Scott correctly observes that we can count on President Obama to say the wrong thing. To make matters worse, all too often Obama says nonsensical things.
Consider his remarks yesterday about the downing of the Malaysian airliner by Ukrainian separatists. Obama declared:
We need to know exactly what happened, and everybody needs to make sure that we’re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.
To this standard-issue mush, Obama added that he sees no U.S. military role in the conflict.
The mush cannot be reconciled with the plan of action — or inaction, to be more precise. “Those who committed this outrage” are, most directly, the Ukrainian separatists. They probably cannot be “held accountable” in the absence of some role by the U.S. military.
Economic sanctions against Russia will not hold the Ukrainian separatists accountable. Even if the sanctions have an appreciable impact on the Russian economy, the separatists in Eastern Ukraine will not be injured. The state of the Russian economy is no concern of theirs.
In fact, it’s not even clear that we can “know exactly what happened” — Obama’s more modest objective — without a U.S. military role. The separatists apparently are unwilling so far to grant international access to the crash site. In fact, with Russia’s help, they reportedly are altering the scene of their crime (and looting the dead, for good measure).
The U.S. has an airborne brigade in Italy, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team . It could be used to help secure the site. Its deployment for that purpose would have the added benefit of demonstrating U.S. resolve.
But Obama’s desire to “know exactly what happened” is beside the point unless that knowledge, once obtained, will have meaningful consequences. Anyone who has followed the Obama administration even casually has the right to doubt that such consequences will ensue. By ruling out military action, Obama all but guarantees that they won’t.
As John suggested yesterday, how the civilized world deals with those who shoot commercial airlines from the sky will have serious implications for national and international security. If the lesson of MH-17 is that the shooters escape punishment, international air travel will become less safe.
That’s why the separatists need to suffer military defeat. The Ukrainian military may well be able to inflict such a defeat if the U.S. provides it with substantial assistance.
When a government shoots down a commercial aircraft, as the Soviet Union did to Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983, there’s not much of significance that can be done in response. President Reagan wasn’t about to take military action against the nuclear-armed Evil Empire.
Nor was there much that needed to be done in that instance. Even the Soviet Union had an interest in international air safety.
Ragtag “separatists” and other criminal bands are another matter. As to them, a military response of some kind, though tricky in this case given Russia’s strong connection to the separatists, should hardly be out of the question. And the consequences of effectively countenancing their horrific criminality are likely to be dire.
A military role by the U.S. in response to the downing of ML-17 should not be ruled out.