Barack Obama is both right and wrong (but mostly wrong) when he talks about Russia

pb-130617-obama-putin-meeting.photoblog900The past hundred years have seen two worldwide ideological wars:  The Cold War and the current war between the West and Islam, which Norm Podhoretz calls World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism.

In both of these wars, the world has been a battle ground between opposing forces, one of which seeks to enslave the world’s citizens before a socialist or theocratic government, and the other of which seeks to prevent that enslavement.  (I was going to say “seeks to maximize individual freedom,” but I don’t believe that we can say that anymore about America and we never could say that about Europe.) The fact that the Islamic war has been going on intermittently since the 7th century, with innumerable individual Muslim nations leading the charge, doesn’t change its essential ideological nature.

The same hundred years have seen two worldwide “regional” wars, as well as uncountable small regional wars.  The worldwide ones were, quite obviously World Wars I and II.  Some people are a bit confused about WWII’s inclusion in this category.  While Hitler definitely had an ideology, he was not seeking to spread that ideology.  He simply wanted to expand his nation as far as possible, bringing some geographical regions into Germany, and enslaving others to Germany.

World War I was also about zones of power rather than advancing an ideology throughout the world.  The myriad other 20th and 21st century regional wars have pitted communists against non-communists, but the warring nations, rather than seeking to spread their ideology, were simply working to expand their regional power bases.

Which gets me to what Obama had to say about Russia, where he managed to be both sort of right and entirely wrong.  Since Putin first zeroed in on Ukraine and the Crimea, Obama has been on defense about the fact that Mitt Romney, all the way back in 2012, accurately predicted that Russia would be a geopolitical foe.

Understandably, Obama cannot now concede that Romney was right.  (Much as I dislike and distrust Obama, I think any president in his shoes would never acknowledge that his former opponent was right and would do anything and everything to spin the situation.)  So Obama spins and spins and spins with the inevitable result — the more he talks, the more foolish he appears:

[Obama:] With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that America has a whole lot of challenges.

Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neigbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong, cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

So my response then continues to be what I believe today, which is: Russia’s actions are a problem. 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.

To the extent Obama’s logorrhea disclaims a new Cold War, he’s correct. Putin may mourn the old Soviet Union, but he’s not backing a new Cold War strategy of using guile, stealth, and proxy warfare in order to spread communism throughout the world. He’s a strong Russian nationalist who has no ideology he wants to market. In terms of ideological warfare, our enemy remains Islam, which wants to take over the world with a ferocity that even the communists couldn’t muster.

For Obama to dismiss Russia as a mere regional power, however, and to state that this power base is a “weakness” reveals Obama’s profound historical ignorance and intellectual insularity. It’s as if, in his mind, when the Cold War ended, all possible wars ended. In reality, throughout history, countries seeking regional dominance have successfully wrecked havoc on the world. After all, as they increase their geographic scope, they increase the “region” in which they operate.

In ancient times, Persia wasn’t selling ideology. It was just spreading its wings, seeking Persian lebensraum, an effort that saw it work its way across the entire Aegean until the Spartans stopped it. It’s regional reach managed to go from Persia itself to almost the entire known world. The same was true for both the Greeks and the Romans. While they thought that their ways were best, they weren’t selling an ideology when they conquered. They wanted power and wealth, aka Greek and Roman lebensraum. The Mongol hordes? Ditto. Louis XIV’s France? Ditto. Napoleonic France? Ditto. World Wars I and II, as mentioned above? Ditto.

None of the above aggressor nations conquered a nearby “region” and then stopped voluntarily. Each was emboldened by regional victories and sought to expand the territories it controlled. All were stopped only when their reach exceeded their grasp or when they met a foe more implacable than they were. For Obama to assume that Putin, having stretched his wings a little bit in the Ukraine, will now stop his territorial aggression is woefully or willfully naive.

For Putin, this expansion is a marvelous offset to his problems at home. Dying, aging population? Get a new population. Weakened, corrupted economy? Prop it up with wealth acquired using arms against other nations. An increasingly unpopular, undemocratic rule? Become a successful warrior king and watch your poll numbers shoot up.

