As much as I see President Putin primarily taking care of Russia’s strategic interest, I’ll admit that he has a much clearer and more honest message than Obama. I wish the West would show a little more leadership and integrity. I get the impression that the EU and the US today really have no idea what they doing when it comes to foreign policy – and economic policy – and are just making it up as they go. It’s pretty worrisome when the public starts to trust Putin more than their own politicians. Quite possibly, Putin’s intended audience is not the American people, but the citizens of the rest of the world. He wants to be their hero — standing up to the US, pointing out our hypocrisy.

Mr Putin makes many points, some disagreeable, some agreeable. But all are perfectly valid concerns. I commend Mr Putin for contributing to the discussion. With all due respect to Mr. Obama (and I am saddened to say that my respect for Putin exceeds far my respect for Obama right now), the phrase “American exceptionalism” implies that US people are special and exceptional…but they are not not at all. The American founders knew that men are not angels… thus they instituted a Constitution and a way of self-governance that was unlike any other on earth at that time, a representative republic that had no king, no caste system, no aristocracy, but all men equal under the law and having natural rights granted, not by government, but by our creator. Such rights, not coming from government but being endowed by our creator, were therefore “inalienable”… they could not be rescinded by government because they do not come from government. Thus, in my opinion, Obama’s claim is the not an argument for American exceptionalism; quite the opposite, it is even one against Christianity, all totalitarian states – also Nazi Germany -made this claim.

Mr Putin’s main concern is the issue of who’s responsible for the recent chemical attack. Mr Obama admits the issue remains in dispute, but believes there is substantial evidence the Syrian government is responsible. Mr Putin believes it may in fact be the Rebels who are responsible. It would be hard to disagree that this is the key issue and deserves full “due diligence”. Common sense or law might offer some help here. I have written about it. It requires in a dispute such as this, where a crime may have been committed, for the accuser (Obama in this case) to provide all evidence pertinent to the crime be made available to the accused (Assad). Assad has pointed that out rightly in the famous CBS interview . “All evidence” , meaning that which supports the accuser’s claims, and also that which supports the accused claims — the so-called exculpatory evidence. Mr Obama should immediately provide this evidence to Mr Putin.
Western law rules of evidence also require that testimony or claims be of first person origin. No third person testimony — so-called “hearsay” evidence — is allowed. Mr Obama should comply, and offer evidence only which can be supported by first person testimony. With names attached.

Say what you will about the Russians and Mr. Putin in particular. This reaching out is unprecedented his reverence to Christianity is unprecedented. Especially, apparently he did not take the offer of the Saudis to buy him out – agreeing to Obama’s little war. I do think, Obama lost his credibility in the eyes of the Saudi’s and by Putin cutting Obama down to a confused paper tiger. Clearly Putin,  is exploiting a weakness that the US needs to correct, namely, that we are far too mired in self-delusional, campaign-style spin — even on the international stage that the world citizen gives Western politicians a higher rating than Assad (or Putin). Not so. Assad conducted a fine interview in CBS; Putin and presented more sound arguments and the walked the talk.

President Obama’s Syria strategy was a high-level poker game and played not out exactly the way he planned it. The world and the World public and foremost Putin called his bluff. Even more worrisome, however, is the status of Europe which does not even count in Putin’s equation. It seems he has been just worried about the US blowing up the Middle East and the world and bailed out a confused administration like a kid.

The US facts on the ground

On a miscellaneous note, or maybe not, Ms. O’Bagy wrote an op-ed in the WSJ on the “use of force in Syria” cited by both McCain and Kerry last week. Ms. O’Bagy worked for the Institute for the Study of War. News is that she was just fired for lying about having a Ph.D. and having connections to a Syrian Rebel Advocacy Group. This is what Kerry and McCain had to say about the op-ed:

“O’Bagy’s Aug. 30 op-ed piece for the Journal, “On the Front Lines of Syria’s Civil War,” was cited by both Kerry and McCain last week. McCain read from the piece last Tuesday to Kerry, calling it “an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy.” The next day, Kerry also brought up the piece before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and described it as a “very interesting article” and recommended that members read it.”

O’Bagy, an analyst on the Syrian war, who went from obscure think tank analyst to media darling to unemployed in roughly a week. On Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, followed by President Obama’s declared intent to carry out a military strike in Syria. Suddenly, O’Bagy, who has supposedly spent some time with the rebels, was a very hot commodity. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know more about the rebels and she showed up everywhere including CNN. In an Aug. 30 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, O’Bagy challenged the conventional wisdom that the rebel forces are increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists.

“Moderate opposition forces — a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army — continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime,” she wrote.

Then, as quickly as her star rose, doubts began to emerge. First she came under criticism for serving as a both an independent analyst at her institute and for working on a contractual basis with an advocacy group that supports the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. That group subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition. And her cv was faked. 

The Obama adminstration  entrusted their decision-making to a report from a graduate of a women’s studies program (!) who is also in the employ of an organization devoted to promoting the cause of the rebels – presumably for the purpose of soliciting political support and possibly even donations.

Here are two politicians with about a combined 80 years of political experience relying on an op-ed piece about going to war that was written by a 26-year-old with flimsy Syria experience. You just can’t make this stuff up! No wonder Obama got a WWIII spin problem: 

The Putin article

A Plea for Caution From Russia What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria
By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN Published: September 11, 2013

RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies. Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.