When you elect an inept “community organizer” whose primary concern is avoiding responsibility for his words and deeds as President, and pit him against the transgendered reincarnation of Rosa Klebb of “From Russia With Love,” you end up with crap like Vladimir Putin’s op-ed at the New York Times.
It’s formally entitled “A Plea for Caution From Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria,” but Putin spends more time slamming a battered Barack Obama against the lockers and dragging him by his underwear across the high-school gym floor. Putin tells us that a great nation would not have elected such a mediocre leader, so you might as well knock off all that “American exceptionalism” stuff before you hurt yourselves:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States??? policy is ???what makes America different. It???s what makes us exceptional.??? It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord???s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Which is an even more perfectly balanced bit of sinister genius when you realize Putin is merely throwing Barack Obama’s own words right back in his face. Obama’s the one who infamously dismissed American exceptionalism by yawning that he believed in it “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” He’s also the guy who spent the second half of his first time remarking that America’s no longer the kind of nation that builds Golden Gate Bridges, because we’ve “gotten a little soft” and “don’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”
Of course, Obama dropped all of that contemptuous baggage and put on his big sparkly Uncle Sam hat when it was time to run for re-election, but you don’t get to be a disaffected First Citizen of the World who wishes America would stop letting you down for most of your presidency, then suddenly grab the star-spangled pom-poms and sing the praises of an “exceptional nation” when you think a little dash of patriotism is just the thing to get war fever running hot. Somebody like Putin is always waiting in the wings to call you on it. Too bad Obama’s domestic political adversaries haven’t generally been as quick to do so.
Putin’s crack about American exceptionalism is the conclusion of his essay. Before that, he expounds on the growing trust of his wonderful working relationship with Barack Obama by insinuating that he’s a dangerous warmongering nut whose thirst for unilateral war threatens to topple the United Nations, which Russia finds ever so useful:
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America???s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ???you???re either with us or against us.???
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
Yes, we’ve got a brutal Russian strongman lecturing the American president about the need to quit being a bully and start acting civilized, on the pages of the Left’s newspaper of record. Too bad the Times didn’t invest more effort in holding Obama responsible for what happened in Libya, but Vladimir Putin is happy to do it for them.
The U.N. is useful for creatures like Putin because it lets him run a constant Saul Alinsky game against the good people of the world, clubbing them into submission with their own standards. (The fact that the free world is currently led by a disciple of Alinsky makes it all the more unforgivable that nobody in the Obama Administration saw this coming.) Everyone knows the whole “confiscate Assad’s weapons” gambit is a farce, or at least a pipe dream, but the U.N. structure Putin praises lets him use the process to checkmate Obama’s foreign policy, in part because Obama did such a wretched job of backing himself into a corner instead of building international support for a “red line” he sincerely believed in. How Putin must have grinned when he heard the Empty Chair backing away from his “red line” comment!
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria???s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Putin also invokes the Allied effort against the Nazis in World War II, which was indeed pretty awesome. What’s Russia been up to since then, Mr. Putin? And what did your predecessors think of the Nazis before, say, the summer of 1941?
Putin makes some decent observations about the dodgy nature of the Syrian rebellion, including a cringe-inducing point about how Obama’s disaster in Libya has been spreading into surrounding countries, something the President’s American media courtiers do not want to talk about:
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy inSyria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
Forgive me if I suspect Vladimir Putin’s not really all that concerned about what “threatens us all.” He wouldn’t be offering more advanced missile defenses to Iran if he was. And I would point out that Team Obama has been pretty careful not to claim they’re fighting to install democracy in Syria… which is one reason Putin can swing by the New York Times and make fools of them. The pointlessness of Obama’s hasty drive for pinprick-plus missile strikes has always been one of the stronger arguments against it. Why are we arguing about doing something that won’t matter? (As an aside, the Obama talking point about wanting to “degrade” Syrian chemical weapons capacity has always bugged me. How do you “degrade” the fairly simple delivery systems needed to pop gas shells at a suburb? How much would it be necessary to degrade the Syrian chemical murder machine before it wouldn’t be capable of killing a thousand civilians in a dense urban area?)
Putin is counting coup on a defeated Barack Obama to cement the birth of the new Russian hegemony in the Middle East. But Putin didn’t build it on his own. Somebody else made that happen.