The fact that Putin’s armed conquest is unsustainable in the long run (all warrior conquerors have a reach that exceeds their grasp), doesn’t mean in the short run that it won’t be successful. For a time that can run into decades, Putin will control vast swathes of reasonably productive land — something that will give him power far beyond his region. He’ll be able to meddle in Western Europe again. He’ll hold over the world the threat of an alliance with China. He’ll continue to be a power player in the Middle East, especially since Arab nations will always ally themselves with the strong horse.

America’s endlessly naive peace party, which has Obama as its perfect leader, has always assumed that if America makes nice with the world, the world will suddenly become a nicer place.  That this isn’t how the world works eludes these peace makers, as it did after World War I and during the Cold War and during our current World War IV.

Since time immemorial, the world has been a balance of powers. If one power weakens, other step up to fill the vacuum. The world is in bad shape when the dominant power is evil and the world is in good shape when the dominant power is less evil. I would say America is the best dominant power ever to have walked the earth (with the Pax Britannica probably a good second), but we don’t even need to award a dominant power with the label “Best Dominant Power Ever.” It’s enough to know that civilization advances (wealth, health, and innovation) if a particular reigning dominant power is simply better than the alternatives.

It’s not quite clear what Obama’s thinks, but both his ideas are wrong.  He either loathes America so much that he believes, contrary to the entire weight of history, that she has been an evil dominant power or, as I said, he’s so naive and stupid he believes that, if a dominant power voluntarily departs the scene, peace will reign eternal.  Either could explain his deliberate decision to remove America from the world stage, despite global success under her mostly benignant leadership and his conscious refusal to acknowledge the forces of evil hastening to fill the vacuum America has left in her wake.

When I think about the American Lefts’ moral and historical blindness, I keep being reminded of the rebooted Twilight Zone, which ran for two seasons in the mid-1980s. One of its episodes was called A Small Talent for War:

An ambassador (John Glover) from an alien race arrives, claiming that his race had genetically engineered the people of Earth. He tells the quarrelsome members of the United Nations Security Council that his race is displeased over Earth’s “small talent for war”, having failed to produce the potential that the aliens had nurtured. When the alien ambassador announces that his fleet will destroy Earth, the Security Council earns a 24 hour reprieve to prove Earth’s worth. With survival at stake, the Security Council negotiates, and the General Assembly acclaims, an accord for lasting global peace and presents it to the alien ambassador.

The global peace agreement brings great humour to the emissary. The aliens were, in fact, seeking a greater talent for war, as they had genetically seeded thousands of planets to breed warriors to fight for them across the galaxy. Humanity’s “small talent” for war (crude weapons, petty bickering over borders) is not significant enough to be of any use to them, and he laughingly states that – worst of all – the people of Earth long for peace. As the ambassador calls down his fleet to destroy the Earth, he thanks the Security Council for an amusing day and their “delightful sense of the absurd”, and his parting comment is “…as one of your fine Earth actors, Edmund Gwenn, once said, Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

Humans are never closer to animals than when it comes to their passion and ability for war. Only two things stave off war, especially when these two things operate simultaneously: free trade between nations, so that peace is more beneficial than war; and a dominant world (or regional) power that acts defensively, not offensively. It’s only Twilight Zone script writers and Democrat Party members who think that we will erase war if we successfully stifle the free market and then create a power vacuum that any tin pot tyrant can fill.

Putin campaign posters and the real deal with Obama

When you think about it, with the exception of the first one, Obama could have used each one of them:

Putin poster:

Putin1

Obama reality:

There is no Obama reality for this one.  He’s the mirror image of Putin, giving up on America and her allies.

