United States of ... France
France was a big power in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The French were pretty much in a constant state of war what with everything from the Seven Years' War, to the French and Indian Wars, to the American Revolution, to the Napoleonic Wars.
Then came the 20th Century when World War I was mostly fought on French soil leading to their preemptive surrender in World War II.
Since then the French still pretend to be a full-fledged member of the Planetary Cool Kids Table, but they have to sit on the end and fetch extra pints of milk for the real members.
The United States, under President Obama, is looking more and more comfortable at the other end of the table.
We haven't been sent to get extra napkins yet, but Barack Obama is responsible for the most dramatic decrease in a nation's standing since Alderaan was blown up by the Death Star in 1977 (Earth date).
The Edward Snowden debacle is the latest in a string of embarrassments, miscalculations, examples of mis- non- and/or malfeasance of his keeping his Administration under control, and just plain incompetence.
Starting with the latest, as I type this: Everyone in the Russian government - from Vladimir Putin to the guy that sweeps the lobby just inside immigration at the Moscow Airport - is openly mocking everyone in America from Barack Obama to the guy that sweeps the lobby just inside immigration at Dulles Airport.
The National Journal's Michael Hirsh (whom I neglected to mention the other day is a cousin-by-marriage) wrote that Putin's doing the Ren-and-Stimpy Dance o' Joy over Snowden is in line with his positions on:
"Syria (with Putin backing Bashar al-Assad against the U.S.-aided rebels);
"Iran (where Moscow opposes too-stringent sanctions and is building a reactor); and
"Missile defense (where Putin pressured President Obama to retreat from a missile-defense system, angering the Poles and the Czech Republic)."
Prior to arriving at the Transit Lounge in Moscow, Snowden was in Hong Kong where senior members of the Chinese government were busily staring at their shoelaces as he left his hotel, traveled across Hong Kong, went to the airport, bought a ticket, made his way through Chinese immigration (even though his U.S. passport had been canceled), got on a plane and flew non-stop and in decadent Western luxury to Moscow.
The Times of India wrote that while the Obama Administration was stomping its feet and holding its breath over Snowden, in China the "government-controlled media [was] describing him as an "idealist" and a "hero."
Ok. Anyone can have a rough patch with Russian and Chinese dictators. But, how about the Obama Administration's excellent work in dealing with the Taliban?
The Administration announced it was planning to open direct talks with the Taliban at their brand, spanking new office in Qatar which the Taliban treated as if it were an embassy.
Hamid Karzai, the current thug atop the Afghan food chain, immediately flew into a frenzy and declared he was not only opposed to the U.S. meeting with the Taliban, but was stopping his own negotiations with the U.S. on what military forces would be allowed to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and under what circumstances. This is known as a Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement.
I know we've been through this before, but the Pashtun/Arabic word for "student" is Talib. The plural of many words is reached by adding the letters "an."
Thus Talib+an (Taliban) means students. Students of the Koran.
Happy to help.
...to show their good faith, immediately went out and attacked a convoy, killing at least one NATO soldier; attacked and killed nine tourists in Pakistan, including one American; and to make their week of goodwill complete they launched an attack in central Kabul in which, according to the New York Times, they employed
"Two land cruisers similar to those used by international soldiers here, fake badges and vehicle passes, which allowed at least one to get inside the heavily guarded area, according to Kabul's deputy police chief."
This is the way the Taliban feels it needs to prep the conference table to negotiate with Obama.
The fact is there is absolutely no downside risk for a foreign leader or group to give Barack Obama a rhetorical Leroy Jethro Gibbs smack to the back of the head.
Call Rosetta Stone. We all need to learn how to speak French.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to Alderaan (a video), to Michael Hirsh's piece and to the Times of India. Also a Mullfoto of good man doing a tough job.