It’s just one humiliation after another.
A mere three weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin upstaged the US in negotiations over Assad’s chemical weapons. In response to an off-the-cuff comment by Secretary Kerry in London that Assad should just hand over his weapons – a move Kerry thought impossible – Putin and his team said, why not just ask?
And so they did. Considering Russia’s strong alliance with the beleaguered Syrian President, it is not altogether surprising that Assad welcomed their diplomatic solution which, incidentally, gave him further opportunity to use elite Syrian Unit 450 to scatter chemical weapons stockpiles.
In an op-ed showdown, Putin “pled for caution” in authorizing a military strike citing his – and the Russian nation’s – strong belief in the United Nations and its ability to settle conflicts diplomatically as it was designed. He wrote, “From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”
Senator John McCain fired back, fiercely defending the US and our values. He wrote, “President Putin doesn’t believe in these values [of freedom] because he doesn’t believe in you. He doesn’t believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn’t believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you.”
I for one wished that the White House had scribed McCain’s article. It would’ve sent a clear message to the Russian President that we are not fooled by his diplomatic overtures. And while we would all surely like to avoid a military strike, the US and President Obama may have gotten the optimal outcome, but we certainly didn’t arrive there in commanding fashion.
There was barely any time to recover from the debacle over Syria’s weapons before the government shutdown battle came to the fore. Over the last two weeks Republicans have fought tooth and nail to tie delaying ObamaCare to the functioning of the government and last night, at midnight, they were successful, but not as they had hoped.
For the first time in 17 years, the government shutdown. More than 800,000 federal employees are bracing for uncertain financial times. Most headed to work today, but without a clear idea of what they would be doing, if anything. Those deemed “essential employees” will stay the course, but can expect a much heavier workload.
To be sure, it is the job of legislators to legislate and not to spend their time worrying about how they are perceived. I, as much as anyone, do not want Congress making decisions dependent on how it looks to the outside world – they should create and vote for good policy above all else.
That said, the government shut down is more than just a policy. It is a black cloud over our government and, indeed, our nation. While in Seoul, South Korea Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the shutdown “nonsensical”.
Hagel said, “It does cast a very significant pall over America’s credibility with our allies when this kind of thing happens. It’s nonsensical. It’s needless. It didn’t have to happen.”
But our credibility isn’t just damaged with our allies – think of our enemies.
There is no doubt that Putin is reveling in our government shut down. Not to mention Chinese President Xi, Assad himself and our other adversaries who are sick and tired of hearing about American exceptionalism and that our way is the best way.
We are truly unable to make a case for democracy – and especially American democracy – if these things keep happening. We simply can’t afford to continue to cast such a partisan and ineffectual image to the world.