Am I the only one seeing a new sense of purpose in the old neoconservative crowd, an almost joyful welcoming of a good old-fashioned Cold War showdown with the Russkies? Nobody's saying they don't love the War on Terror, but let's be honest, it's getting a bit old. Best to forget all about Iraq, and Afghanistan isn't much better. That jerk Barack Obama ended up getting Osama bin Laden, which was—well, let's be kind and call it bittersweet. But this Ukraine thing is just like old times. It's us against them, a battle of the big boys! Well, sort of anyway. So now is the time for action! Aren't there some missiles we can move into Turkey or something?
Ukraine is providing a great opportunity for the muscle-bound manly men of the right, who are totally not overcompensating so shut up, to demonstrate how tough and strong they are. Action!, they demand. Not words! We have to show Putin who's boss! He thinks we're weak! Obama is weak! We must be strong! Strong strong strong!
One big problem when you're demanding strength is that there's only so much we can do to affect this situation if we aren't actually willing to start World War III (back in the day, seeming willing to start World War III was an essential component of our strategy). So you see things like Marco Rubio strongly demanding "8 Steps Obama Must Take to Punish Russia," and they're, well, pretty weak. There's "speak[ing] unequivocally," introducing a UN (!) resolution, sending Secretary of State Kerry to Kiev (which Obama is doing), and my favorite, holding up the confirmation of Rose Gottemoeller to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. That'll show 'em! Sure, Gottemoeller is already serving as acting Under Secretary, but just imagine when Putin picks up his copy of Pravda and sees that Gottemoeller will have to have that "acting" before her title for a few more months. He'll crush the paper in his hands and bellow with rage. "Damn you, Americans! You will pay for this!"
But never mind that. In the last couple of days, Republicans have been united in their conviction that this whole thing is happening for one reason and one reason only: Barack Obama is weak. Let's look at just a few examples:
- "We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression," says the strong and decisive Lindsey Graham.
- Representative Tom Cotton says this is happening because Putin was "Emboldened by President Obama's trembling inaction."
- Here's Jonathan Tobin in Commentary: "Obama, Ukraine, and the Price of Weakness."
- Here's Heritage Foundation chief Jim DeMint instructing Obama that "Weak statements, history has proven, only invite aggression," also noting that Obama has "plans to neuter our military might." Nothing Freudian going on there.
- Here's Charles Krauthammer: "The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama's statement."
- Here's a former Bush administration official writing in the Washington Times: "There is no substitute for strength in world affairs, and regrettably, this White House seems to prefer projecting weakness."
- William Kristol, neocon extraordinaire, stands in awe of Putin's manly decisiveness, and laments that under Obama, we will "be all talk, no action."
- Here's another conservative dude, writing in Forbes: "Leonid Brezhnev would not have ordered the invasion of Afghanistan if he had sized up Jimmy Carter as a strong president. Vladimir Putin would not be invading Ukraine if he thought that Barack Obama had a backbone."
And there you can feel the ghost looming over this affair, history's manliest man: Ronald Reagan. If Reagan were here, the conservatives know, he'd march right over to the Kremlin, give Putin a steely stare and say, "You got a problem, mister?" Putin would take one look in those strong, determined eyes, stare down at his shoes and say, "No sir, no problem," then slink back to Siberia. Because that's what happens when you're strong. The whole world just bends to your will. Right?