It seems our president has found his way back into the Magic Marker box and found the red one again.
Wielding the all powerful red marker, the president has given Russia yet another deadline to stop its destabilization of eastern Ukraine - May.
The infamous “red line” is back and thank goodness, it has worked out incredibly well for us so far.
Let's take a trip down red memory lane, shall we?
Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Well into the first year of his presidency, President Barack Obama issued an ultimatum to Iran regarding its nuclear program. He demanded “unfettered access” to enrichment facilities and later repeated to the world that a nuclear armed Iran would be unacceptable. Doing his best to prove Joe Biden's “big stick” comments right, Obama would say that were are not bluffing about a possible military attack and that America means business.
While we blustered and puffed our feathers about possible strikes and being tough on Iran, we were secretly negotiating behind everyone's back, including Israel. Those negotiations have apparently led to a deal that allows them to continue their ballistic missile program and even allows them to continue Uranium enrichment, but only for peaceful purposes. They pinky promised, I'm sure.
In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
Then we move to Egypt. Less than two months after the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, President Obama took to the podium to call for the immediate resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. With a bright red line, America's position had been outlined as the Arab spring swept over northern Africa.
Mubarak soon stepped down and the vacuum of power was filled by the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups. Those radical groups took 70 percent of the seats in Parliament and then set their sites on the presidency. After frequent clashes with the military and several attempts to grab wide swaths of power, the military had enough and forced them from power, later putting them on trial in which nearly 700 were sentenced to death.
An Egyptian police vehicle burns as protesters clash with riot police at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011. Egyptian police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up a sit-in among whose organisers were people injured during the Arab Spring which overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak.Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Following in the footsteps of his ultimatum to Mubarak, President Obama also forcefully told Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to “step down from power and leave.” Inflicted with Arab spring fever, he turned down a chance to peacefully negotiate an end to the protests and instead pulled out the red marker and began drawing.
Altogether now – Benghazi! In addition to four Americans being killed, we also allowed tons of weapons to reach terrorist groups and are now faced with the fact that Libya has become a safe haven for terrorist organizations to flourish. Outside of foreign policy and national security matters, the Benghazi issue has absolutely shattered what little trust was left in the federal government.
But wait, there's more.
In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a protester holds a placard depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil town, Idlib province, northern Syria, Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. Rebel-on-rebel fighting between an al-Qaida-linked group and an array of more moderate and ultraconservative Islamists has killed nearly 500 people over the past week in northern Syria, an activist group said Friday, in the most serious bout of violence among opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the civil war began. The Arabic on the poster is an acronym meaning, "the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant." (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN)
Perhaps his most infamous red line was the one he drew regarding Syrian chemical weapons. However, before this gigantic blunder, President Obama had repeatedly and sternly called for Bashar al-Assad to step down and let the people decide the future of Syria. Shortly after those calls came the now infamous statement that chemical weapon use would be “a red line for us.”
The result of this dual red line?
Syria continued its descent into a raging and violent civil war with death tolls around 150,000, not to mention those who have fled for refuge elsewhere. Obama hemmed and hawed about whether he actually set a red line or not until Russia inexplicably bailed us out after Secretary of State John Kerry let fly his mouth on the world stage.
Embarrassment through naivety ensued, but we did wind up with a diplomatic agreement that solved the whole issue, right? Well, no. Syria isn't exactly cooperating, having disposed of barely any of their chemical weapons and everyone seems to have forgotten about this whole issue anyway.
President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
We were made to look even weaker and more duplicitous when it was revealed that we took a soft stance on Syria because we really wanted that nuclear deal with Iran. What started as a tough red line set by the president ended up making it look like Russia and Iran controlled our foreign policy more than we did.
So now we are back to Russia, having returned from our trip down red memory lane.
In his latest ultimatum to Russia, President Obama has promised “broader sanctions” by May 25 unless the Russians agree to stop the disruption and destabilization of eastern Ukraine. Putting aside his recent disastrous ultimatums and red lines for a moment, his reasoning for the demand is even more puzzling:
"The goal is not to punish Russia, the goal is to give them an incentive to choose the better course, and that is to resolve these issues diplomatically."
Reading this statement, it feels as though he doesn't quite have a grasp on the realities of the situation before us. Russia, first of all, understands that we can only go so far with sanctions because of the close ties they have to Europe's economy. There are many countries in Europe that would be affected if sanctions were to reach a realistically effective level, and so getting support for tough sanctions would be next to impossible.
Second, Russia has already seen our commitment to enforcing ultimatums and red lines first hand with Syria. Russia was the country that bailed us out of that diplomatic fiasco and the agreement that was eventually reached has been, at best, a joke. Who will come to our rescue this time if John Kerry steps in it again? China?
Lastly, the president seems to think that the chance to avoid fairly harmless sanctions is going to be a better incentive than reuniting Ukraine with Russia. This, to me, seems detached from reality. Vladimir Putin has publicly said that the “demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state award ceremony honoring participants of the Olympic and Paralympics Games in Sochi in the Kremlin, March 24, 2014 in Moscow, Russia. Putin awarded Russian citizens and also citizens of other countries for the successful preparations of the games. Among the guests at the award ceremony were coaches, athletes, the chiefs of sports federations, journalists, officials, and constructors. Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
Does that really sound like someone who will back down from the first step to reverse that “greatest catastrophe,” especially when he realizes that the U.S. is playing a very weak hand?
This style of foreign policy has been fairly consistent throughout Obama's presidency and is generally the opposite of the phrase made famous by Theodore Roosevelt – "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Despite Joe Biden's insistence about the president's stick, his foreign policy is better described as “speak loudly and forget your stick at home.”
Our foreign policy is filled with bluster, blunder and apparently a lot of ultimatums and red lines. We speak loudly and expect it to have the effect of God commanding from on high, but lo and behold, it doesn't. And as we continue to alienate and distance ourselves from our formerly closest allies, we are speaking alone most of the time.
What we need is a little more realism about what the world looks like these days. What we need is a president who is willing to speak very softly and clearly, but still wields a tremendous and terrifying stick.
Most of all, we need someone to hide that box of Magic Markers. God help us if Biden ever finds it...
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