Monday, November 17, 2014

Obama Against the Obvious

With Russian tanks and troops swarming into Ukraine, the president finally sees the light

Nov. 17, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

As headlines go, “ Obama Moves Close to Calling Russian Action in Ukraine an Invasion,” from a weekend story in the New York Times , must surely rank among the year’s most revealing. The Obama presidency has long been at odds with the obvious. Once this was called hope.
Now it is generally recognized as farce.
Mr. Obama’s move comes after eight months of semantic obfuscation conducted in the service of political expediency. “I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now,” Mr. Obama palavered in late August, as columns of Russian tanks moved into eastern Ukraine. And what, exactly, had been “taking place for months”?
It was, he said, “this ongoing incursion,” as if the Russian seizure of Crimea was just a temporary problem. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki helpfully explained why “a discussion about terminology” was all but beneath administration notice. “Our focus is more on what Russia is doing, what we’re going to do about it, than what we’re calling it,” she said.
Now the president is toughening his tone. Speaking to reporters in Australia on Sunday, Mr. Obama deployed the “i” word with the same delicacy an Orthodox Jew might use to spell “G-d.” “We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries.”
That’s nice. The only pity is that the statement came days after NATO confirmed that Russia was pouring “multiple columns” of tanks and troops into Ukraine, thereby violating a September cease-fire agreement. If Ms. Psaki can now explain what the administration’s previous rhetorical cartwheels accomplished, it would be good to hear it—other, that is, than to convince the Kremlin that an American president too timid to call an invasion an invasion is no serious impediment to Russia’s territorial ambitions.
While Ms. Psaki and other administration mouthpieces are at it, they might also explain how last week’s news that the Pentagon will send another 1,500 “military advisers” to Iraq honors Mr. Obama’s pledge from September, when he said, “I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”
Yet the Apache pilots and their crews emphatically do have a “combat mission” when they fly out of Baghdad airport to keep ISIS from storming the city, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in September that U.S. military forces deployed to Iraq will get combat pay.
One wonders what rhetorical legerdemain the administration will use to explain what those pilots are doing there. Demonstrating the principles of aeronautics? Teaching kinetics?
And so it goes in the administration’s uncomfortable relationship with la vérité, of both the observable and predictable kind.

Observable: Iranian behavior has in no way moderated under its “moderate” president, Hasan Rouhani, whose government continues to hang convicts at a breakneck rate, make arms deliveries to Hamas in Gaza, prop up the Assad regime in Syria and tweet instructions for eliminating Israel. Predictable: An Iran that has cheated on its previous nuclear undertakings will cheat on its future ones.

Observable: Detainees released from Guantanamo return home to wage jihad and kill Americans. Case in point: Abdullah Gulam Rasoul, once Prisoner 8 at Gitmo, who returned to Afghanistan to become the Taliban’s chief military commander. Predictable: The five detainees released to Qatar earlier this year in exchange for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will trace the same route.

Observable: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, anointed by Mr. Obama as his Mideast BFF, is an Islamic supremacist (his latest claim is that Muslim sailors discovered America in 1178 and that Columbus found a mosque in Cuba) who plays by democratic rules only when they suit him. Predictable: The U.S.-Turkish alliance, formed after World War II, will not survive the decade.

Readers will no doubt think of additional examples: promises about health insurance; the stimulus “multiplier”; you name it.
The larger question is why the administration is in constant flight from reality. Perhaps it’s Mr. Obama’s conceit that speeches are an adequate substitute for policy. Or maybe it’s the postmodern view that the purpose of words isn’t so much to describe facts as it is to invent them. It is what happens when a political career, and a presidency, is spent in the relentless pursuit of spinning the news its way, looking no further than the day ahead.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, immortally, that he had a dream. President Obama is merely in one.
Obama’s dream may any day become our collective Iran created nuclear nightmare, and  the only one there to prevent it is  Israel.