Gordon Campbell on the West’s existential crisis about what to do with Putin, and the Islamic State

Say one thing for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At least he’s given NATO a purpose in life. Right now, that consists of being something that Barack Obama and David Cameron can hide behind, point at Putin, and say : “Go get him, tiger.” Just what NATO is supposed to do about Putin’s armed advance into eastern Ukraine is less than clear. But there is a lot of “steely determination” around in high places.

What else? Of late Obama and Cameron have been busily engaged in writing furious op-eds about the state of the world in The Times and Obama has been deploying his famous rhetoric : “We stand with the people of Estonia ! “etc. Surprisingly, it isn’t having any noticeable effect. The Russians and their rebel allies are rolling back the Ukrainian government troops around Donetsk, and seem about to re-take the airport and a strategic port. Clearly, the Kremlin hasn’t been keeping up its subscription to The Times. Oh, there are EU economic sanctions and they seem to be biting. But as this article asks – what happens if Putin simply doesn’t care about the economic pain that other Russians may have to endure?

In the other big problem area – what to do about the Islamic State? – Obama has if anything, been even more indecisive. Two weeks ago, Martin Dempsey, the chairman of his Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a pretty clear rationale for US strikes within Syria:
To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no,” Dempsey said. “That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border.”

Obama though still can’t seem to make up his mind about the wisdom of air strikes within Syria. He’s catching a lot of flak for it. Its not as if the heavy artillery – Thomas Friedman of the New York Timesisn’t calling for action: “I’m all in on destroying ISIS.” Thanks, Tom. (But he’s cool about it only like, if there’s a coalition of some sort. Somehow.) Is this all sounding a bit like 1938 and Czechoslovakia, and the dithering then about what to do about that other guy with ambitions ?

If so, this piece on the Foreign Policy website suggests that the movie we should all be watching these days is The Wizard of Oz. Not only because it’s the 75th anniversary of the film’s release, but because it is (arguably) a thinly veiled parable of the politics of Europe : with the munchkins as stand-ins for the Czechoslovakians/Ukrainians and you-know-who as the Wicked Witch. Lets hope that in the Emerald City of Washington, the White House Wizard isn’t just hiding behind a curtain, pulling on levers. So far, the only good thing about the rise of the Islamic State is that – with all those Chechens fighting alongside the jihadis – their success is a problem for Vladimir Putin as well.
Dangerous Days. While The Wizard of Oz may be the template for geo-politics then and now, the soundtrack is… well, what about this new single from the soon-to-be released album by Russian-American Goth princess Zola Jesus?

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