Obama to World: Drop Dead
The most provincial U.S. president in at least a century.
By Daniel Henninger, WSJ Opinion, July 24, 2014
Asked on "Meet the Press" Sunday whether this was the lowest moment in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cold War, America's robo-Secretary of State John Kerry replied: "We live in an extremely complicated world right now, where everybody is working on 10 different things simultaneously." Well, not everyone.
As the world burns, the president spent this week fiddling at fundraisers in the living rooms of five Democratic Party fat cats in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri famously explained, changing the president's fundraising schedule "can have the unintended consequence of unduly alarming the American people or creating a false sense of crisis."
Alarmed? Who's alarmed? What false sense of crisis? Vladimir Putin's masked men in eastern Ukraine shot Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's 298 people out of the air just about the time Israel and Hamas commenced their death struggle, not long after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham occupied a third of Iraq within seven days. Now ISIS is cleansing Mosul of its Christians.
If news coverage defined reality, you'd think the civil war in Syria was over. There just isn't space to fit it all in. The homicidal Islamic fanatics of Boko Haram may soon establish statelike control of northern Nigeria, as ISIS has in Iraq. Last week the April kidnappers of the world's now-forgotten "our girls" gunned down another 44 Nigerians, then days later killed 100 more in villages abandoned by the Nigerian army. After Boko Haram grabbed a German citizen in Gombi, Germany's foreign ministry said it was "aware of the case."
On Monday, Barack Obama showed up on the White House lawn to make clear that he, too, is aware of what's going on. Addressing the war in Gaza for about three minutes, Mr. Obama urged "the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting." He said, "I have asked John,"—that would be our squirrel-on-a-wheel secretary of state—to "help facilitate" that. That is a foreign policy whose arc begins and ends with the phrase, "stop the killing."
More revealing, though, was what Mr. Obama said on the airliner shoot-down and Russia's role. "If Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty," he said, and if it still backs the separatists who are becoming "more and more dangerous" not just to Ukrainians "but the broader international community," then "the costs for Russia" will increase.
What does this mean? Mr. Putin will really be in hot water with the U.S. president if one of his proxies does something worse than shoot a passenger jet out of the sky?
Here's what it means. It means that "the situation," as the White House routinely euphemizes all the world's chaos, is going to get worse. It means in the next two years many more people are going to die, and not necessarily in the places where they are dying now. Why should it stop?
The president and his team need not worry about injecting a false sense of crisis. This being the 100th anniversary of 1914, more than a few people are wandering in and out of commemorative World War I events, their head swimming with Yeats's lamentation that "mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."
On Sunday, another telling event slipped in. Bosnian Muslims buried 284 bodies recently found in a mass grave from the Balkans war in the 1990s. That war was a genocide taking place on post-World War II European soil, which didn't stop until the U.S. acted to end it. Now with Dutch bodies strewn across Ukraine, president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton ludicrously says, "Europeans have to be the ones to take the lead on this."
As a White House veteran of the Milosevic slaughters in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, Mrs. Clinton knows Europe won't act until the U.S. leads. Europe today mainly wages war on Google, Microsoft and Intel. Its leaders won't do much more than hope nothing like a Flight 17 happens one morning in the subways or on the streets of their capitals. Hope alone won't protect them or us.
This week the original 9/11 Commission put out an update on global terrorism. The report says the "complacency" that led to 9/11 "is happening again."
How, then, to explain someone who claims he can run the country and a troubled world out of his back pocket while he flies from fundraiser to fundraiser? Barack Obama is the most provincial U.S. president in at least a century. The progressive Democrats who displaced the Clinton machine in 2008 and came to power with Mr. Obama have no interest beyond consolidating political and electoral power inside the U.S. Not even the White House of Lyndon Johnson, the ultimate pol, was so purely politicized.
The fundraising is a frantic effort to protect this new Democratic voter machine. The world doesn't vote, so the world doesn't matter. Unless, of course, the American people in November decide that a world defined by events like Flight 17 does matter.