Obama Enters Putin’s World

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


p061812ps-0404At the beginning of February, Fred Kaplan, the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, headlined a Slate article, “Obama Isn’t Disengaged From the World: He just has a better understanding of how power works in the modern world.”

Power, as it turned out, worked much the same way in the modern world as it did back in the horses and bayonets era as Putin demonstrated when he did what no one in the West believed he would do by sending men and armor into Crimea.

Since one doesn’t get to be an Edward R. Murrow fellow by sitting on one’s hands, Kaplan dashed off to pen a follow-up article headlined: “There’s Nothing Obama Could Have Done to Stop Putin.” Kaplan’s advice to Obama was to avoid threatening Putin with “consequences.”

“Obama should be looking for common interests. One such interest is ending the bloodshed,” Kaplan suggested.

If the Russian dictator is known for anything it’s his tender heart and opposition to bloodshed.

“Even Putin couldn’t want to send troops to the Ukrainian heartland,” Kaplan wrote. Unless of course Putin, whom foreign policy experts assured us couldn’t possibly want to send troops into Crimea, turns out to be ignorant of “how power works in the modern world” and does it anyway.

If that happens then the same experts who told us he wouldn’t do it, will tell us that we can’t do anything about it. It’s not in the nature of “power in the modern world.”

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” a baffled Secretary of State John Kerry said, as if Putin had decided to bring back monocles and pork pie hats.

But nevertheless Putin dug through his closet, stuck in his monocle and decided that you actually can invade other countries even though it’s 2014.

Lieutenant John Kerry, still baffled by the concept of one country invading another, also called it “an incredible act of aggression” and “a stunning, willful choice by President Putin.”

“Russia is in violation of its international obligations,” he bleated. Despite presenting a ceremonial potato to the Russian Foreign Minister, Kerry didn’t seem to understand that Russia cares about its international obligations almost as much as his boss cares about the United States Constitution.

This strange claim that invading other countries went out of style in the 19th century is belied by two world wars, countless smaller conflicts, including the Korean War and the Gulf War, and a few wars in the 21st century, but those facts don’t penetrate the progressive worldview.

At the debates, Obama had mocked Romney’s criticism of his drastic military cuts by accusing him of living in a 19th century “horses and bayonets” world and sneered at Romney’s statement that Russia was our leading geopolitical foe by asserting, “You don’t call Russia our No. 1 enemy… unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”

When Sarah Palin predicted back in 2008 that the invasion of Georgia would lead to the invasion of Ukraine, Saturday Night Live brought in Tina Fey to put on a little skit about seeing Russia from her house and everyone had a good laugh at the bumpkin who didn’t realize that the Cold War was over.

Last summer, Obama told Jay Leno, “There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality. What I continually say to them and to President Putin, ‘That’s the past. We’ve got to think about the future.’”

Leno is gone and Putin is in the Ukraine and Obama is baffled to realize that when your enemies are stuck in the Cold War mentality, you either get your Cold War mind warp on or give up and go home.

Putin is thinking about the future. It’s Obama and Kerry who are clinging to discredited ideas about international law and diplomacy. These ideas are much more 19th century than anything Putin did.

The progressive spin is that Putin’s invasion, as the Center for American Progress put it, is “an act of weakness, not strength — an act, as Kerry aptly characterized it, anachronistic in both moral and strategic terms… fundamentally mismatched to 21st century realities.”

In the upside down world of progressive soft power, invading another country is an act of weakness while being unable to do anything about it is an act of strength. Weakness is the new strength and strength is the new weakness.

Obama’s impotence makes him a world leader, while Putin’s potency makes him a 19th century relic.

The more Putin does, the more he shows that he’s another Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney, a déclassé bumpkin unfit for the modern 21st century realities of discussing foreign policy on Jay Leno and cracking wise about horses and bayonets.

True strength means recognizing your own weakness and not doing anything about it except making snarky remarks about how backward those rough 19th century barbarians with their old-fashioned invasions are.

“In a world of free trade and highly globalized markets, territorial conquest simply isn’t a good way to make your country stronger,” the Center for American Progress insists.

But what if it is?

What if we haven’t entered some land after time where armies don’t matter and everything works because Tom Friedman wrote a book about the flattening earth?

What if all those old strategies that made today’s powers what they are, still work? What if steel and lead, the old verities of the world of horses and bayonets that Obama cheerfully dismissed while cutting the military to the bone, still make all the difference in the world?

