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Does Obama confuse moral strength with political weakness?

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Joshua Tartakovsky comments on Obama’s recent observations on Russia and Vladimir Putin in his Sixty Minutes interview

US President Barack Obama said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not operating from strength but actually from weakness and therefore he had to ‘invade’ Ukraine and is now operating in Syria. In his view, Russia does not know how to get out of the Syrian situation and is pushed to the corner. Putin is desperate, according to Obama, with no exit strategy. According to this perspective, Putin is simply trying to save his dignity by taking desperate moves.

Obama made several mistakes in his calculations, even grave ones.

First, unlike Obama, Putin does not think that to be ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’ one has to invade countries when one’s country is financially comfortable in order to reap more benefits. Unlike the United States, arguably the richest country in the world, which can never put an end to its greed and invaded dozens of countries in past decades to satisfy the insatiable hunger of its military-industrial complex, Russia did not engage in offensive wars or in bombing for the sake of regime change and taking over foreign markets.

Russia believes in the moral cause of defense rather than offense, but when defending its interests it will fight until the end while the US can afford to turn many countries into a new Vietnam while remaining unscathed (besides a few thousands of coffins of soldiers wrapped with the star and stripes). So the very premise behind Obama’s words that the US is not weak because it bombs incessantly but Russia is weak because it resorts to help Syria is incorrect at its root.

Secondly, Russia most certainly has more than one exit plan and thought of various alternatives in advance. This is because, unlike the US approach which is to talk a lot but not always be able to back up what you say, the Russians tend think very carefully before they speak, but as in a chess game, plan ahead for several options while the US traditionally over and over again invaded countries with no real strategy whatsoever (besides drawing chaos which may have been part of the plan).

Thirdly, Russia provided aid to Donbass and intervened in Syria because it responded to US aggressive actions as the support for a coup in Kiev spearheaded by Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups and corrupt politicians, some of whom were very possibly behind a sniper massacre in Maidan (falsely blamed on Yanukovych), the Kiev junta’s bombardment of civilians in Donbass, and US support and aid for jihadist fighters in Syria in an attempt to bring down the secular, multicultural Syrian state.

So, yes, it is true, Russia is responding to American aggressions and is not in what the American government may consider ‘a position of strength’ which would be uncalled for aggression as a display of one’s power. However, at the same time, Russia tends to do very well in times of national emergencies and when faced by external pressures and if history is to serve as a lesson, Russia is going to become far more powerful due to the attacks of the US upon it.

This is since it operates from a clear moral perspective which its people are aware of (note how about 85% of the Russian public supports President Putin despite the sanctions), since it responds to US aggression rather than initiates the aggression and since it does not view suffering as something to be fearful of or mocked, as the West tends to do, but as part of a process from which one emerges stronger.

So, if I was Obama, I would actually be concerned about the fact that Russia is beginning to discover its self-confidence all over again because it is likely to flourish due to the hardships rather than becoming stifles or subdued. It is true that financially Russia is undergoing a difficult time, but this is forcing the country to invest and develop its own industries and all signs indicate that while this process is far from easy, it has already begun. Also, in its campaign against jihadists in Syria Russia made it clear that the sanctions seem to have zero effect on its military capacities.


8 Comments

  1. mikael says

    Cant help it, some have screamed on the topp of their, hehe, lungs about an line in THE sand.
    I even confess to an ugly itch i have inside my self, this days when people everywhere getts canser, how deep goes the level of lies.
    I gave an ex. about the PL4 Game Assasins Creed, not for that this game is pure crapp this days, but the indications in it is true, not the groups nor individuals as they them selfs claims, i know its true, but the level of political powers this groups have and stil have isnt diminished, just because of what we think we know, and what we know is based upon so mutch lies and faking histroy, an going numb this days.

    I have some ones atemts to diminish some problems, this sorts of diminishing comes from usually the part that didnt gett dinimished, whom was always to smal to have an impact on the larger object.
    NEVER forgett that.
    Then we can talk about The rest.

    Putin had the balls, as far I can judge to slam it down, hard and as Russians doe when they are pissed, makes it dificould to handle, hott wars arnet the ssame as an airieal bombings, and totall air countoll over an 3 world dungeon.
    Russia went beyound my expectations completely, and so far I can judge, impecable in every way, and an different reality altoghter regading legitimasy and their handling of information, in HD.
    Hehe
    ANd above all the flow of manure coming fom the MSM, Putin winns, even rightwinged freaks, says so.
    Hehe
    And the Imperial banana republics spokes persons have shorter memory than my refigurator.
    Contradictions and utter bollocs is flowing in streams, and the best/wourst is that the MSM dont see it them selfs, the stupidity and their desperate atemts to guide the opinion with new and specatulare reality twistings of whom is what, is epic.
    Yes, prim minister should have been obligatory to watch in every school.

    No, all in all, Russia is doing the right things, I dont expect any sudder results, I do expect an intens war, but if the US banked “moderate teroorists” as ehhh… is.. .FSwhatever, the war wil end relativly son.
    I think the Russians have good controll, and just awaits the time for implementing.
    And the presistion shown is spectaculare.
    And the Yankyikes sees it them selfs, whom coulnt hitt and entire power station.

    peace

    PS i made an horrible mistake earlyer by saying Hucley, Aldos was an dopehead, I mixed it with Alister Crawley.
    Sooorry




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  2. Pingback: Putin and Obama: Moral Strength vs Political Weakness - Business Recorders Russia News

  3. Marc Krizack says

    Joshua,

    There are always unintended consequences, and the looting that took place in Iraq may have been just that.

