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Thank you, Comrade! May I have another?

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

Jonah Goldberg looked to the movie “Animal House” for a way in which to encapsulate what is happening to America in the Mideast. He wrote, “If the humiliation of the Obama administration continues at this rate, by this time next week you should expect to see Secretary of State John Kerry on all fours at the United Nations getting paddled by the Russian foreign minister shouting, ’Thank you comrade! May I have another?”

A few weeks ago Putin’s Russia announced it was going to be a player in the Syrian tragedy and immediately constructed an airfield with support facilities for the ground crews and protecting infantry. The Obama administration’s reaction was predictable. Kerry stated that the Russians would be most welcome if they had actually come to fight ISIS, as they claimed.

That anyone could possibly believe that Russia was entering Syria for any ‘’reason other than to protect Assad who has, along with Iran, been a client state for the past several decades is almost unbelievable. All doubt was removed by October 5 when the Pentagon decided that the Russians were up to no good. “Russia has targeted Syrian rebel groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency,“ according to the Wall Street Journal, “in a string of air strikes running for days, leading the U.S. to conclude that it is an intentional effort by Moscow, American officials said.”

Gosh, you can’t get anything by the Obama administration. Bomb our allies for three or four days and our leaders will notice there is a good chance something bad is happening. The Journal also reported that the administration was wrestling with the problem of “how do you help our allies without getting sucked deeper into a proxy war that Obama doesn’t want.” In short, how do we help our allies without actually doing anything?

The Russians commenced their new effort by bombing the city of Homs which is well known as the stronghold of the Free Syrian Army, allies of the United States, and is far removed from areas controlled by ISIS. It was at this time that a Russian air force general showed up at the American embassy in Bagdad one hour before the Russian attacks were scheduled to begin with a warning to get our planes out of their way.

It was a double insult. A one hour warning with an admonition to get out of Russia’s way on the one hand; one the other, the warning, insulting as it was, was a lie, a bald face Russian lie, that was said without a hint of embarrassment or fear of reprisal.

Just a bit later, Kerry appeared at the U.N. with Russian foreign minister, Lavrov. This would have been a heaven-sent opportunity to announce that the United States was “not going to get out of the way” and further attacks on our allies would be met with force. Kerry issued the following timid response: “I relayed and reiterated the concerns that I expressed in the course of the U.N. Security Council meeting which was led by Russia today: concerns that we have about the nature of targets, the type of targets, and the need for clarity with respect to them. And it is one thing obviously to be targeting ISIL. We’re concerned, obviously, if that is not what is happening.”

How could anyone view this as anything but a “Thank you comrade! May I have another?”

Nothing in any of this should surprise anyone. Obama has passed up several opportunities to confront Russia. The annexation of the Crimea, the invasion of the Ukraine, the mounting harassment of the Baltic states have all met with tepid American responses and Putin has obviously come to the conclusion America is no longer to be feared. Kerry‘s announcement with the Russian foreign minister, if it accomplished nothing else, reinforced Putin’s view of American leadership.

Obama put a great deal of faith in using surrogates on the ground. It was just about a year ago, as Goldberg reported, he “announced his plan to build an army of Syrians to take out the Islamic State − a group he had only recently dismissed as the  JV squad − he told the American people in a televised address: ’This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out (the Islamic State) wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

One year later, the effort has produced five or six soldiers at a cost of about $100 million per soldier. Oh, and forget all the talk of success in Yemen. Just four months after the president touted our success there, the JV squad toppled the American-supported government in Yemen.

Defense secretary Ash Carter joined the Obama chorus when he allowed as how his problem, “isn’t that I don’t understand what they are doing, I think my problem is that I think what they are doing is going to backfire and is counterproductive.” Carter has to wonder whether his doubts about Russian policy raise the slightest caution in Russian circles. Most likely not.

Hard fact is that until Obama decides to exercise American power, all we can say to Putin is “Thank you comrade! May I have another?”

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