Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leadership is the Art of Conviction

                A friend emailed me a YouTube clip about the “West Wing” TV show which included a map of the Holy Land that was drawn in 1709.  The “West Wing” is about the US Presidency.  This particular episode was aired on 1/9/02.  As I am interested in the Presidency, I viewed the clip.

Martin Sheen acts in the show as the President. He receives as a gift from his aid a map entitled “Canaan, Palestine” and tells his staff that he wants to frame it and put it in the White House.  His staff is vehemently opposed, expressing that it does not recognize Israel. When Sheen’s character President Bartlett explains that the map was drawn in 1709 and that Israel would not exist for another 250 years, they are not impressed, insisting that this would only bring trouble to the President.

This episode of “West Wing”, although a fictional TV show, gives us an insight as to how Presidents think and how those thoughts are limited by the constraints around them.   I wrote an article last year entitled “Constraints on Obama.”  In it I give 6 reasons that limit the real US President in what he wants to do to bring peace between Palestinians and the Apartheid Israelis.  What I did not include in that article is the constraints from the people that work for the President.  

In the “West Wing” show every aide advised the President not to put up an “old” map of the Holy Land in the White House because “it does not recognize Israel and some people will find it offensive.”  The fictional President Bartlett responds by stating that no one opposed an aide’s map of the US when the original 13 states were colonies of Britain, when France owned 1/3 of the US (Louisiana Territory) and Mexico owned the remaining part.  The aides are unimpressed and tell the President that he does not need the headaches that will come from hanging an “old” map of Palestine in the White House.

The headache that the supporters of Apartheid Israel will give to anyone that hints in any way, shape or form that he is at least sympathetic to the Palestinian desire for freedom is massive.  Many politicians and others with any public persona who are perceived as “anti-Semitic” have been singled out by the Apartheid Israeli lobby.  The methods and power of that lobby is excellently documented by former Illinois Congressman Paul Finley in his book They Dare To Speak Out.  

Aides to the President are there to help the President in his tremendous task of leading the world as the only Super Power.  Avoiding trouble is one way aides assist the President.  Opposing Apartheid Israel in any way is trouble.   Succeeding US Presidents have said that the illegal Apartheid Israeli settlements are an “obstacle to peace.”  Yet, no President can ask Apartheid Israel to dismantle or stop building settlements despite the billions of dollars in aid that the US gives to it.  Why is this so? Simple answer: the Apartheid Israeli Lobby.

This lobby constrains US Presidents to a point that it is understood that politics is the art of the possible.  If a US President believed that it was politically possible to bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians, then peace would have been achieved long ago.  But because of the power of the Apartheid Israeli lobby, US Presidents know that they cannot possibly bring peace to the Middle East. 

Succeeding Apartheid Israeli governments appease US Presidents by signing agreements with the Palestinians but their intent is not to have peace as they keep delaying final status talks because   internal Apartheid Israeli politics constrain it from making peace while Apartheid Israeli supporters constrain US Presidents from helping the parties achieve peace.  With these political constrains, peace is not possible.

Aides to the President know these political realities.  They can suggest actions that make it look like the US wants peace but this is political appeasement for internal US politics.  What these aides, President Obama, Apartheid Israeli leaders and lobbyists also know is that the reality of the population demographics in Apartheid Israel and Palestine is that in 2016 Palestinians will outnumber Jews. 

While Presidential aides will not advise the President to call Israel an Apartheid State as that would be political suicide, the reality is that is what Israel is.  Former President Jimmy Carter has called the situation in the West Bank an apartheid system of government—now he is shunned by Apartheid Israeli leaders.

The problem with Presidents is that they do not understand that they were elected to lead and sometimes leading people to what is the right thing to do is not always politically correct but morally right.  President Obama has stated that it is in the US national security interest to establish peace between Apartheid Israel and Palestine.  Yet the political constraints around him limit his ability to do what he believes is the right thing to do.

If President Abraham Lincoln did what was politically correct during his presidency, slavery in the US may have lingered longer in the US.  But President Lincoln knew that despite the Southern Slave States threat to secede from the US, slavery had to be eradicated and therefore issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  He led the nation to the high moral standards that he believed in despite the political consequences that were against him.

President Obama needs to be like President Lincoln.  President Obama knows that peace in the Middle East is the moral and right thing to achieve; therefore he should take the steps to achieve that peace.    

           Who am I kidding here?  President Obama needs to get reelected and thus the constraints against him are way too powerful than the morals that lead him to lead.  Politics is the art of the possible but leadership is the art of conviction. 

(  © Copyright, Fadi Zanayed.  Publication or distribution of this material is allowed provided its content is not altered and the source and its author are cited.)

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