What’s A Superpower To Do?

The Economist on “nagging doubt eating away at the world order” and how America is “largely ignoring” it.

The critics who pin all the blame on Mr Obama are wrong. It was not he who sent troops into the credibility-sapping streets of Baghdad. More important, America could never sustain the extraordinary heights of global dominance it attained with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As China grew into a giant, it was bound to want a greater say. And the president has often made the right call: nobody thinks he should have sent troops to Crimea, despite the breaking of the 1994 agreement.

Yet Mr Obama has still made a difficult situation worse. … He has broken the cardinal rule of superpower deterrence: you must keep your word. In Syria he drew “a red line”: he would punish Bashar Assad if he used chemical weapons. The Syrian dictator did, and Mr Obama did nothing. In response to Russia’s aggression, he threatened fierce sanctions, only to unveil underwhelming ones. He had his reasons: Britain let him down on Syria, Europe needs Russian gas, Congress is nervous. But the cumulative message is weakness.” — The Economist (5/3)

59 thoughts on “What’s A Superpower To Do?”

  1. The constant beat of the war drums is so deafening. Who is beating those drums and why? There is the constant degradation of Obama’s stature with the talk of “boy” or “adolescent” or any number of names meaning the N word, but without saying it directly by Republican politicians. Although they are racists, they are astute enough to not cross the line, at least in front of a microphone.

    Almost all of the current derogatory talk is about Obama not fighting the Russians at the gates. Or the Syrian army, or the Iranian army, or the Egyptian or


    The visceral hate of the black man in the White House is sickening. It is 2014 not 1925, or 1848. But so many of the Republicans, and as we have seen, a few Dems, have not grown up themselves. They are the shame of America.

    As we have discussed, Obama has a few major issues which have left him vulnerable to doubt of action. That is what we have to live with. But, none of those are enough to overcome the national desire to not go into trouble zones right now. Will America change it’s collective mind and say enough is enough? Sure, but after what Bush-Cheney and the neo-cons did to this country we need a break. And, having Obama’s hesitancy right now is good.

  2. Whoo Hoo!!

    Looks like we are back to reality.
    In the modern world being a super power ain’t all it’s hyped up to be. These pesky little players like Russia and Syria can stir up a lot of hell and there ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.
    IMO the whole weakness argument is made by weak sisters that can’t or won’t do it themselves even if they were in power.


  3. We became a ‘super power’ somewhat reluctantly.

    America always had a strong isolationist streak, which still shows up from time to time. The Bush Iraq fiasco has caused that streak to resurface and rightly so.

    We can argue about Obama’s tactics, but the truth remains that there are times when intervention simply is not an option.
    Weakness would be, not the failure to act, but the failure to recognize that truth.

  4. Since virtually all of the developed/semi-developed world has sold its soul to a global economy, there is little to nothing the President can do. Someone important in somewhere important is going to have an interest in stopping the action. In an age when the average person in any population has little to no unique use and is completely replaceable, the juggling act becomes keeping them reasonably unmolested or at least not painfully terminal so that business can continue.

    Reasonably unmolested is not the same thing as peace.

  5. BB, I cringe every time I hear you speak with such certainty that the problems are caused by hatred of Mr Obama’s race. I heard the same type of thing when Mr Kennedy was president. While the hatred might be there, he is our president.

  6. It’s time to undo much of the international damage Mr Snowden did in his treason of carrying off our intelligence capabilities and contingency (war) plans to Russia.

    As it stands now, Putin is able to act with near certainty as to what our reaction will be and what our short and long term mobilization capabilities are should we decide to contest his actions.

    The only sane thing to do in the protection of NATO is to go back 15-years in reestablishing our extremely robust air and ground defensive structure of the European NATO countries, and of reestablishing our capability of instantly retaliating to forestall continuing aggression.

    We can once again reestablish uncertainty in the eyes of the Russians. And we can do it while staying within current arms control limitations.

  7. He has broken the cardinal rule of superpower deterrence: you must keep your word. In Syria he drew “a red line”: he would punish Bashar Assad if he used chemical weapons. The Syrian dictator did, and Mr Obama did nothing

    I would take issue with this.

    Left to his own devices, Obama might well have taken some sort of action in Syria. He rightly sought to bring congress and the country along with him. Neither showed much willingness to be involved in another military action. Many of the same people who accuse him of weakness chose to sit on their hands when they got the chance to authorize action.
    Cardinal rule of being a super power. Never engage unless the country is fully behind you!

