It would send a message to Russia.4:15 PM, Mar 10, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Who’s surprised that the Obama administration, evolved, urbane and forward-looking, is having a hard time dealing with Vladimir Putin’s unreconstructed Cold War mentality in Ukraine? “We’re hoping that Russia will not see this as sort of a continuation of the Cold War," John Kerry said last week. Even before the Russian invasion of Crimea, Obama was warning of the dangers of seeing the world in terms of Great Power conflict. “We’re no longer in a Cold War,” the president said at the U.N. General Assembly in September. “There’s no Great Game to be won.”
Well, to paraphrase Leon Trotsky, you might not be interested in the Cold War, but the Cold War is interested in you. In foreign policy you never get to dictate the rules entirely since the other players also have a say. That’s true even for superpowers, and doubly so for superpowers that choose to lead from behind. If you don’t want to be backed into the Cold War, then don’t choose a former KGB officer as your dance partner.
The unpleasant fact is that Putin has not only bested the White House, but that Obama has enabled him from the very beginning of his first term. “Reset” with Russia, with the intended goals of getting Moscow to agree to Iran sanctions and to keep open the northern transport route to and from Afghanistan, made the administration subject to Putin’s whims. The White House wouldn’t dare cross the Russian strongman lest it risk policy aims the importance of which the “reset” had only underscored.
With the Syrian conflict, the White House turned Putin into the indispensable Russian. First, the administration begged him without success to abandon his Arab client. There was only a political solution to the crisis, said the White House, and Russia had the answers. Accordingly, traditional U.S. allies flocked to Sochi to petition Putin for relief. The Saudis promised to buy $15 billion worth of Russian arms if only the Russians would temper their support for Assad. Putin turned down the Saudi offer because what was more valuable than the cash was the public show that Obama couldn’t keep his allies in line and happy. Not Russia—Putin would back Bashar al-Assad till the very end which, given American impotence, virtually guaranteed Assad’s survival.
By the time Putin offered Obama a joint initiative to rid Assad of his chemical weapons, thereby saving Obama the embarrassment of not getting congressional authorization for strikes he never wanted to launch in the first place, the Russian was just telling Obama to turn over his king because the game was over. The situation in Ukraine is the culmination of “reset” and Syria.
The White House may be correct—this is not the Cold War. But history shows that, contrary to what Obama professes, the world is more often than not “a zero-sum endeavor.” There are clear winners and losers, and right now the White House is losing.
The administration’s confused response to the crisis in Ukraine suggests that it may finally have come to understand the role of American power. U.S. foreign policy has a dual nature that, says my colleague Christopher Caldwell, is something like the medieval idea of the king’s two bodies. The king is a real man, with a body subject to the pleasures and afflictions of all men. But the king is also a symbol of the divine order that ties man to God. Similarly, the United States is at once both a nation-state like any other that pursues its own interests, while it is also something much larger, the guarantor of global security—in short, order. There are growing numbers on both the American right and left who announce they are tired of the United States having to serve as “the world’s policeman.” However, events in Ukraine are evidence that without a strong America things occur that seem distasteful and dangerous to all, like the violation of national sovereignty.
Obama's scary interview.
11:35 AM, Mar 3, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
On the eve of the Netanyahu visit to Washington, President Obama gave a lengthy interview to Jeffrey Goldberg that shows a chief executive who has learned next to nothing about the world in his five years in office.
12:32 PM, Feb 27, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In a Wednesday interview with Andrea Mitchell, Secretary of State John Kerry resisted Mitchell's assertion that "genocide" was taking place in Syria:
Hosted by Michael Graham4:00 PM, Feb 24, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with editor William Kristol on President Obama's influence with foreign leaders and Ted Cruz's role in the GOP.
7:09 AM, Feb 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Juan Williams and George Will, last night on Fox News:
Netanyahu at an IDF base on the Golan Heights treating Syrian civilians attacked by Assad.9:04 AM, Feb 19, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an IDF base on the Golan Heights that treats wounded Syrian civilians who safely made their way across the border. Netanyahu visited the wounded and then later, surrounded by IDF doctors, nurses and soldiers, addressed the press in this Youtube video:
House majority leader Eric Cantor challenges Obama’s foreign policy.2:41 PM, Feb 18, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Yesterday, in front of a Presidents’ Day crowd at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, House majority leader Eric Cantor unloaded one of the most comprehensive critiques to date of the Obama White House’s foreign policy.
The White House’s Syria policy is so bad that even the secretary of state is against it—or is he?3:10 PM, Feb 4, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
It was hardly a surprise when last week’s much-anticipated Geneva II conference bringing representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime together with opposition members came up empty. Nor was it surprising that, as recent press reports show, the administration’s plan to rid Assad of his chemical weapons has come up way short—to date, Syria has shipped out only 5 percent of its unconventional arsenal. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough defended the Russian-led chemicals weapons initiative, saying “it’s not falling apart, but we would like to see it proceed much more quickly than it is.”
If Tehran breaks its promises, we’re unlikely to know. Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
President Obama is rushing to implement the six-month interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that went into effect last week. Together with five other world powers, he is now working to negotiate a long-term agreement aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. He regards his opening to Iran as a signature achievement of his presidency and has proudly declared that diplomacy opened a path to “a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
10:01 AM, Jan 30, 2014 • By DAVID SCHENKER
Tuesday, during the State of the Union Address, President Obama boasted that “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” The assertion was premature. In early January, Syria’s Bashar Assad regime indeed started the process of transferring its chemical weapons arsenal abroad. To date it’s destroyed only 5 percent of its unconventional arsenal and it’s unlikely Damascus will finish the job. Despite international commitments to the contrary, precedent suggests that Assad will retain a residual supply for future contingencies.
Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By LEE SMITH
So what if the sectarian conflict raging from Beirut to Baghdad claimed yet more lives last week? From the Obama administration’s perspective, all’s well with its Middle East policy. Not a bombing in the Lebanese capital, nor clashes throughout Iraq, nor even reports that Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime systematically tortured and executed 11,000 detainees can shake the White House’s confidence in its strategic vision. For Obama envisages, as he told the New Yorker last week, a “new geopolitical equilibrium” emerging in the Middle East.
1:41 PM, Jan 22, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The Middle East Media Research Institute translates a recent article by Saudi columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi, published in the Saudi government daily Okaz, arguing that the number of Arabs Ariel Sharon “killed is nowhere near that of those who died at the hands of Arab rulers, especially since the onset of the Arab Spring.”