Obama, Israel and ‘blunt warnings’

A recent article in the TOI dealt with the US President’s ‘blunt warning’ to Vladimir Putin that there ‘will be costs’ to Russia’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But what exactly will the cost be? And to be blunt myself, why is Mr. Obama once again making provocative comments that he will ultimately have to weasel out of in a situation that he surely doesn’t understand? Remember the ‘red line’ and the ‘game changer’?

While the US is, in the long run, a friend of Israel, one has to be wary of a leader whose actions seem to be motivated more by political effect than by any deeply held principle. Some examples:

When the Egyptians rose up against Hosni Mubarak, the US State Department, rather than attempting a mediating posture, immediately called for his ouster, regardless of the fact that, bad guy or not, he had kept peace in the area since his accession.

When the new democratically elected government showed its true colors and either through political ineptness, or more likely hubris, began making drastic Islamist tainted changes to the Constitution which were challenged by the Egyptian Army and a majority of a disenchanted populace, the American leader, in a knee jerk reaction, declared support for the “democratically elected” (wasn’t Hitler also democratically elected?) government and requested that the military stand down or the aid that had drawn them away from Russia’s influence thirty plus years ago would be jeopardized. And in fact some was withdrawn. The result? Our influence in that key Middle Eastern country has all but disappeared as the new government makes overtures to Russia in a move to  possibly replace their unreliable partnership with a fickle and inconsistent USA.

When Bashar Assad, replaced his father as Syria’s leader, Democratic Party leaders and liberal US media flocked to praise him. They loved his fashionable wife and his command of English, forgetting or unaware that (just so many things that American politicians are unaware of!) his father was a brutal dictator, an oppressive force in neighboring Lebanon’s government, and the man who directed the massacre of between 10 and 20,000 political opponents in the city of Hama. Subsequently, when a portion of the Syrian populace rose up against young Mr. Assad, the White House decided that despite, his charming and fashionable wife and his good English, he is a bad guy after all and President Obama declared that it was time for him to go, in the process declaring a “red line” should the Syrian government use its stockpile of chemical weapons against its opponents. But, surprise, surprise, Assad, with the help of Iran, Hezbollah and assorted other terrorist groups turned the tide of war in his favor and in the midst of this revolution/civil war  apparently used poison gas against rebel forces. Waffling and threatening were the response to the crossing of the carelessly declared “red line” until Russia’s proposal that to date has had negligible effects and little or no consequences for the Russian supported Syrian regime. Worse yet, the situation has now apparently turned into a war between Assad and his Shiite supporters against rebel forces dominated by Sunni Islamic Jihadists. And the USA? Once again boxed in and without influence.

At the same time, Iran, a country with desires of regional dominance and possession of nuclear power has been let off the hook by a loosening of global sanctions in a tentative agreement signed by the US and several other nations, an agreement in which the Islamic Republic has given up nothing of any consequence. Again Russia’s interests have been served and the US is still persona non grata to the Iranian leadership. While Secretary of State Kerry continues to defend what a tough agreement he has gotten Iran to concede to, Iran, their argument bolstered by the published sections of the agreement, insists that they have given up nothing.

And now comes the Ukraine… a country divided between those looking to the EU and the western nations for their cultural, political, and financial future and those looking to Russia. As violent protests arose against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to turn away from the EU, the White House, in another knee jerk decision, took sides in a complicated situation in another country and threatened Russia with “costs” in the event that they took any military actions. Naturally Mr. Obama was ignored and Russian troops are now in the Crimea.

The American President has to date proven clumsy in his pronouncements and out of his depth in his comprehension of global affairs, resulting in indecisive, ineffective and inappropriate decisions. A cold war with Russia, a thing of the past, is beginning to reappear as a weak American President is taken for granted and manipulated by a clever Russian leader dedicated to regaining his country’s position in the world.

Mr. Obama has stated in the past that, despite any differences between Israel and the USA, that he ‘has our back.’ But does he? And if not, what comes next.

About the Author
Professor of Writing at two Community Colleges, Fulbright Scholar (universities in Russia and Belarus) member of local JCC, secular rather than religious, married many years with children and grandchildren.
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