilians, the president denounced the violence but said nothing about what might happen if it continued. And so it continued. The G-8 said little and did nothing but will meet again in September to consider a stronger statement.

Honduras? The president is on the wrong side of that one, too. As Hondurans have demanded adherence to their constitution, the Obama administration has sided with a protege of Hugo Chavez’s and the Castro brothers’ who tried to obliterate it.

Terrorists-in-waiting mostly remained in the shadows during the George W. Bush administration but now think they can meet openly to plot the downfall of the United States. Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international movement that wants to re-establish a caliphate and indoctrinate Muslims into supporting jihad, will step up its recruitment efforts at a planned meeting Sunday in a Chicago suburb, reports the Investigative Project on Terrorism: “The group, whose alumni include 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and suicide bombers, will hold a conference entitled ‘The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam.’ ” Why should they fear a president who still wants to negotiate with the Iranian nuclear bomb builder Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

There is nothing worse for the world than to have a U.S. president who is perceived as weak. Weakness can result in the deaths of innocent people, a wrecked economy (again) and new attacks on American allies and interests around the world. This perception of weakness may be contributing to the drop in Mr. Obama’s approval ratings at home.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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