Sally Kohn: These Republicans are "undermining" Obama by criticizing him on Russia

Via Charles Cooke, who remembers being told that dissent, especially on matters of war, was the very height of patriotism. Note that, by the logic of the opening line here, it’d be fair to conclude that Democrats were cheering for Saddam Hussein because he gave them a new excuse to bash President Bush.

But never mind that. Explain to me how criticizing O for not being more aggressive in punishing Putin “undermines” him in any way. Some hawks used to accuse doves of undermining the Iraq war on the theory that the more dovish the public became, the greater the pressure there’d be on Bush to pull the troops out before the U.S. had accomplished its goals. Which strategy is being “undermined” in this case, though, by accusing O of not standing up to Putin? War-weary Americans may dismiss O as weak but they’re not going to demand a confrontation with Putin just because the GOP’s unhappy. And foreign leaders already have ample reason to distrust Obama independent of Republican grumbling, from abandoning longtime U.S. ally Mubarak in 2011 to the Syria “red line” fiasco last year. If anything, Obama’s Republican critics want to give him more options to confront Putin, starting with the sanctions they’ll be voting for next week. That’s a strange definition of “undermining.”

If Republicans are trying to undermine anything, it’s Putin himself plus the excruciating naivete about bad actors evinced by foreign-policy sophisticates:

“What we see here are distinctly 19th and 20th century decisions made by President Putin,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to a group of reporters. “But what he needs to understand is that in terms of his economy, he lives in the 21st century world, an interdependent world.”

James Jeffrey, a retired career U.S. diplomat, said that view of Putin’s mindset cripples the United States’ response to the Russian leader. The issue is not that Putin fails to grasp the promise of western-style democratic capitalism. It is that he and other American rivals flatly reject it.

“All of us that have been in the last four administrations have drunk the Kool-Aid,” Jeffrey said, referring to the belief that they could talk Putin into seeing the western system as beneficial. “‘If they would just understand that it can be a win-win, if we can only convince them’ – Putin doesn’t see it,” Jeffrey said. “The Chinese don’t see it. And I think the Iranians don’t see it.”

They really like that line about 19th/20th/21st century decisions at State. Kerry himself has been using it, a cringing George Will notes:

One hundred years after a spark in Central Europe ignited a conflagration from which the world has not yet recovered and from which Europe will never recover, armed forces have crossed an international border in Central Europe, eliciting this analysis from Secretary of State John Kerry: “It’s a 19th-century act in the 21st century. It really puts at question Russia’s capacity to be within the G8.”

Although this “19th-century act” resembles many 20th century (and 16th, 17th and 18th century) acts, it is, the flabbergasted Kerry thinks, astonishing in the 21st century, which he evidently supposes to be entirely unlike any other. What is more disconcerting — that Kerry believes this? Or that his response to Putin’s aggression is to question Russia’s “capacity” — Kerry means fitness — for membership in the G8?

Given that one of Putin’s motives in seizing Crimea is to reclaim a sense of 20th-century Russian greatness, how on earth does accusing him of “20th-century decisions” insult him? And Republicans are they ones undermining O?

Exit question: What will the consensus lefty line on Cold War II be? The Kohn-ian “support your president” take or Eugene Robinson’s “who are we to judge someone else’s invasion?” line? Dilemmas, dilemmas.