For the past couple of weeks, I've watched with great interest the events in Ukraine - part of the benefits of following groups like Anonymous on Twitter. And as much as I've cheered on the protesters who appear to support democratic change in Ukraine, I'm also dismayed by the Russian response of grabbing Crimea. With that said, I'm even more dismayed by the foreign policy "experts" who have been blathering on and on since the Russians took Crimea (though I'm not particularly surprised). So, a couple of quick points here:
1) Putin Didn't Invade Crimea Because of Any Perceived Lack of Weakness by Obama:
The greatest inanity of the foreign policy discussion involving Russia is the conception that Obama's weakness caused by Benghazi and Syria gave Putin the wherewithal to invade Crimea (well, not really invade Crimea, he just had his military personnel leave their bases in Crimea). Um, no. Or, in the words of my people, "cool story, bro."
This current crisis has nothing to do with us. I know, we're the world's policeman and all that, but Putin acted out of pure self-interest. Crimea is absolutely vital to Russia's self-interest because it gives Russia access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, which helps with its view of being a world power. That's why Russia has a number of military installations in Crimea despite the fact that Russia and Ukraine haven't been one country over 20 years (yeesh. . .I feel old). Having an unfriendly government in Ukraine (which it totally will be, especially now), would hurt Russia's interests. Obama's perceived strength or weakness has nothing to do with that basic fact.
2) Going to War Against Russia is Problematic:
While Russia is not the superpower it once was during height of the Soviet Union, it still is a very big country with A LOT of weaponry, A LOT of soldiers, and more importantly: INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES. The presence of ICBM's (nukes) makes any dealing with Russia, especially if Putin is reading too much of his own propaganda (and he apparently is). Now, that doesn't mean the U.S. doesn't go to war, but if it does, it has to move very carefully or else fight a war that would dwarf the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. You don't jump into that kind of a conflict (unless you are John McCain or Lindsey Graham).
Of course, that's assuming that war would be a straight U.S. v. Russia affair. It won't be. Already this crisis affects Turkey (Crimean Tatars are ethnically Turkish). And since most of Russian pipelines to Europe go through Ukraine, well. . . Simply put, we don't know where China, Pakistan, or India would line up in this kind of a war, and we don't want to be surprised by that.
3) There May Be Other Options on the Table:
Putin may be a dictator(esque), but in contrast to the Soviet Union, he has to operate within the same global economy as everyone else. In fact, the market economy is probably America's greatest strength. Economic sanctions by the U.S. and the EU will hurt - especially if they target Russian Oligarchs, who keep their money in the West. Ukraine, as noted above, sits on a number of oil pipelines to the west, and supplies almost all of Crimea's power and water. In other words, there are pressure points that can be applied against Russia that don't involve military power. And Obama, thanks to all of his experience in dealing with Iran, knows how to use sanctions effectively.
So, the long and short of this crisis is jumping into action, especially military action is a phenomenally dumb idea, and Obama is right to move deliberately.