Charles Krauthammer: While Obama fiddles …
By Charles Krauthammer
Published: Sunday, Feb. 28 2016 12:00 a.m. MST
Since Obama began his “historic” normalization with Cuba, the repression
has gotten worse. Last month, the regime arrested 1,414 political
dissidents, the second-most ever recorded.
WASHINGTON — State of the world, Year Eight of Barack Obama:
(1) In the South China Sea, on a speck of land of disputed sovereignty
far from its borders, China has just installed anti-aircraft batteries
and stationed fighter jets. This after China landed planes on an
artificial island it created on another disputed island chain (the
Spratlys, claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam).
These facilities now function as forward bases for Beijing to challenge
seven decades of American naval dominance of the Pacific Rim.
“China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” the commander of
the U.S. Pacific Command told Congress on Tuesday. Its goal? “Hegemony
in East Asia.”
(2) Syria. Russian intervention has turned the tide of war. Having
rescued the Bashar al-Assad regime from collapse, relentless Russian
bombing is destroying the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, Syria’s largest
city, creating a massive new wave of refugees and demonstrating to the
entire Middle East what a Great Power can achieve when it acts seriously.
The U.S. response? Repeated pathetic attempts by Secretary of State John
Kerry to propitiate Russia (and its ally, Iran) in one collapsed peace
conference after another. On Sunday, he stepped out to announce yet
another “provisional agreement in principle” on “a cessation of
hostilities” that the CIA director, the defense secretary and the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs deem little more than a ruse.
(3) Ukraine. Having swallowed Crimea so thoroughly that no one even
talks about it anymore, Russia continues to trample with impunity on the
Minsk cease-fire agreements. Vladimir Putin is now again stirring the
pot, intensifying the fighting, advancing his remorseless campaign to
fracture and subordinate the Ukrainian state. Meanwhile, Obama still
refuses to send the Ukrainians even defensive weapons.
(4) Iran. Last Thursday, Iran received its first shipment of S-300
anti-aircraft batteries from Russia, a major advance in developing
immunity to any attack on its nuclear facilities. And it is negotiating
an $8 billion arms deal with Russia that includes sophisticated combat
aircraft. Like its ballistic missile tests, this conventional weapons
shopping spree is a blatant violation of U.N. Security Council
prohibitions. It was also a predictable — and predicted — consequence of
the Iran nuclear deal that granted Iran $100 billion and normalized its
relations with the world.
The U.S. response? Words.
Unlike gravitational waves, today’s strategic situation is not hard to
discern. Three major have-not powers are seeking to overturn the
post-Cold War status quo: Russia in Eastern Europe, China in East Asia,
Iran in the Middle East. All are on the march.
To say nothing of the Islamic State, now extending its reach from
Afghanistan to West Africa. The international order built over decades
by the United States is crumbling.
In the face of which, what does Obama do? Go to Cuba.
Yes, Cuba. A supreme strategic irrelevance so dear to Obama’s
Is he at least going to celebrate progress in human rights and democracy
— which Obama established last year as a precondition for any
presidential visit? Of course not. When has Obama ever held to a red
line? Indeed, since Obama began his “historic” normalization with Cuba,
the repression has gotten worse. Last month, the regime arrested 1,414
political dissidents, the second-most ever recorded.
No matter. Amid global disarray and American decline, Obama sticks to
his cherished concerns: Cuba, Guantanamo (about which he gave a rare
televised address this week) and, of course, climate change.
Obama could not bestir himself to go to Paris in response to the various
jihadi atrocities — sending Kerry instead “to share a big hug with
Paris” (as Kerry explained) with James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a
Friend” — but he did make an ostentatious three-day visit there for
So why not go to Havana? Sure, the barbarians are at the gates and
pushing hard knowing they will enjoy but 11 more months of minimal
American resistance. But our passive president genuinely believes that
such advances don’t really matter — that these disruptors are so on the
wrong side of history, that their reaches for territory, power, victory
are so 20th century.
Of course, it mattered greatly to the quarter-million slaughtered in
Syria and the millions more exiled. It feels all quite real to a
dissolving Europe, an expanding China, a rising Iran, a metastasizing
Not to the visionary Obama, however. He sees far beyond such ephemera.
He knows what really matters: climate change, Gitmo and Cuba.
With time running out, he wants these to be his legacy. Indeed, they
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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