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Who will cause Obama's first 3 a.m. call?

Mike Baker

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Shared under the......you get it by now.


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Who will cause Obama's first 3 a.m. call?
Updated Sat. Nov. 29 2008 12:35 PM ET

RealClearPolitics.com

"Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking."

This ominous warning was not issued by President-elect Obama's campaign adversary John McCain or any of his surrogates. It came from Joe Biden, Obama's running mate and the nation's next vice president - merely two weeks before Obama's election victory.

Indeed, throughout his two-year campaign for the most powerful office in the world, Obama's lack of executive experience was almost always Topic No. 1. And his virtual blank slate pertaining to foreign policy produced more attack lines by his opponents than anything else.

During the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton made much hay when she unleashed the famed "3 a.m. call" television ad questioning whether a nation at war could risk electing someone so green as its leader. She made dramatic gains following the ad's unveiling, taking Obama to the wire in a spirited intra-party fight.

With an electorate more concerned about the current financial crisis and other more worrisome domestic issues, Obama beat McCain comfortably to win the election. But the world's bad actors and flash points will not simply go away. Fortunately for him, some of the potential problems will remain more long-term and less urgent, such as China, India and Brazil; while others, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Africa, will not be strategically pressing enough to warrant emergency actions.

So just who'll be responsible for Obama's first 3 a.m. phone call at the White House? After careful consideration, here are five top suspects:

5. Russia

"I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls."

That, allegedly, was the promise Russian premier Vladimir Putin made to French president Nicolas Sarkozy during last summer's 10-day conflict between Russia and the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia. The clash over Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia took the world by surprise, and forced two stunned presidential campaigns to respond accordingly.

Obama's response - coupled with the unfortunate timing of a Hawaiian vacation during the conflict - struck a brief blow to Obama's presidential bid, perhaps forcing him to select a vice presidential running mate with foreign policy bona fides. In stepped Senator Joe Biden.

But will President-elect Obama have another Russian crisis to handle? There's no guarantee, but Moscow has made it abundantly clear that it won't tolerate western encroachment in the federation's immediate sphere of influence, or the 'Near Abroad.' Russian-Georgian relations remain strained and volatile, while Moscow's recent threat to deploy missiles on the European border sent nations like Lithuania and Poland scrambling for the west's intervention.

Moscow is unlikely to antagonize any NATO-aligned nations, but the same can't be said for Georgia, Ukraine and Eurasian countries such as Azerbaijan. With Europe increasingly dependent on Russia to keep the lights on, would President Obama be left alone to defend these besieged states?

4. Al Qaeda

John McCain said he knew "how to get Bin Laden," but it's up to Obama, the winner of the presidential election, to capture the terrorist who's been on top of the U.S.'s most-wanted list ever since he masterminded the 9/11 attacks.

While there are indications that Osama Bin Laden might be isolated somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions, his organization has hardly been snuffed out during the ongoing seven-year War on Terror.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that as an organization, al-Qaeda has extended its reach even if some of its operational and fundraising capabilities have been compromised. After being chased out of Sudan in the late 1990s, al-Qaeda has returned to Africa - taking advantage of the presence of the numerous failed states there. Its network on the continent now stretches from the Horn of Africa on the Somali coast, up to Algeria and all the way to the northwestern shore in Morocco.

There is also concern that al-Qaeda has evolved from a just a terrorist organization with a single purpose to a sophisticated non-state actor with a far-reaching agenda. Its attacks have always been about more than just death and destruction.

Al-Qaeda came perilously close to pulling off another audacious attack in 2006, when it was foiled in attempting to blow up as many as 10 U.S. and Canadian airliners over the Atlantic. With the "Bush Doctrine" on the wane and a certain new direction to be implemented by the Obama Administration, would al-Qaeda choose to seize the initiative and dictate its own terms?

For more analysis, click on RealClearPolitics

3. North Korea

Is Kim Jong-il alive? Or, the better question is, will the regime be even more menacing if he's incapacitated or dead?

Of all of the U.S.'s adversaries, none is more unpredictable than North Korea because there is just so little information available. Add to the fact that North Korea potentially has nuclear weapon capabilities, the danger posed by this rogue regime cannot be understated.

