Moscow’s pronouncement that Putin deems Obama weak shows how Obama’s Goldilocks syndrome poses risks for geopolitical miscalculations. A weak U.S. president destabilizes today’s even more anarchic than usual international order (as defined in Waltzian terms) because U.S. commitments and power are unpredictable. That’s not really Obama – although the resemblance is undeniable.
Obama’s Goldilocks syndrome actually offers a framework for some predictability, even if the outcome can be gamed by interested constituents. The rules are known, if not the exact results: pre-condition and define what the middle, compromise choice will be. Box him in. And U.S. power becomes a football in the rugby scrum. This international system – while not ideal for U.S. national interests – is distinguishable from the unilateral disarmament or hesitancy of the Carter Administration.
So now the Goldilocks superpower declares ‘a last chance’ for Iran to avoid military action. But tout le monde knows that’s just the opening gambit in the game to define Obama’s compromise space. The Israelis got that game down cold. The Europeans have Obama’s number, too:
European allies, especially the French and the British, say they are concerned that Mr. Obama will want to keep the negotiations going, however unproductive they might be, through the November presidential election to avoid the possibility of a military strike if the talks fail.
If Obama punts on BMD talks with the Russians until after the elections, trying to delay a third Middle Eastern War in a decade (with gas potentially reaching $8 a gallon) is a no brainer. Certainly the U.S. intelligence community is at war with Iran in all but name. Still, the Europeans game a defined ‘when’. How the worm turns since 2002 and De Villepin. The Russians work Obama the other way. By continually (twice weekly) predicting a summer U.S. military strike and thereby rule it out.
Even Tehran’s various factions must absorb all the billiard angles both internal and external. Still, Iran offers a new gambit ahead of new talks, seeking to make its play moving the compromise sweet spot.
We’ll see how long today’s ‘last chance’ lasts. And where it ends up. To continue the football analogy but in American vernacular, think of it best as NFL yardsticks on the sidelines. They’re designed to move. Where (and when) do you see the Obama compromise sweet spot?