Drums of war?


Two  issues are at the roiling stage, and threatening the capacity of Barack Obama to run the world by means of his political wisdom and the aides he sends forth to do his work.

Ukraine and Israel-Palestine are much different in the nature and what they threaten.
Israel and Palestine are on the front pages more clearly as the result of Obama''s bumbling.
For Israel, Palestine is more a nuisance than a threat. Violence is manageable, perhaps less destructive than what Americans suffer as the result of drugs and guns.
Jewish "settlements" are a blot across international media. In reality, however, the vast majority of what is being built is within Jerusalem or the major towns of Ma''ale Adumim, Ariel, and the area around Gush Etzion. Those who see the settlements as blocking peace haven''t been looking at Arab then Palestinian intransigence that began in the 19th century and has continued until today.
Even many Israeli leftists are tired of Palestinian dithering, and much of the center as well as the right couldn''t care less about settler efforts to expand. Settler extremism is something else, especially when they attack the national icon of the IDF. A trashed tent and generator in a small outpost, with no threat against the few reservists at the post (one of whom lived in a settlement) has rebounded to the closing of an extremist yeshiva, and its occupation by a unit of the Border Police.
Ukraine is potentially explosive. It is not easy to decide to what extent citizens of the Ukraine who are ethnic Russians are demonstrating and seizing government buildings in behalf of their claims of greater regional autonomy, and to what extent they are encouraged and even joined by personnel sent by Russia to produce a crisis that will justify an invasion by the troops and equipment being massed on the Russian side of the border,
A Ukrainian security officer has been killed and several wounded in a confrontation with what the government is calling "terrorists" occupying government buildings. Ukrainian authorities are threatening an armed takeover of the buildings occupied by ethnic Russians, but casting a wary eye at the Russian troops and equipment massed on their border.
Serious warfare has begun like this. 
It is more a European and a Russian than an American issue, but Obama''s bombastic threats and piddling action on Syria and Iran have made their contribution. An op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal puts it this way
" the West could win a sanctions war with Russia, but it would take an iron political stomach. Mr. Putin knows Mr. Obama. He knows that the U.S. president has the digestive fortitude of a tourist in Tijuana."
Israel and Palestinians were getting along on their own, with some focused help from US and others, until Obama and Kerry waded in with their proposals that made things worse while trying to make things better. 
John''s brother Cameron, who converted to Judaism and married a Jewish woman, has written about his family''s Jewish and Holocaust roots. He asserts that brother John is by no means the anti-Semite that extremists have claimed. Rather, he has strong feelings for the Jewish people and Israel, and is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of Israel.
Perhaps, but John Kerry and his boss are showing us once again what the road to hell is paved with. 
It is hard to see more than bluster from a distance in what is developing in the Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is clearly a more potent force, perhaps emboldened by Obama''s fumbling in Syria and Iran.
There are enough ethnic Russians in the eastern regions of the Ukraine to unsettle things and put Europe on higher alert, with or without the incitement of Putin. Next in line, with similar possibilities of Russians who want to join their homeland, are the Baltic countries. The capitals or major cities of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have substantial populations of ethnic Russians or Russian speakers, in some cases a near or more than a majority of the local population. Poland is worrying about a repeat of its unpleasant history, if Russia truly is in an expansive mood.
Can we rely on the rationalism and restraint that marked both American and Russian actions in the Cuban crisis?
Or will there be the self-destruction that marked the American adventure in Vietnam and the Russian adventure in Afghanistan?
Israel is preparing sanctions against Palestine, and the Palestinians are responding with claims of making their own preparations.
At an extreme that none are predicting, Israel can bring Palestine quickly to starvation rations with limited if any electricity, and constraints on politicians who may no longer be able to travel conveniently if at all.
Palestine can encourage its popular resistance (read that as terrorists) all the while claiming to be avoiding any intentions.
To the extent that Obama and Kerry have any credibility (a tough question to answer), they might contribute by back room arguments, urging the principals to ratchet down from their extreme threats against one another.
John Kerry lost what little credibility he had left with a number of key Israelis when he criticized the planned building of "settlements," i.e., in Gilo, which is a neighborhood of what Israelis have considered their capital city for nearly a half century. With this and similar comments, the Obama administration appeared to be backing off from George W. Bush''s recognition of demographic changes that have occurred since 1967.
A few days later, a State Department official criticized the possibility that Israel would withhold import taxes collected for the Palestine Authority. What the official did not mention was that withheld taxes would be used to cover unpaid Palestinian bills for Israel electricity and other supplies.
The Americans may manage to keep the Israelis and Palestinians at the table by leaning on Israel to pay the Palestinians with the release of Israeli prisoners, and paying Israel with Pollard and perhaps some other American goodies. Yet no one is making a convincing argument that anything more substantial will result than Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans sitting around a table and not saying anything constructive. 
It is common to think of the the period since World War II as the era of Pax Americana. The reality is that American dominance began to crumble within a decade on the Korean Peninsula. The notion took another blow in Vietnam. Unfulfilled plans to improve things in Iraq and Afghanistan, bluster with respect to Syria, and what looks like appeasement of Iran may put an end to what was left of American leadership. 
Neither the Ukrainians nor the Palestinians should expect salvation from Obama''s White House or State Department.
Ignore it all, along with the blot on Kansas City, and concentrate on not eating too much after an hour of ceremony.  חג שמח