WP: Ukraine Is A Test For Obama’s “Smart Power” Or Something

Unfortunately, the test is more like something from Common Core

Obama and Putin are on trains on the same track, 500 miles apart. If one is traveling east at 45 miles per hour and the other is traveling west at 35 kilometers per hour, how many pancakes does it take to shingle a dog house? How many appearances on talk shows will Obama make?

Here we go

Ukraine crisis tests Obama’s foreign policy focus on diplomacy over military force

For much of his time in office, President Obama has been accused by a mix of conservative hawks and liberal interventionists of overseeing a dangerous retreat from the world at a time when American influence is needed most.

The once-hopeful Arab Spring has staggered into civil war and military coup. China is stepping up territorial claims in the waters off East Asia. Longtime allies in Europe and in the Persian Gulf are worried by the inconsistency of a president who came to office promising the end of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 wars.

When it comes to the Arab Spring, the problem wasn’t a use of force by the US, it was that Team Obama, and particularly Obama himself, refused to make statements in support of the people fighting for freedom until it was too late. The Iranians involved in the Green Movement begged Obama, as POTUS, to declare his support. He wouldn’t. He was mostly silent on the Arab Spring itself, until he decided to bomb Libya, then have no post-bombing plan. He declared “red lines” for Syria, where lots of civilians were already being killed, then walked them back and allowed Putin to step in and make a fool of Obama. And his mostly silence, along with a few wishy washy statements, gave the Islamic jihadis all the time to infiltrate and take over the movements. And this doesn’t even attempt to discuss the mess Obama helped create in Egypt. And how Sec Of State Clinton called Bashar Assad a “reformer”.

No one respects Obama internationally, hence China becomes more adventurous, and Russia has no qualms about going in to the Ukraine.

Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor.

It will be a hard argument for him to make, analysts say.

The question is, will he even try? He made a brief statement before going on happy hour. He made a few phone calls. Will this continue? Five years in office shows that Obama will probably not do much more. His words may work great on the campaign trail, but as a world leader he is a joke. There’s little respect for Obama from most world leaders. Our alliances are suffering, the people he nominates as diplomats are fools, and he has no real policy. He simply wings it.

A president who has made clear to the American public that the “tide of war is receding” has also made clear to foreign leaders, including opportunists in Russia, that he has no appetite for a new one. What is left is a vacuum once filled, at least in part, by the possibility of American force.

It’s not simply about war: really, would we go to war over Ukraine? Highly doubtful. Obama has no power to back up his assertions and demands, though. And he has no one to help him out. He hasn’t cultivated any working relationships with world leaders, other than a few selfies at a funeral. Say what you want about Bush and his crazy ideological push for freedom, the man cultivated relationships. Whether they were friendly or simply leader to leader, they were present. His relationship with Putin was based on respect as leaders, as well as fear and power. Putin has no respect for Obama. None.

There are rarely good – or obvious – options in such a crisis. But the position Obama is in, confronting a brazenly defiant Russia and with few ways to meaningfully enforce his threat, has been years in the making. It is the product of his record in office and of the way he understands the period in which he is governing, at home and abroad.

The signal Obama has sent – popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies – has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.

Again, it’s not just about the use of military intervention. Heck, he’s more than willing to use drone strikes (and kudos to him, in all seriousness). It’s about getting involved, speaking out, working the phones, building backing from world leaders, even using the United Nations. Obama gives the impression that doing the job, taking care of business, is a chore and interferes with parties, fundraising, golf, appearing on The View, and all the other fun trappings of being POTUS. High end politicians live for these kinds of situations. For Obama, it’s just a bother.

At this point, all Obama can do is take symbolic actions of disapproval, like skipping the G-8 and a trip to Russia. Which would have about as much affect as an unpopular boy boycotting a party he wasn’t wanted at in the first place. No one would care if Obama was absent. He’s annoyed and insulted our allies many times. He treats them with a lack of respect, and shows his narcissism when he meets world leaders. He blew off Poland and the missile shield to cozy up to Russia, and Russia saw this as weakness. Putin knows that he has all the leverage.

“The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.

Who knew Joe Biden could have said something so right? BTW, where is Sheriff Joe in all this? Wasn’t he picked as Obama’s running mate because of all his foreign policy experience?

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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