On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" to respond to Russia's invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine. "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext," Kerry stated. He added, "It's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President (Vladimir) Putin to invade another country."
So, what would the United States do about Russian aggression? America would consider dropping its scheduled attendance at the G8 meeting in Sochi, Kerry said: "He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues." And on Monday, the Obama administration got truly tough: It announced that it would not send a presidential delegation to the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Which, of course, had Putin quaking in his boots. Because if there's one thing a Russian autocrat fears, it's faculty lounge-style sneering about his unsophistication followed by symbolic withdrawals from meaningless events.
But this sums up the Obama administration in its entirety: When it comes to dealing with America's enemies, the Obama White House simply assumes that there is no true conflict. After all, who could disagree with an America that has spent five years on bended knee to the rest of the world, that has minimized its influence in the world, and that is planning to slash its military by 30 percent over the next several years? Who could oppose an administration so dedicated to harmony that it is willing to undercut its own allies for the sake of a humbler America on the global stage?
This complete incapacity to understand America's geopolitical enemies dominated the 2012 election cycle. With the help of the media, the Obama campaign scoffed its way to victory by tut-tutting Mitt Romney's designation of Russia as America's chief geopolitical challenge. That acidic jeering, which cloaks a pathetic naivete, underscored America's unwillingness to place armed troops in Benghazi.
And that same desperate and ironical urbanity reared its ugly head last week when National Security Adviser Susan Rice blithely informed David Gregory, "It's nobody's interest to see violence return and the situation escalate." When Gregory asked whether Putin sees the world "in a Cold War context," Rice ignored the question entirely: "He may, but if he does, that's a pretty dated perspective."
But that's the point: If Obama and his staff disagree with a perspective, that doesn't mean it isn't real. Wishful thinking won't make the Palestinians an Israeli peace partner, no matter how much President Barack Obama pressures Israel to make concessions; caustically mocking Putin's worldview won't make it any less real or mitigate the Russian threat.
In the ivory tower inhabited by the great intellects of the Obama administration, however, no problem is too big to be thought or talked or surrendered away. If Russia won't change its perspective, we will simply cut our military more to convince them we mean well; if the Palestinians or Iranians don't change their perspectives, we will force Israel to negotiate with them in order to prove our goodwill.
Meanwhile, our enemies laugh. And they should. The global battlefield is no place for the Kennedy School political science grad students who inhabit our White House and believe that a well-aimed, snooty barb is a substitute for a muscular foreign policy presence.