I really thought I’d seen everything.
For the past two weeks, the United States has found itself absorbed in the Syrian crisis with President Obama publicly demonstrating why it’s so important to elect a president who actually knows something about managing foreign affairs. In that regard, all we can do now is make a note of that for 2016.
After Tuesday night’s presidential address, which at times sounded more like a college lecture, it seemed as if Obama might be bailed out of the mess he’s made by none other than former KGB agent and current Russian President Vladimir Putin.
By “bailed out” I mean that now there’s a chance Obama can restart the whole issue, quietly sending our naval ships elsewhere and hope that in a couple of weeks when Americans will be forced to purchase government mandated health insurance that we’ll all just forget this entire unfortunate episode. Being bailed out is by no means a good thing but some pundits suggest that’s it’s better than the alternative like, for example, setting off World War III.
It seemed like this whole mess couldn’t get more bizarre until last evening when I read an op-ed in the New York Times by none other than Obama’s rescuer, Vladimir Putin.
When I was growing up, the former Soviet Union was our biggest threat. We were taught that the Soviets were our adversaries. It certainly always appeared that way. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and we declared victory both for ourselves and free people everywhere.
Clearly, Putin never saw it this way. In an interview a few years ago, he described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Given his feelings on the matter, it’s not hard to imagine that he might want to “correct” that historical “catastrophe.”
Unfortunately, he may see an opening for just that opportunity vis-a-vis the apparent weakness and incoherence of our president. Whether it’s playing chess, football, or engaging in geopolitical politics, the game is basically the same. To win, you need an effective strategy of your own but you also must exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and mistakes at every opportunity.
In last year’s presidential debates, Mitt Romney described Russia as our biggest geopolitical threat. Obama and his sycophants in the press corps mocked Romney accusing him of being stuck in the 1980s and the Cold War.
So what does Obama think now? Putin feels so confident in his ability to control events that prior to the vote on authorization for military action, he promised to send Russian lobbyists to work the halls of Congress. Now he’s writing op-eds to the American people.
What’s next? A televised address? Perhaps Obama will loan him the Oval Office to continue his public relations campaign.
Reading Putin’s op-ed it’s clear that nothing is changed in how the Russians operate. He suggests that the Syrian army didn’t use the chemical weapons. It was opposition forces. Our own intelligence appears to counter this claim and evidently the United Nations report on the incident will concur. Putin also lauds the United Nations as a vehicle for resolving this matter, failing of course to mention that each time we’ve gone to the United Nations Security Council about Assad’s chemical weapons, Russia exercised its veto authority. Finally, he concludes his piece by emphatically stating that American exceptionalism is wrong. Since he and his comrades bitterly lost the Cold War, his assertion in this regard is not surprising but surely we shouldn’t for a minute buy into it.
In the beginning of the Cold War, Harry Truman felt quite inadequate to the task laid before him. A product of Missouri machine politics, the only thing Truman ever ran before becoming president was a failed haberdashery. Yet, with Franklin Roosevelt’s death, Truman was instantly thrust into the overwhelming task of ending World War II. This included making the agonizing decision of whether or not to use atomic weapons.
Truman rose to the occasion.
Obama clearly has failed. That doesn’t mean he can’t turn this around and pull a Truman. I’m not terribly hopeful, but hope is about all we have left since we can’t make a change for three more years.