  8. IMHO nothing Craig or BB said is wrong (or the Economist for that matter). Of course if perception is reality, Obama does not come off looking good from a decisiveness perspective, even if the end result of his perceived diddling in foreign affairs is the correct result.

    Had dinner with my Repub friend Saturday. If he’s a barometer, the Rs are going to run full tilt against Obama and Obamacare in the midterms. (Oddly enough I did not hear the word Benghazi – guess they’re saving that for 2016). Now my friend is no racist, and not a word about race or any of the loaded words came out of his mouth, at least not with respect to Obama. Plenty of talk about welfare cheats though. (Understand, in WV gaming the system is an artform). He was still defending Romney’s 47% figure as accurate (it is with resect to the percentage of taxpayers who pay no federal income tax, but it of course ignores payroll tax) I told him that the number may be right, but characterizing all of the 47% as dRomney did is what was so offfensive about the comments – and coming from an uber-wealthy guy it came across as out of touch with people who aren’t wealthy, can’t find jobs or are retired. He conceded the stupidity of the comment politically.

  9. Flatus,

    Seeing and hearing all that goes against the man is worrisome. He is probably charting the best course for himself and the presidency during this time. I cannot imagine such actions by the Republicans if there was a white man or woman in the White House. From “you lie” to the secessionists of this past month, the underlying theme of the South shall rise again is much behind the attacks on Obama; the theme of white supremacy becoming a constant undertone of many of the attacks.

    Red State and Free Republic are places not recommended for general reading, but you can find much of the underbelly living there. And, you can find it in any online article which allows comments. WashPo has some of the most disgusting replies (at least until those are deleted).

    I have hope for the future of acceptance and equality for America. But, right now there are a lot of people who care little for the future, but want to live in the past. And, they care little about how they return to it.

  10. “We can once again reestablish uncertainty in the eyes of the Russians”

    Moving straight ahead is always so much more difficult, when you’re required to look over your shoulder on a regular basis.

  11. Flatus, Kennedy was hated in the south because of race. Not his obviously, but because he was a northern librul elite who didn’t understand how by pushing racial equality he would screw up the existing social order in the south – at least that’s what the pushback against him and Bobby was from the perspective of a then young southern boy. (That’s a lot more analytical than what I heard at the time – the Kennedys were more often than not just referred to as N%&*#r lovers – which I’m pretty sure is a racist term). George Wallace, among others, gave us the first of the race buzz words – state’s rights. It was harder to stick that race stuff on Johnson, being from Texas and all, but the state’s rights mantra was still strong down there, and everyone knew what it meant.

  12. well nostalgia for the cold war may be fun but it is totally irrelevant to todays situation except for the little hard fact that we really can’t attack Russia because of all those nukes.

    Europe and Russia are too interdependent on each other. This regional conflict is a European problem and they are going to have to sort it out.
    There is little we can do unless Europe buys in as long as they sit on the sidelines and don’t worry we are powerless.
    So do we have a real interest in being Europe’s protector?
    We are a world power and we need to look at the broader picture.
    In that scenario there is no room for simplistic thinking and everything has to be thought of in long range terms.


  13. If you want to reduce Russias power you need to find a more independent source of natural gas for Europe.
    Like a pipe line from Iran?


  14. Just because you have a big hammer , that doesn’t mean everything is a nail.


  15. whskyjack,

    Yes, the good old days of dominoe theories, ICBMs, James Bond (and his CIA & KGB counterparts), Spy v. Spy and Boris & Natasha v. Rocky & Bullwinkle. Such simple times (nothing simple about them at all, actually, but the lines were clearer). And I love the riff onthe old hammer/nail saying.

  16. whskyjack:
    Just because you have a big hammer , that doesn’t mean everything is a nail.


    Ha, good one! I’m witnessing the famous VA backlog today btw. At clinic with Dad for his checkup. Now into our 4th hour. Plenty of interesting characters in the waiting room to talk to tho. Just about every war represented. Another superpower consequence!

  17. There was a lot of commerce going on between the USSR and countries outside the Warsaw Pact during the 70s and 80s. The USSR even sold oil to customers in the Western Hemisphere. Venezuela, filled those orders while the USSR filled Venezuelan orders in their region. Free markets, no?

    We knew the strategy the Warsaw Pact would use should they decide to attack Western Europe. We had magnificent strategies to counter those attacks. No NATO countries were to be sacrificial lambs. Personally, I had high confidence that we would whip their ass.

    We didn’t defeat Germany in order to turn the world over to the USSR. I have little doubt that Mr Putin wants to reestablish that union.

  18. Craig, thanks for taking your Dad to the clinic. Send a note to Gen Shinseki when you get through; he’d like hearing from an honest broker.