While Kim's fate is uncertain, the regime has not ceased its intransigent behavior that dated as far back as the Korean War. The latest is the regime's unilateral announcement that it's closing its border with South Korea. With South Korean president Lee Myung-bak taking a harder line, the North is perhaps spoiling for a new confrontation.

More ominously, the regime also declared that inspection of its nuclear program could not go beyond the Yongbyon facility and the inspectors could not leave with samples from Yongbyon for testing. That declaration was in breach of a deal brokered by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that resulted in North Korea's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

If Kim does not resurface, the regime apparently would be run by a military junta similar to the one that's in power in Burma - only more diabolical and perhaps with nukes to boot. Will they decide to simply carry on with their usual assortment of blackmail tactics, or set the world on fire?

2. Iran

The United States and Iran have quietly - and sometimes vociferously - been somewhere between peace and war for nearly 30 years. Since the revolutionary regime's takeover of the American embassy in the fall of 1979, relations between the two nations have been at a cold standstill. Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. funded and aided the Arab sheikdoms surrounding the Islamic republic, and assisted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in his long and bloody bid to seize the oil-rich, Arab province of Khuzestan from the Iranians.

While U.S. and Iran never officially engaged in direct warfare during that decade, the two countries did tangle in a quiet naval tit-for-tat in the spring of 1988 known as Operation Praying Mantis.

Not much has changed since then, and Iran's asymmetric naval capabilities have only adapted and matured since that brief engagement. If Iran were brazen and bold enough to grab control of the world's energy spigot, it would likely involve a naval engagement over the Strait of Hormuz.

The potential for conflict isn't excluded to the seas, either. With America's presence in Iraq appearing to be certain for at least the next three years, the risk of cross border engagement between Iranian proxies and U.S. forces will only become more likely. Tehran's proxy outfits - such as Hezbollah - are within striking distance of western embassies and offices all throughout the Middle East. Any action against the Iranians will likely involve reprisals elsewhere. An Obama response to Iranian mischief could require the safeguarding of Israel, the GCC states and all of the region's energy pipelines.

President-elect Obama has proposed unconditional negotiations between Tehran and Washington to resolve the abundant differences between both nations. But if the republic forces Obama's hand, how might he respond?

1. Pakistan

The U.S.'s war in Afghanistan, launched weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has come full circle. While the Taliban regime had been deposed and al-Qaeda forced on the run, the prosecution of the war has not brought about stability to the region.

In fact, it has escalated over the past few months, and it's poised to spill over on a grand scale to neighboring Pakistan, whose standing as an U.S. ally has frequently come into question, particularly after the ouster of former strongman president Pervez Musharraf.

President-elect Obama broached the possibility of launching attacks inside Pakistan's borders without that country's authorization in a 2007 speech - something that's since been carried out routinely in the form of missile strikes and commando incursions by the Bush Administration. So far, Pakistan's fragile government has done little other than lodging toothless protests.

President Asif Ali Zardari indeed has much larger problems on his hands than occasional violation of his country's sovereignty by the Americans. Pakistan is broke and just reached an agreement with the IMF for a $7.6 billion emergency loan. Its porous northwest borders are out of reach for its overstretched military and a hotbed for al-Qaeda and a reconstituted Taliban. And a large part of its Muslim population resents the U.S. presence in the region and the growing clout of archenemy India.

In September, the Marriott Hotel in the heart of capital Islamabad was bombed by home-grown terrorists, raising more concerns about the nation's stability. Should Zardari's government collapse and be swallowed up by an Islamist uprising, the entire sub-continent may be consumed by instant conflagration. With both Pakistan and India in possession of nuclear weapons, this will be a 3 a.m. call that President-elect Obama dearly wishes to avoid.


Intresting article in my opinion.
 

CougarKing

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Hugo Chavez isn't on the list? Or Raoul Castro?  ??? Especially after the way they are being re-approached by Russia these days.
 

CBH99

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I don't think Raoul Castro would be on the Top 5 list.  Cuba is a relatively stable country, with a strong government and tourism industry.  And although the United States may not like that its...*oh my*..."not democratic" - I doubt either will want to stir up any instability in our own backyard.  "Don't rock the boat" comes to mind.

