Fighting on many fronts at once

President Barack Obama is edging towards a shootout with the powerful national gun lobby next year but his bravery though long overdue could be counterproductive for him.

In 2013-2014, his political capital will take severe beatings from other equally vital confrontations arising from foreign policy. He will need all the non-partisan support he can muster from the American people to get through those crises to mold his legacy for history.

What does he want more? To sharply weaken the right to bear arms in America or be the President who prevented mayhem in the Middle East and South Asia to protect his people against terrorism and wider regional wars. The guns issue is so divisive that he may not be able to achieve both in satisfactory measure.

The showdown with the National Rifle Association’s backers is most desirable and long overdue but will be the mother of battles in US political history. A few days after the Newton horror, a December 18 Gallup poll about possible gun controls showed that a small majority of 53% favored placing armed police in schools and a third favored giving weapons to school personnel. Apparently, those people think potential killers would be deterred if they knew that some staff in schools would shoot back.

“These tragedies must end,” Obama said. “And to end them, we must change.” But there are no easy answers to the change that would end such massacres. In Norway, where owning guns is severely regulated, Anders Breivik killed 69 young people in a single rampage. No laws or police could stop him or even knew that he existed.

This gun control dilemma is especially American. Most countries struggle with how to take away people’s weapons. In US, the struggle is about how to let people keep them. The current soul-searching is only about the kinds of weapons they can use. Many feel no unease at letting people own weapons of war, such as assault weapons – just like soldiers, the paramilitary and police.

Obama should step warily into this ever-boiling American cauldron. His political capital from the comfortable November victory is already depleting because the fiscal cliff still looms. Even if it is averted, the compromises made will cost the President in the short term until longer term benefits emerge.

An avalanche of other events is also waiting to bury Obama’s best intentions in 2013. Top of the list is the Syrian disaster. Bashar al-Assad might be deposed but the Syrian National Council recognized as legitimate by Obama is far from being a poster child for his vision of a democratic Syria at peace with itself and the world. It is a rag tag of heavily armed extremist factions temporarily tied together by a common cause but very far from being friends among themselves. The nightmare possibility that post-Assad Syria turns into a haven for Al-Qaeda style Sunni fanatics is real.

Egypt, the region’s most influential Arab actor, is unstable. It could slide towards an hard-eyed anti-Israel regime under a Muslim Brotherhood-led Islamic coalition. Or, start a long wallow in feckless and probably violent confusion involving the army, Islamists, secularists and Coptic Christians.

Afghanistan, from which Obama has promised withdrawal starting next year, is a witch’s brew. Hardcore Pashtun Taliban have fled the American “surge” into Pakistan’s North West Frontier and, worse, to Karachi the main port and site of major naval and air force bases. Washington has no control over what these Pashtuns do in Pakistan or how they fight in Afghanistan. Its control in Afghanistan will also disappear as it withdraws. When this pressure cooker blows, Obama’s reputation will hit the ceiling regardless of the good he might do within America on gun control, entitlement spending and the budget.

Iran is also simmering. It fears Israeli retribution sometime in 2013 to stop its nuclear bomb-building ambitions. So it is doggedly marshaling capabilities to foster violence and trouble in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. More bombs and war will not turn it into a moderate accomplice of the US, Israel or Saudi Arabia.

On current indications, all these presages will come to a head in 2013 and 2014. Can Obama handle such huge mess in the throes of raging divisions among the American people over emotionally-charged gun-related issues, tied to the Constitution it teaches all children to revere from cradle to grave?

         

Author: BRIJ KHINDARIA, Foreign Affairs Columnist

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8 Comments

  1. Just a week after the Newton horror, some opinion polls about anti-gun legislation show that a small majority favors NRA-backed solutions like placing armed police in schools or giving weapons to school personnel.

    Sources????

  2. Apparently, those people think potential killers would be deterred if they knew that some staff in schools would shoot back.

