I told you so in my Tribune column just four days ago: President Barack Obama's limp foreign policy, his "leading from behind," and his failure to project American power and influence to areas of our strategic importance has been a virtual invitation to Russian Premier Vladimir Putin to intervene in Ukraine's unstable political situation and extend the former USSR's dominion over its former client states.
I received a scolding from a self-appointed expert at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs excoriating me for my ignorance about things so complicated and beyond the reach of ordinary Americans as foreign affairs. Since he wasn't specific about what I had said was wrong, I now eagerly await his recommendations for how the Obama administration should respond to Russia's saber-rattling.
It didn't take a genius to predict these developments Saturday, as described in the Chicago Tribune:
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament's approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where his troops have apparently already seized the Crimea peninsula, spurning Western pleas for restraint.
Talk of confrontation or outright war spread rapidly across Ukraine, with pro-Moscow demonstrators raising the Russian flag above government buildings in several cities and anti-Russian politicians calling for mobilisation.
It's the logical consequence of what I called Obama's limp-noodle non-support of democratic, freedom seeking peoples. I've copied my entire column ("Obama's brain-dead approach to global bullies") below:
Let's face it: The goal of the 2014 Winter Olympics was to stomp Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation, but good.
Didn't happen. The odious Putin now revels in his victory, having reversed the ignominy of the 2010 Winter Olympics when we trounced Russia in the total medal count, 37 to 15.
Not that the Olympics are a surrogate for chauvinistic conflicts on a much broader scale — i.e. power and war. But, lurking behind the closely followed medal count is more than a craving for bragging rights; what's riding on the outcome are claims of superiority.
America has its own conceits in this regard, but Putin has raised the challenge to a near hostile level, not so much with his athletes' admirable achievements, but with his push to reclaim the glories of his old KGB-infested Soviet Union.
Putin has helped turn Eastern Europe and the Middle East into a flaming and deadly battleground. Count it up: His support of the bloody Syrian tyrant, "Chemical" Bashar Assad. Georgia, Chechnya, Ukraine and others can testify to Putin's lust for former Soviet vassal states.
As the friend of America's enemies, such as the fanatical Iranian mullahs, Putin has established himself as America's enemy. By too often siding with Islam's most violent fanatics, he is the enemy of peace, stability and freedom.
True, the glow of Putin's Olympic victories has been darkened with the ignominious ouster of his toady, Viktor Yanukovych, as Ukrainian president. But don't count Putin out just yet. He is too invested in his fight to keep Ukraine from slipping into the Western democratic sphere.
Ukraine's future looks somewhat brighter no thanks to President Barack Obama. Just as he failed to support nascent democratic reformers in the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election, Obama pretty much left the freedom-seeking Ukrainians in Kiev's Independence Square on their own.
Undoubtedly, they'll remember Obama's limp-noodle support, just like his paper-thin support of Syrian freedom fighters. Now, Obama, in reaction to Ukrainian events, tediously speaks about "resetting" our relationship with Russia, whatever that gobbledygook means. Good luck, Mr. President. As long as you choose not to project American power, Putin will continue to do what Putin does.
Inch by inch, mile by mile, the Obama administration has stood back as America's influence has diminished throughout the Middle East. What speaks more eloquently of that than Obama's empty "ultimatum" to Assad to not use chemical weapons? When Assad did, Obama meekly tossed the ball to Putin.
In 2011 when Obama stuck his toe into the Libyan uprising, he said: "To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and more profoundly our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different."
That's an empty suit talking.
America's proper role in the world (and my own view) has careened between isolationism and interventionism. President Bill Clinton intervened militarily in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, all of which I opposed at the time as well as George H.W. Bush's Gulf War rescue of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's clutches.
Shocked into reality by the 911 Islamic zealots' attacks, I supported the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, and now understand the frightful consequences of not chasing the enemy into its own lair.
So, what should Obama be doing? Invading countries, like his predecessors? The question involves too many variables to lend itself to a generalized answer.
But Obama's policies amount to doing virtually nothing, which in itself is a policy. They essentially amount to a brain-dead version of post-Vietnam isolationism once expounded by a young John Kerry, who now — God help us — is secretary of state. Obama's vacuous modus operandi reflects the puzzlement of a president who only knows what to say, but not what to do.
His laughable, but dangerous, "leading from behind" approach is an oxymoron, not a policy. It abandons wholesale the requirements of U.S. foreign policy: (1) to serve our vital national interests and (2) to spread democracy and the rule of law where possible. Who can now count on America's word? Who fears America's warnings?
Imagine Obama as president instead of John F. Kennedy when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev almost got away with installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. In the face of this bullying, Obama probably would have asked for a "reset" and we'd be living under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
- PALIN MOCKED IN 2008 FOR WARNING PUTIN MAY INVADE UKRAINE IF OBAMA ELECTED," in Breibart
- In 90-minute conversation, Obama cautions Putin. Hey, Barack, too little, too late.
- Former peacenik John Kerry adds his two cents, which is about what it's worth at this point.
The Great Midwest Book Festival named my historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812," the best general fiction book of 2013. The New York Book Festival gave it an honorable mention. Goodreads readers named it one of the best 25 books about the War of 1812. Check why out every American needs to know more about the war at http://www.madness1812.com
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