Leadership in Syria

President Obama had an interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes

The following exchange struck me as amazingly delusional.

Steve Kroft: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it’s also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States– America leads. We’re the indispensible nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.

President Barack Obama: In what way? Let– let’s think about this– let– let–

Steve Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II–

President Barack Obama: So that’s–

Steve Kroft: –bombing the people– that we are supporting.

President Barack Obama: So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine–

Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership–

President Barack Obama: Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we’ve got a 60-country coalition that isn’t suddenly lining up around Russia’s strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.

The style of Russian President Vladimir Putin is certainly one that uses more force then politics, but it is leadership regardless. Denying this fundamental fact is incompetence.

Certainly it is not how President Obama would have chosen to led either in method or direction, but it is leadership. Russia is moving the United States out of the airspace and they are dictating their will. This is after the Annexation of Crimea and the ensuing proxy civil war in Ukraine.

I can accept someone who has different values or fundamental positions from me and how this influences their interpretation of events. Applying this to the question of leadership then you can argue it is poor leadership with costs that will not succeed in the end, but it is leadership none the less. This leadership is working right now.

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