It took Barack Obama less than six months between his inauguration and a policy initiative that sought to put the Middle East on the path to democracy, equality, and religious tolerance.

 
Those were the themes of his Cairo speech, and you all know where we are now.
 
After dealing with the major gaps between the Middle East and the best of Chicago and Washington, he tackled Syria's use of chemical weapons. 
 
There was another speech, which began with an Apocalyptic description of what might happen, and then ratcheted down to well honed Obamacare via negotiation.
 
Another threat to civilization dealt with?
 
Or maybe not. After some chemical weapons were removed, Assad continued to use chlorine gas against his enemies.
 
Perhaps that doesn't fit Barack's definition of a chemical weapon.
 
More recently he set out to define a new standard in American foreign policy, by overturning the Kennedy Doctrine with respect to the benighted place called Ukraine.
 
You don't know the magic of the Kennedy Doctrine? One version deals with the containment of Communism and the reversal of Communist progress in the Western Hemisphere via the Alliance for Progress.

The more important version is simpler. It says stay the hell out of my backyard. JFK defined it in response to those Soviet missiles in Cuba.


Little Barack, who was a year old at the time, may not have absorbed the lesson directly, but surely there are advisers who have read some books. Obama as a young adult spent time at Harvard, and Harvard Professor Graham Allison's Cuban Missile Crisis is the must read classic.


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Whatever he read or knows, Obama as President is making history by demanding from Vladimir Putin to stay out of Ukraine.


This is a frontal assault to the Kennedy Doctrine worthy of a Wow in diplomatic discourse. The Ukraine is even closer to Putin's turf than Cuba was to Kennedy's. 


Unless, that is, you consider Guantanamo part off the USA.


Which it isn't. That makes it useful as a prison camp, where people can be kept without reference to procedures required in the real United States. 


The President has run into trouble over his commitment to close the place.  As of last month, there were 122 detainees still there.


Keeping Putin out of Ukraine may be more difficult than bringing democracy, equality, and religious tolerance to the Middle East, ridding Syria of Assad and/or his chemical weapons, or finding some better place for Guantanamo's prisoners. Close to a third of the population of Ukraine claim Russian as their principal language, with higher percentages in the eastern and southern regions that have been the scene of fighting between separatists and Ukrainian national troops. Estimates of casualties in fighting during  2014 range between 6,000 and 50,000 killed, which suggests a level of serious warfare. The numbers also make an Israeli wonder about the UN's relative pursuit of war crimes in Palestine and Ukraine, when the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza did not approach one half the low estimate of casualties in Ukraine.


The quality of Ukraine's government gets in the way of great expectations. With credible reports of corruption and not much by way of democracy or decent public services, there may not be any candidates who deserve being given control of the country.


The Germans and French have weight in the EU, and their government urged Obama away from threats of armed intervention, supplying Ukrainians with heavy weapons, or increasing sanctions against Russia. They do serious business with Russia, and are concerned to avoid Russian threats against Europe's supplies of gas.


During the recent week Israeli media noted the 70th anniversary of the Yalta meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. Conditions were much different from the current crisis focused on Ukraine, but then the western leaders accepted Stalin's demands for freedom of action with respect to Poland. One can quarrel with the morality of what was decided at Yalta, as well as with a lot else that has occurred in international politics. It would be difficult, however, to overlook the weight of spheres of influence in what leaders decide. The same principle led Nikita Khrushchev to remove his missiles from Cuba.


Morality is important to critics, but it is less prominent in the decisions of national leaders.


Given the weight of national interest, Barack Obama may not do as well in bringing his version of peace and order to Ukraine as he has done with respect to the Middle East, the Syrian portion of it, and Guantanamo.


Which means that Obama's Ukrainian accomplishments may be too small to measure.


Angela Merkel and Francoise Hollande agreed with Vladimir Putin about a cease fire. If that actually occurs, predictions are that subsequent negotiations will divide Ukraine in a way to provide the Russian-oriented east with autonomy, and freedom to relate to Russia as its power holders decide. 


The President has asked Congress to authorize a limited use of military force against the Islamic State, with some confusion as whether it would allow  use of US ground troops


Republicans are ridiculing the limits on force he is requesting.


“What they’re saying is some ground operations are O.K., some boots on the ground are O.K., some offensive is O.K., some combat is O.K., and it can even go on for a bit . . . But they don’t want Afghanistan. They don’t want Iraq. They don’t want occupation. They don’t want an invasion.”


“If the president wants to engage in a halfhearted P.R. effort, to go through the motions to give the appearance that we’re fighting when we’re not doing what is necessary to win . . . then we should not engage.”


Democrats are worried that the President's proposal is too expansive
 
“I don’t feel this is a constraining document as written . . . It’s I think quite carte blanche in terms of geography, types of forces, etc. And therefore, I think we’re going to have to have a lot of work on that.”


The President is also expecting to persuade Iran to stop short of nuclear weapons.
 
And he continues to do his utmost to assure Muslims that the problem is not them. 
 
Obama's portrayed the attack on the Kosher Market in Paris as something other than Islamic anti-Semitism.
 
"It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concern when you have a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shot a bunch of folks in a Deli in Paris."

It was only after a couple of days back and forth between reporters and spokespeople of the White House and State Department, whose initial insistence was "randomness," that the term anti-Semitism emerged from the summit of the US Government.

We'll see how the President does against however he might describe those activists associated with the Islamic State and Iran.
 


 

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