Dear President Putin:
First of all, thanks for “speaking directly to the American people” in your New York Times op-ed. I’d grown used to reading various communists in those pages, but to get a note from an actual Russian president is something special.
You may be noticing that it’s not going over so well. I thought I could explain.
The short answer is many of us feel we are on to you. We know we can’t trust Assad, and don’t get us started on trusting our own president. But you may be overplaying this so ham-handedly that some clarity may be emerging.
It all just looks too tidy. You, Assad and President Obama were all facing a dark fate. Obama was about to get a congressional punch in the nose, Assad was about to hear bombs whizzing by his windows and you were facing the loss of your Syrian friend and henchman.
Now it’s high fives all around. Assad can make dinner plans into the foreseeable future, Obama can crow about a “strong stance” that cooled all heads, and you are probably up for a Peace Prize from those knuckleheads at the Nobel Committee.
All of you would like us to believe that the eternally wooden John Kerry embarked on a hypothetical riff that involved you pressuring Assad to submit his chemical weapons to international scrutiny, quickly qualifying that prospect by saying Assad “isn’t about to do it” and “it can’t be done.”
But wait! Apparently it can, and at lightning speed! You got your people to Geneva to meet with Kerry faster than I can run down to the corner for milk. In view of the usual glacial pace of such sensitive matters, this is a real eye-opener.
But what we see drips with suspicion. And now here you are, enjoying your momentary perch as global power-broker, lecturing Americans about “brute force" interventions and your preference for just calming down and talking everything out.
That’s always what tyrants want. No pesky rumblings of revolution, just everybody relax and we’ll have talks and more talks and more talks while I sink my roots deeper into a seat of power I do not want to relinquish.
Sure, there are plenty of Americans relieved that our own unfit commander-in-chief will not be launching half-hearted attacks into a war zone with no good guys to pragmatically root for. That doesn’t mean we are now ready to hear you, of all people, prattle about “international law” and United Nations agendas.
We want what is best for our country. We as Americans may argue over what that is, but there are things that raise our eyebrows. Murderous dictators suddenly spared punishment at the hands of devious friends is just too rich to dismiss.
So while I have no hidden video of you and President Obama plotting to put words in Kerry’s mouth that lead to the end of a drama that would not have played out well for either of you, I hope we can be forgiven for telling you to work on your own lumbering nation and spare us the doggerel about your swell new relations with President Obama.
You couldn’t even let your new best buddy enjoy a rare moment of invoking America as “exceptional.”
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional,” you say in your op-ed wrap-up. “When we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
There is something genuinely profane about an old KGB hack invoking God’s view of humanity’s shared blessings. And something stunningly stupid about viewing American exceptionalism as an exercise in ego.
When we say America is exceptional, we are not saying our people are better. We are saying our system is better, our devotion to liberty more courageous and long-standing, our commitment to fighting for it more muscular, our appreciation of it more profound.
Far from a narcissistic view, this is the ultimate in gratitude and humility. We in America want nothing more than to see freedom and prosperity spread from the masses in China to the God-forsaken moonscapes of the Middle East to the long-suffering strata of the Russian society you purport to lead.
So enjoy your moment. We are trying even now to find an Obama successor who can deal with you from a position of strength. We are willing to be friends, but we will not be patsies.
And before you insult us again with religious references, look among your circle of friends and see how Biblical their behavior seems, before wagging any more scolding fingers at America.