Mao Zedong said of the United States, “In appearance it is very powerful, but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of; it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe that is nothing but a paper tiger.”
Osama bin Laden said, “We have religion, we have Islam. The American soldier may have the best weapons in the world, but on the inside, he is spiritually empty – a paper tiger.”
Both were wrong. Mao found out by being held in check, and bin Laden found out by being ventilated by Navy SEALs. But, thanks to the fecklessness of President Obama, neither of those quotes are inaccurate anymore.
The United States has the strongest, most advanced military the world has ever seen. Just don’t blink, because the president is actively seeking to shrink it. In the same month Russia sent troops into Ukraine, the president proposed shrinking troop size to World War II levels under the guise of conventional warfare being a thing of the past. Well, the past is calling…
During the 2012 campaign President Obama famously joked that after Mitt Romney said Russia was our No.1 geopolitical foe, “The 80’s called. They want their foreign policy back.” Hilarious.
How we could use that foreign policy now.
Upon learning of Russian troops’ invasion of Ukraine, the president went to the White House briefing room and read a prepared statement condemning the action. He quickly fled without answering questions. One might forgive that hasty exit at the time because, you’d assume, the president was headed to the Situation Room to be kept abreast of the latest developments and speak to other world leaders. Not Barack Obama.
President Obama, who has never shown an interest in, nor an aptitude for, world affairs, hopped in the presidential limo and went to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. While Russia was making its move, the president was making a joke. He told the crowd, “Well, it’s Friday. It’s after 5. So this is officially happy hour with the Democratic Party.” That was 30 minutes after his condemnation of Russia’s invasion.
Since then, the president has skipped National Security Council meetings, gone golfing several times, called in to Ryan Seacrest’s radio show to talk about his “mom jeans” and, when he could squeeze it in, spoke to Russian President Putin on the phone.
On Monday, he again found himself unable to find a distraction from his duty and returned to the press briefing room to read yet another statement and run away without taking any questions. Maybe he’s disinterested, or maybe he simply has no knowledge of the subject beyond his staff-prepared script. Whatever the case, it projects a weakness to the world that should embarrass all Americans.
In Monday’s statement, the president announced sanctions – not against Russia but against 11 individuals. Seven were members of Putin’s inner circle and four were Ukrainians.
It was such a feeble display of an attempted wrist-slap that Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin openly mocked it on Twitter. Even the State Department, which would be integral to implementing and enforcing sanctions, admitted to ABC News it didn’t even know if the targeted people had any assets in the United States to seize. That means White House staffers either didn’t bother to find out if this course of action would amount even to a pin prick or simply didn’t care as long as the president was seen as “doing something.” That this “something” was simply symbolic didn’t matter. After all, it’s tee time somewhere.
The media dutifully sopped up this toothless symbolic gesture. Aside from the mention on ABC, the worthless nature of the president’s action flew so far under the radar you’d think it was a Malaysian airliner.
When criticized by people interested in reality, the media lapdogs glossed over it. Dylan Byers, media reporter at the left-wing Politico, took his frustration to Twitter, tweeting “New rule, champs: You don't get to fault Obama for being "weak" unless you clearly state what you want him to do that he's not doing.”
OK Dylan, I’m game.
First, the Russian economy is propped up by high oil and gas prices. Putin has a lot of cash on hand because the cost per barrel is around $100. If the United States announced an all-out effort to drill for more oil and to allow exports of crude oil and natural gas, energy prices would drop worldwide. This not only would create jobs here at home, it would harm the Russian economy. Denying Putin assets needed to advance his imperialist will would slow him down, if not stop him completely.
Of course, had the current administration been thinking strategically rather than about the next election cycle from the start, it would have chosen this path and perhaps avoided the present situation. But environmentalists had to be appeased over the strategic interests of the United States. Either that or the people in the White House truly thought that “Reset Button” prop meant something, which is just sad.
It would have the long-term effect of allowing the United States to sell oil and gas to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy. This would pay dividends in the future, when Europe would be positioned to be able to stand up to Russian aggression without fear of being left immobile in the dark. But it would alienate the Democrats’ environmentalist base, which could hurt come November. Since domestic politics always trumps the national interest in the current administration, the odds of it happening are slim to none.
Second, the Obama administration could redeploy the missile defense systems in Eastern Europe it cancelled because of Russian protestations last year. After its invasion, Russia launched a dummy ICBM, so this action not only would be justified, it would be smart. And provocative. Not “invading a neighboring country” provocative, but more provocative than a president who draws his red lines in erasable ink is likely to produce.
The United States’ standing in the world already had been damaged immeasurably by President Obama’s disinterest and incompetence on the world stage. We threw an ally under the bus in Egypt, empowering radicals, and attacked a non-threat in Libya. But we remained silent when people stood up to tyranny in Syria and Iran during the “Arab Spring.” When Syria allegedly crossed one of the president’s red lines and used chemical weapons against its citizens, he did nothing. The weapons are still there, and the plan authored by Putin to eliminate them is in limbo.
Sadly, our image in the world under President Obama would have been better served by administration silence or a “Let them sort it out” policy. But the desire to be seen as a leader, rather than leading, is too strong in the White House. So in place of leadership and decisive action, we beg Putin not to do what he’d already done, and our hapless Secretary of State implores him not to take our actions personally. It’s akin to being punched in the face and asking for forgiveness for hurting the knuckles of the person who hit you.
Meanwhile, unburdened by the rigors of the job, the president will attend three fundraisers this week before heading off on an already scheduled trip to Europe. Until Jan. 20, 2017, our allies have every reason to doubt our leadership and support should they face crisis. President Obama speaks loudly, but he leaves his big stick in his golf bag. Our allies should doubt our commitment to them for the same reason many of us doubt his oath to the Constitution – his actions.
Calling the United States a “paper tiger” was never accurate. But through incompetent leadership, presidential disinterest, a Cliffs Notes understanding of American Exceptionalism, lack of respect for our leadership role in the world, and resentment towards the importance of our military in the cause of peace, Barack Obama has origami-ed that “paper tiger” into a kitten.