Tom Finneran: From Russia With Love

Friday, September 13, 2013


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President Obama is finding himself with more formidable foes than friends these days...

Vladimir Putin to the rescue? Are you kidding me? Vlad the Impaler has impaled our President. This has not been an act of love. Nor of respect. Rather it seems that Vlad enjoys embarrassing our earnest lecturing professor President. And the Obama White House can spin fairy tale after fairy tale, but the fact remains that our credibility in the Middle East has been shattered.

From a distance it may appear that President Obama has drawn to an inside straight by finding a possible “diplomatic solution” to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria. Don’t be fooled by such appearances. Face-saving outcomes are just that. And face-saving counts for nothing in the hell-hole of the Middle East.

Grim circumstances

Forget face-saving. Let’s look at hard cold facts after this week’s events. The world has watched our President flounder and fail in his efforts to win Congressional approval of a military action he deems essential. Israel has had its worst fears confirmed and has concluded that they are on their own for the next three plus years. Saudi Arabia and our other regional allies are shaken. This is not the steady stalwart unblinking America they have known. Assad and his cohorts are jubilant. They have faced down the evil West. Iran has been strengthened and reassured, madly and gladly spinning those centrifuges with impunity. Putin’s Russia, an inept, bullying, kleptomaniac regime, has emerged as the go-to player in the Middle East. Who really thinks this is a breakthrough?

And while “peace” may seem a worthwhile outcome, this hardly approaches a meaningful peace. Ponder the plight of the Syrian people this morning. As diplomats traverse the world and dance the minuet of negotiations, Syrian homes and families will continue to be pulverized to rubble, day after day, death after death.

I’ll readily admit to not knowing whom to root for in the Syrian civil war. Sure Assad is a vicious thug, although his smooth talking once charmed Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, each of whom saw a “reformer” in him. Forget for a moment the smooth talk hustle he put over on them. Remember always the vicious thug part, for it is in his DNA. Of course he is confronted by vicious thugs as well. As for not knowing who to root for over there, I’ll root for young Americans not being put in harm’s way in the service of fanatics and brutes. In fact, I suspect that one of the common bonds that these warring factions share is a mutual contempt and hatred of America. Let them slaughter each other to mutual exhaustion rather than making more Americans widows and orphans.

In a tough spot

At least two related and colossal problems remain on the table in the aftermath of the President’s speech this week. The first is his waning influence with Congress. The second is the grim and serious reality of an increasingly aggressive Iran, backed and encouraged by the ever aggressive Putin.

I don’t believe that President Obama has the ability or experience to deal with either of these challenges. His disdain for Congress has been evident for many years, including during his own very brief time in the Senate. And while Congressmen and Senators will put up with more than they ever should from a politically ascendant President, they will deliver their come-uppance to a weakening President. This week’s events, including the authorization vote drama in both branches of Congress has likely accelerated the President’s slide into lame-duck land. This is not a good thing for the President or for America. Aside from any domestic agenda paralysis, the real risk to the country is that our global foes, specifically Iran, seize strategic advantage from us during this period of bewilderment and uncertainty. Will the President ever be able to persuade Congress that Iran’s march to nuclear weapons merits an American military response? After this week’s events I have my doubts. The sad part of all this is that even Vlad himself would hesitate to tweak a united United States, where the trifecta of public opinion, Congressional support, and Presidential leadership was in synch.

Who knows, perhaps Barack can pull a rabbit out of the hat. But don’t bet on it. Inside straights are rare and even then they lose to a full house. Vlad, full of himself and fairly discerning of America’s hand, seems to be holding the winning cards.

From Russia with love indeed…


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