The 1930s are calling

Commentators with a cruel memory have recalled the moment from one of the 2012 presidential debates when President Obama cited Mitt Romney’s warning about the growing threat from Russia and dismissed it with a superficially sophisticated putdown: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

When I hear President Obama threatening to impose consequences on Vladimir Putin et al., or imposing them, as he did today, I think: “The 1930s are now calling to ask for their piece of paper back.” The piece of paper would be the one Obama carries in his pocket whenever he meets with a tyrant.

Neville Chamberlain waved it upon his return to London from Munich in 1938, declaring that it represented “peace for our time.” “Our time” lasted roughly ten months.

Having sized up Obama and his Team of Nitwits, Putin won’t even give them a fig leaf. Why bother?

Putin is to Obama what Samuel Johnson was to James Boswell and Bishop Berkeley. He is a walking refutation of Obama’s fantasy world of the “international community” and “smart power.” When you see Vladimir Putin, think Samuel Johnson:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.”

Putin refutes Obama “thus.”

Putin is making Marx look good. I mean Marx the pundit, not Marx the economist. The guy who said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

For the record, this is what the sanctions announced by Obama wrought today:

The new executive order Obama signed Monday targeted seven Russian government officials — Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin and Yelena Mizulina — and used an existing order to sanction four Ukrainians, including the country’s former president.

Four others are targeted under the executive order Obama issued earlier this month: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and former chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk, as well as Crimea separatist leaders Sergey Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov.

Monday’s order authorizes Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to work with Secretary of State John Kerry to impose asset freezes and travel restrictions on “any individual or entity that operates in the Russian arms industry, and any designated individual or entity that acts on behalf of, or that provides material or other support to, any senior Russian government official,” the White House said in a statement.

The sanctions are intended to “impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” the White House said in its statement.

“We expect that these sanctions will be effective,” a senior administration official said. “Going forward, we have the ability to ramp up our pressure.”

I’m guessing there is a good reason the senior administration official required anonymity. He prefers not to out himself as a fool.

When the official announces that the Team of Nitwits expects the sanctions will be effective, do you suppose that they expect them to result in the restoration of Crimea to Ukraine? The stated expectation is ambiguous, but I doubt even they believe that. Rather, they will be “effective” in a Pickwickian sense. They will make those announcing them feel better.

Obama intensely wants to sell out to Putin, but Putin isn’t buying. He prefers to take without the patina of agreement. He views Obama with the utmost contempt, and he is proving himself a rather more perceptive student of character than his Western counterparts, Obama foremost among them.

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