Has Obama checked out ?


Obama golf

By: Charles Krauthammer

The president’s demeanor is worrying a lot of people. From the immigration crisis on the Mexican border to the Islamic State rising in Mesopotamia, Barack Obama seems totally detached. When he does interrupt his endless rounds of golf, fundraising and photo ops, it’s for some affectless, mechanical, almost forced public statement.

Regarding Ukraine, his detachment — the rote, impassive voice — borders on dissociation. His U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, delivers an impassioned denunciation of Russia. Obama cautions that we not “get out ahead of the facts,” as if the facts of this case — Vladimir Putin’s proxies shooting down a civilian airliner — are in doubt.

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.

Perhaps. But I’d propose an alternate theory that gives him more credit: Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it. He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is one of Obama’s favorite sayings. Ultimately, injustice and aggression don’t pay. The Soviets saw their 20th-century empire dissolve. More proximally, U.S. gains in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in time, liquidated. Ozymandias lies forever buried and forgotten in desert sands.

putin cartoon mh 17Remember when, at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Obama tried to construct for Putin “an offramp” from Crimea? Absurd as this idea was, I think Obama was sincere. He actually imagined that he’d be saving Putin from himself, that Crimea could only redound against Russia in the long run.

If you really believe this, then there is no need for forceful, potentially risky U.S. counteractions. Which explains everything since: Obama’s pinprick sanctions; his failure to rally a craven Europe; his refusal to supply Ukraine with the weapons it has been begging for.

The shooting down of a civilian airliner seemed to validate Obama’s passivity. “Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences,” explained Obama. See. You play with fire, it will blow up in your face. Just as I warned. Now world opinion will turn against Putin.

To which I say: So what? World opinion, by itself, is useless: malleable, ephemeral and, unless mobilized by leadership, powerless. History doesn’t act autonomously. It needs agency.

Germany’s Angela Merkel still doesn’t want to jeopardize trade with Russia. France’s Francois Hollande will proceed with delivery of a Mistral-class attack-helicopter carrier to Russia. And Obama speaks of future “costs” if Russia persists — a broken record since Crimea, carrying zero credibility.

Or did Obama think Putin would be shamed into regret and restraint by the blood of 298 innocents? On the contrary. Putin’s response has been brazen defiance: denying everything and unleashing a massive campaign of lies, fabrications and conspiracy theories blaming Ukraine and the U.S.

putin cartoon mh 17Putin doesn’t give a damn about world opinion. He cares about domestic opinion, which has soared to more than 80 percent approval since Crimea. If anything, he’s been emboldened. On Wednesday, his proxies shot down two more jets — a finger to the world and a declaration that his campaign continues.

A real U.S. president would give Kiev the weapons it needs, impose devastating sectoral sanctions on Moscow, reinstate our Central European missile-defense system and make a Reaganesque speech explaining why.

Obama has done none of these things. Why should he? He’s on the right side of history.

Syrian president bashar al Assad and Russian president Vladimir Putin  with bloodied hands. Russia is Syria main arms supplier
Syrian president Bashar al Assad and Russian president Vladimir Putin shown  with bloodied hands. Russia is Syria main arms supplier

Of course, in the long run nothing lasts. But history is lived in the here and now. The Soviets had only 70 years, Hitler a mere 12. Yet it was enough to murder millions and rain ruin on entire continents. Bashar al-Assad, too, will one day go. But not before having killed at least 1000,000 people.

All domination must end. But after how much devastation? And if you leave it to the forces of history to repel aggression and redeem injustice, what’s the point of politics, of leadership, in the first place?

The world is aflame and our leader is on the 14th green. The arc of history may indeed bend toward justice, Mr. President. But, as you say, the arc is long. The job of a leader is to shorten it, to intervene on behalf of “the fierce urgency of now.” Otherwise, why do we need a president? And why did you seek to become ours?


Green Bay Press



7 responses to “Has Obama checked out ?”

  1. MekensehParty Avatar

    Has Obama checked out on World Domination? should be the name of the article
    All the article is based on how we should police the world which is definitely not what Obama wants, instead he worked for a robust economy internally (totally ignored in the article). And that’s why the Americans voted for him because most are tired of the responsibility of dominating the world.
    Who cares about Iraq, Syria, Russia and even cowardly Europe? Get your own problems figured out as you did throughout history while we’re working on ours and live with the consequence of what you’ve been asking for for a good 20 years now: a world where the US is not the policeman.
    2 years after Obama’s reelection Krauthammer should have figured this out already.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      I think it was a sort of comedy article …. although Mesopotamia is a mess. :-)))
      And having elected a ‘Dreamer’ for a change is NOT a bad idea. A few Hippies now and then could keep things in perspective better than Texas Rednecks who think they can paint. Although ‘Making Love’ seems to have different connotations these days, War hasn’t changed much. 😉
      And really, anybody who’s anybody MUST play golf.
      Would Krauthammer rather he was one of the bare-chested ‘Tiger Shooters’??
      That went out with Teddy, didn’t it??

      But, considering the need for ‘Leaders’ … Where are they?? Not in Lebanon. Either.
      Unless War IS the preference ….

      1. MekensehParty Avatar

        He’s a great writer with a ton of awards and this is a very machiavellic article.
        He uses “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” with virtuosity hammering Obama’s lack of action on the world stage and his philosophy of leaving it to fate. Which is very true indeed, if Obama is going to play golf with the belief that the universe will bring back justice, then yeah, go home. I would agree with that but there’s more to the story that he avoided.
        Obama scored many domestic victories in his terms and has pushed the US into a new era of prosperity. The crisis of 2008 is almost forgotten and the US economy came out much much stronger while other countries or blocs are still struggling, and the rest are at war between each other, chiefly among them are the US’s enemies and protagonists: Iran, Fanatic Islamists, ME terrorists groups affiliated to each of them, and their sponsors Russia and privately wealthy (islamists) Arabs.
        So by strengthening the USA’s economy and pushing his enemies to infighting Obama actually secured the US’s world domination for at least 25 more years. And he did it without shedding American blood.
        So yeah, I bet those republicans are pissed off

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Republicans didn’t like the idea that Americans could have ‘Health Care for All.’
          Don’t want children escaping dire poverty either. There’s a ‘Christian vs Christian’ war going on over that, many having forgotten the old ‘Give us your tired, your weak, your sore depressed.’ People believed in that and looked to America for it. I think, like you, Obama has done well, considering what his opposition has been trying to do since about the 3rd month into his FIRST election. ‘Equality, Peace and Love’ are really, REALLY, hard concepts to push on this planet.
          ‘You can check out any time you want. But you can never leave.’

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