President George W. Bush and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin take a sunset walk on a pier along the Black Sea during a visit by President and Mrs. Bush Saturday, April 5, 2008, to President Putin’s summer retreat, Bocharov Ruchey, in Sochi, Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To many on the right, all bad things that happen are President Obama’s fault. More than a few see what happened in Benghazi has the cause of anything that happens anywhere in the world. In that context, it is surprising the missing Malaysian plane hasn’t been blamed (yet) on Benghazi. The theory is that Obama’s weak foreign policy has emboldened Vladimir Putin to the point where he thinks he can do whatever he wants, wherever he wants. How do they know this? Because when their guy was in office, they say Putin backed off.
The theory of this comes from the US response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. The theories I have heard are that after Russia sent troops to the area, George W. Bush sent war ships to the Black Sea, trained the Georgian military to fight Russia and airlifted troops from Afghanistan home to fend off the invaders. What really happened? Georgia is part of the international coalition that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, the US did train their forces and agree to get them home in the case of an emergency. The invasion was viewed as a qualifying emergency and the US transported Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia but not to areas where the fighting was occurring and the administration made it very clear that was part of the agreement we had with all members of the coalition, not a response to the crisis. As for the US ships in the Black Sea, they were full of humanitarian supplies and again, the White House went to great lengths to show they were not there to engage Russia in a fight that everyone thought could lead to a nasty conflict between the two nations. US military action was never an option.
What did President Bush do? Here is his official response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1Men9v2tNg
Oh, the (W) Bush administration also levied sanctions on Russia. Sounds pretty similar to what Obama is doing now. Putin did not take over Crimea because of anything Obama has done. This move is very popular inside of Russia and the leader clearly wants to re-litigate the end of the Cold War. The US needs to be a part of any action to end the takeover of Ukraine but to assume it caused the situation or that it alone can end it is naive and misguided. This world we now inhabit is far more complex and integrated than the one we lived in during the Cold War. We are all better served by not applying simplistic causality (Obama is weak therefore …) to complicated situations.
When something is thrown upwards, there is a point at which the object’s upward momentum and the force of gravity are equal. For some time period — even if it is incredibly small — when the object hangs suspended. That is the emotional space I have occupied since learning about Osama bin Laden’s death. Any relief/closure/positive emotion has been tempered by my normal instinct that death is bad and deaths, even of bad people, are not meant to be celebrated.
Now, I should confess a few things. I grew up on Long Island and live in Washington, DC. My emotional location vis-à-vis 9/11 had been a strange place. It remains one of the worst days of my life and few things would make me happier than seeing the towers built back exactly the way there were and despite knowing New York as well as I know any place on earth, I still get lost in lower Manhattan sometimes because I still look for the WTC when I get out of the subway. Growing up, that was my compass in the city. It may always be. These are the reasons, my liberal friends tell me my opinion of anything 9/11 related is less valid because I am too close to it.
At the same time, I will never think we should do to ourselves what the terrorists could not; destroy out way of life and take away our belief in the ideals that inspired our republic. Racial intolerance cannot be mistaken for vigilance against terrorism. We cannot convince anyone outside of the US to believe that we believe in the importance of the rule of law if we do not apply it uniformly within the US. And the Bill of Rights is as important today as it was on 9/10/2001. These are the reasons my conservative friends tell me my opinions on this subject are less valid because I “do not understand the impact 9/11 had on America.”
You can see the paradox. One might think these opinions would give me more reason to hate Osama bin Laden but I don’t. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve that. The closest thing I have had to “joy” at seeing him be killed was when I laughed at a photo of President Obama that had the caption “I am sorry it took me so long to get you my birth certificate, I was busy killing Osama bin Laden.”
At the end of the day though, if I were to become the kind of person who celebrates any loss of life — even of someone as reprehensible as this mass killer — I just become more like them and I don’t want that.