President Obama in the looking glass
The President must view himself differently than most others when it comes to foreign policy. As he sees himself it must be that he is a powerful orator and can convince anyone of anything. He must perceive himself as the most powerful man in the world. Unfortunately the rest of the world has come to see him differently. They see weakness!
It began with his first speech at the UN when he said: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” This was followed by the assertion that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War make no sense in an interconnected world.” And yet he turns to NATO for help in trying to deal with the Ukraine situation.
The past five years are replete with numerous examples, most of which have been chronicled in these articles. A short listing might be useful to refresh readers’ minds:
• The “reset” with Russia and the START Treaty that cut US strategic nuclear delivery systems and warheads while imposing hardly any limits on the Russians
• The cancellation of missile defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic to appease Russia
• The withdrawal from Iraq without an agreement to leave a residual force
• The Syrian “red line” that wasn’t! Wasn’t anything but a source of concern about US support by all of the middle-eastern countries as Iran and Hezbollah openly supported the Syrian regime.
• The nuclear agreement with Iran that in actuality limits nothing.
• The swing to Asia that so threatened the Chinese that they imposed flight restriction areas and threatened “allies” in the South China Sea
• The “cut and run” strategy from Afghanistan that has emboldened both the Taliban and the Karzai government to both oppose the US.
• And, as we just chronicled in our last article, the emasculation of the US Army and to some extent the US military as a whole.
This view in the looking glass is what Putin and many other leaders see, but not what the President and his coterie of advisors see. There is a need for a new view and a new approach.
With this track record what can he do to recover and have a meaningful end to his term in office?
Putin’s major source of economic and political power is the energy that he sells to Europe and especially the Ukraine. Undermining the Russian dominance in Europe as an energy supplier could go a long way to reasserting American power in a new way. The Europeans ought to welcome a new source of fossil fuel. To show their support they should begin building pipelines that would carry natural gas and oil shipped from Algeria and eventually the US—in short not through Russia. It would also undermine Iran and make the US less dependent upon middle-eastern oil.
By approving the keystone pipeline and opening up federal lands for exploration not only would the president create jobs and revitalize the economy, but he would then have leverage with the Russians. The Russians now control Crimea and no amount of haranguing or false threats are going cause them to relinquish this control. It needs to be in Russia’s interest to do that. As Henry Kissinger wrote recently in the Washington Post: “Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington.”
An aggressive energy policy is a way to cause that realization by Putin. To do this the President must come to see himself as the other leaders of the world do.