    When we talk about “the US” we have to keep in mind that 1) the wealthy elites are international now so we can’t just talk about the US, and 2) within the US political establishment there are competing views. It is quite reasonable to conclude that the Neocons would like to destabilize parts of the world because 1) they can sell arms, 2) they can gain control of resources, and markets and 3) they can keep other states from gaining too much power, although in this case they have only succeeded in strengthening Iran.

    But the Neocon strategy calls for permanent war, literally. And that is not palatable to the American public because of the cost, especially when the US is not winning that war. So there is opposition to the Neocon policy. Obama came to office opposing that policy, but the Neocons are embedded throughout the US government – in the state department, intelligence services and the military. They opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran until the bitter end. Samantha Powers, US Ambassador to the UN and Victoria Nuland who stirs up trouble in the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia for the US State Department are Neocons, for example. Also, the failed Neocon strategy has put Obama in a quandary. Unless he formally and completely repudiates the Neocons, he has to deal with the mess they created. Unfortunately, he chose to try to salvage what he could in Syria, which is why he could not succeed.

    We would be naive to assume that the Neocons do not understand that destabilizing majority Islamic nation states leads to chaos and a vacuum that is filled by radical Islamic political forces. One could argue that they didn’t know that when they supported Bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan. But then they found out. They thought they could avoid the same problem by running Iraq directly like a neo-colonial protectorate. Remember Paul Bremer? But that didn’t work. They absolutely had to know before they overthrew Qaddafi, and it is a virtual certainty that ISIS/ISIL is their creation, or at least heavily facilitated by them.

    But I’m not sure that they are trying to keep an Arab nation-state from forming, although the Neocon strategy of pitting Sunni against Shia certainly has the effect of making such a nation-state less likely. Most importantly, they are doing it with the active support of Saudi Arabia, which for many years has promoted Wahhabism. You are correct that they do not want any secular governments (see their support for Erdogan in Turkey, which had been held up to the American people as a model ever since 1923). But I see this also having a lot do to with their “mopping up” after the cold war, trying to isolate Russia and get rid of the regimes that had not been on the US side during the Cold War.

    Chaos in the short term can keep one’s opponents off-balance, but a deliberate strategy of creating chaos is not a good long term strategy, because business needs stability. So while I recognize that the facts point to a conscious effort to create the conditions by which groups like ISIS/ISIL can grow, I don’t see how they can be kept in control so that they don’t become the Frankenstein that kills its creator. But as we have seen, short-term gain can make people myopic to long term results.

    Let me conclude by saying that the US should be happy that Russia has allied itself with Iran and Iraq and Syria and is willing to fight ISIS/ISIL and Al Nusra and put a definitive end to this mess. It would be smart for the US government to begin to treat Putin not as an adversary but as an ally. There are some in the US who see it this way.




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  4. Pingback: Does Obama confuse moral strength with political weakness? | Joshua Tartakovsky

  5. Pingback: Obama confond force morale avec faiblesse politique ? par Joshua Tartakovsky | histoireetsociete

  6. Marc Krizack says

    A number of the author’s conclusions are not warranted. Obama’s comment about Putin acting out of weakness was a retort to throw the accusation of Obama being weak back in the face of the interviewer. It was not part of a serious analysis of Russian policy. To the extent that Obama believes this, it is based on the belief (mistaken in my opinion) that Putin is getting Russia bogged down in a long war where Russia soldiers will play the lead infantry role.

    Contrary to what the author says, the US did have a strategy, it was the Neocon strategy of taking over and directly administering Iraq, followed by the overthrow of Assad and then attacking Iran. It may not have been a very well thought out strategy and it is now totally defeated since Russia has moved to shore up Assad in alliance with Syria, Iraq and Iran, but it was a strategy, nonetheless.

    And it is in fact Obama who is in a quandary of how to fight ISIS without sending in US ground troops while simultaneously trying to overthrow the government that has troops ready and motivated to fight.




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    • Joshua Tartakovsky says

      Marc, Thank you for your comments.
      I agree that Obama’s comments were said at a particular moment when he personally may have felt the danger of being belittled by the interviewer. However, my impression is that roughly the same claim has been repeated over and over again in various places.

      The neo-con strategy: to an outsider to Washington who is a local in the Middle East and views developments on the ground, it appears that Washington has no strategy. Note the looting that took place in Iraq following the messy US invasion. You are right to say tht the neo-con plan was to attack Iraq, then Syria, then Iran. There is also what seems to be a very solid claim that the US’ intentional strategy in the Middle East is to intentionally create chaos and destabilize the region. Yannis Varousfakis made the fairly convincingly in his book The Global Minotaur. And I just read a similar article though perhaps less factually grounded which seemed to make sense by Thierry Meyssan (The European Union is blind to the military strategy of the United States). In light of the fact that the US government destroyed state infrastructure in Iraq, turned Libya over jihadists and is seeking the same in Syria by supporting al Qaeda in Syria, it seems that the US is intent on creating chaos in the Middle East both to ensure US remains a safe haven for investments, to prevent the formation of strong nationalist secular states and to preserve its dominion. It is probably for these reasons and others that Pepe Escobar refers to the US as an “Empire of Chaos.”

      As for ISIS, if the US wanted to fight ISIS/ISIL it would have done so long ago. At the very least it turned a blind eye to ISIL from the beginning. ISIL serves its interests of destroying the Arab nation-state




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