In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib writes:
“Of all the lessons one might draw from Russia’s bullying of Ukraine, this may be the most coldblooded of all: If you want to behave badly, it helps to have a lot of oil and gas. Much will be forgiven, or at least ignored.
“European nations, international energy companies and China are all, in their own ways, driving home the point. The Europeans are afraid of pushing economic sanctions against Moscow too far lest they be cut off from the Russian natural gas that provides a significant share of their energy.“
Mr. Seib is right but he is not completely right. In addition to the “oil and gas” you also have to have a weak-kneed bullshit artist as your primary opponent. And Russian President Valdmir Putin has that in President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama has worn out his welcome in the capitols of our allies because of an unbroken string of high-minded promises followed by low-rent actions. The only nation that he has acted strongly against is our most constant ally in the Middle East – Israel.
But word gets around.
Mr. Obama’s whole life has been a series of triumphs of form over substance. He has always been a big talker with no accomplishments. As a college student at Occidental he distinguished himself mostly by smoking dope and talking big. He gained access to America’s most expensive Ivy League school – Columbia University – with no discernible academic achievement or financial means. And from there he moved on to Harvard Law School despite the fact that he was not an honors graduate at Columbia – a virtually immovable requisite for other students. He became editor of the Harvard Law Review without ever publishing a law review article – the primary responsibility of the editor. He was the first and the last to be so rewarded.
As an Illinois legislator he was noted most for voting “present” on most controversial measures and for supporting a bill that would have allowed doctors to kill a child born live during an abortion procedure. He was elected to the United States Senate when Republican Jack Ryan, who was favored to win, got caught in a sex scandal. His Senate career is an unblemished record of nothing – no accomplishments. His fame came as a result of his single outstanding capability – he gave a rousing speech at the National Democrat Convention that was loaded with big promises. It is the exact same thing that makes most grifters successful – for a while.
But word gets around.
In 2008, Mr. Obama was lauded and beatified by the media for a Berlin speech at which an estimated 200,000 people appeared and cheered. (Actually the people gathered for a rock concert featuring two popular bands – Reamon and reggae singer Patrice – and Mr. Obama simply took advantage of their presence.) Now contrast that with a recent speech by Mr. Obama in the Netherlands on March 25, 2014. Several versions of the speech are posted on YouTube and are summarized by Greg Campbell of TPNN (Tea Party News Network):
“On Tuesday, as President Obama addressed an audience in the Netherlands, he stood at his podium awaiting the customary round of applause.
“Well, in truth, while virtually nobody applauded, one audience member can be heard clapping a slow, awkward clap for a few seconds before promptly giving up after noticing that his enthusiasm was not catching on.
“Our Commander-in-Chief who repeatedly claims that Russia is dominating surrounding countries out of “weakness” garners so little respect that the international community can only muster a painfully awkward slow-clap.”
Even Mr. Obama acknowledged that the lack of response was “embarrassing.” (Of course you would be hard pressed to find any mention of the incident in the mainstream press.)
AUN highlighted Mr. Obama’s discomfort:
“President Barack Obama received what may be a first. Before he became President he was mobbed and idolized by European crowds. In his speech this week at the Hague, in front of a large crowd, he finished the speech and no one applauded, so he said “Thank You” and still no one applauded, so he said thank you again and only one person meekly applauded, then the host said thank you and told the crowd the press conference was over. Still only one person applauded.
“This is amazing. We have never seen an American presidential speech in Europe that could only muster one person to applaud, and only after multiple attempts to generate applause. Even more amazing is this was a selected crowd. No one got in without Obama’s people approving them.”
But then word gets around.
All of this brings us to the present. In today’s world, despite a large dose of heavy arms possessed by the Russian armed forces, the most powerful weapon possessed by either side is economic might. America’s economy (as measured by gross domestic product) is roughly eight times the size of Russia’s. America’s production of oil and natural gas both exceed Russia’s. But, much of Europe has become dependent on Russian energy production primarily because of proximity. In an economic showdown with Russia, America could crush Russia’s economy overnight with tough economic sanctions – something that Mr. Obama has, thus far, failed to undertake. However, such a showdown would put Europe’s economy at risk because of that energy dependence.
So, as Mr. Obama looks for support from European countries to impose and enforce economic sanctions he faces resistance. That resistance could be mitigated by shifting Europe’s Russian energy dependence to a combination of American energy, North Sea energy and Middle East production. But Mr. Obama has remained silent as to a shift. Moreover, his recent action of deferring approval on the Keystone pipeline, has signaled that he has no intention of increasing production in America to assist Europe.
These same European leaders have watched as Mr. Obama has drawn “red lines” for Syria, issued dire warnings to Russia over the Crimea, and lifted economic sanctions on Iran all without any results. A ballyhooed “accord” to relieve tensions in the Ukraine engineered by the stentorian empty suit, Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed almost as soon as he was able to race to the microphones to claim victory for Twenty-first Century diplomacy. The result is that there is not a single leader in Europe that believes anything Mr. Obama or his minions say. They, to a man and woman, know that should they participate in economic sanctions against Russia, they are most likely to be left holding the bag by Mr. Obama.
Word gets around.
Nothing will be done as Russia asserts control over the Eastern regions of the Ukraine. And likewise, nothing will be done as Iran acquires its nuclear weapons, China asserts dominion over the South China Sea, or North Korea increases its belligerence against South Korea. No one need fear Mr. Obama – save and except Israel which will face Mr. Obama’s wrath when it moves to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities as it must do.
In the end, respect is earned by the man, not the office, and Mr. Obama has lost ours.