It is not often that a leader of a well-known and well-respected country makes a point to address the American public directly, let alone by the medium of an editorial in The New York Times. Vladimir Putin’s stark message to the American people did not go unnoticed by many, even those who were not regular readers of the Times, but in addition to the harsh criticisms made by Putin, he established himself a new title in the world as perhaps the greatest political genius of our time. Putin’s plan and its result were multifaceted — embracing an aura of superiority; diminishing American hypocrisy with a cloaked hypocrisy of his own; and establishing himself as a placeholding leader for the American people, who lacked a clear leadership on the issue of Syria. His greatest success was in playing on the already weary opinion of the American people while plopping himself into a leadership position, showing both a clear direction on the Syria issue and pointing out the flaws of the caustic nature of exceptionalism.
There is no doubt on both sides of the argument that Barack Obama utterly diminished his role as a leader by flip-flopping on Syria. He painted a picture of a wavering superpower, built too big to fail but indecisive with power. This was honestly an embarrassment, and Putin saw his opportunity. With a lack of leadership from the commander in chief, Putin expertly inserted himself as a clear and rapid alternative to Obama’s plan of action, effectively usurping Obama’s established position as the leader of the country. This was a phenomenal move of tact, considering that Putin not only established himself and his foreign policy as superior to that of the United States, but he also made the entire debacle more embarrassing for Obama. With plummeting approval ratings and rising public opposition to military action in Syria, Obama was forced into a lose-lose situation, eventually seizing to the last hope offered to him by Putin.
Of course, Putin is not without fault himself. Various military interventions by Russia have resulted in casualties, and Russian foreign policy has not had a perfect track record. Through his piece in the Times, he criticized the concept of American exceptionalism, distracting attention from his own country’s interventions. Putin played his cards well here, realizing that the hypocrisy in U.S. actions and in the country’s very politicians and government would far outweigh any call to stand back and evaluate his own faults. And this hypocrisy has been so very apparent throughout this issue. Politicians from both sides abandoned the people that they represented for a hopeless cause — at least a hopeless cause on the war zone, but not for their pockets. This was so blatantly apparent that the precedence of logic was being set aside simply for selfish reasons in the disguise of a humanitarian effort. A recent poll revealed that 36 percent of Americans support military action in Syria. I would personally like to see those 36 percent be the ones sent to Syria or at least somewhere to receive a decent education.
Although I am not a fan of Putin’s social and foreign policy, after reading his editorial, I have grown fond of the leadership and devious capability of a man who fearlessly stabbed the heart of the American mindset with a sword of hypocrisy. America has witnessed a brilliant streak of leadership from a man who sits not in the White House but a world away and yet still listens to what the American people have to say instead of rallying toward a cause that falls so sour on the plates of many. At this, Putin deserves a roaring round of applause for showing initiative, focus and constitution in the face of a worldwide issue. While his plan may not solve the existence of chemical weapons, Putin calmed a brewing storm caused by the arrogance of exceptionalism fueling the mind of a weak president.
Vaughn Shirey is a sophomore environmental sciences major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].