  19. Flatus, I get a kick out of these trips. Funny people and friendly workers, actually more efficient than some think. You get blood work xray drugs and lunch all in one place

  20. …the ol’ “the Only Thing Those Savages Understand is Strength” doctrine. From what I’ve read/heard, Putin is getting a lesson on capital flight.

    I wonder if the author of the Economist article is a combat vet. Unfortunately, I saw no author cited on the source page, so I’ll continue to wonder.

  21. Craig.Crawford:
    Flatus, I get a kick out of these trips. Funny people and friendly workers, actually more efficient than some think. You get blood work xray drugs and lunch all in one place

    The VA medical center is a fascinating place. From WWII to OIF/OEF and now OND and active duty. It is a social gathering as many of us are frequent visitors for our appointments, and we can catch up with how others are doing (or not doing). It is where you can see a lesbian couple, one pregnant, is waiting to see their doctor, sitting next to an old vet who saw the integration of the services.

    It is where camaraderie is the norm, and helping each other comes naturally. It is also where you see what happens in war. A wing devoted to mental health care and three rooms to orthopedics. A place where time is in 24hr increments and is not misunderstood.

    It is also a place where funding is needed, and Congress is not always ready to supply the money.

  22. I think there is a good chance that Mr Putin will find himself in trouble with his fellow oligarchs if he tried to reestablish the Warsaw pact. Because he is tied to the world economy and as his lordship, sir Iggy, pointed out there is a price to pay for behavior that up sets the world order.
    And I doubt that Russia wants to be another North Korea. Ya know once you get used to modern plumbing…..
    As I pointed out earlier, we live in the 21st century.


  23. When I took my FIL to the VA I found the trip no more onerous that a trip to doctors outside the system. A great many times less.
    They lead in integrating treatment and computerizing records at the time


  24. blue bronc,

    Every once in a while I get a visit to Madigan courtesy of the son or grandson’s medical appointments. It is fascinating that a major hospital servicing thousands exists. They are invariably kind and efficient.

    Keep wondering about the various horror stories about the backlog and lack of service.

  25. Jamie: Keep wondering about the various horror stories about the backlog and lack of service.

    me too. I remember how my brother tommy was surprised and amazed at how well bay pines va treated him (being the marine he was, he eschewed any hint of personal weakness and never sought medical help). he was mostly impressed with the time and effort they took to explain any detail and answer even his silliest questions (brother tom was one for teasing everyone from his little sister to every waitress on earth to the most special specialist doctor he encountered).

    but from the looks of things there does seem to be trouble here and there in va-land. interesting response in today’s tampa trib Don’t assume the entire VA system is a mess

  26. Flatus: While the hatred might be there, he is our president.

    there is no “might” about it. from what spews forth nowadays, it’s a fact. I sadly have to agree with pogo and bb.

  27. Latest Clinton Hit Squad Uses Benghazi Like Whitewater and Vince Foster in ’90s
    by Taylor Marsh

    THERE HAS been a growing Benghazi-Industrial Complex growing around Hillary Clinton, with the latest effort about trying to find some way to draw the noose around her potential presidential bid. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed Secretary Clinton’s career.

    Writing in Politico Magazine, Michael Hirsch identifies the tactic the Clintons are used to facing, then wonders if Hillary Clinton will want to face it yet again.

    Let’s face it: The BIC [Benghazi-Industrial Complex] is here to stay, fueled by a mania on the right to somehow, in some way, validate Issa’s declaration that Obama is the “one of the most corrupt presidents of modern times” and, above all, to tarnish Clinton ahead of 2016 by linking the former secretary of state directly to the deaths of Stevens and the others.

    “Which is Hillary Clinton’s worst scandal?” asked a Tea-Party affiliated site, TownHall.com, conveniently providing boxes to allow participants to check-mark an episode from “her shady history”: Benghazi, Vince Foster, Whitewater or Travelgate. Another Tea Party site went further still, headlining a recent thread, “Hillary Clinton: The Butcher of Benghazi?” and illustrating it with a photoshopped image of her holding up bloody hands. “Someone tweets about Benghazi every 12 seconds.
    Not every 12 days or every 12 minutes, but every 12 seconds,” National Journal recorded last week, citing the social-media tracking firm Topsy. In the past 30 days, Benghazi and Clinton have been mentioned almost in unison on Twitter, with the former earning 219,325 mentions to Hillary’s 219,163. Benghazi has, in effect, become Hillary’s social-media twin, at least among conservatives.

