The lack of any real foreign policy expertise around Obama is really shocking. The White House staff is mostly populated with Obama cronies, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, known for lying about the Benghazi attack, is just a hack. Things are little better at the State Department. What did Hillary Clinton know about foreign policy? At least Sen. John Kerry had many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but he's jetting around the world telling anyone who will listen that the biggest problem we face is global warming.
To paraphrase Sir Hew Strachan, historian and advisor to the British Military, Obama doesn't have any idea what he is doing. His policies are totally reactionary and there appears to be no hint of any larger design or purpose. But worse than that is Obama's naivete about realpolitik. He seems to think that leaders like Putin are like himself and can be won over by a chat or scared off by some tough talk. These assumptions are not only wrong, but dangerously so as they can lead to the kinds of miscalculations that bring war as a consequence.
One of the best summations that I've read describing what is really going on in Russia comes from Julia Ioffe, a Russian born journalist who now writes for The New Republic. Her latest column "Putin's War in Crimea Could Soon Spread to Eastern Ukraine And nobody—not the U.S., not NATO—can stop him," if you want to understand what is really going on. I'll just summarize with bullet points:
- Why is Putin doing this? Because he can. That's it, that's all you need to know.
- Western analysis of Russia. It is often predicated on wholly Western logic. Putin, sees the world according to his own logic, and the logic goes like this: it is better to be feared than loved, it is better to be overly strong than to risk appearing weak.
- You know why being a pessimist is the best way to predict outcomes in Russia? Because Putin and those around him are, fundamentally, terminal pessimists.
- The U.N. is just a convenient mechanism for keeping nay-sayers with large armies at bay.
- Speaking of America...this was an opportunity for Russia not just to take back some land it's long considered its rightful own, but to settle all scores and to tie up all loose ends. You know, while they're at it.
- Double standards. When it comes to Syria, to take a most recent example, the fight between Assad and the rebels is something only the Syrians can sort out. Ditto every other country in the world—unless it's in Russia's backyard...The internal issues of former Soviet republics, you see, are not truly internal issues of sovereign nations.
- In other, blunter words, Russian ethnicity and citizenship trump national sovereignty. At the very least, they provide a convenient pretext for territorial expansion, as they did in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russia was also ostensibly protecting Russian citizens—also newly minted for the occasion.
- Russia manufactured this crisis to create a pretext for a land-grab. There are now protests swinging Russian flags and hailing Russia's glory not just in Crimea but all over the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.
- Russia's next target is eastern Ukraine. Because pessimism conquers all, don't bet that Putin is going to stop once he wrests Crimea from Kiev's orbit. Eastern, Russian-speaking Ukraine—and all its heavy industry—is looking pretty good right now.
It's a shame that neither Obama nor anyone around him seems to understand these basic points which are on evident display as we watch the dismemberment of Ukraine. But then, I guess everyone around Obama really does believe that global warming is a bigger threat to mankind!