Between the looming financial crisis, the war on terror not only in Iraq and Afghanistan - but also Pakistan, SE Asia, Africa, and various parts of South America, strained international relations, and an important overhaul of America's image abroad - I doubt Obama will worry too much about Raoul Castro.
 

KingKikapu

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Venezuela is in a financial crisis.  They pay for all of their extensive social programs with their one major export: oil.  There are three reasons why Chavez is of no concern to the US.  Firstly, the US is their largest oil trading partner at over 70% and is the only country that pays for Venezuelan oil at full price.  The rest goes to his anti-us latin american bloc (Cuba included) at bartered and/or 20yr financed rates.  While the bloc may help his regional influence, it is hurting his access to cash flows.  In September, Chavez was so desperate for cash that he sold a couple tankers of light crude at significant discount provided the buyer paid up front.  He also changed his accounts receivable to 10 days from the industry standard of 30+.

The second reason has to do with his budgeting pro formas; his government budgeted the price of oil to be around 65$/barrel.  Everything the government spends on depends on the price of oil being above this threshhold.  Unfortunately for him, while the price of oil jumped from ~40 to 147$/b in July, the economic crisis has since tanked the price of oil down to the 30's.  Don't expect to see it go back that high any time soon.  
Thirdly, he saw fit to take leave from the wold bank and international monetary fund, leaving his options for financial assistance to be close to squat.  That means despite his constant bitching about the Americans, he needs them more than ever to keep buying oil at full price.  Until he sorts that stuff out, he can do nothing but watch the currency spiral down the tubes.

Edit:  Spelling/grammar sucks, but I'm too tired to properly clean it up.  Gnight.
Put simply, he's full of hot air.  He's now trying to hold a country together with little to offer his people who have become accustomed to large government handouts.
 

tomahawk6

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No question that Obama will be tested and it will happen proably in his first 4-6 months in office.If he fails the test then the next 4 years will look like Clinton's with one terrorist attack followed by another. I think that if the global economy shrinks that will put a leash on Russian adventurism.Their stock market hasnt recovered from their Georgian adventure.Throw in much lower oil/gas prices they are going to be in tough shape - unless they figure out a way to drive prices higher.
 

KingKikapu

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Russia's wealth is also evaporating with the dropping oil prices.  For the most part though, their recent successes have only benefited the corrupt/elite oligopolies.  Most Russians grumble about their lives, but see “international prestige” as a consolation prize.  The drop in oil has seriously cut into their political clout though. 
 

Greymatters

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I think domestic emergencies are more likely to be first - the next hurricane, earthquake, outbreak, etc...

At least his kids arent old enough that he has to worry about them getting picked up for drinking underage...
 

wannabe SF member

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tomahawk6 said:
No question that Obama will be tested and it will happen proably in his first 4-6 months in office.If he fails the test then the next 4 years will look like Clinton's with one terrorist attack followed by another. I think that if the global economy shrinks that will put a leash on Russian adventurism.Their stock market hasnt recovered from their Georgian adventure.Throw in much lower oil/gas prices they are going to be in tough shape - unless they figure out a way to drive prices higher.

I wouldn't be so sure, the OPEC members are talking reducing their oil production in order to drive the prices up. 
 

tomahawk6

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They have been reducing production but the problem is that demand is down so there wont be an impact on prices.Demand goes up and or speculators jump back in and we will see prices increase.Meanwhile lets enjoy the respite. :)
 

KingKikapu

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Many opec nations have production problems; they've put little money into maintaining their infrastructure, so their numbers are already low.  They can't drop them too far before their fixed costs are no longer covered.  Worse for them, whenever there is a decision to cut opec production, certain nations feel it much more than others.  It's not as popular for certain opec nations as you may think.
 

abo

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Yea and OPEC is a cartel, the organization may decide to cut production but there is still monetary incentive for individuals to keep production high.
 

KingKikapu

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yeah they can't drop it too far or it cuts into their contribution margin.  Certain nations like Saudi Arabia, who produce a much larger swath of oil, can weather the supply cuts better than smaller nations like Venezuela and the UAE.  Unlike Venezuela, UAE is trying to build up alternative markets for when the oil runs out.
 
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