Over the past several weeks, after losing support from the UK for his "limited" strike against Syria's Assad regime, President Obama's hesitance and meandering have earned him scorn from even traditional Middle East allies. As reported by a Washington Post article entitled "U.S. ties in Persian Gulf at risk as Obama allows space for Russian-Syrian plan" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/us-gulf-relations-at-risk-as-obama-allows-space-for-russian-syrian-plan/2013/09/11/71a065f8-1b0d-11e3-80ac-96205cacb45a_story.html) by Loveday Morris:
"The United States risks damaging relations with Persian Gulf states as it warily embraces a Russian initiative for Syria to relinquish its chemical arsenal, analysts say, with Sunni monarchies fearful that the U.S. pullback from military strikes will bolster President Bashar al-Assad and the influence in the region of his ally Iran.
Disappointment at the decision could further cool relations with gulf countries already frustrated by a lack of U.S. leadership on Syria during the 21 / 2-year-long conflict there. Increasingly sharp statements from the normally imperturbable gulf nations reflect the growing sense of unease."
Israel, which is facing a showdown with Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons development program, has lost all faith in Obama's promises not to allow Khamenei to acquire an atomic bomb. In this regard, Obama told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg in 2012, "As President of the United States, I don't bluff" (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/obama-to-iran-and-israel-as-president-of-the-united-states-i-dont-bluff/253875/), but the Israelis don't believe him anymore.
The left leaning New Republic is currently running an article by Julia Ioffe entitled "The Syria Solution: Obama Got Played by Putin and Assad" (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/114655/obama-syria-policy-octopus-fighting-itself).
The New York Times? After allowing Putin, today, to rub Obama's nose in the White House's diplomatic blundering, The Times, attempts to soften the blow by spreading the blame in an editorial entitled "Diplomacy as Deterrent" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/diplomacy-as-deterrent.html):
"But the diplomacy could provide more of an immediate deterrent against further chemical attacks than the threat of an attack, and far more of a deterrent in the longer run. Russia will continue to make seemingly unreasonable demands until a deal is finally signed and is unlikely to admit that the Syrian regime carried out the gas attack. But Congress and Mr. Obama should be careful about setting hard deadlines or drawing any more red lines."
Excuse me, but what did Congress have to do with Obama's "red line"? It was all the president's doing!
Putin's guest New York Times op-ed? Putin (actually, a ghostwriter) correctly states:
"Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world."
But then Putin tosses in a flagrant lie, softened by purported concern for Israel:
"No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored."
Observing recent US overseas failures, Putin observes that US military intervention has proven futile:
"But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes."
Putin's conclusion, in which he ridicules Obama's reference to American exceptionalism:
"My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is 'what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.' It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."
"Growing trust" with Obama? What he really means is growing contempt for the US president's feckless conduct.
Or stated otherwise, Putin makes a compelling case for the proposition that community organizers do not come away with the skill set necessary to be Commanders in Chief.
Game, set, match, Putin.