Putin poster:

Putin2

Obama reality:

Obama-Irs

Putin poster:

Putin3

Obama reality (a poster that his own OFA put out):

Obama-gun-control-1jph9kc

Putin poster:

Putin4

Obama reality (and you do remember the collective media swoon over this one, don’t you?):

obama-shirtless-hawaii-12-081

Hat tip: Simply Jews

Monday afternoon mini round-up (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesThoughtful Jews are increasingly thinking one thought:  the notion of a two-state solution is ridiculous.  Moshe Philips and Benyamin Korn explain why it’s ridiculous.  And in a superior interview on the Glenn Beck show, Caroline Glick offers a single-state alternative.

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When I was on vacation a few years ago, I met an extremely nice man who had retired from being a (very) high-powered executive and, instead, had become an Episcopalian minister.  He did not have a congregation but, instead, spent his energy furthering “social justice.” I, being a curious type, tried to elicit from him what this meant in practical terms. He was unable to answer my questions.  I have wondered since then whether his reticence was because he didn’t want to admit what he was doing or because he couldn’t admit what he was doing. After all, as Jonah Goldberg explains in this video, social justice is a very amorphous concept at best. And at worst, when boiled down to its essence, it demands that Big Government redistribute all wealth — something I don’t think this former high-powered executive, who lived an expensive life, was willing to admit even to himself:

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I’ve seen several articles about the English Law Society’s decision to accommodate sharia law officially in the courts. All decry it. Tom Wilson, I think, has the best analysis of why it’s such an appallingly dreadful thing to happen in the land that gave us the Magna Carta and that seeded in America the ideas of liberty and equality.

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Here’s something that is totally weird: I agree completely with Bill Clinton. When it comes to the internet, he makes good sense: “I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. I favor that. I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet.” Part of Obama’s post-election flexibility, though, means he no longer need make obeisance to the Clintons, so he can ignore Bill’s sound advice.

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Obama’s feminization of the American military continues apace. The latest goal is to use special forces not to engage in high-level military activity (guns, grenades, 20 different ways to kill with a ballpoint pen) but, instead, to turn them into a cutting-edge coffee-klatch. No wonder Obama is getting rid of the Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles. The new military will no longer shoot weapons; instead, it will kill the enemy with vicious girly gossip.

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The far-Left is a comfortable resting place for angry, insane people. And no, those are not pejoratives. They accurately, almost clinically describe women who claim that Ronald Reagan is responsible for any stigma that fat people suffer in today’s society.

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Sultan Knish has an excellent comparison between Vlad Putin’s old-fashioned hunger for land and power (so 19th century!) versus Barack Obama’s cool, modern hunger for pop culture fame, especially when it comes to selling the all-important Obamacare. Daniel Greenfield’s important point is that, while the two men intentionally project very different images, they are both totalitarians at heart, doing what they need to seize absolute power in their own countries.

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Too many Jewish families fail to realize how antisemitic American college campuses have become. Nor is this antisemitism confined to fringe departments. Instead, it’s front and center, and increasingly enforced with physical threats and actual violence.

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“Never before has our nation seen corruption on this scale.” John Hinderaker’s Obamacare epitaph, after reading one liberal woman’s description of her Obamacare travails — and what it finally took to fix the problem.

Friday morning wrap-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI’ve ranted here before about the fact that, when discussing the Left’s insistence that government should be able to give the Pill to young girls, no one mentions how dangerous hormone-based birth control devices are.  It seems, though, that people are finally waking up to the fact that there’s a price to pay for messing with women’s hormones.

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Walt Disney was a futurist because he believed that the future would be a wonderful time that would see Americans, and people around the world, enjoying better living through technology. Obama is a futurist too. He envisions a barren, parched wasteland with bazillions of starving people, among whom will be history professors passing judgment on today’s events — hence Obama’s perpetual concern with “being on the right side of history.” What Obama doesn’t grasp is that the world’s bad actors are not futurists. They are “here and now” -ists. Putin, in true George Washington Plunkitt fashion, saw his opportunity and took it, history be damned. What Putin understands, which Obama doesn’t, is that the victors get to write the history.

