There are consequences for being a demonstrable liar – no one believes you. There are consequences for being a back stabber – no one trusts you. And there are consequences for being a feckless leader -–everyone pushes you around. President Barack Obama, after demonstrating these traits repeatedly for five years, is reaping what he has sown in the arena of foreign relations. And no where has that been demonstrated more than on Mr. Obama’s recent trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia.
Russian President Vladmir Putin, having taken the measure of Mr. Obama long ago has treated Mr. Obama with disdain. A part of that is Mr. Putin’s innate racism in that he believes that having to deal with a person of color is beneath him. But a larger part is based on years of observation of a man who promises (or threatens) everything and delivers nothing. As a result Mr. Putin knew with certainty that he could invade and take control of the Crimea without serious consequences. He has done just that and the consequences have been less than serious – travel and visa embargoes on some of his advisors and disruption of some international banking privileges for others – all telegraphed several weeks in advance such that these advisors could safely remove and otherwise protect their assets.
Now Mr. Obama has traveled to Europe to “rally” the allies and to threaten further economic sanctions. But no sooner were the meetings concluded than Mr. Obama acknowledged that nothing that has been done or is threatened would likely convince Mr. Putin to change course in the Crimea thus ensuring that none of our allies will actually join in the imposition of real economic sanctions. And Mr. Putin just laughed.
And then Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry breathlessly announced an “urgent” request from Mr. Putin for a telephone conversation with Mr. Obama. Their spokesmen portrayed this as evidence that Mr. Putin was yielding to the pressure and was trying to find the “diplomatic off ramp.” The phone call was had, but apparently not with each other because in its aftermath, Mr. Obama’s people described it as a “lecture” by Mr. Obama to Mr. Putin about “the course of civilized nations in the Twenty-first Century” and Mr. Putin described it as a request for the United States and others to try to reduce the activities of “terrorists” (actually protestors) in the Crimea and other parts of eastern Ukraine.
You can choose who you believe, but I believe Mr. Putin’s version because it is, in fact, a part of the predicate for a further land grab in eastern Ukraine to provide the land bridge between Russian and the Crimea along the Black Sea and to secure the Russian pipelines that already pass through the area. Mr. Putin has his foreign agents already stirring up nationalistic unrest among ethnic Russians living in eastern Ukraine to begin protesting alleged abuses and fears and to request protection from Mother Russia. Advising Mr. Obama of these same “concerns” and requesting that “outside influences” refrain from making matters worse is simply a part of the “landscape” being painted by Mr. Putin. It is more than likely that Mr. Putin will move decisively in the near term to capture additional land along that corridor with the comfortable knowledge that Mr. Obama will do nothing and that our European allies, having experienced five years of Mr. Obama failing in his promises of action, will likewise do nothing for fear of being left out on limb without our support.
At the conclusion of his European “rally” Mr. Obama traveled to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis I and his senior advisors. Mr. Obama hoped to raise his stature by allying with the Pope and issues effecting the poor. While this was their first meeting, it was not Pope Francis I first encounter with the Obama presidency. As a cardinal, Pope Francis will well aware of Mr. Obama’s previous meeting with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI wherein the pope expressed his concern over the proliferation of abortion in America and Mr. Obama’s fatuous response that he would do all that he could to minimize abortions. He was aware that while Mr. Obama was making that promise he was sending his representative to the United Nations to argue that abortions should be recognized as an international right for women and shortly thereafter lifted the ban on military healthcare providers providing abortions. Pope Francis has repeated the admonition of Pope John Paul II against the culture of death (abortions) growing in the West and has condemned what he refers to as the “throwaway culture of human life.”
When the meetings ended Mr. Obama – seeking validation of his latest theme on income redistribution – described the meetings as focusing on elevating the poor. In marked contrast, the representatives of the Vatican characterized the meeting as a sharp lecture on the continuing culture of death represented by Mr. Obama’s insistence of unfettered, taxpayers funded abortion on demand. Again, I choose to believe Pope Francis I and the Vatican given Mr. Obama’s routine neglect of the truth. You can rest assured that the internal meeting in the Vatican in the aftermath of Mr. Obama’s visit focused on the wonderment of how someone can fool only himself so deeply.
And finally, Mr. Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia for a meeting demanded by King Abdullah in the aftermath of Mr. Obama’s lifting of sanctions against Iran with no concomitant progress on banning Iran’s steady march towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons. (For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in Portland’s public schools there are century old antagonisms between the Shia branch of Islam represented by the ayatollahs of Iran and the Sunni branch represented by the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Iran has been a force in financing and encouraging terrorists in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and throughout Europe. Saudi Arabia has been a force in financing and encouraging terrorism in Southwest Asia, principally Pakistan and Afghanistan, and funding the hate-filled Madrasa schools throughout the world but particularly in Southeast Asia. But even more than they hate the West, these branches of Islam hate each other with a savagery that harkens back to the Middle Ages.) King Abdullah is beside himself over the probability that the hated Iran is about to acquire nuclear weapons and is dismayed by Mr. Obama’s naivete – particularly given nearly thirty-five years of duplicity by Iran starting with the seizure of the American embassy during President Jimmy Carter’s term. It is now believed in many circles that the Saudis have been working on a deal with Pakistan to either acquire some of their nuclear weapons or the necessary equipment and expertise to create their own. The King is also exercised about Iran’s active involvement supporting the Assad government in Syria (which has oppressed Sunnis for decades) while Mr. Obama diddles on the sidelines wringing his hands. King Abdullah has been seeking assurances from Mr. Obama on both Iran and Syria and an upgrade to the Saudi’s defensive weapons – particularly their air force. He got neither. He had to listen to Mr. Obama once again spouting his empty promise that Iran will not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and that he will give further consideration to the weapons requests. This is the routine kiss off used by Mr. Obama when confronted by things he doesn’t want to hear.
In parallel with the Saudi’s concerns over Iran and Syria, Israel’s leadership has been basically cut loose by indifference from the Obama administration which prefers again to pressure our allies rather than confront our enemies. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are building their list of concessions to be demanded of Israel just to restart negotiations with the Palestinians – not a list of concessions for a permanent peace (something that will never happen) but rather concessions just to sit down to be disappointed again.
What a mess. And as much as I would like America to lead on resolution of these issues I do not trust Mr. Obama to do so. He has so damaged America’s “brand” that it will take decades to recover any leadership role in the world. Mr. Obama should resign but that would leave us with Vice-president Joe Biden probably the only person less capable of leading with integrity than Mr. Obama.