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Is that Carter or Kennedy in the mirror?

Monday, 26 August, 2013

“President Obama now faces a moment similar to the one President Carter faced when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The assumptions that shaped key elements of his foreign policy have not held up; times have changed radically and policy must shift.” That’s the conclusion of “The Failed Grand Strategy in the Middle East” by Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal. This is a very dangerous moment says Mead:

“Just as Nikita Khrushchev concluded that President Kennedy was weak and incompetent after the Bay of Pigs failure and the botched Vienna summit, and then proceeded to test the American president from Cuba to Berlin, so President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now believe they are dealing with a dithering and indecisive American leader, and are calibrating their policies accordingly. Khrushchev was wrong about Kennedy, and President Obama’s enemies are also underestimating him, but those underestimates can create dangerous crises before they are corrected.”

Bottom line: “Drawing red lines in the sand and stepping back when they are crossed won’t rebuild confidence.”

On the other hand, Edward Luttwak, whose name was always modified with “hawkish” in the days of George W. Bush, believes that “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” His depiction of the battleground is grim: “The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.”

Luttwak is a realist and he calls out the red-line hardliners who wish to see the US enter this mire: “Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.”

With his red line, President Obama gave a hostage to fortune and now, despite Edward Luttwak’s sensible call for caution, he must act or be regarded as a coward. And, as history shows, Jack Kennedy was no coward.

President  Obama


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