Saturday, September 14, 2013

Putin or Obama as World Champion for Peace and Freedom? Vote Here

In this past week where we witnessed the observance of the 12th anniversary of the events of 9/11/01, many other tangential stories were also grabbing headlines. On the eighth anniversary, I recorded my thoughts about what has happened since that day. Today's post continues to reflect on the aftermath that has changed our national psyche perhaps forever.

President Barack Obama, September 10, 2013
Not the least of these tangential stories was a "bizarre" address to the nation from our current resident of the White House, President Barack Obama on September 10th, 2013. Only a skilled politician like him could have threaded such a delicate needle as Mr. Obama attempted to do. In essence, his message seemed to be we need to rush to bomb Syria to punish their use of chemical weapons, but we don't really want to go to war, and we're going to wait to see if Russia and Syria can agree on a plan to destroy Assad's stockpile of weapons, but we don't know if it's really viable, so we'll wait on Congress taking a vote on it until we can see if diplomacy will work. Oh, and we might even go to the U.N. Security Council for a vote for good measure, but since I think I have the authority to do anything I want anytime of my own choosing, I'll leave my cruise missile laden carriers in the region just in case. "Bizarre" messaging doesn't even begin to describe the scene today.

Wow, this last week was confusing, because it felt more like watching a tennis match at the recently concluded U.S. Open in New York than international intrigue. Every morning this week there has been a new twist on the story line. John Kerry is now in Switzerland apparently trying to take credit for what has now evolved into a "grand strategy" after tossing off a one-liner Putin seized upon to call his bluff. Watching Obama and Kerry is more like watching an episode of the old Keystone Cops, while the world waits breathlessly to see the outcome. One wonders after assessing the reactions to his performance if his best days of speech making are behind Obama. I lost interest in his soaring rhetoric a long time ago, don't know about you. Honestly, looking back on it, does anyone yet understand or know what he really intends to do? Is it bumbling amateurism at work here, or part of some diabolical plot against stability in the world?

Sensing accurately there is a gaping void in leadership in America these days, Vladimir Putin has inserted himself into our politics with an op/ed piece that appeared in the unofficial propaganda arm of the new Russia, The New York Times. In it he takes exception with Mr. Obama's characterization of America as "exceptional". How ironic that it was Obama himself during his election campaigns who routinely attacked his opponents on the political right for using such a phrase, and now as recently as his speech to the nation this week he seems to have embraced it again. These are, indeed, strange days. It appears Putin the Communist has the better of Obama the Marxist. Certainly, the body of the text of Putin's piece is much better thought out than Obama's rambling incoherent "call to action" to the nation other night. Here's the concluding paragraph that has given rise to an immediate reaction within the Beltway from both sides:

President Vladimir Putin
"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."

Imagine a Communist leader (I know, you think the Communist Party is dead, but is it?) invoking the name of God, when for 70 years the regime did everything in its power to advance by brute force the cause of atheism! Ask yourself if Putin can now take center stage as the leader for the nations "still finding their way to democracy". May God grant that we may yet be able to find a leader in America who champions democracy and freedom. One may ask rightly if we have such a leader in Obama, but I would assert the world would not be well-served by looking to Putin for that leadership. We live under an "exceptional" form of government, not because we are "better than", but because we are collectively free and continue to oppose tyranny and despotism.

Peggy Noonan, one of my favorite commentators, summed it up this way in yesterday's column at The Wall Street Journal:

"Clearly he [Putin] is looking at President Obama and seeing weakness, lostness, lack of popularity. His essay is intended to exploit this and make some larger points, often sanctimoniously, about how the U.S. should conduct itself in the world. And so he chided American leadership, implicitly challenged its position as world leader, posited the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has done so much mischief, as the only appropriate decision-making body for international military action, and worried the U.N. will 'suffer the fate' of the League of Nations if 'influential countries' continue to take action without authorization.

"He does not doubt chemical weapons were used in Syria but doubts it was the government that used them. It was probably the rebels, he asserts, in an attempt to 'provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.'

"Still, in general, Mr. Putin made a better case in the piece against a U.S. military strike than the American president has for it. And he did so, in a way, by getting to the left of the president, who he implies is insufficiently respectful to international bodies. Mr. Putin was candid about his primary anxiety — a spillover from Syria that could threaten Russian stability."

As we remember those who fell with the twin towers in the tragedy of 9/11, victims of a savage attack using jet planes and innocent passengers as missiles, may we never forget our resolve on that day to oppose the evil that attacked us. May we never deny the enormity of the problem of evil we still confront. There is little we can do to change hearts and minds determined to destroy us, but we must oppose it and resist it when it comes knocking at the door.

To continue thinking, however, we can embroil ourselves in the foreign intrigues of other nations, and unilaterally install democracy in the far-flung corners of the globe, particularly in the Middle East, now seems fool hearty at best. Remember the dictoms of the "neo-conservatives" with Dick Cheney at the helm? We now have some experience with those forays, as well-intentioned as they seemed. Now, we must ask, will we ever come to the end of the "tit for tat" mentality that says we must intervene whenever we are abhorred with bad behavior from dictators?

We should learn from what has transpired, not repeat it in yet another experiment with overthrowing Assad. To embroil ourselves in a brutal civil war in Syria that has killed over a hundred thousand in the last two years, is insane. At this writing it is anything but clear about who actually used those weapons against their own people.

Here again, Obama and Putin tell a different story - was it Assad and his military, or was it the rebels attempting to frame the government? So far I haven't seen a definitive answer. And where everyone in Syria involved in the fighting seems to be equally culpable, how does America presume to pick and back a winner from half a world away? One need look no further than the installation of the Shah of Iran for an example of failed policy.

If Putin can succeed in putting our current POTUS back in his box where his political opponents here at home have failed to, I'm asking how would that be a bad thing?

Noonan concludes her piece with this sobering assessment: We're not in a hot war or a cold war with Russians, but there's a definite chill in the air. Since its exceptional founding, America has always led the cause of freedom.

But that was yesterday, and even as I am writing this post, word has come there is a deal in place to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. Assad has one week in which to account for them, with an agreement they will be destroyed under international supervision by mid-2014. The deal was conceived and brokered by Russia with Assad's government. And now Putin is headed to Iran at the invitation of the mullahs there to see if he can intercede with America and blunt the U.S. opposition to their nuclear program.

I told you it was a strange world.

1 comment:

  1. We are so hard on President Obama. Can't you see that he is only the father who comes down the stairs to crying children, all pointing fingers at the other as to "who started it." Instead of launching a full investigation to determined what happened, it's easier for Dad just to slap around the child closest to him. After all, we cannot tolerate violence in this family and its better to hit the wrong kid to send a message than it is to first identify which child deserves to be disciplined, right? I guess that's not a completely accurate comparision, it would be like the father coming down the stairs, then borrowing $50,000 he doesn't have and he knows he won't be able to pay back to elaborately discipline the child he isn't sure or not whether he might have maybe caused this problem.