What’s in it for Obama?

In the aftermath of Res. 2334, I continue to struggle to understand what Obama intends to accomplish through (in)action.

One possibility is that he hopes to impose a cost on Israel for supposedly jeopardizing the 2SS. If that were the case, though, why not take action months or years ago? How can Obama possibly hope to meaningfully intervene in the conflict when he will be in no position to effectuate his policies in less than a month?

Obama’s status as a lame duck is accentuated by the fact that his successor is manifestly opposed to much of Obama’s vision for the region, or his desire to isolate Israel as a means of achieving that vision. If anything, by sending a strong signal, Obama has motivated Trump to send a strong counter signal, which makes the decision even more counterproductive, if Obama is genuinely interested in effecting change.

Another possibility is that I am overestimating Obama’s coherence and strategy and underestimating his vanity. In other words, Obama may have (in)acted simply because the opportunity presented itself and after years of trying to bend Bibi to his view of the world (which Obama no longer needs to do), Obama decided to let his true feelings show. Obama did not in fact “orchestrate” the resolution (although I find that unlikely), and did not in fact consider its consequences–other than to his own legacy. Regardless of how the resolution would effect the actual conflict, either by motivating Trump or by diminishing the PA’s incentives to negotiate, Obama wanted to make sure the world knew how he really felt. That goal is important to him either to appeal to certain constituencies in anticipation of his ex-presidential career, or simply to show the world the depth of his intelligence, fairness and pragmatism. Under that analysis, Res. 2334 functions effectively an op-ed, based on the delicious conceit that Obama’s observations and wisdom are so clearheaded that the world is better place simply for having them spoken out loud. Obama is, as others have suggested, Jimmy Carter redux.

As I wrote previously, the most charitable interpretation of Obama’s decision is that he wants the inevitable Trump counterpunch. That like Clinton and W. before him, Obama has realized that the PA will not agree to a state for as long as statelessness remains such a profitable enterprise. By waiting for the last minute, he rather brilliantly opens the door for the next administration to make meaningful changes, while preserving his own legacy as a true man of the left. That would make Obama a true political mastermind.

If not that, I’m forced to conclude either that (a) Obama is a moron, i.e. he sincerely prefers the policy set forth by the resolution, but he is incapable of thinking more than one or two steps ahead; or (b) Obama is strategic and vain, first and foremost, who would use the teetering remains of both an institution and policy he actually believes in as a global platform to bask in his own righteousness. Given what Obama has accomplished, I find those two theories difficult to accept, but no easier to accept than the Carrow-esque Great Man of History theory above.

Or maybe he just said “fuck it, I’m tired of being strategic, and this is how I feel and I’m president, so deal with it.”


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