The New Republic’s James Mann says “the Obama administration’s rhetoric on Russia is accomplishing nothing,” and he details the reasons, one White House cliche after another. The first one is the most telling though, since it’s really the foundation for all the rest of the magical thinking going on. Read:
They are not acting in their own interest. They are only harming themselves.
Secretary of State John Kerry was all over the airwaves this weekend with versions of this line. “He is not going to gain by this,” Kerry told David Gregory on “Meet the Press.” “Russia is going to lose. The Russian people are going to lose.”
Over the years, Obama and his aides have offered similar versions of this line in talking about other foreign leaders who had done or were about to do something of which the administration disapproved: in Syria, for example, or Egypt or Qaddafi’s Libya. And guess what? It’s a useless line of attack. Putin makes his own calculations of what is in his interest. If he believed that sending troops onto Ukrainian soil was a bad idea, he wouldn’t have done it. Bashar al-Assad also makes his own calculations. He’s worried that if he loses to the rebels, he and many of the people around him will be killed. It’s enough of a full-time responsibility for Obama and Kerry to define what’s in America’s own interests without making grand proclamations of what’s in the best interest of other countries or their leaders.
See? Professor Wiggleroom, as Elliot Abrams argued yesterday, knows best for Russia and Syria and Libya as well as America. Only the (Self-) Anointed Ones, to borrow a phrase, really understand… well, anything and everything.
But a simple look at the facts on the ground, as Wiggleroom likes to say, demolish that notion. Libya is more of a terror breeding ground than it was before our Kind Of War there. Egypt was not better off under Morsi, even with the recent reductions in US aid to the military government which toppled his Islamist rule. Syria has kept its chemical weapons, despite promises to turn them over. Russia means to keep Ukraine, and likely will.
Each country has acted in its own interest (Libya’s anarchy excepted) much, I imagine, to the befuddlement of our White House.
And yet we keep coming up with the short end of the stick.