The War President
by Michael Goodell
And so it came to pass that the president was forced to pause in his nation-building at home to reflect on a world coming apart at the seams, or as he preferred to describe it, a world no messier than before, but a mess more visible thanks to 140 character descriptions. Indeed, if it weren’t for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the latest social media outlet, Whathaveyou, no one would know the world was going to hell in a hand basket.
(I have an English friend whose Twitter handle is @Chopper, and suddenly I start to wonder if he is a member of ISIS. Upon further reflection, I recall he was never very good at basketball, and couldn’t make the varsity squad. Hmm.)
Maybe the president has a point. Maybe we ought to force Facebook to install a Don’t Like button. Then we could all Don’t Like ISIS and Putin, and they would have to give up, wouldn’t they? I mean, it’s one thing if the President says there’s no place in the 21st Century for that kind of behavior, but if you lose have your followers overnight, then you know you’re in trouble.
After the second American journalist was YouTubed to death, the president got good and angry. Not as angry as the Veep, mind you, but pretty danged mad. He might not promise to follow ISIS to the gates of hell, but he definitely won’t allow them any three-foot gimmes.
How serious is the president? During a confidence-building stop in Estonia, he vowed to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. In fact, “If we are joined by the international community,” he will degrade and destroy ISIS “to the point where it is a manageable problem.”
The president declined to reveal how many decapitated Americans constitute a manageable problem, and how many more it takes for the world to be “appalled.” Some people were less than impressed with the president’s verbal jujitsu. Or as The Wall Street Journal put it, “The president’s statement drew criticism from Republican critics,” which is to distinguish them from Republican praisers. Apparently some of the Republican critics wondered why it was necessary to qualify destruction with the term manageable.
In response State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki snarked that Republican critics’ criticism was little more than “a word game,” a point she illustrated by tweeting a smirking selfie holding a sign reading #StopNitpickingUs.
Now, about that confidence-building stop, not just Estonians, but all three Baltic States (if you can name them, chances are you didn’t attend an American Public School), breathed a big sigh of relief when the president failed to warn the Russian president that invading them would be tantamount to “crossing a Red Line.”
The bad news was he assured them that NATO will “be here for Estonia. We’ll be here for Latvia. We’ll be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you’ll never lose it again.”
Such a bold, forthright statement has stymied the Russian president. At this very moment he is closeted with his generals, trying to figure out what to do next. Invade Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania? It has to be one of the three. If the American president makes such a specific promise, he obviously doesn’t mean it. (Incidentally, those nude photos of the president circulating on the Internet didn’t come from Kate Upton’s phone. In fact, they were hacked from his new tailor’s iPad).
If the president has made one thing clear over the last six years, it’s that when he speaks his enemies laugh, and only his allies tremble. As should Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. NATO members all, they presumably would fall under the protection of Article 5, which points out that an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all of them. Of course, Putin won’t blatantly invade. He’ll go the Sudetenland route, as he did in Ukraine, triggering protests by Baltic-based Russians. He’ll hope for an overreaction by the authorities, and failing that, generate one himself.
Then he’ll arm the same “militants” who “rose up” in Ukraine. By the time NATO acknowledges Russian troops have invaded the Baltics someone will have figured out an escape clause, something along the line that Article 5 only applies to the original NATO members, not the slew of new ones which came in after the USSR imploded.
Putin will be happy to only swallow portions of the tiny Baltic nations, allowing them the appearance of sovereignty, albeit fully within the Russian orbit. Such a partition will allow the American president to pivot from denying he ever said “We’ll be here for Estonia. We’ll be here for Latvia. We’ll be here for Lithuania,” to pointing out that those small parts of the three countries which remain independent constitute yet another “promise kept.”