|Vladimir Putin with Barack Obama at the U.N. General Assembly. Reuters|
Putin wants to humiliate Obama with airstrikes in Syria. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, September 30, 2015.
Obama’s Stubborn Refusal to See Putin for What He Is. By Jim Geraghty. National Review Online, October 1, 2015.
The first thing to understand about Vladimir Putin is that he’s not content just to win. He has to destroy his opponents, foreign or domestic.
His deeds may be despicable and his manners far too crude for the Upper West Side, but the guy is a force of nature, a man who — by sheer strength of will — has used a broken country and its rusting military to change the world. Meanwhile, our astonished president sulks like a high school girl stood up by her boyfriend (“But Vladimir . . . you promised!”).
Now we have reached the point where a Russian general can barge into a US military office in the Middle East and order us to stop flying our aircraft over Syria. Oh, we’re still flying, for now — but you can bet that our flights are restricted and careful to the point of paralysis.
You bet President Obama’s afraid of Putin. Physically, tangibly, change-the-diaper afraid.
And as I wrote in these pages on Monday, the odds are good that Putin will order the shootdown of a US drone or even a manned aircraft, anyway. Why? Because he can.
And he enjoys it.
But Putin sees a necessity in humiliating the United States. That’s business. And yet, despite Putin’s obviousness, the White House team and its acolytes publicly scratch their heads and other body parts, saying, “We’re not certain what the Russians intend.”
So let’s help them. Here are Putin’s clear strategic goals:
In the short term, rescue the failing regime of Russia’s ally, Syria’s blood-drenched President Bashar al-Assad. And in doing so, eliminate all opposition groups except ISIS, leaving the United States, Europe and the world with the stark choice of “Assad or Islamic State?”
In the mid-term, create a fait accompli, irreversible circumstances, on the ground in the Middle East (and in Ukraine) that will defeat the next US president even before he takes office.
Expect a lot more aggression and violence from Putin between now and Inauguration Day 2017. Obama’s delusional worldview — that of a narrow-shouldered, bleeding-heart undergraduate at a second-rate university — is a gift to Putin that keeps on giving. (In almost seven years in office, Obama still hasn’t grasped that words don’t stop bullets.)
In the longer term, Putin intends to re-establish Russia’s grandeur and glory from the apogee of the czars — and to go still further by dominating the Middle East and its energy resources.
Putin has bet on the Shia world against the Sunni Muslims and is well along in the process of building a wall of allies from Tehran to Tripoli. Already, Russia has a renewed presence and influence in the Middle East after a four-decade absence.
Our response? We’re still funding the Iranian-owned Baghdad government; still shortchanging the Kurds; still afraid to use real military power against ISIS; and terrified that Putin will push the Syrian situation into a confrontation.
He will. And the Obama administration is utterly, profoundly unprepared.
Our confused polices in the Middle East have left us trusted by no one (not even Israel), respected by no one and feared by no one. We’ve scattered our military advisers around Iraq, providing Iran-backed militias with instant hostages. We continue to fund those who hate us in Iraq (where our diplomats can’t think past the walls of our white-elephant embassy). We continue to pretend that we can convince Iraqis and Syrians to fight for what we believe in, rather than for their own interests.
And should Putin shoot down a US aircraft and should Obama finally screw his courage to the sticking point and attempt an appropriate military response, Turkey — disloyal to us and terrified of Russia — would deny us the use of Incirlik airbase.
The White House response now? Spokesman Josh “Baghdad Bob” Earnest tells us everything’s under control and we’re working things out. The new line is that Russia will only get bogged down in a quagmire, as the Soviets did in Afghanistan. Sorry, folks: Just because Obama’s incapable of learning doesn’t mean Putin is, too. And Putin’s forces won’t go into battle with lawyers looking over their shoulders, either.
Want to know how low we’ve sunk? The president of France just repeated his demand that Assad has to go. Secretary of State John Kerry, following the pattern of his surrender to the Iranians, has already said that, well, maybe Assad can stay for a while until there’s a “managed transition.”
Never before has a US presidential administration combined such naked cowardice, intellectual arrogance and willful blindness. We don’t have a president — we have a scared child covering his eyes at a horror movie.
And Putin knows it.
And Putin knows it.