The Bear Is Loose

“The bear is loose!” President Obama has been saying, whenever he leaves the White House to visit Starbucks, or sandwich shops, or burger joints, or BBQ shacks, or neighborhood diners, in his increasingly rote and pathetic attempts to “connect” with “real people.” Obama, we have been told, is frustrated, “restless,” bored with the responsibilities and chores of office. He thinks of himself as the bear—intimidating, wild, untamed, roving—escaping his den. But he is flattering himself. Obama is not the bear. He is the cub: aimless, naïve, self-interested, self-indulgent, irresponsible, irresolute. The bear is in Moscow.

One can trace a line from any global hotspot to Russia and its authoritarian ruler. Iran? Russia has assisted its nuclear program for decades. Syria? Russia is Bashar Assad’s arms dealer. Iraq? Russia is sending men and materiel to the central government. Afghanistan? Putin muscled nearby Kyrgyzstan into closing our air base there, crucial for transport, resupply, and reconnaissance in the war against the Taliban. The contretemps between the United States and Germany is the result of Edward Snowden’s breach of national security. Where is Snowden? In Russia, where he has just asked to have his visa renewed. I wonder if Vladimir Putin will say yes.

Then there is Ukraine, where Putin has been driving events since March, when he illegally annexed Crimea. The West thought sanctions would intimidate Putin, would force him into retreat. For a time, he drew down his troops on the Ukrainian border, leaving the fighting in eastern Ukraine to separatists trained, armed, and led by Russian special forces. The West thought it could ignore the situation. A guerrilla war in the east, it was assumed, does not threaten democracy in Kiev. The Ukrainian economy returned to its lethargic equilibrium. The Ukrainians elected a president. President Obama, in his speech at West Point, trumpeted his Ukraine policy as an example of “our ability to shape world opinion” and “isolate Russia.”

I think it was a brilliant stroke,” Hillary Clinton says of the “reset” policy the United States pursued toward Russia when she was secretary of State. She has an odd understanding of brilliance. The “reset” gave us a world where Georgia remains illegally occupied, where Poland and the Czech Republic lack missile defenses, where American parents cannot adopt Russian babies, where Russian bombers fly within 50 miles of the Pacific coast, where Ukraine is sundered, where the prospects for ground war in Eastern Europe are high, where Putin says U.S. sanctions against his cronies will take bilateral relations to a “dead end.”

When I hear comments such as Clinton’s, when I listen to White House press secretary Josh Earnest say, in all seriousness, that his administration has “substantially improved the tranquility of the global community,” I feel as though they are lost in the postmodern funhouse of the Kremlin’s “non-linear war,” as though they, too, are casualties of Russian Maskirovka, of deception, concealment, propaganda, and disinformation.

The heralds of the “post-American world” devote most of their songs to the wonders of the BRIC economies, the rise of a globally conscious, technologically savvy youth culture, the justice of a humbled America, the importance of institutions and conferences and stakeholders in resolving global conflict through diplomatic means. What they never get around to singing about, in any particular detail, is the day-to-day reality of the post-American world: the headlines one encounters when Vladimir Putin is unrestrained; the numbers of dead and wounded in civil wars fueled by Russian weapons and Russian assistance; the lies and conspiracies and anti-Americanism fueled by Russian information operations; and the unexpected events, the contingencies, the collateral damage of insurgency and strife. No secret why they leave all this out: such dissonant lyrics do not jibe with a placid, comforting melody of exhaustion, war weariness, senescence.

Full article: The Bear Is Loose (Washington Free Beacon)

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