    You seem to feel that they may not have a sound basis for that belief. Spree shooting killers are different from other shooters and the tactics used against such events reflect it. Currently instead of waiting for SWAT, which would be the norm for an active shooter, responders form teams of 2 or 3 and try and engage the shooter as soon as possible because often at the first sign of resistance the shooter kills themselves. During the recent Clackamass Mall shooting it has been reported that after shooting several people he was confronted by a concealed carry holder. The armed citizen didn’t shoot because he didn’t feel he could do so safely but after the confrontation the shooter changed direction and entered a service corridor instead of continuing into Macy’s as he was previously headed. The shooter was then confronted by police and stopped in the service corridors. The idea that adding security will automatically stop every shooting is silly but there is ample reason to believe it could have a deterrent effect and lower the body count when a rampage shooting occurs. At the very least it will make schools a harder target and that can’t be a bad thing.

  3. Thank you, Brij. .

    I probably would have used the poll’s words:
    “53% favored increasing the police presence at school” vs. your “ 53% favored placing armed police in schools”

    And, “34% favored having at least one school official at every school carry a gun for the school’s protection” vs. your “a third favored giving weapons to school personnel.”

    That way there would be no confusion and no room for misinterpretation.

    But that’s just me.

    Thank you for the courtesy of your reply

  4. Just an opinion here…really do not see these as either/or…but more and/both,with domestic and foreign issues more will likely occurring simultaneously… rarely is there is a choice with these kinds of issues…In many ways the United States domestic issues took a back seat for the past decade and it is definitely time for some home keeping on a number of fronts…Truth be told Obama has very little political capital, not because he did not earn some,but the ones he defeated, have the same old ” no compromise ” and have yet to put a penny in Obama’s capital ledger… These issues, like every issue, will be hard won scraps for President Obama. Surely he will have to growl and pull them from the mouths of those that only want to derail him.

  5. All these other areas of concern,(world politics) will be handled in due course.

    Indeed, the largest battle will be with the Republicans, not only because the majority of them receive campaign contibutions from the NRA, but also because they are…well, Republicans.

    The poll results listed only reflected the fear that most people felt for the safety of our children so soon after the incident. Poll us today or tommorrow and it will show more people in favor of banning assault weapons.

    We are all hopeful in this country that we get these weapons off the street and that we can reach bipartisan agreement on at least ONE issue.

  6. The NRA is not is stupid as you might think.
    The NRA response was calculated, planned.

    Mission partially accomplished: The NRA has you distracted.

    Today, an up or down vote by the American public would result in an assault weapons ban. The primary task of the NRA is to make sure this doesn’t go to vote.

    So they changed the topic. You are now talking about armed police in schools, a proposition that already has some backing, about 1/3 of US schools already have armed guards. The NRA knows this wont happen – a false offering is a great distraction.

    PROBLEMS

    1. Columbine had armed guards and security checkpoints.
    13 dead 21 injured. Assault weapons.

    2. Second amendment argument fails.
    Not multiple choice: Arm yourself against the government OR give the government more guns in schools? No one is suggesting we give guns to kids.

    3. More guns do not increase safety.
    Or the US would be the safest place in the world.

    4. Data is clear
    Compare the US to other countries with stricter gun control.
    NRA will lose the numbers game.

    LACKING the usual comforts of 2nd amendment arguments, the NRA was caught supporting the manufacture, distribution, and promotion of the assault weapons used in repeated massacres. Facing check mate, the NRA made a risky bet: create a distraction.

    NRA blamed everyone: video games, media, movies, TV, etc. The idea is that every moment you ponder computerized images of downloadable content is another moment you aren’t calling for a ban on assault weapons.

    But distraction is a risky bet.

    For all those problems mentioned above – did you forget them already? – the problem is much bigger than their false “solution”, and the NRA position has now already been resoundingly dismissed.

    Expect the NRA to keep up the distractions while the assault weapons ban fury continues. Don’t stay tuned. Just don’t support assault weapons.

  7. Obama can put legislators on gun control and then appear for the final push. The idea that he can’t handle many different fronts at once is silly. The world doesn’t stop turning.

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