Steve Chapman

The Russian invasion of Crimea occurred in a place little known to Americans, for reasons rooted in a tangled and bloody history. The showdown between President Vladimir Putin and the new Ukrainian government is a fight about tangible matters of intense mutual interest.

But many Americans can't address international crises without sounding like a Toby Keith song: "I Wanna Talk About Me." If bad things are happening anywhere in the world, it must be something we caused and something we can fix.

Listen to John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator whose current mission in life is to confirm the wisdom Americans showed by not electing him president. "Why do we care?" he thundered in a speech this week in reference to the Russian invasion. "Because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America's strength anymore."

This will be enlightening to Ukrainians who cherish democracy and human rights and thought our attention stemmed from shared values and concern for their welfare. No, we care about what's happening there because it proves the ineptitude and impotence of Barack Obama.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., insisted the Russian aggression came because "we have a weak and indecisive president." Sarah Palin crowed that she had predicted that if Obama were elected president, Russia would invade Ukraine because of his "indecision and moral equivalence" when Russia invaded Georgia.

Both of them seem to forget that Putin brazenly attacked Georgia during the presidency of George W. Bush, who had gone to considerable trouble to prove his "strength" by invading Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama, of course, has not been averse to using force abroad -- mounting a surge that more than tripled U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, bombing Libya to bring down Moammar Gadhafi, ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and approving drone strikes that have left some 2,400 corpses.

True, Obama did stupidly threaten retaliation if the Syrian government used chemical weapons -- a threat he proved unwilling to carry out. But the belief that the KGB veteran who rules Russia would have behaved differently had Obama launched some missiles at Syria is a risible delusion.

In this instance, Putin perceived that measures of toughness were irrelevant, because no American president was about to use military force to reverse an occupation of Crimea. Even McCain lamely agreed, "There is not a military option that could be exercised now."

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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