A weak American president fails to lead, and anarchy is unleashed upon the world

Mark Landler of the New York Times published an article today, April 29, that reveals not only the deep roots of pacifism and appeasement in President Obama’s thinking and character, of which attendant observers were previously quite aware, but also—and shockingly–the confused and muddled state of his thinking about foreign policy in general, and responding to Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Ukraine in particular.

Mark Landler, “Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy,” New York Times, April 28, 2014 (April 29 print edition).

As reported by Landler, Obama feels on the defensive, and throws out straw men to knock down in his own defense. For example, in rebutting critics of his responses to Russian aggression in the Crimea and its subsequent annexation, or his failure to respond to Putin’s attack against the eastern Ukraine, and continuing threats of an invasion, Obama argues that the introduction of troops in the Ukraine would not help to solve the problem.

With all due respect, Mr. President, you are being criticized at the moment for your failure to impose real economic sanctions on Russia that are serious enough to get them to stop their present takeover of the eastern Ukraine, and dismemberment of Europe’s largest nation in area which also has a population of 45 million people.

What is truly shocking to hear is the muddled thinking of Obama, who doesn’t seem capable of recognizing critical issues and the time frame within which they will be decided. He doesn’t seem to understand what is at stake in the Crimea, or the eastern Ukraine, or in terms of upholding international law.

As he had done in Syria through Medvedev, Putin through his media and spokesmen has made not so subtle allusions to the possibility of nuclear war. In both Syria and in the Ukraine, it would appear that such threats, delivered obliquely to be sure, may have gotten to Obama.

Whether that is the case or not, Obama has repeatedly manifested the dug-in attitude of a diehard pacifist willing to do almost anything to appease Russia.

Obama acts not as the principal protagonist on the world stage who can laad the West and its allies in facing down Russian aggression, as only an American president is in a position to do, but rather as a detached observer who does not even believe the latest round of targeted sanctions will achieve the effect of making Putin and Russia change course.

He seems to be afraid of Putin and Russia, and entering into a confrontation with them over anything, whether that be the future of the Ukraine, of NATO, or of the postwar international political and legal order established under the framework of the United Nations Charter.

If there are no circumstances in which the U.S. will impose strong economic sanctions, or even use military force, Putin has an open playing field as wide as central and eastern Europe. Others around the world will take their cues from Obama’s pacifism and appeasement, and from Russia’s success in taking advantage of America’s current lack of leadership and resolve.

It’s too bad Obama didn’t play American football in high school. He might have learned something about how to summon the courage to tackle and stop a large body coming directly at him at high speed and with great force and momentum.

The West is without a leader, and anarchy is unleashed upon the world.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.