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By John Helmer in Moscow

Vanity corrupts; pathological vanity corrupts pathologically. That’s when you cannot believe that others are capable of disbelieving you. An American president who is at that stage will contrive anything, including war, for his personal benefit.

For Obama to feel, as he said, “deeply humbled” when awakened by the Nobel Peace Prize telephone-call on Friday morning, you have to think that he and his intelligence agencies failed to know he was a candidate for the award, and did nothing to lobby the Norwegs against the two hundred or so other candidates. If true, he should have announced he was deeply blind-sided, deeply stupid. Then you have to accept that Obama believed from the start of the process that he deserved the award. If true, you can clinically measure the crack in the cerebellum between reality and judgement. And finally, you have to realize that Obama calculated the prize would be better for his polls than not. Given what is already known about Obama’s readiness to escalate at least one of the two losing wars he has yet to withdraw from, that last one is a piece of such cynicism he will put all of his warmongering predecessors in the shade. One-term predecessors, it might be added.

Jimmy Carter, for example, started the covert US war against Afghanistan, and made a minor attack on Iran that aborted. Carter’s vanity led him to believe he could read more presidential memos than his rivals and predecessors; and that if he could read more, he could know more. Unfortunately, he picked up this vanity from a low base in rural Georgia, and on US Navy submarines; his religiosity added in a confirming signal from God. Notwithstanding, Carter was always anxious about those who could read even more. And so his presidency fell under the spell of the Polish Svengali, Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose obsessions led directly to the shortness of Carter’s stay in the Oval Office.

About Lyndon Johnson, author of the Gulf of Tonkin fabrication that started the US on the road to its biggest defeat, the Vietnam War, it is reported that he would have his assistants stand by answering his questions, while he sat on the toilet, stall-door wide open, moving his bowels. Advisors and officials, who were squeamish about the noise or the smell, were not trusted by the president. And those who submitted thus to Johnson’s vanity never dared warn him to stop shitting on himself, or the country.

Russians have seen the fronts, and then the backsides of many over-proud adversaries. Napoleon was indisputably the cleverest, both as a civil administrator and as a soldier. There are still Russians, who wish he had stayed over for the winter of 1812-13.

So Obama’s vanity adds to his predictability, from the Russian point of view. But it is his cleverness that creates the higher risk of war, which the hapless, mindless, defeated George Bush could not, and did not threaten. And as a military mind, Obama, in thrall to his generals and with the Peace Prize on his chest, is the worst possible adversary for the Kremlin since that British adventurist and Russia-hater, Winston Churchill.

It isn’t difficult to see where the Peace Laureate would think of starting his very own new wars – through the Israelis, to attack Iran; and if that goes well enough in the polls, a surgical strike against North Korea. Then maybe, if his campaign for a second term requires flag-waving Republican votes, a replay in the Horn of Africa of Obama’s biggest military exploit to date – the shooting dead of three Somali pirates, and the safe recovery of their hostage, Capt Richard Phillips, April 12, 2009.

“I share the country’s admiration for the bravery of Captain Phillips and his selfless concern for his crew,” Obama said at the time. “His courage is a model for all Americans.”

The Oslo surprise makes no clearer what course Obama is now setting for everybody. What everybody else, including the Russians, must figure out is how to anticipate and resist. Odysseus, remember, ordered his men to plug their ears with beeswax, so they couldn’t hear the Sirens, while he had the crew lash him to the mast, so he could have the pleasure of looking and listening, but be unable to do more.

We can plug our ears readily enough. Tying Obama down before he inflicts his vanity on the world is a tougher job than the Norwegs can handle. But who else in the cold reality of the Arctic does that leave for the task?

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