    When Rep. Adam Schiff went on Fox News Channel to suggest that Democrats participating in the select committee on Benghazi was a “colossal waste of time,” none other than Rep. Peter King lashed out. King is the grandfather of old-time foreign policy.

  28. pogo: George Wallace, among others, gave us the first of the race buzz words — state’s rights. It was harder to stick that race stuff on Johnson, being from Texas and all, but the state’s rights mantra was still strong down there, and everyone knew what it meant.



    I think that state’s rights means pretty much the same thing now as at it did then.

    If not , we need not worry, it has been replaced by an equally ugly dog whistle phrase, ‘we want our country back’.

    They can yak all they want about the constitution and government over reach, what they really mean is they want their country back from the black guy in the White House.

    They might as well all be saying, ‘Let me tell you something about the Negro…..’

  29. looks like the vampire craze has gone too far
    cbs news
    Researchers have found old mice showed improved muscle and brain function when given blood and blood proteins from young mice.

    prescient 1957 hit by the coasters

  30. Craig…
    I see you bought some reading material before you boarded the plane. That’s how Rick and I first started reading the Economist years ago.

    Rick’s little brother Dan (which is a family joke… he’s the youngest, but built like a linebacker), recently went on and on about this great magazine he found to read on the plane while on a business trip…. yup, it was the Economist.

  31. re: The Economist

    We shouldn’t listen to a British Business magazine lecturing us on foreign policy.

    The Europeans have been quite happy, for the last 65 years, to focus on developing their civilian economies while the USA protected them with its military power, at our expense.

    If the Europeans have a plan for dealing with Putin and Russia, let’s hear what it is and let’s see them ready to commit their military forces, if needed.

  32. Front page of the local rag ran an AP article about the “unexpected” increase in traffic accidents and fatalities in areas hit hard by the oil and gas boom. Really? Unexpected to whom? I had a trip from Doddridge County (24 miles away) a couple of weeks ago and decided to count trucks that were oil and gas related on US 50 on my way back. These are minimum 10 wheel tank trucks carrying brine, water and waste, 12 wheel dump trucks and larger, articulated dump trucks, plus other largish trucks carrying equipment, pipe, etc. I stopped when I got to 60 and was still 6 or so miles from home. Accidents aside, they beat the crap out of the roads.

  33. I’m far from being an expert on this subject… but wouldn’t the Europeans expect us to protect them and our interests because we are the superpower on this planet. The world economy is based on our dollar. I guess if we don’t mind it changing over to the Chinese yuan than becoming isolationist would probably do the trick.

  34. Nash 2.5,

    They don’t claim to be a business magazine, in the decades I’ve been addicted to them, they’ve identified themselves as a newspaper.

    Their opinion pieces are in the front of the bound newspaper and our identified as “Leaders”. Other authors who pontificate on specific areas of the world are identified by easily identifiable pseudonyms.

    They have editorial offices around the world.

    Time and again The Economist has picked-up on the disparity of defense spending amongst the NATO allies with the USA bearing the brunt of the burden year after year.

    On the other hand, a month or two ago they showed a stack of figures on humanitarian aid per capita which had us one notch above Russia which was at the bottom of their list.

    Oh, the Russians have NATO’s plan on how to deal with Putin the Magnificent should he make inroads onto our allies territory.

  35. speaking of the mother

    (Reuters) – While all eyes are turned to Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has quietly enacted laws which opponents say will strengthen his hand in a battle against dissent in Russia.

    Putin signed laws on Monday envisaging tougher punishment for people involved in riots and imposing life sentences for various “terrorist” crimes. He also approved tighter controls on bloggers, some of whom have emerged as opposition leaders and have used the Internet to criticize Putin and arrange protests.

  36. from yahoo finance yesterday

    WikiLeaks Blew A Big Hole In The Snowden Narrative
    ….. the Australian publisher said he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because ” he would be physically safest in Russia.”

    so wonder what assange thinks about edward’s safety now that putie’s tightening the gags on bloggers.

  37. FoxNews has become Jon Stewart’s raison d’etre. Not that his bits dissecting their coverage aren’t funny(I think they usually are), but the constant validation of their inanity by covering it creates this false importance about it all. FoxNews is a fucking farce- God help us all if we need Stewart to arm the masses with talking points to disseminate that fact.

    (Keep the links coming. patd, just an observation, not directed towards you :P)

  38. Ignex: FoxNews has become Jon Stewart’s raison d’etre

    that’s just reason #3.
    1. is to fertilize the wasteland with new sitcom/movie stars (carell. corddry, hodgman) and late night comedy hosts (colbert, oliver)
    2. is to keep the dick, the donald and little lindsey in the news so that he can do his shticks imitating them.

