Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An errand boy and an appeaser

An errand boy and an appeaser walk into the Oval office. The errand boy is under-dressed, "I'm sorry, you can't be here unless you are wearing a tie," the Secret Service tells him. The errand boy goes to his car to find anything he can use for a tie. All he finds is a set of jumper cables, so he ties them around his neck. "This works," says the appeaser, "but we can't start anything yet, but after my election I will have the flexibility to hook you up with some 'juice'".

Actually, the meeting between Demitri Medvev, the current Russian Prime Minister, and Obama occurred in South Korea, but otherwise the description is apt. A hot mike caught Obama saying to Medvedev: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama said of incoming Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who will replace Medvedev in May. “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Medvedev replies, "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," a reference to the next Russian President-elect Valdimir Putin.

The appeaser-in-chief meets an errand boy.
A few observations are in order. Medvedev's term as the Prime Minister won't run out until May 7th. He only served one term, and didn't even attempt to run again - it would interfere with Putin's ascendancy to the third (or fourth, if you count the last 4 years) term. Medvedev's response to Obama's comments is something that would be expected of a junior diplomat with no decision making power. Medvedev provided confirmation to the view that he's an impotent placeholder, an errand boy, in fact.

Obama bowing to Japanese emperor and
to Saudi Arabian King.
Medvedev is a joke - that's fine. Obama's comments are more significant, and disturbing. What does he mean by more "flexibility" after his potential reelection?

Consider Obama's record on missile defense. Obama's Start I treaty with Russia has betrayed US allies who wanted the defensive missiles house on their territory in Poland and the Czech republic. Even worse, this treaty amounted to a "unilateral disarmament", as John Bolton, the former ambassador to the U.N., has called this move.

What does "flexibility" mean in this context? Accommodation and appeasement. That has been Obama's strategy throughout his first term - appeasement of enemies, such as Iran, North Korea, Russia and Islamists in Egypt and elsewhere. What about friends? Obama has treated England and Israel with barely concealed contempt.

Charles Krauthammer's criticism of Obama's comments is so articulate, I'd like to quote a large part of his comments to RCP:
I think that the key word here in that exchange was Obama saying to the Russians, 'this is my last election.' It's not just that 'I have another election and I'll be occupied with other issues, let's talk about this. [...]
'This is my last election.' That's his way of saying with a nod and a wink, 'Look, you guys have a free hand because you run a dictatorship, your elections are rigged. Well, ours aren't rigged, but once I get passed my last election, I'm unleashed. I can do anything I want.
And what he's saying is, 'you know that reset I began three years ago where I completely undermined our allies in Eastern Europe. I cancelled the missile defense system and I began a process in which our supremacy in missile defenses is now negotiable, which the Republicans have never allowed to be negotiable.'
'Well, after election day, I can't speak about it now of course because it's my last election and Americans won't actually like that -- after election day, I'll be open.' 
This is a huge gaffe, if Etch-A-Sketch is a problem for Romney, this is the President himself saying, 'I'll be unleashed. I can govern hard left. I can do all this reset stuff in the future unmolested.' That's his way of telling people, 'you may have no idea what my agenda in the second term is going to be, but let me tell you, the Russians, it's going to be pretty hard left.'
Mitt Romney has jumped on the opportunity afforded by Obama's candor: "Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage. And for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very, very troubling, very alarming," Romney said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

So, how did Obama try to diffuse this situation? He made light of the issue, and added: "Arms control is extraordinarily complex, very technical, and the only way it gets done is if you can consult and build a strong basis of understanding both between countries as well as within countries."

Oh. It's a good thing the "Reset" button for which the State Department originally used the wrong Russian word is working out so well. Think of the cooperation U.S. has gotten from Russia concerning nuclear non-proliferation in Iran and and civil war in Syria! Actually, think of something else. Happy thoughts. La, la, la. Forget the fact that Russia is not a democracy, and its elections are rigged. Forget the fact that Putin accused Hillary Clinton of instigating and sponsoring protests in Russia. Another "reset" will sure fix this.

According to Obama's own logic, his promise to continue to appease Russia rests on the sound foundation of understanding with Russia. He is right - Russia, in the face of Putin does understand Obama - he avoids standing up for American values preferring the easy route of appeasement.

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