Ukraine War, March 26, 2022 (I): Biden’s speech in Poland–Every time he speaks off-script, the president commits huge mistakes; Theodore Roosevelt on “Words and Deeds”; Goals and Strategy

Developing

Dispatches

1) Clemens Wergin, “Mit „Phase 2“ versucht Moskau, sein Scheitern zu kaschieren,” Die Welt, den 26. März 2022;

2) TOI STAFF. “Full text: Ukraine President Zelensky’s speech to Israeli lawmakers; ‘One can keep asking why we can’t get weapons from you. Or why Israel has not imposed strong sanctions against Russia… But it is up to you,'” The Times of Israel, March 20, 2020 (9:33 7) James Freeman, “The President Should Avoid Public Speaking; …at least when the topic is important,” Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2022 (6:28 pm ET);

3) James Freeman, “The President Should Avoid Public Speaking; …at least when the topic is important,” Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2022 (6:28 pm ET);

4) Freddy Gray, “Commentator-in-Chief Joe Biden is a threat to the West; The US president seems more interested in telling stories about his past than leading the response to Ukraine, The Telegraph, March 25, 2022 (8:00pm);

5) Josie Ensor, “Why Vladimir Putin will be happy with Joe Biden’s latest gaffe;Has the US president made the worst gaffe of his career by calling for the Russian leader to be removed over Ukraine attack?” The Telegraph, March 27, 2022 (12:07 a.m).

Commentary

Biden’s Speech in Warsaw

Every time he speaks in public, particularly when he goes off-script, Joe Biden commits gaffes and sometimes huge, consequential mistakes.

Two mistakes come immediately to mind. Toward the tale end of the speech, the Observer heard a significan gaffe and a huge, monumental mistake. Both appear to have been off -script.

The first was when Biden was talking about the damage done to the Russian economy by the sanctions. In describing how the ruble has been battered, he stated in an aside, “It takes 200 rubles to equal one dollar.”

This statement grossly misrepresented the facts. The ruble has indeed been battered, to the tune of about 30%. The exchange rate today was 102 rubles to the dollar. It has never been 200 to the dollar, or even close to that rate.

Biden’s gaffe reminds us that he can be pretty good reading from a teleprompter, but when he goes off-script he makes gaffes and can make extreme mistakes.

The huge, consequential mistake he made at the end of the speech was to suggest that it is U.S. policy to seek the removal from power of Vladimir Putin. This concluded a series of harsh personal attacks on Putin.

Biden stated, “This man cannot remain in power.”

The mistake was monumental, The white House tried to spin the remark and downplay its significance, which suggested to the Observer that it was made off-script.

But then Biden said it.

Biden should speak with actions, not words.

One can only await the day when his actions catch up with his words.

One can only imagine how Biden’s gaffe about the ruble affected Putin’s assessment of his opponent.

Regarding Biden’s call for Putin’s removal, it is very likely that this gratuitous mistake will make it more difficult to negotiate with Putin on a whole range of issues.

Personal attacks don’t help you with an opponent, and probably help you with your supporters less than you think.

Indeed, Biden’s statement could complicate negotiations through the Ukrainians for a ceasefire and withdrawal agreement, even one with terms favorable to Ukraine.

While Biden and his foreign policy team may want Putin to be removed from power, as do many around the world, it was a huge mistake for the President of the United States to say so publicly.

Biden is an emotional, stubborn, and not very sharp or clear-headed man. He is prone to getting carried away when he thinks things are going his way.

Still refusing to authorize the transfer of Polish Mig 29’s to Ukraine, as hundreds of thousands of civilians are being bombarded in Mariupol and other cities, Biden offers words and not actions to stop the Russian commission of crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

Beyond the military value of the Polish jets–which only the Ukrainian military can decide, not the Pentagon–the issue has now assumed a huge symbolic significance.

The transfer would give the Ukrainians a huge shot in the arm, and give real meaning to Biden’s words in Warsaw:

“We stand with you.”

Words and Deeds

As for the relationship between words and actions, no one has said it better than President Theodore Roosevelt, in his acceptance speech for the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize. He declared:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered on May 5, 1910.

Selected Excerpts from President Biden’s Speech

1. “The rules-based international order”

There is simply no justification or provocation for Russia’s choice of war. It’s an example of one of the oldest of human impulses: using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.

It’s nothing less than a direct challenge to the rule-based international order established since the end of World War Two.

President Biden, under the influence of his long-term foreign policy adviser and now Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, continues to refer to “the rules-based international order”. They still don’t understand that this mushy and ill-defined term lacks the punch and specificity of “international law” and “the international legal order”.

Why is it so hard for Biden to say the words “international law”?

Could it be that he is not concerned with charges of violating “the rules-based international order”, whereas he and the U.S. might be quite concerned about charges of violating specific provisions of international law, e.g. with targeted killings by drone strikes outside of Afghanistan?

Whatever the source of his diffidence, Biden needs to get straight with international law and start using the term.

See,

“Ukraine War, March 21, 2022 (III): Let’s stop talking about a “rules-based international order” and talk about “international law” and “the international legal order” instead,” The Trenchant Observer, March 21, 2022.

Goals and Strategy: What Biden didn’t say in his speech

Biden could have announced some new policy action in his speech, such as that the Polish Mig 29’s are being transferred to Ukraine.

That would require actions not just words. But while Biden was not above calling Putin a “war criminal” and a “butcher”, and calling for his removal from power, he remained so fearful of “provoking” Putin that he couldn’t authorize even this limited action to help stop Putin’s interntional slaughter of Ukrainian civilians.

While Biden is fearful of provoking Putin, we should bear in mind that Putin has provoked us, and all of humanity, through his crime of aggression and his crimes against humanity against the Ukrainian people.

The question now is, “What are we going to do about it? In 50 years the questions will be: “What did (we) do about it?” “Given the crimes, did (we) do enough to actually succeed in stopping them?”

The speech was a good pep speech, but did not address tbe big questions:

1) What are the goals of the U,S., NATO, and the allied coalition with respect to stopping Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the commission of crimes against humanity by intentionally targeting and killing civilians every day?

2) What is their strategy for achieving these goals?

3) What are the specific objectives of the coalition which they seek to achieve in the next 30 or 60 days?

4) What are they going to do to halt the siege and bombardment of cities like Mariupol?

See,

“Ukraine War, March 25, 2022 (II): Ceasefire and withdrawal terms,” The Trenchant Observer, March 25, 2022.

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.

Be the first to comment on "Ukraine War, March 26, 2022 (I): Biden’s speech in Poland–Every time he speaks off-script, the president commits huge mistakes; Theodore Roosevelt on “Words and Deeds”; Goals and Strategy"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.