This is how an American president should address Russian aggression
posted at 6:01 pm on July 17, 2014 by Noah Rothman
Without leaping to conclusions, a variety of national security analysts and experts are coming to the conclusion that an external event – a missile or a bomb – took town Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on Thursday. A total of 295 people, including what was at the time an unconfirmed report of 23 Americans, were killed in what increasingly appears to have been an attack perpetrated by pro-Russian militants on a civilian transport using sophisticated Russian hardware.
And the President of the United States was nowhere to be found.
AllahPundit smartly chronicled President Barack Obama’s display of contempt for the “optics” associated with being the leader of the free world amid a crisis.
The president scrambled from his lunch to a previously scheduled speech where the eyes of the world watched as America’s commander-in-chief was expected to address the escalating crisis in Europe. Uncharacteristically, quickening the pulse, Obama took to the podium promptly at his scheduled time, 2:10 p.m. ET, where he did just that:
“Obviously, the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border,” he said. “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy.”
The president added that he had directed his national security team to “stay in close contact” with the government in Ukraine, and his government was working to determine whether a report that 23 American citizens were on board that flight was accurate. He offered his prayers for the families of those who lost loved ones. And that was it.
38 seconds. Obama then proceeded to deliver a canned speech, one which he admitted he’s been giving “all week,” in which he said he supported more federal infrastructure spending to build “roads and bridges.”
There is every reason to think that the president did not want to get out in front of the information he has available to him, but there is also reason to believe that Obama had access to more information about the event than he acknowledged.
According to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in the absence of a failure of America’s satellite system, “We already know there was a missile launch, where it was launched” (a fact U.S officials confirmed late Thursday afternoon). The general added that the State Department should have been able to confirm or deny that Americans were aboard that flight by simply checking with the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands which should have been able to access the flight manifest.
It is unfair to be too critical of the president for waiting to gather his facts before addressing the situation. But 31 years ago, at a time with far less reliable technology or communications capabilities, President Ronald Reagan immediately addressed an eerily similar situation – when Soviet forces shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Three days later, Reagan delivered an address to the nation from the Oval Office:
“This crime against humanity must never be forgotten,” Reagan began. He said he grieved for those who died in that attack and for the families of those they left behind. “Their deaths were the result of the Soviet Union violating every concept of human rights,” the president added.
“Let me state as plainly as I can,” he continued, “there was absolutely no justification, either legal or moral, for what the Soviets did.”
With granular detail and in prosecutorial fashion, Reagan made the case for why the evidence suggests Soviet forces intentionally shot down KLA 007. He then played a portion of an audio tape featuring communications which clearly showed Soviet forces coordinating that attack – chatter similar to that which was intercepted by intelligence services following this event.
At the very least, Obama might have mustered a condemnation of the violence in this region which today claimed the lives of nearly 300 noncombatants.
Just yesterday, Obama scolded Russia for its failure to deescalate the situation in Ukraine and moved forward with promised sanctions on key sectors of the Russian Federation’s economy. Among the escalations Russia has permitted has been the transferring of sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems to pro-Russian militants. In that sense, Obama had already acknowledged that the attack on MH17 was the direct result of Russian actions.
Tonight, there will be “no scheduled changes” to the president’s fundraising schedule as he heads to New York City to entertain Democratic donors. This is a dangerous time for the world and the United States, one made even more dangerous due to Obama’s abdication of his role as America’s commander-in-chief.
This post has been updated since its original publication.