“Obama REFUSES to call 1,000 Russian troops and tanks in Ukraine an ‘invasion’ and sticks to sanctions but McCain says he’s living in ‘Putin’s Orwellian universe,'” the London Daily Mail notes, reporting on the former president’s speech today. I’m not sure why the “But” is included in their headline though:
President Barack Obama refused to label Russia’s military action inside eastern Ukraine as an ‘invasion’ on Thursday, calling it an ‘incursion’ despite facing a reporter’s specific action [sic] about his choice of words.
Following a conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama told reporters that the two leaders agree ‘that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. … Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.’
‘And the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.’
He insisted that the Russian tanks filmed rumbling through Ukraine on Thursday are merely ‘a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now.’
* * * * * * *
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republicans’ top dog on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reacted angrily before Obama’s brief press conference.
‘Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine can only be called one thing: a cross-border military invasion,’ he said. ‘To claim it is anything other than that is to inhabit President Putin’s Orwellian universe.’
‘A sovereign nation in the heart of Europe is being invaded by its larger neighbor,’ McCain declared. ‘This runs completely contrary to the civilized world that America and our partners have sought to build since World War II.’
Of course, as Victor Davis Hanson writes today in “Obama’s Hazy Sense of History,” the recently retired president apparently believes that postwar world was something that merely happened organically:
Obama often parrots Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But King used that metaphor as an incentive to act, not as reassurance that matters will follow an inevitably positive course.
* * * * * * *
A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch.
In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment.
As VDH concludes, “Obama’s naive belief in predetermined history — especially when his facts are often wrong — is a poor substitute for concrete moral action.”
And speaking of a lack of concrete moral action, “President Obama said Thursday he doesn’t have a strategy yet for defeating Islamist militants in Syria,” the Washington Times adds:
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Mr. Obama said in a news conference at the White House. “We don’t have a strategy yet. As our strategy develops, we will consult with Congress.”
Really, Mr. Obama will consult with Congress? Well, there’s a first time for everything I guess. (Not the least of which is the former president’s tan gaberdine suit. It’s a nice choice — if you’re hoping to project an image that says, “Hey, I’m a friendly laid-back toff enjoying this fine summer day. Say, who’s up for a few Mojitos at the bar!” And Putin, if not ISIS, will very likely understand the semiotics of the president’s rather blasé image.)
Speaking of which, if the former president does sound rather blasé about Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, or ISIS slaughtering troops and journalists and uploading videos of the carnage to YouTube, there is one foreign affairs issue that fires him up and finds him “enraged” and ready to punch back twice as hard:
In a neighborhood featuring Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, just to name a few of the actors, President Obama was “enraged” at … Israel. That’s right, Israel–our stalwart ally, a lighthouse of liberty, lawfulness, and human rights in a region characterized by despotism, and a nation filled with people who long for peace and have done so much for so long to sacrifice for it (including repeatedly returning and offering to return its land in exchange for peace).
Yet Mr. Obama–a man renowned for his lack of strong feelings, his emotional equanimity, his disengagement and distance from events, who New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd refers to as “Spock” for his Vulcan-like detachment–is not just upset but “enraged” at Israel.
As Peter Wehner of Commentary writes, “It’s clear to me, and by now it should be to others, that there is something sinister in Barack Obama’s constant anger aimed at Israel.”
Great priorities there, Barry. By the way, if you’ve lost CNN…
CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, alarmed: On Obama’s “we have no strategy” line: “Let me be very clear, ISIS heard all of this.”
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) August 28, 2014
Update: At Strategy Page, Austin Bay notices the timing of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine:
In August 1939 — 75 years ago this week — Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed the Hitler-Stalin Pact. In the wake of the Russo-German alliance, newspaper wits coined the term “ComunNazi.” Communist-Nazi. Yes, “red” and “brown” entwined as the dictatorships they are.
The two dictators’ legions of liars hailed the deal as a peace treaty. Peace? Eastern Europeans in the dictators’ gun sights scorned the falsehood.
“Peace in our time, ” Neville Chamberlain had proclaimed after the wretched Munich deal of 1938, which gave Hitler permission to annex slices of Czechoslovakia. Of course, when given a slice, Hitler annexed the whole.
Expansionist dictators take until stopped by superior power.
Or until blinded by really sharp lightweight bespoke summer suits, and/or the power of the #hashtag:
— Cuffé (@CuffyMeh) August 28, 2014
More: “Wish he was as angry with ISIL as he is with the GOP.”