The entire Middle East and a good deal of North Africa is in turmoil — Syria, Iraq and Libya are in combat. A ground war has begun in Israel. A commercial air carrier with 23 Americans on board crashes — possibly shot down — over Ukraine, which Russia has invaded and where it is using surrogates to claim more territory. The president says his team will get right on it, and it’s a “terrible tragedy.” He then gives his same old speech on infrastructure. (And they criticized George W. Bush for finishing reading a story to little children on Sept. 11, 2001.)
What is wrong with this picture? Let’s start with the reason there is fighting going on in the first place in Ukraine — Russia invaded. If not for that, regardless of who launched the weapon taking down the plane (and most indications suggest it was the rebel side given its possession of a weapon identical to the one used), Russia in every sense is responsible for this. The president seems ho-hum, fretful. What about some righteous anger? And what about some real sanctions? After the president announced new, but still not sector-wide, sanctions Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) put out a statement:
The sanctions announced today by President Obama are inadequate. It is shameful that in the face of continued Russian aggression against Ukraine, the United States and our European allies remain unwilling to take decisive action to impose comprehensive sanctions against Russia’s banking, energy and arms sectors. Just in recent days, Russia has launched attacks against Ukrainian forces defending their sovereign territory and increased military assistance to separatists who are sowing chaos and instability in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s actions in Ukraine are not ‘targeted’ or calibrated to avoid economic repercussions. Its ongoing aggression against Ukraine is a direct threat to the post-World War II international order. In the pace and scope of U.S. assistance to Ukraine and the willingness to impose tough penalties on Putin, President Obama continues to act as if the U.S. does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the Ukrainian people’s struggle to choose their own destiny. Limited actions like those announced today make U.S. threats look hollow. Instead of continuing to avoid decisive action, it is time to stand with our Ukrainian partners, including immediate provision of lethal assistance requested by Ukraine, as they attempt to enjoy the fruits of freedom.
Even the president’s use of the term “tragedy” is misguided. This is not a natural disaster, a hurricane that blew through a town. This is the result of Russian aggression and the failure of the West to reverse Russian gains and push its stooges out of Ukraine.
Whether it is his secretary of state pleading for more time, our dithering in Iraq, our belated and insufficient action in Syria or our utter lack of credibility in Israel and Egypt, we see what leading from behind has gotten us. It’s a world more violent, unstable and unsafe. Retrench and bring our forces home? Keep cutting defense? It’s not working out.
In fact, be it in Benghazi, Libya, when jihadists surprised us, or over the skies of Ukraine, Americans overseas are in peril, and we face both homegrown terrorists and those from overseas who would do us harm. We haven’t ended any wars. We’ve allowed them to spread. Before the U.S. body count goes up, maybe we should change policies.