If you were to ask Glenn Greenwald or David Sirota about President Obama, they’ll tell you he’s a blood-thirsty, warmongering murderer of women and children. Indeed, the far-left believes the president is an Muslim-hating drone-aholic whose “secret kill list,” his order to “extrajudicially” kill U.S.-born al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar Al-Awlaki along with Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, and his braggadocio about becoming “good” at killing people makes him a war criminal punishable by, at least, impeachment, arrest and imprisonment.
Add to the mix his so-called unconstitutional, illegal participation in the Libyan conflict along with his saber rattling over Syria, and Obama is clearly a fanged, cloven-hoofed demon who indiscriminately launches Hellfire missiles at anyone who he decides he doesn’t like.
On the other hand, if you were to ask anyone on the far-right, President Obama is an effete, dainty arugula-eater whose spindly physical form, deliberative academic nature and his flotilla of Hollywood fanboys make him a capitulating, pacifistic, weak player on the international stage. Such pusillanimous behavior encourages terrorists and despots to thumb their noses at the United States and to whimsically kill, invade and commit genocide whenever they damn well please.
Of course neither caricature is accurate. In reality, the president is probably somewhere in between –generally where all presidents ought to be. But that doesn’t hinder the efforts by extremists on both ends of the political spectrum to lay blame at the president’s feet for everything that’s awful in the world.
To wit, on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the following:
“Well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. President Obama needs to do something.”
So Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? Thanks, Obama.
Admittedly, the president’s foreign policy hasn’t been flawless. But to suggest that the president somehow invited Russia’s aggression in the Crimean province is absurd. At the very least, there’s no evidence of this, and if the senator somehow has a special insight into the inner motives of Putin, he ought to tell us more about what’s going on. If not, he needs to lay the blame for this crisis where it belongs: on Putin.
The harsh reality here is that this isn’t Kuwait, 1990. Sure, Putin’s Russia doesn’t nearly possess its Soviet era strength, and it’s, frankly, insecure about it, but it’s not Saddam’s Iraq either. Russia is an irrational, unpredictable and bellicose nuclear power with resources far more vast than Iraq’s in 1990. Obviously. Meeting such zeal with kneejerkery is a recipe for disaster.
And besides, was the president not supposed to condemn or threaten consequences in reaction to the Russian military incursion? It seems like Graham is suggesting all at once that Obama shouldn’t have condemned Russia, yet he’s also weak and indecisive. We can only imagine how Graham and his hawkish colleagues would’ve reacted if Obama hadn’t said a damn thing.
How the U.S. will handle this situation remains to be seen. But kneejerking in the face of Putin isn’t what’s called for here. The worst case scenario is really, really bad. Short of that, there’s a very real chance that Crimea isn’t Putin’s last stop. If that’s the case, Europe is under serious threat of war in and around the Balkans. Another very real possibility is the emergence of another Cold War with proxy conflicts popping up around the periphery. If the U.S. doesn’t seriously think this one through, things could get hot very quickly. Pragmatism, not haste is what’s required now.
Speaking of proxy wars, no president, from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan has been foolish enough go to war directly with Russia. With that as precedent, it’s unlikely Obama will either. So if the litmus test of a “strong” and “decisive” president is whether he’s willing to directly engage Russia militarily, then we’ve never had a strong or decisive president ever. And if we do eventually get involved with boots on the ground or [insert another war cliche here], there are many more events that will need to occur for that to ever happen. From there, who the hell knows?
Certainly not Lindsey Graham.