The one thing Obama has never faced honestly is what everybody knows to be the real threat -- namely mullahs with nukes.
In the strangest twist of history, it is Obama the radical leftist who is now acting as the destabilizing warmonger in the Middle East, while Vladimir Putin may be emerging as a stabilizing peacemaker.
Nobody can figure out whether Obama is the most hapless bumbler in history, or whether there is some sinister purpose behind it all.
It could be both.
But just as big a surprise is Putin's emerging role as a peacemaker.
Last week, we saw the first step in that process, when Putin and Assad agreed to allow supervised surrender of Syria's chemical weapons. We can assume that Putin also assured Assad of his continuing support against American-supported al-Qaeda rebels, which makes the rebellion unwinnable.
Meanwhile, Egypt's new military ruler, General Al Sisi, is reaching out to Putin to help stabilize his position against the Muslim Brotherhood, the war fanatics whom Obama has been aiding.
The Saudis, seeing Iranian mullahs with nukes emerging 50 miles from their shores, are also looking to make a deal with Putin. They have a lot of oil and money, and they cannot trust their American ally anymore.
If America bugs out, Russia is the obvious nuclear protector for the Saudis. In international affairs, survival comes first.
Last year, Vladimir Putin paid a friendly visit to Israel, meeting with the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem.
In the Syrian confrontation, Putin sent five warships to the Eastern Med, just as we did. Those naval ships are not up to U.S. standards, but nobody wants to see a clash of the titans. It's a no-win situation.
Finally, Russia may be the only nation that can scare the bejesus out of the mullahs. The reason for that is very simple: Putin does not make idle threats. Every single day for more than thirty years the mullahs have been chanting, "Death to Israel! Death to America!"
But they never chant "Death to Russia!" because under Tsar Vladimir Putin, they are afraid to do so. Putin can a very nasty enemy, with far more power than the mullahs have.
Putin can therefore wield more real power in the Middle East than Obama.
Look at his chips: he can threaten Iran, which nobody else dares to do with real credibility. He can offer protection to Saudi Arabia, scared to death of Iran, only 50 miles away from Mecca and Medina. He can supply Assad with all the weapons he needs to stay in power, just as long as the United States is willing to support the al-Qaeda rebels against Assad. And he has no particular beef with Israel. Putin is therefore a source of stability, not random overthrow of stable regimes.
America's decline as a serious international power goes directly to our failure to find a serious answer to mullahs with nukes. That lack of seriousness started with Jimmy Carter, and it got much worse with Obama. The Bushes kept respect for America alive in the Middle East, which respects only hard power. But Obama, Carter, and Clinton sabotaged us and even surrendered to militant Islamists.
Russia is now the strong horse, and we are the weak horse.
Our weakness is not in our military, which is still the best in the world.
Our weakness is in our lack of political will under Democratic presidents. We are unreliable in a harsh world that can't afford to risk flabby American presidents every four years.
Putin knows all about pushover liberals. He rose in the Soviet KGB to become the head of the East German arm of Soviet intelligence. The Soviets studied Western politics and penetrated West Germany at the highest levels of government. Our Democrats are useful idiots in Lenin's meaning of that term, and they are not mysterious to Putin. They can be rolled. To hardnosed KGB thugs they are ridiculously easy to manipulate.
That makes Vladimir Putin potentially the most powerful player in the Middle East. If the Saudis come to an arrangement with him, he can protect them against Iran. One possibility is for the Saudis to coordinate oil prices with Russia, to their mutual benefit.
Putin is a Russian nationalist, like the tsars. Russian rulers have long been nationalistic tyrants. The tsars were also the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church, in exactly the way Queen Elizabeth is still the titular head of the Church of England. The Tsars were religious tyrants.
If you google "Putin + Patriarch of Moscow," you'll get 360,000 hits, including fabulous news photos of Vladimir Putin kissing the ring of the patriarch, surrounded by those golden baubles they inherited from the Byzantine Empire. Look at those pictures, and you see Putin the tsar.
In Russian legend, even Ivan the Terrible ended up confessing his sins to the Orthodox Church. Putin is playing a role going back five centuries and more.
Russia needs a unifying ideology, and if it's not Communism, it has to be its ancient form of orthodox Christianity. The Soviets tried to extirpate the Orthodox Church for seventy years and failed.
To understand Putin the Peacemaker, consider two more facts.
1. Historically, all the Orthodox Christian churches were shaped by more than a thousand years of warfare against Muslim aggressors. Putin does not have to learn about Muslim aggression -- unlike Obama, who can't seem to get what everybody else understands. When Muslim terrorists attacked a full theater in Moscow and an elementary school in Beslan, Putin took a terrible revenge in Chechnya. The liberal media never covered that war, but you can look it up. Muslims fear Putin. He takes no prisoners.
2. Like the English royals, the Russian tsars styled themselves as the protectors of Christians in their own country and abroad. When Putin therefore expresses official Russian concern about vicious Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East, this is not just a shrewd political move. It is also a signal that everybody understands. The Orthodox Churches have ancient ties to Jerusalem, Damascus, and Istanbul, to name just three famous capital cities.
Putin is therefore adopting a traditional Russian approach to the world. He is a realist who plays big-power politics.
Putin cannot tolerate a Muslim fascist regime with a nuclear martyrdom complex. Putin knows about suicide bombers. Chechen suiciders were involved in two great terrorist disasters at the beginning of his rule, the Beslan elementary school massacre and the Moscow theater massacre. Putin can't doubt the danger of Muslim suiciders, unlike American leftists who keep trying to pretend that reality isn't what it is.
Vladimir Putin therefore knows in his very bones what Obama doesn't know: that suiciders with nukes are not acceptable.
Obama's pro-Muslim policies have to be driving the Kremlin batty these days. What is with this American president? The Russians can understand American leaders acting in our national interest. They can't figure out why this president seems to be empowering our sworn fanatical enemies: radical Sunnis in Arabia and radical Shi'ites in Iran.
Twelve years after 9/11/01, how dumb can these Americans be?
Iran is the only Muslim nation that has come unharmed out of the last five years of Obama. That fabulous Arab Spring never spread to Iran, which needs a spring cleaning much more than Syria, Libya, and Egypt. None of those Arab nations threatened the peace of the world. Iran does so every single day.
History is full of amazing twists and turns. The fall of the Soviet Union came as a surprise. The takeover of America by the radical left was a surprise. The miraculous coincidence of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II came as a surprise. The Islamist-radical left alliance is still a big surprise, even after five years of Obama.
Nobody expected the rise of Putin's Russia in its old historical role.
In politics, surprise is the rule.
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