Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is having an unintended effect on U.S. politics. It is generating a backlash against America’s retreat from world leadership.
That retreat was itself a backlash against President George W. Bush’s overextension of U.S. military power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Putin’s actions spotlight the consequences of America’s world wariness. Internationalists in both parties are expressing alarm about the shrinking U.S. role around the globe.
Republican hawks, long on the defensive after the war in Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction, have found their voice again. They are attacking President Barack Obama as weak and feckless. Even some Democrats are calling for a tougher response.
They point to Ukraine, where there is no evidence that U.S. sanctions are forcing Russia out. To Syria, where the Obama administration drew a “red line” and then had to back down. To Egypt, where the United States seemed powerless to influence events.
“There are no consequences when you defy what Obama’s telling you to do,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN, echoing a growing chorus of criticism.