Weeks of remarkable vacillation by the Obama administration on the crisis of Syria have landed the United States in the worst possible position as looking indecisive, ineffective, and weak. In effect, President Obama has shot himself in the foot and handed a stunning victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who must be relishing it.
While nobody within their right mind would dispute that the United States and Russia are far from equals at this time in history, Putin understands much better than our own leader that the true global currency is not the dollar—it’s power.
The president’s gross mishandling of the Syria situation has dramatically weakened America’s power in the world. It has given strength to those who declare that we are a paper tiger. Opportunists including Putin and other despotic autocrats who don’t share our values smell blood.
Through its incompetent bungling of Syria, the White House has managed to empower America’s enemies, undercut American credibility, and jeopardize more than just Syria. We have inadvertently sent the Middle East and potentially many other areas across the globe onto an even more dangerous path.
Putin understands that power, and often just as importantly, the perception of power, is perhaps the most vital ingredient in steering global affairs toward the course that best serves your interests.
Russia is undeniably a shadow of the country that it was during the height of the Cold War. During that time the United States and the Soviet Union stood head and shoulders above their nearest competitors in terms of military strength. The threat of mutual assured destruction through nuclear war kept the two superpowers on a level plane until the bankrupt philosophy of communism began to unravel and the Iron Curtain tumbled down.
What Putin has cannily managed to do in recent weeks is to resurrect the stature of Russia in the world. Remarkably, he has done it not by improving the country’s flat-lining economy or cutting through its dense layers of government cronyism and corruption, but simply by being the anti-America.
As it has done on the Iranian nuclear issue and countless others, Russia has successfully thwarted efforts at the U.N. Security Council for America to use that forum to endorse its own agenda. Putin has outplayed all American moves at the U.N., denying us global legitimacy for the steps that President Obama has wanted us to take.
Despite Obama’s declaration that Syria had crossed an illusory red line for the world by gassing his own people, the refusal of the Security Council to act and the fact that outside the U.N. our closest allies including Great Britain refused to go along with Obama exposes the absurdity of this notion.
Over the past months Putin has managed to checkmate Obama in each individual high-stakes foreign policy chess match. Russia, not the United States, now has positioned itself as the driving force behind the current approach to Syria.
Several months ago, when the U.S. implored Russia to return NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the United States to stand trial for his crimes, Putin played dumb and then refused. Putin seems to enjoy every opportunity to put a stick in the eye of President Obama.
It is safe to assume that the very day that Obama took office Putin sized him up. And that the cagey former KGB spy liked what he saw. President Obama, a constitutional law professor, academic, and former community organizer has championed the notion that many of the world’s most vexing problems can be resolved through respectful dialogue, debate, and political and diplomatic discussions.
Meanwhile, Putin correctly intuits that the Middle East is not unlike Africa and countless other places in the world. In those tough neighborhoods, those who survive and thrive are not necessarily the most thoughtful, the most elegant, the most sophisticated, and the most eloquent. They are the strongest.
Despite the gap in strength across nearly every metric you could employ, Russia is currently outplaying the U.S. on the global stage. We must be honest with ourselves about this fact so that we create a sense of urgency. We presently seem to lack the will and fortitude that we must display if we have any hope of remaining the world’s superpower.
We must show Putin, the rest of the world, and perhaps even ourselves that the U.S. can be a credible and strong leader. We can and must do better. The power is in our hands.
Armstrong Williams is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.” He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called “The Right Side,” and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m.) Monday through Friday. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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