Peggy Noonan: Obama 'Embarrassing' on Ukraine

Saturday, 22 Feb 2014 04:08 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The United States needs to make it clear where the nation stands concerning the bloody uprisings in Kiev, even if it doesn't plan direct intervention, says Wall Street Journal columnist and author Peggy Noonan.

"A great confusion has set in about what American political figures should and should not say when confronted with violent political events in other countries," Noonan writes in  Wall Street Journal.

"Exemplifying the confusion, as he does on so many issues, is President [Barack] Obama," she says, calling his statements on the situation in Ukraine "embarrassing."

Ukrainian protesters are trying to align their country with Europe, not Russia and its President Vladimir Putin's rule, said Noonan, but Putin sees himself as the "Last Czar" who wants to hold onto the lucrative Ukraine asset base.

"Europe and America can do little beyond considering, threatening and imposing economic and political sanctions against the Ukrainian government," writes Noonan. "But it's all very high stakes and carries big implications for the future. So shouldn't we be making it clear where we as a nation stand? Shouldn't we make clear where our sympathies are?"

She said the world is watching as Ukrainians are rebelling against their elite class, and the United States should consider being "understood" as being on the right side of that battle.

But the United States' leaders are so worried about appearing to support entangling the county in another conflict that they won't support people "who fight for principles completely in line with our own — the right of people to choose their own economic and governmental arrangements, and their right to resist any illegitimate limiting of their freedoms," she writes.

The reluctance is intended to show how "sophisticated and peaceable we are," Noonan said, but instead, it makes the country look weak.

But with Obama saying that the United States holds the Ukrainian government responsible for restoring peace, while the protesters remain peaceful, and the country's military not to step into the issues, "this was not so much calibrated as meaningless, crouching and process-driven," said Noonan. "Which side are we on?"

Further, she said, "it is embarrassing" when Obama makes statements about there being "consequences" if people step over the line.

"He is like the father who poses on the bottom of the stairs and says in a deep voice, 'Don't make me come up there!' And for a moment there's silence and then the kids erupt in giggles. Because there's no price to pay if he comes up there, and because he doesn't come up," said Noonan.

Instead, she writes, it's important to show the United States as being a nation of strength that stands with people who risk all for greater freedom.

Further, when Putin turned his back on Obama during talks last June, Noonan said, it shows that he "longs for a [President Richard] Nixon with whom he can do business. Instead he has Mr. Obama, for whom he appears to have little respect."

During the Cold War between 1945 and 1989, the United States did not send troops in to liberate Warsaw Pact countries, but it made it clear whose side it was on, she said.

But Democrats are not interested in the Kiev drama, and Republicans are too worried about being misunderstood by their constituents, after they were overwhelmed by people saying they did not war in Syria, she said.

"But you can't lead when your greatest fear is that you'll be misunderstood," said Noonan.
"Just because it doesn't seem there's much you can do doesn't mean there isn't a lot you can say—and in the saying, show to the world that your country, for all its woes, limits and distractions, still has a beating heart."

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