Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Burning Sensation Means the Hope is Working!

Fareed Zakaria defends President Obama on the Ukraine crisis. Of course he does.

Not that I'm saying we should go to war over Crimea. But Zakaria's defense of our president on these cases is just wrong:

Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

Let me repeat at length what I recently wrote about the Bush-Georgia comparison:

I know that President Obama's defenders attack critics of him by saying President Bush didn't do anything about Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008. That comparison is wrong and we can only wish President Obama will be as effective as Bush was.

Remember, President Bush was constrained in his reaction by the election campaign about to begin as the two parties held their nominating conventions that month. Partisans on the left would have screamed (with actual flecks of flying spittle visible on the video) that the Bushtatorship was trying to gin up a manufactured crisis to help McCain.

And then there was that financial crisis in September that shook our economy dangerously.

Plus there was the natural desire not to risk a war that a successor will have to finish.

And keep in mind that Bush was president for only five more months, including 3 months of transition with the president-elect.

Yes, President Bush did not inflict pain on Russia (other than sticking to their missile defense plans in NATO over strenuous Russian objections) in those 5 months he was in the Oval Office.

But President Obama did nothing in the 5 years he has been in the Oval Office. And he ended the Bush-era missile defense plan.

Had he cared to, President Obama could have tried to stiffen the spines of the EU "investigation" of the war that bizarrely blamed Georgia as much as Russia for the war, and pretty much signaled that the West would do nothing.

On the Russo-Georgia War itself, remember that before Russia invaded, Russia already possessed the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia, with Russian garrisons on the ground supporting local pro-Russia militias.

When Russia invaded Georgia proper and headed for Tblisi to completely conquer the country, our efforts in support of Georgia (a Coast Guard ship docked in Georgia and we airlifted supplies and Georgian troops then deployed in Iraq to Georgia) and the poor performance of the Russian military in the fight combined to get Russia to back off from their expansive aim.

So at the end of the war, Russia held what they had before the war started.

I'd say that President Bush's response was superior to President Obama's reaction to Crimea. And since responsibility for responding to the invasion of Georgia quickly fell on President Obama, why is President Obama off the hook for the American response? Was "reset" and the cancellation of Bush's eastern European missile defense plan on the 70th anniversary of Soviet Russia's invasion of Poland something to be proud of as a signal to Russia?

As for Iran, am I the only person who remembers what this country was like after Nancy Pelosi took charge in the House in January 2007? Democrats would have impeached President Bush for being too harsh with Iran.

And while I certainly salute President Obama for ratcheting up sanctions. What did he then do? Relaxed them just to get Iran sitting at the same table to talk about vastly different things. We want to end Iran's nuclear weapons capability. Iran wants to ratify their nuclear weapons capability (without even admitting they have weapons goals).

President Obama still has time to put his mark on his response to Crimea. Indeed, we don't know if the crisis is over. But positively comparing Obama to Bush over Ukraine/Georgia and Iran is just sucking up in hopes of getting an appointment to the president's foreign policy team.

I swear to God, Zakaria couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal.