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Singh’s point about the process shortcomings underscores that this is not just about Ukraine. It is also not just about process or, in the end, about the president. More importantly, this is about a message that has gone out to the world — to Putin and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Kim Jong Un and Karzai and other despots and troublemakers. They know that for whatever reason — whether recent history, or the personality of leaders, or bad process, or the aftershocks of economic crisis, or mismanagement — that since World War II the one nation that has been most depended on to push back on those posing a threat to the global peace is less likely to do so today — by only degrees perhaps but palpably nonetheless — than at any time during that period. And these despots, being who they are and the human nature of bullies and thugs and opportunists being what it is, are taking advantage.
Perhaps this Ukraine crisis will be the one that helps elevate this president, his team, and the processes upon which they rely to be better prepared, to have better options prepared beforehand, to better know the difference between empty gestures and meaningful leverage, to be more decisive, to personally engage with allies more effectively, to make faltering alliances work better, to know not just where we will step back but also where we must step forward. It is still evolving. Perhaps, the president and his team are simply evaluating and planning and will come up with the bold strokes needed to stop baldfaced aggression like that which has taken place in Crimea.
We can only hope. We cannot yet know whether this test will ultimately be seen as proof of Obama’s potential for leadership or an indictment not only of him but of this generation of American leaders. But we do know this: If that does not happen, the Putins and their ilk will know it. They will take advantage. And the Crimeas will fall. And the Syrians will suffer. And those Egyptians and Venezuelans and Afghans and others around the world like them who had hoped they would be helped will in the end be the ones who are truly and devastatingly “deeply disappointed.”
Rothkopf is CEO and editor of the FP Group. His most recent book is “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.”
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.