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Back in August 2008, David Goldman foresaw the Russian (and American and Israeli) future. George Bush is not without guilt on this one. America as a whole, has been naive and credulous in dealing with Putin. In 2008, though, no one could have envisioned an American leader quite as bad as Obama. Goldman’s 2008 article posited Russians playing chess and Americans playing Monopoly. Obama, however, has been playing Chutes and Ladders.

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In any event, whether the West is playing Monopoly or Candy Land, the Onion has a wonderful satirical piece in which Putin expresses his gratitude.

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We all know (and the Left knows too) that Paul Ryan is not a racist for pointing out exactly what Obama pointed out: that American black men live within a damaged and damaging culture. Where Ryan failed, though, was his decision to bob and weave when the usual race-baiters labeled him as a racist. He apologized for being misunderstood and met with black leaders and did the usual sackcloth and ashes routine. What Ryan should have done — what every person of good will should do when the race-baiters call him names — was to come out swinging: “I am not a racist. You are the racist because you refuse to allow anyone to talk about the welfare state’s massive failures. Etc.” The moment anyone apologizes on this one for anything, even using the wrong punctuation, the race-baiters win.

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On the subject of racism, affirmative action is one of those racist Leftist evils. While it may have had some merit in the first years after 1964 (and I doubt even that), it’s become poison in the decades since then. For more than fifty years, it’s told both whites and minorities that the latter need not try as hard because the system will raise them up anyway.  This is a terrible message. Up until affirmative action, disfavored American groups raised themselves up by working twice as hard and by competing head-on with the entrenched classes. That’s the way to break racism (or anti-Catholicism or anti-Semitism). You try harder; you don’t try less hard. According to John Fund, it might be that some people are finally figuring this out.

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Incidentally, affirmative action is why Obama got elected and it’s one of the reasons he will never be impeached. With that kind of job security, Obama doesn’t need to work hard and can, during the hours he does deign to work, go about freely de-valuing America.

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I liked 300. A lot. I didn’t get to see the end though. With only 10 minutes to go, the liberal friend with whom I was watching it said, “This is disgusting,” turned the TV off, took out the disk, put it in the Netflix mailer, and that was that. I liked the movie for precisely the reasons Andrew Klavan liked it. I also fail to see how any sequel could work. The Spartan stand at Thermopylae was a unique moment in history. Any subsequent film will just be about a battle, not about an idea.

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My son said that kids at his school are saying that the endless coverage about the missing Malaysia Airline is to cover for the debacle (from America’s viewpoint) in the Ukraine. Smart kids. The DiploMad says the same thing.

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Daniel Greenfield has an extended, thoughtful, detailed, accurate, depressing rumination on the death cult lying at Islam’s heart.

Obama, the delicate one

Were you surprised to read that Obama would never let his hypothetical Trayvon Martin look-alike son play pro football?  I wasn’t.  The only thing that surprised me was Obama’s fantasy that he could possibly have a son who would play pro football.  I mean, come on, folks!  We’re talking about Obama.

Now Putin — there’s a guy who’s built up his image to the point where one can imagine his son competing in no-holds-barred MMA cage fighting:

Putin v Obama

It’s a long hat tip:  I got this from Power Line, which found it at Moonbattery, which saw it at The People’s Cube.

The narcissist always sees things reflected through his own prism *UPDATED*

This is Obama, the guy with moobs and a poochy gut:

This is Obama, the guy who looks like granny on a bicycle:

This is Obama, the guy who throws even worse than I do:

Given who and what Obama is — a guy who’s never worked hard physically or mentally — it’s no surprise at all to hear him say that America is soft.  A malignant narcissist sees everything through his own prism.  What he said, folks, is a gentle poke at himself, which is about the maximum in self-criticism you’ll ever hear from a narcissist.

It’s also no surprise that, with Obama in the White House, Vladimir Putin is spending more time than ever having macho pictures of himself publicized:

Putin understands that, while America may not be soft, her leader certainly is, and those contrasting images have a resonating propaganda value.

UPDATE:  The Anchoress has a different take.  She thinks Obama is hard as nails — when it comes to his Leftism.