“He has the G8 summit in Sochi coming up, no one really saw this kind of thing coming,” a Senate aide protested. In the world of Senate aides, G8 summits matter more than territory. That attitude reflects more on the unreal world of modern politics than on what it actually takes to be a great power.

Meetings, committees and conferences, international organizations, multilateral initiatives and all the other dross with which the great powers occupy themselves are nothing more than the elite rituals of an exclusive club whose members have forgotten that it was their wealth and armies that made them powers, not their committee meetings.

The progressive delusion of a modern world with no room for armies and invasions falls apart the moment that a barbarian rides in on a horse brandishing a rifle with a bayonet and shows that it can be done despite all the free trade agreements and G8 summits in the world.

Obama and Kerry find themselves, like time travelers thrown back in time to the 19th century or the 1950s, stuck in a world that plays by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Vladimir Putin rules, where no one knows that invading other countries is passé and that power is achieved at summits and not at the point of a gun.

Like the nerds at the back of the cafeteria they pretend that the jocks who invade other countries will flunk out and have to work in a Moscow shoe store and eventually everyone will recognize that real power is being able to denounce the uncivilized ruffians as backward cretins in the school paper.

And if that doesn’t happen, due to the nature of power in the modern world, they won’t be able to do anything about it anyway.

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  • Dallas25305

    Barack Hussein Obama, liar, corrupt, racist and a moron. That is the type of leader you get when the Liberal Socialist media picks your leader. Covers up all of his faults, his arrogance and stupidity. Then promotes him as a messiah, a celebrity and absolute genius who will solve every problem known to man. No such man exist however leftist indoctrination in the schools is turning out the most clueless generations in history. People were more intelligent in many cases when there was no schools because at least they had the ability to question and think.

  • Atikva

    The picture in this article speaks volumes. On the one side, we have Mr. Putin looking bored & on the brink of exasperation, wondering “how long will I have to endure this guy?” On the other side, we have the deeply worried community organizer, not sure whether he is coming or going, and praying for his interlocutor to give him a clue.

    • carpe diem 36

      a picture worth a thousand words. shows what they have selected as their Messiah, which is ok with me, they can call anyone a Messiah whether he is one or not. But why did they make him president??

  • Billy Talley

    There is an air of science fiction here with the insistence that no everyone is on the 21st century page. Maybe Liberals are living in a future age prematurely? This form of fantasy is called science fiction, except that an author of science fiction usually knows that they are not yet living in the world they are writing about.

    I think Marx was in essence, a science fiction writer. His Communism would come to fruition only after science, technology and industry would advance to the point where all human needs would be fulfilled (think Star Trek and their replicators), a simple and perhaps simplistic straight line projection of industrial progress. With the need for human struggle ended, Marx anticipated that capitalists/captains of industry would hoard the wealth generated so copiously by industry, so a revolution would make this right and afterwards people would spontaneously cooperate in the just redistribution of the horn of plenty to come.

    And so it goes as it does in any cult, fantasy was sold as reality. What must be protected is the bubble of fiction , no one should be allowed to puncture and explode the dream that if wishes could be horses, beggars would indeed ride. Truth is malleable only if everyone is compelled to pretend otherwise.

    Finally, a SciFi move recommendation: Zardoz (1974, John Boorman). A barbarian pops the hypertrophic bubble of the progressive elite and rectifies their predicament of stultifying impotence. A bandoliered Zed (Sean Connery) is the protagonist sporting a loincloth astride a horse, pistol wielding. Google that image, and ponder Zed juxtaposed with the shirtless Putin astride his own steed.

  • Hard Little Machine

    When you don’t play by Obama’s rules, he simply covers his eyes and you cease to exist to him.

    • carpe diem 36

      yes, the Leader of The Western World!! our eunuch in full!!

  • III J

    Excellent article, as always. But tell me – is it schadenfreude to find delighted amusement at Putin repeatedly bitch-slapping the preening peacock of Pennsylvania Avenue, and his traitorous buttboy Kerry? Personally, I would be ecstatic if Putin challenged Obunghole to a one-on-one boxing, wrestling or MMA cage match, allowing the winner to decide how to handle the Crimea situation.

  • carpe diem 36

    our lilliputians in the world of giants. what a sight!! we have a eunuch, a scarecrow who does not even scare the birds in charge of our safety and that of the world. it is too embarrassing for words. I did not vote for Obama, but I wonder if those who did still see him as worthy of their votes. Why aren’t they ashamed of him and why don’t they express that shame is beyond me.