Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Obama Passes the Torch to Putin

When it comes to the Middle East and the fight against ISIS Vladimir Putin has a plan. He has a strategy for dealing with the problem, and, by the way, for making the Middle East a zone of Russian influence.

Barack Obama does not have a plan. He has never had a plan, beyond disengagement… running home like a coward with his tail between his legs.

According to Benny Avni and Bret Stephens, Obama is offering lots of words. Eloquent words, soaring rhetoric, big ideas… with nothing to back them up.

Perhaps it’s his ideology. Perhaps it’s gross incompetence. Perhaps it’s both. Our president is giving new meaning to concept of the empty suit.

Stephens explains Obama’s grasp of foreign policy. It’s not a pretty picture.

To being with, there’s Obama assessment of the world:

Recall that it wasn’t long ago that Mr. Obama took a sunnier view of world affairs. The tide of war was receding. Al Qaeda was on a path to defeat. ISIS was “a jayvee team” in “Lakers uniforms.” Iraq was an Obama administration success story. Bashar Assad’s days were numbered. The Arab Spring was a rejoinder to, rather than an opportunity for, Islamist violence. The intervention in Libya was vindication for the “lead from behind” approach to intervention. The reset with Russia was a success, a position he maintained as late as September 2013. In Latin America, the “trend lines are good.”

“Overall,” as he told Tom Friedman in August 2014—shortly after ISIS had seized control of Mosul and as Vladimir Putin was muscling his way into eastern Ukraine—“I think there’s still cause for optimism.”

Out of touch with reality, unwilling to accept the facts when they hit him in the face, this same president believes that he can predict to a certainty the state of the climate a century from how. As for today’s reality, he has no idea of what is going on in the Middle East. You would think that he was getting skewed intelligence. Otherwise, you would have to think that he simply does not know enough or is not smart enough to understand it.

What does Obama think he is doing? He thinks that he is occupying the moral high ground, being aloof and above-it-all.

It seemed to have worked in the Cold War, which was won without our having fired a shot—except, of course, in Korea and Vietnam, etc.

Stephens explains that the Cold War ended as it did because leaders had a sense of shame. I am always happy to see one of my favorite concepts used correctly, so I emphasize it.

The president also has an overarching moral theory about American power, expressed in his 2009 contention in Prague that “moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.”

At the time, Mr. Obama was speaking about the end of the Cold War—which, he claimed, came about as a result of “peaceful protest”—and of his desire to see a world without nuclear weapons. It didn’t seem to occur to him that the possession of such weapons by the U.S. also had a hand in winning the Cold War. Nor did he seem to contemplate the idea that moral leadership can never safely be a substitute for weapons unless those leaders are willing to throw themselves at the mercy of their enemies’ capacity for shame.

In late-era South Africa and the Soviet Union, where men like F.W. de Klerk and Mikhail Gorbachev had a sense of shame, the Obama theory had a chance to work. In Iran in 2009, or in Syria today, it doesn’t.

And then there is Obama’s Hegelianism, another concept that I have had occasion to discuss, on the blog and in my latest book.

Stephens explains it here:

Finally, Mr. Obama believes history is going his way. “What? Me worry?” says the immortal Alfred E. Neuman, and that seems to be the president’s attitude toward Mr. Putin’s interventions in Syria (“doomed to fail”) and Ukraine (“not so smart”), to say nothing of his sang-froid when it comes to the rest of his foreign-policy debacles.

In this cheapened Hegelian world view, the U.S. can relax because History is on our side, and the arc of history bends toward justice. Why waste your energies to fulfill a destiny that is already inevitable? And why get in the way of your adversary’s certain doom?

 It’s easy to accept this view of life if you owe your accelerated good fortune to a superficial charm and understanding of the way the world works. It’s also easier to lecture than to learn, to preach than to act. History will remember Barack Obama as the president who conducted foreign policy less as a principled exercise in the application of American power than as an extended attempt to justify the evasion of it.

Of course, we saw it all at the United Nations yesterday. Barack Obama abrogating American leadership and Vladimir Putin picking up the torch.

In Avni’s words:

The baton was officially transferred Monday to the world’s new sole superpower — and Vladimir Putin willingly picked it up.

President Obama (remember him?) embraced the ideals espoused by the United Nations’ founders 70 years ago: Diplomacy and “international order” will win over time, while might and force will lose.

Putin, too, appealed to UN laws (as he sees them), but he also used his speech to announce the formation of a “broad international coalition” to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq.


Ares Olympus said...

Well, so far I've not seen anything positive about Obama's UN speech, so it must have been bad. I guess scolding political rivals for your misteps isn't going to keep America great. We need action, not empty words.

But which action? At what point do we apologize to the world for messing up Iraq? At least Bush gets credit there, or Cheney for his 3 month war that later he admitted would require a 50 year occupation to make a difference.

But Obama's foolish pride problem seems to be around Assad, after foolishly saying Assad has to go, now it looks like Russia is right, and Assad, for all his brutality is not categorically worse that Saddam, whom we befriended for a decade before he misunderstood our lack of signals to not invade Kuwait.

Paul Craig Roberts has a similar and different take, observing Putin take Obama to the carpet, and apparently he doesn't see much good in Israel either, so the Right will not be allowed to read this.

...Obama justified all of Washington’s violence against millions of peoples on the grounds that Washington is well-meaning and saving the world from dictators. Obama attempted to cover up Washington’s massive war crimes, crimes that have killed and displaced millions of peoples in seven countries, with feel good rhetoric about standing up to dictators.

Vladimir Putin would have none of it. He said that the UN works, if it works, by compromise and not by the imposition of one country’s will, but after the end of the Cold War “a single center of domination arose in the world”—the “exceptional” country. This country, Putin said, seeks its own course which is not one of compromise or attention to the interests of others.

In response to Obama’s speech that Russia and its ally Syria wear the black hats, Putin said in reference to Obama’s speech that “one should not manipulate words.”

Putin said that Washington repeats its mistakes by relying on violence which results in poverty and social destruction.
Obama’s speech made clear that Washington accepts no responsibility for the destruction of the lives and prospects of millions of Muslims. The refugees from Washington’s wars who are overflowing Europe are the fault of Assad, Obama declared.

Obama’s claim to represent “international norms” was an assertion of US hegemony, and was recognized as such by the General Assembly.

What the world is faced with is two rogue anti-democratic governments—the US and Israel—that believe that their “exceptionalism” makes them above the law. International norms mean Washington’s and Israel’s norms. Countries that do not comply with international norms are countries that do not comply with Washington and Israel’s dictates.

The presidents of Russia, China, and Iran did not accept Washington’s definition of “international norms.”

The lines are drawn. Unless the American people come to their senses and expel the Washington warmongers, war is our future.

But even if Obama is being wussy at the moment, I continue to have a feeling before the election is over we're going to have more to worry about than which tyrant to bomb or trade barbs with.

And even if the global economy stays horizontal through the election, I don't look forward to President Trump dealing with Putin. I think of Marty McFly and Biff, "Are you calling me chicken?!" What will Donald do? (WWDD) He will step right into Putin's traps and starts wars on four fronts while Russia sits back putting $1 into freedom fighters for every $1 billion we put down.

America's only remaining virtue seems to be that all the messes we create are on someone else's soil, across wide seas, so not our problem when we run out of money or bloodlust. We can still build that wall with Mexico, right?

I do feel very sorry for Europe, and more is coming it seems by demographics alone, no wars needed.

Sam L. said...

Seems to me it's more Barry passed on picking up the torch; after all, what would he have done with it?