U.S. President Barack Obama, the premature Nobel Peace Prize winner, appears to have finally pried himself away from the gaming console and gone outside for some fresh air. Hopefully he'll stay there so Europe can recover from its hangover -- and from some of the most egregious, pointless and destructive interventionism in recent times.
Obama was supposed to be the anti-interventionist president who was going to focus on creating jobs and making America a more comfy place. The only difference between Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, is a tactical one: Obama is blasting terrorists from the sky with drones like in a video game, rather than affording them a more personal dispatching via Special Forces.
It would be tempting to blame Obama's penchant for interventionism on the "dork culture" that has risen to mainstream prominence in recent times -- adherents to which innately think they know what's best for everyone and are entitled to ensure that you know it. Recall the campaign-era images of Obama bike-riding in granny jeans, looking as if he might stop at any time, look down his nose at a passerby and tut-tut them for dropping a gum wrapper onto the sidewalk. Vladimir Putin is now that sidewalk litterer. Yet, you would think that the Russian president had torched the whole park.
During the 2008 Georgian conflict with neighboring Russia -- perhaps the closest recent approximation to the current situation in Ukraine -- former President Bush did little to intervene beyond transporting Georgian combat troops from Iraq, where 2,000 of them had been stationed, back to Georgia and offering humanitarian aid to the former Soviet Republic. A cowboy picks his showdowns. He's not going to double-barrel-blast someone for jaywalking like some dork who just earned limited-time triple firepower in a video game. But, hey, why settle for rebooting the PlayStation when you can reboot the Cold War?
Obama's explicit support of the undemocratic, anti-Russian overthrow of the Ukrainian government has been followed by virtually nonstop anti-Putin rhetoric and repeated rounds of sanctions. In an interview with CNN in mid-December, Obama yanked the power cord on the global game of e-chess. "There was a spate of stories about how he was the chess master, and outmaneuvering the West and Mr. Obama and this and that and the other," Obama said. "And right now he's presiding over the collapse of his currency, a major financial crisis and a huge economic contraction. That doesn't sound like somebody who has rolled me or the United States of America."
He sounds like a kid claiming victory in a game of "Risk" because he ran his tongue across Europe on the game board. Did Obama beat Putin at Angry Birds, too? Does his FarmVille pasture have more cows?
Who's the interventionist now? Someone pull Obama back inside to sit down and focus on America, please. If only because Europe has enough of its own problems already and doesn't need Obama's help in creating more.Francois Hollande said in an interview this week on France Inter radio that "the sanctions (against Russia) must be lifted if there's progress," and he identified such progress as a reason why he's heading to Kazakhstan for a January 15 meeting with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Strip away the diplomatic niceties that French politicians, in particular, have mastered so well, and you have a pragmatist who would just like to get on with business as usual. France has a Mistral aircraft carrier sale to Russia hanging in the balance. More important, Russia's resource-heavy economy (backed by gold) has long helped Europe foot the bills. Europe can't afford Ukraine. It can't even afford Greece right now, which is why it's considering booting Greece out of the eurozone -- because the value of euro currency against the dollar has reached a nine-year low.
Europe's worst nightmare would be for Putin to say of Ukraine: "You break, you buy." The geopolitical grown-ups know that Ukraine is basically a seesaw bolted into the ground. No one is going to be able to pick it up and carry it home, no matter how much some may wail about wanting it all to themselves.
I've asked some high-level European officials how America might benefit from Obama kicking up dust in Europe, and no one could articulate a valid reason for the president's Herculean efforts to date.
If this is what Obama defines as a victory, then the world could probably do with fewer of them.