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September 24, 2013 10:33 am

Obama is Playing Texas Fold ‘Em

avatar by David Mackler

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President Obama on Fox News. Photo: Screenshot.

Barack Obama, Hassan Rouhani, Bashar Assad, Abdul Al-Sisi, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and Bibi Netanyahu walk into a casino… no punch-line here. Just a game of high-stakes, no limit global poker. Picture “Dogs Playing Poker,” except sitting at the table are the leaders of the U.S., Iran, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, China, and Israel. For the most part, Russia and China are bankrolling the Iranians and Syrians (Russia) and the North Koreans (China), with the realization that, as the American chip stack is diminished, their stacks grow in comparison. The Israelis, on the other hand, are forced to show restraint and concern due to their proportionally small chip stack. As a result, Bibi has managed to play and win a few hands, but may not be able to play the larger hands that inevitably lie ahead.

President Obama has (in)famously stated “I don’t bluff” on numerous occasions; but he has a bad habit of tipping, and sometimes overplaying, his hand. Of course, Obama’s assertion is meant to assuage concerns held by both Israel and Sunni Gulf States about Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. More specifically, the President has used this blanket statement to avoid setting clear red lines to pre-empt Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, or, in other words, to avoid being forced into action to stop this from happening.

Unfortunately for the Israelis, Sunni Arabs, and the rest of the world, the statement “I don’t bluff” includes the potential for a bluff itself. Contrary to global sentiment under President Bush, today’s players do not fear President Obama or the repercussions for acting contrary to U.S. interests. As a result, they feel secure and comfortable calling Obama’s bluff. After all, this is an Administration that speaks loudly and carries a toothpick. And the world’s most insidious regimes not only recognize that, but they have gone full-throttle in exposing it.

Since taking office, the Obama Administration has shown strategic ineptitude and feckless leadership, which has led to the erosion of American influence and deterrence. Recall April 2009, when then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warned of “consequences” in the lead-up to a North Korean missile test. Not surprisingly, Kim Jong Un ignored the “warnings,” pushed in his stack of chips, and went through with the test. Other than the usual diplomatic bluster, the U.S. response was non-existent. Three years later, having previously had his bluff called, the President was baited into striking a deal to provide aid in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. This time, it was the President who was suckered. Within months of receiving this aid, the North Koreans reneged on their agreement by resuming work on their nuclear reactor, and, ultimately, conducting advanced ballistic missiles tests.

To be fair, the threats and dictates of President Obama have worked in the past. Just ask Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian leader who folded after President Obama told him he had to go. However, before the Administration could fully celebrate Mubarak’s ouster and the subsequent addition of the Muslim Brotherhood to the poker table, the latter overplayed their first hand. In the end, the Egyptian military, having witnessed President Obama’s pattern of bluffing, bought into the game knowing full-well that the President’s threats would not amount to action. As a result, they continue to act with impunity while stealing chips from, and cashing checks written by, the U.S. Government.

And then there’s Syria. President Obama’s, excuse me, the “International community’s” red line was crossed earlier this spring, according to western intelligence agencies and eventually acknowledged by the U.S. government. As a result of that breach, the Obama Administration sought to do as little as possible, eventually agreeing to provide weapons and aid to the rebels. But such aid was, and continues to be, slowed or even delayed. Now, of course, we have last month’s attack that killed more than 1,400 people, and, again, we have an absence of action. “I don’t bluff”? Apparently they’ll see your raise, Mr. President, and call.

The most troubling aspect of President Obama’s passion for “Liar’s Poker” (to steal from Michael Lewis), is that, thus far, he has continued to fold every time the Iranians actually play a hand. In other words, while the Syrians and North Koreans have won small pots by calling the President’s bluff, we have ignored the most egregious actor at the end of the table who is continuously building its stack of chips.

The U.S. was silent during the Green Movement in 2009, and failed to take any action despite clear evidence linking the Iranians to a plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a popular Washington, D.C., restaurant. Now, having watched our chip stack slowly disintegrate, the Iranians have spotted our tell, and they realize that we will look for any excuse not to take action.

So forget about stopping Iran from acquiring the bomb. We have now proven that, even after using weapons of mass destruction, we will not move to punish those responsible. To put it bluntly, it would be a tragedy if Iran were to detonate a nuclear device in Israel, but Obama will hold no one responsible so long as all such weapons are then surrendered to the various powers (i.e. the Russians) that helped provide the weapons in the first place. If we have learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s that, despite his stern rhetoric, President Obama has proven that his policy is not “containment,” but actually “avoidance.” That sound we just heard was the Iranians pushing their chips into the pot… they’re all in.

