The devil is in the execution. In Obama’s mind, the Syrian Civil War does not constitute a direct threat; nor does Vladimir Putin’s lunge into Ukraine. For Obama, as Goldberg paraphrases No. 44, “the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests”; even if it were, “an American president could do little to make it a better place.” All told, in Goldberg’s words, Obama believes that the “the price of direct U.S. action would be higher than the price of inaction.”Realism is more complicated. A realist knows that distant threats, if ignored, can turn into direct ones. Hence, the “precautionary principle”—better to act than wait in the face of risks not fully known—that is so dear to climate warriors like Obama serves as another pillar of the realist faith.
A realist also knows that the international system, like nature, abhors a vacuum. So ambitious rivals will interpret inaction as invitation. Even that ur-isolationist Thomas Jefferson grasped the simplest rule of realism: Power calls for counter-power. “None of us wish to see Bonaparte conquer Russia,” he wrote in 1814. “This done, England would be but a breakfast. … It cannot be to our interest that all Europe should be reduced to a single monarchy.”
First, I am not sure what the author means, when he says Obama isn’t being realistic. It seems to me that Obama is being very realistic, at least in his actions, if not policy.
The Romans had a word for it: principiis obsta, meaning “resist the beginnings” to avoid an unpleasant end. Syria is a perfect case study. Obama drew his vaunted “red line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria before Bashar al-Assad massacred civilians with sarin, a nerve gas, in 2013. But instead of making true on the threat of an American military response, Obama pulled back and invited the Russians in, never mind that Henry Kissinger had essentially kicked them out of the Middle East in the 1970s—pushing them out of Egypt, Russia’s main stronghold in the region, by bringing then-President Anwar al-Sadat into the American camp. Mr. Putin was delighted to oblige Mr. Obama, and there went 40 years of American primacy in the world’s most critical arena.
Second, is it being very realistic resiting the beginnings? If you are calling something the beginnings, are you not understanding the realism of the situation? To resist or not is another decision, and it could be that all this war we have been having in the Middle East has taught us something.
The Syrian war was started, at least in part, by the battle for water. So how is the US going to influence that war and it doesn’t seem to be our problem, until we choose sides in the battle for water. As yet it doesn’t appear to me that we have chosen a side in the battle for water.
Is Obama overseeing the self-containment, or “self-disempowerment,” of the mightiest nation on earth?
You can only isolate yourself, or any other person or group by building a fence, not a barrier, and so far, Obama and the BushII administrations have only built self-disempowerment barriers that can be crossed.
It should be noted that Bush lost his chance to isolate the Iraqi military when he sent them home, as they were not considered our enemy.
So why now is ISIS our enemy?