The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Friday, May 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Policy of self-delusion

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's 949-word response on Monday to a question about foreign policy weakness showed the president at his worst: defensive, irritable, contradictory and at times detached from reality. It began with a complaint about negative coverage on Fox News, when, in fact, it was The New York Times front page that featured Obama's foreign policy failures, most recently the inability to conclude a trade agreement with Japan and the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry's Middle East negotiations.
Add to this the collapse of not one but two Geneva conferences on Syria, American helplessness in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Saudi king's humiliating dismissal of Obama within two hours of talks — no dinner — after Obama made a special 2,300-mile diversion from Europe to see him, and you have an impressive litany of serial embarrassments.
Obama's first rhetorical defense was to attack a straw man: “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?”
Everybody? Wasn't it you, Mr. President, who decided to attack Libya under the grand Obama doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (helpless civilians) — every syllable in which you totally contradicted as 150,000 were being slaughtered in Syria? And wasn't attacking Syria for having crossed your own chemical-weapons red line also your idea? Before, of course, you retreated abjectly, thereby marginalizing yourself and exposing the United States to general ridicule.
Everybody eager to use military force? Name a single Republican (or Democratic) leader who has called for sending troops into Ukraine. The critique by John McCain and others is that when the Ukrainians last month came asking for weapons to defend themselves, Obama turned them down. The Pentagon offered instead MREs, ready-to-eat burgers to defend against 40,000 well-armed Russians. Obama even denied Ukraine such defensive gear as night-vision goggles and body armor.
Obama retorted testily: Does anyone think Ukrainian weaponry would deter Russia, as opposed to Obama's diplomatic and economic pressure? Why, averred Obama, “in Ukraine, what we've done is mobilize the international community. ... Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world.”
That's a deterrent? Fear of criticism? Empty words? To think this will stop Putin, liberator of Crimea, champion of “New Russia,” is delusional. In fact, Putin's popularity has spiked 10 points since the start of his war on Ukraine. It's now double Obama's.
As for the allegedly mobilized international community, it has done nothing. Demonstrably nothing to deter Putin from swallowing Crimea. Demonstrably nothing to deter his systematic campaign of destabilization, anonymous seizures and selective violence in the proxy-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk, where Putin's “maskirovka” (disguised warfare) has turned Eastern Ukraine into a no man's land where Kiev hardly dares tread.
As for Obama's vaunted economic sanctions, when he finally got around to applying Round 2 on Monday, the markets were so impressed by their weakness that the ruble rose 1 percent and the Moscow stock exchange 2 percent.
Behind all this U.S. action, explained The New York Times in a recent leak calculated to counteract the impression of a foreign policy of clueless ad hocism, is a major strategic idea: containment.
A rather odd claim when a brazenly uncontained Russia swallows a major neighbor one piece at a time — as America stands by. After all, how did real containment begin? In March 1947, with Greece in danger of collapse from a Soviet-backed insurgency and Turkey under direct Russian pressure, President Truman went to Congress for major and immediate economic and military aid to both countries.
That means weaponry. It was the beginning of the Truman Doctrine. No one claims that arming Ukraine would have definitively deterred Putin's actions. But the possibility of a bloody and prolonged Ukrainian resistance to infiltration or invasion would surely alter Putin's calculus more than Obama's toothless sanctions or empty diplomatic gestures, like the preposterous Geneva agreement that wasn't worth the paper it was written on. Or does Obama really believe that Putin's thinking would be altered less by anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons in Ukrainian hands than by the State Department's comical #UnitedforUkraine Twitter campaign?
Obama appears to think so. Which is the source of so much allied anxiety. Ukraine has already been written off. But Eastern Europe need not worry. Obama understands containment. He recently dispatched 150 American ground troops to Poland and each of the Baltic states. Correct: That's 150. Each.
Charles Krauthammer is a Washington Post columnist. His email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

Richard Sherman 2.0
Richard Sherman 2.0: Seahawks' star cornerback is equally effective with less bravado
Playing with all they have
Playing with all they have: Highland Christian girls compete, inspire with just 5 players
Wolf population growing
Wolf population growing: Chief concern about more wolves: Livestock attacks
$800K in scholarships, so far
$800K in scholarships, so far: Monroe High's Chloe Cook expects she’ll still need a job
SnoCoSocial