  39. Ignex,
    Agree (on all points – most of all patd)

    If President Obama were to run into traffic and save someone from being hit, Fox would report it as “President Blocks Traffic.” Some truth to that, but phrased in a dog-whistle-ly slant that says far more than what is actually said.

    CNN and msnbc are losing viewers by the boatload due to stupid decisions and presenting really dull product. Stewart has to go after the entertaining target to keep his viewership up. Fox is always good as a target. It benefits him to keep Fox relevant. Mining gold out of poo, because this is pretty much all Stewart has on the media front. Sort of like a flea on a hyena.

  40. Today is Buddha’s birthday. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my parents’ wedding. And, the week all started with my birthday yesterday. Such a burden I carry.

  41. Hi folks, just here for a visit.

    The topic is one which requires quite a bit of self reflection. Judging from the comments, an old adage we have in Oz still seems to hold:

    You can tell an American anywhere but you can’t tell an American anything.

    Here is one reality. The Chinese economy is the number one in the world. Happened just last month. 140 years of American economic domination has now passed and we are in a new era. Not sure if this reality has made a mark yet.

    Another reality. Two years ago, Australia ceased using USD in its trade with China making our two currencies mutually exchangeable. I mentioned this when it happened on this forum but I suspect the impact was not understood. It meant that Australia no longer saw America as its dominant trade partner and indeed this has seen the eclipse of American influence in Australia.

    What all this means is that the period of American dominance in the world has now come to an end. Yes, it has a mighty military but this now is funded on debt. That debt is only as good as other countries accept USD as a global currency. As the Yuan currency convertibility agreements continue, that international debt is no longer secure and will become gradually insecure.

    Right now America is well down the road to facing a Gorbachev moment. How to maintain superpower status with a bankrupt economy?

    The rest of us in the world have accepted the ascendancy of the Chinese economy and adapted accordingly.

  42. Hi Bill, good to see you!

    Having been to Australia 5 times, well, i have a bit of a feel for the country.. Economically, maybe Australia has moved on and the USA is nothing to them.. Still, in the real world, Australia loves the USA.. Ha, so amazing, been all over the world, Australia and Canada, USA most alike.. Umm…

  43. re: “The Economist””

    It is a strongly pro-business publication, like the “Wall Street Journal.” It has been a cheerleader, for decades, for deregulation of the financial services industry.

    If you want good coverage of economics, that does not have a pro-business bias, you’re better off reading the “New York Times.”

    re: NATO

    Ukraine is not part of NATO, so that is irrelevant to a discussion of what to do about the Ukraine.
    (NATO would only get involved if Putin was trying to take over … France, for example.)

    It annoys me when some right-wing Europeans are criticizing the USA for not “standing up to Putin, when they are not willing to do it themselves, because it might hurt their economies.

    I do think that Putin should be stopped, but I do NOT want to see the USA, once again acting alone as the world’s cop.

    What exactly has Britain done to stop Putin?

  44. Bill Woerlee: have accepted the ascendancy of the Chinese economy and adapted accordingly

    well not quite the world but for a minor power that finds itself in the subordinate role of a mercantilist relationship that would be prudent behavior.
    But I was not aware that Aussies were that fond of boot black


  45. Nash 2.5: I do think that Putin should be stopped, but I do NOT want to see the USA, once again acting alone as the world’s cop.
    What exactly has Britain done to stop Putin?

    Or the rest of Europe for that matter, because lets be real if Europe is relucatant to join in then there is little the US can do by itself.

    Ya know Europe used to be the center of the world but today? Not so much.


  46. Monica Lewinsky is back and writing about how the Clintons scapegoated her. He is a media darling while she is still a pariah.

    And now that she is writing honestly and thoughtfully about her experiences we can be sure that the Clintons (and their surrogates) will trash her again.

    If there is one thing we know about Hillary, it is that she always looks the other way while Bill fools around, but if it a affair becomes public, she trashes the woman and “stands by her man.”

    She wants progressives to think she’s a feminist. What’s disgusting is that so many of them do.

  47. Bill Woerlee, a Chinese economy built on forced, and in some cases, imprisoned labor and theft of copyrights and foreign inventions duplicated in manufacturing with slave wages? If that’s Australia’s idea of a fun future good luck with that. Have the Chinese invented anything since gun powder? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would still be in their Dad’s garage there, or, more likely burned alive inside locked factories that exploded due to abject negligence.

  48. Worried about Impeachment?

    How about a military coup in the USA?

    “Seven Days in May” trailer.


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