March 19 2014
Innocent Abroad: Faculty Lounge Meets World
You may have seen similar headlines to the one I glumly noted yesterday: “Obama Sanctions Russians.”
Actually, he sanctioned seven Russians and four Ukrainians. Be that as it may, I am not going to blog on what we should do about current crises because I do not know. But I do want to call your attention to two pieces today on President Obama’s view of American power. It was the power of a great and good nation to which the world looked for seven decades.
In a column headlined “Beaten Obama Turns His Back on World,” Michael Good win of the New York Post writes:
His worldview crashed headlong into reality, and reality won. Obamaism is dead, may it rest in peace.
That’s sad for him, but hold the tears — his loss is mankind’s hope. If Obama wakes from his utopian visions and faces the truth, there is a fighting chance to reverse America’s slide and keep the peace.
But first, he must come to grips with the historic dimensions of what has happened, and I’m not sure he’s capable of it. The signs aren’t encouraging.
Goodwin points out that, when Russia invaded Afghanistan 35 years ago, President Jimmy Carter—until that moment the proto-Obama—revised his foreign policy and became bold and defiant. It was too late to re-elect Carter, but Goodwin regards Carter as having sounded Churchillian when compared to Barack Obama, who issues comparatively mild rebukes of Putin. Goodwin writes:
Obama is still stuck in the belief that Putin is either crazy, or secretly looking for a way to save face and end the confrontation. He hasn’t accepted Putin for what he is because to do so would mean acknowledging that Obama’s whole approach to international relations has been a mistake.
The world, meaning friend and foe alike, already knows the president is uncomfortable with American power. The result is that his once-magical ability to inspire with words is now an international punch line because they are just words. He promised change and delivered disaster.
In the second column, headlined “How’s This for Flexibility, Mr. President?,” Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison begin with the president’s hot mic moment: President Obama told Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin that he would have “more flexibility” after he was re-elected to the presidency.
As Blackwell and Morrison duly note, this was shocking because it shows an American leader whose public statements are at variance with the whispered one to a foreign leader. The first term of the Obama administration began, they recall, with the president stiff-arming the Poles and Czechs with regard to missile defenses against Russia.
I can’t help believing that all this was predictable when candidate Obama gave his “citizen of the world” speech in Berlin. He told us that day: Obama is not merely a citizen of the United States but he is a citizen of the world.
He told us that as candidate Obama in his Berlin speech: I am a citizen of the world. Being elected president was a way to further the interests of his real constituency: the entire world. Or maybe he calls it the planet. This doesn’t mean for a minute that he doesn’t love the country that elected him. It does not make him less than a patriotic American. But it does mean that (like Woodrow Wilson) he has a larger constituency: the entire world.
He tries to represent his real constituency, as opposed to performing the petty office of an American president. He has talked a great deal about how what Putin is doing violates international law.
International law, whatever it is, isn't something voted on by elected representatives but is thought up by high-minded men and women such as Barack Obama.
International law, as it developed, is designed to promote decency and order. We get that.
However, modern internationalists look at, say, the Monroe Doctrine and find it so yesterday. Secretary of State John Kerry flatly stated this, just before Russian ships started using ports in the Western hemisfere to refuel military ships.
What I think we are seeing today is the result of the Berlin speech—which we should have found cause for worry—and the hot mic moment—which didn’t shock us nearly enough.
This would be a good time for President Obama to be flexible enough to re-evaluate his faculty lounge ideas about the world.
Don't hold your breath.