When will he be tested?

During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden predicted that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.” However, if one defines “the world” as nations (rather than, say, pirates), this may prove to be another in Biden’s long string of poor predictions.

Indeed, it is not clear what incentive any nation has to test President Obama in the near future. He is not demanding anything of anyone (Israel may soon become an exception); to the contrary, he is out to show the world how undemanding, and apologetic, the U.S. has become. As long as Iran, North Korea, Russia, and the Europeans are free to act as they wish with no meaningful push-back from the U.S., it would be silly to “test” Obama in the sense of attempting to discern what extreme action might cause him to assert U.S. power.

In some ways, the situation is analogous to the way students might deal with a new teacher. If that teacher makes it clear from the beginning that the students can do basically as they please, and that he will respond by criticizing the strictness of his predecessor and the conduct of teachers generally, the students will probably just keep having their fun for a while.

Eventually, though, they will become bored and curious as to what might prompt the novice instructor to act like a real teacher. And that, I think, is what will happen with Obama. But probably not for a while.

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