The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Boing ... Boing ... Boing

Over the past few weeks, we have watched Vladimir Putin's Russia become increasingly more aggressive in Syria. On the plus side, Russia is occasionally attacking ISIS and unconstrained by PC rules of engagement, just might hurt the "JV team." On the negative side, Russia in league with Iran in taking over the Middle East. In my view, Russian-Iranian support for Assad is not nearly as concerning as the potential long-term damage caused in the region and the consequent diminution of our position as a real player in the Middle East. The damage created by Barack Obama's Middle East policies may never be undone.

The Obama administration, scrambling to avoid the abject embarrassment that is being heaped upon it daily by events in Syria, argues that Putin is making a "mistake," that he is "on the wrong side of history," or that somehow (in their fantasy thinking), the Russian-Iranian alliance fits within some Obama secret strategy that is far too nuanced and complex for average people to comprehend.

Some argue that this is personal—that Putin is trying to humiliate Obama—a man who he views as feckless and weak. It's hard to know, but the effect of the Russian's actions achieves exactly that result, whether its personal or strictly business really doesn't matter.

Richard Fernandez takes a look at this:
The reason why Putin is focusing his efforts to humiliate and mock one single man is simple. President Obama’s penchant for personal rule has created a weakness that the Russian strongman will ruthlessly exploit. Ordinarily presidential prestige wouldn’t be much of a target if the republic’s institutions were working. A president is just another politician who can be replaced if he dies, is incapacitated or is discredited. After all America survived Franklin Roosevelt’s death at the height of World War 2 without a hitch — a transition which astonished Hitler no end. In a constitutional government the president is just another man, replaceable in a way that Russia supreme leader could never be.

Why should Obama’s ego represent such a target of vulnerability? Because Obama has thrown away the gigantic American institutional advantage by pursuing an opaque strategy from the narrowest of White House circles. He has taken foreign policy away from institutions, deprived it of bipartisan consensus in order to centralize it on his desk. Where it should have been diffuse it has become a cult of personality, a weak spot that Putin is relentlessly attacking. He knows that when a Messiah is shown in an ridiculous light, the cult falls.

As Bret Stephens pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, Obama set himself up unwittingly by ridiculing everyone in American government who disagreed with him. He turned the Democratic Party into aging collection of doddering has-beens and demonized all Republican rivals. He closed the doors on his colleagues turning a broad-based system of government into a pogo stick with himself hopping about on it. Now all Putin has to do is kick out the base and down he goes.
Boing ... boing ... boing ...

If this was only about Barack Obama, it would be perversely amusing. But it isn't. Bad actors (e.g., Putin and the Ayatollah) smell weakness. When they sense no resistance they will push the boundaries further and further until something breaks. That's a recipe for wider war, and that's the playing field that the man on the pogo stick has crafted.

Boing ... boing ... boing ... crash ... BOOM!