The consequences of weakness

Last week, President Obama gave a stern warning to Vladimir Putin not to intervene militarily in the Ukraine.  Whereupon Putin did just that.  We have had the “red line” that Syria dare not cross, dropping sanctions against Iran to encourage them not to  develop a nuclear weapon, “leading from behind” in Libya, dropping the missile shield in Eastern Europe at Putin’s request,  proposing cuts to the military, and on and on.  America today is projecting weakness, not strength, on the world stage.  The result is global instability and assertive authoritarians.

Even the Washington Post, that consistently liberal publication and a stalwart defender of the president, is exasperated at the administration’s foreign policy weakness.  An excerpt from an editorial on the subject after the jump.

From the Editorial Board, President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy – The Washington Post:

FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, “It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.”

That’s a nice thought, and we all know what he means. A country’s standing is no longer measured in throw-weight or battalions. The world is too interconnected to break into blocs. A small country that plugs into cyberspace can deliver more prosperity to its people (think Singapore or Estonia) than a giant with natural resources and standing armies.

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

Mr. Obama is not responsible for their misbehavior. But he does, or could, play a leading role in structuring the costs and benefits they must consider before acting.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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