Just when you think our commander in chief cannot sound more clueless, he does it again. Tuesday’s utterance was this: “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” Where to begin?
President Obama tries vainly to insult Russia as a mere regional power, yet that regional power has defied him, the Western alliance and international norms. Does that make Russian President Vladimir Putin the leader of a lesser state or Obama the head of an enfeebled world power? The notion that Putin is the weak one and we’re the strong one sounds like third-rate spin from the blogosphere (now we know where the spinners’ material comes from), not the response of a mature world leader who needs to enact punishment so as to change Putin’s perceptions, not his own. When Obama talks this way, it sounds as if he is attempting to console himself, not project U.S. power or reassure allies.
Russia might not be the No. 1 threat (Mitt Romney didn’t say it was, if the president would put down the straw man briefly) but it is up there — challenging us in Europe, propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and making deals to help revive the Iranian economy. Moreover, you don’t have to be the No. 1 threat (Who is that then?) to be taken seriously. This isn’t a comic in which only “Public Enemy No. 1” need command our attention. Obama’s flippancy mirrors his comments about Iran — nothing to worry about, keep walking along.
And as for the bomb going off in Manhattan, maybe we should keep our NSA surveillance in place if such plots are still of paramount concern. (Al-Qaeda is no longer on its heels, we can at least agree.) And once again, simply because the president can dream up other horrible scenarios is no excuse for failing to address the immediate ones.
His comments are akin to calling Edward Snowden (who not coincidentally resides in the regional power of Russia) a “29-year-old hacker,” so as to excuse both the gravity of the breach and his own laxity in trying to get him back. It’s hard to imagine the president is truly so cavalier about his latest foreign policy debacle. But one suspects (hopes, even!) that he understands at some level how badly he misjudged Putin, how little he is respected and how nervous are our allies. But rather than take serious measures (e.g. export LNG, stop slashing our military) he’d rather engage in rhetorical flights of fancy. His obsession with words and his excessive self-regard are what got us into this and other situations in which seemingly two-bit powers run rings around him. That’s not a reflection of their relative strength, but of the president’s ineptitude in defending U.S. interests.
Now — are you sitting down? — Obama made an even more troubling comment on Tuesday, calling North Korea’s nuclear program “unacceptable.” Umm. . . . Yikes! That is precisely what he has been calling an Iranian nuclear weapon program. But North Korea, it is widely believed, has a nuclear weapon. So we now know all too well that “unacceptable” means a two-bit regional threat defies every international norm, threatens the United States and our allies and incurs the rhetorical barbs of the president of the United States — but suffers no real consequences for its actions. Good grief.