President Obama told an audience in Malaysia that the US will be in a better position to stop Putin once he had the world behind him. According to the Associated Press, “Obama is pushing back against suggestions the U.S. should levy sanctions on its own against broad sectors of Russia’s economy. He says the U.S. and Europe must act collectively.” Obama maintained that he would not go it alone, according to CNN, and that Russia needs to see that “the world is united against” its actions in Ukraine.
Rather than going with sanctions alone and making it a United States vs. Russia issue, “it’s important for us to make sure that we’re part of an international coalition in sending that message and Russia is isolated, rather than (the perception that) the U.S. is trying to pull Ukraine out of his orbit.”
There seems no other way to see this other that Obama is awaiting reinforcements. If the cavalry doesn’t show up then too bad. While the president may have meant to galvanize the world he has undoubtedly also sent Moscow the signal that nobody’s riding to the rescue any time soon.
Perhaps the truth is that nobody is particularly interested in stopping Putin, whatever they mumble in public. At least, nobody cares enough to go first. Often in history the prize goes to the party that wants it most. One reason Lincoln won the Civil War was largely because he willed it, a circumstance that found expression in his determination to let nothing stand in his way. Lincoln and his Generals describes how he went through commander after commander, through Winfield Scott, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, Meade until he found Ulysses S. Grant.
Churchill too had that quality and tried everything to stop Rommel in north Africa, working through Generals Alan Cunningham, Neil Ritchie, Wavell and Claude Auchinleck until he found his Bernard Law Montgomery. Churchill not only looked the bulldog. He was a bulldog.
And when the fault lay at the grand strategic level rather than in the military theater change was also possible. Britain could replace Chamberlain with Churchill and would have replaced Churchill too, had he failed to produce.
Early in his career Obama was actually compared to Churchill for his willingness to steamroll. Difference being, as the Churchill Center wrote at the time that Obama would steamroll anyone who offended against his magnificence.
What can we learn by comparing President Obama’s dismissal of General McChrystal to Churchill’s dismissals of Generals Wavell and Auchinleck, two distinguished commanders in World War II? I hope it will not be another reminder of how standards of conduct have deteriorated.
Differences first. Churchill’s generals were removed for not sufficiently opposing Irwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. McChrystal was not underperforming, and his situation bears more resemblance to that of General Douglas MacArthur, the Korean commander relieved in 1951 by President Truman for insubordination. …
Wavell and Auchinleck, having been sacked, placed themselves “at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government.” … Apparently the President offered no alternative military appointment to General McChrystal, as Churchill-safe in his own skin and disdaining opinion polls-did with Wavell and Auchinleck, believing their continued service vital to the war effort. We must assume it was not Obama’s opinion, as it was Churchill’s, that “We cannot afford to lose such a man from the fighting line.”
But the one card that most needs shuffling, that of the president himself, is the one that can’t be.
What the British electorate, Churchill and Lincoln had going for them was that all the contenders for the relevant job were white. Race or gender did not play a constraining part in finding the best man. There were no Sacred Cows in the sense that after pre-selection by the Old Boys Club is was a meritocracy thereafter.
By contrast, in the modern Democratic Party system of identity politics there are nothing but Sacred Cows from one end of the pasture to the other. Obama and Hillary are concessions to their racial and gender constituencies. Once installed they can’t be changed for any reason whatsoever, however incompetent on pain of political civil war, because each constituency, like the Lebanese religious factions, must have its turn to control the government.
As compared to the freedom accorded to Lincoln or the British electorate to find the most qualified person the modern American political system is sticky. The system is saddled with special interest quotas and that’s it. People are not selected for their competence but by category: “the wise Latina”, the “native American Harvard law professor” or the “single mother who became a lawyer”.
The system of identity politics dampens the rise of individual talent and elevates mediocrities to positions far beyond their level of competence. The current Democratic party leadership is ossified, hackneyed and old.
So it’s a fixed menu. The world is mired in the spectacle of two damaged personalities who somehow got to the international stage, the Russian irreplaceable because he’s authoritarian and the American because of political correctness. The social media man versus the unreconstructed KGB agent. No substitutions allowed.
In this contest, Obama has mysteriously declined to resist though Putin has certainly tried his best to humiliate Obama. Is Obama too cool or just scared? Either way, nobody gets to change nothing. It’s Mr. We are the World vs the Volga Boatman. Come as you are.
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Obama’s problems may eventually force the Democratic Party’s to modify the system of identity politics. No party can ignore disaster indefinitely; eventually the Dems must find a way to restore mobility to the party or degenerate to the point where the worst man wins. That may change under the pressure of events. Ironically Obama’s final gift to Hillary may be to doom her candidacy.
Identity might remain an important part of a Democratic Party political “legend”, but it can no longer be the sole criterion for elevation to high office.
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