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  • Judi

    Beautifully written…thought provoking. Even if one does not agree with the political opinions, this article certainly makes one think!!

  • Alan Creason

    Only a fool says there is no God.

    • Danniel J. Lennax

      Only a fool would believe in talking snakes,an omnipotent being who loves us as long as we love him…OR HE WILL SEND US TO HELL because he loves us.
      Only a fool says that there is a god…but cannot prove it other than saying “Look at that tree”…

      EVOLUTION>>>ever heard of it?

    • Jaden S.

      Only a fool takes something that has no proof as proven. Theists’ attitudes are so counterproductive in any kind of manner.
      Well actually some religions still think violence is the key to spread belief-systems… just riciduolous.

  • stephen Fiske

    You hit the nail on the head. Obama is feckless at best, duplicitious and traitorous at worst. Neville Chamberlain is alive and well in DC.

    • shloime

      not fair to neville chamberlain! i don’t see barack obama authorizing the largest arms procurement in history, as chamberlain did in 1938. chamberlain’s appeasement won britain a little time to rearm before the inevitable outbreak of ww2 – the same cannot be said of obama.

    • Fritz Kohlhaas

      You are so right.

  • EG

    These politicians should all be playing cards together down in Guantanamo.

  • Brian

    Equally as disappointing as this President’s foreign policy is the tea party whose answer is isolation and a full retreat as the world’s sole superpower. Unfortunately Mr Obama is a creation of our own making – in the end we’ll only have ourselves to blame. You can’t run away from your problems – they need to be dealt with rather than ignored because the cost of dealing with them later is exponentionally more both in lives and in treasure.

    • DarthDiggler

      “Equally as disappointing as this President’s foreign policy is the tea party whose answer is isolation and a full retreat as the world’s sole superpower.”

      Obama has no coherent foreign policy. He mistreats allies and attempts to negotiate with sworn enemies. Just because the TeaParty doesn’t support a Syrian invasion doesn’t mean they are isolationist.

      “Unfortunately Mr Obama is a creation of our own making – in the end we’ll only have ourselves to blame.”

      Sounds like something an Obama Voter would say who is having buyers remorse.

      “You can’t run away from your problems – they need to be dealt with rather than ignored because the cost of dealing with them later is exponentionally more both in lives and in treasure.”

      It really depends on the situation. Syria there is no clear national interest there, but don’t let that stop Obama from creating and dismissing red lines.

  • David

    Rita, I’m sorry, but that is intellectually dishonest and it is just that kind of equivalency and political correctness that is causing so much blood to be spilled. Sure there are “fanatics” on all sides; however, the multitude of Islamic fundamentalists dwarfs all others combined. Hence the pattern of Islamists being a central cog in every major conflagration around the world, from Egypt to Pakistan, Kenya to Syria, Iraq to Lebanon, Iran to Chechnya, Israel to Somalia and dozens of places in between. Without being honest about the root cause, we will continue in a never-ending cycle. Fortunately, our (grand)parents didn’t mince words when ultimately confronting Hitler and this is no different for our generation.

  • Steve


  • Take a good look at Syria’s puppet master, Iran, and its creation of the Shia Crescent; Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Look at the populations of the oil fields of the Arabian Gulf; Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar; significant populations of Shia Muslims. The primary tenet of the Shia; not to recognize any sovereign authority except that of the Shia religion. The Head of the Shia; the Grand Ayatollah in Iran. Not to mention the Shia spreading their subversive tenets in South America, to Mexico and the borders of the U.S.A.

    Once it gets its nuke, Iran will hold a knife to the throat of the Arabian Gulf’s oil producing countries; it will be an existential threat to the entire world. The Bahrain Protocol, Amazon Kindle’s new thriller spells out the truth in a gripping novel about the U.S.’ withdrawal from the world stage; and if the U.S. won’t protect the world, Israel will-with a surprising new partner, Saudi Arabia.

  • Rita Snyder

    There are fanatics on ALL sides, in every country. Even in our OWN.
    WE THE PEOPLE need to realize that we owe God. And God is the creator of the cosmos. In all religions, in all family traditions; God stands for GOOD. In Islam. In Christianity. In Buddhism … in all people. We KNOW and OWE God; PEACE ON EARTH. Not just preaching about it. Making it REAL in this world.

    • Sam

      There is no God. Move on. Next point.

      • Jaden S.

        Thanks, Sam. Maybe I should have replied in a comparable simple manner for it says everything already! 🙂

    • Jaden S.

      Peace needs no religion. In fact religion is the biggest reason for war that has ever existed.
      Why not finally stop being delusional and accept one scientific facts and two: peace and freedom without the need of a religious basis?