Obama isn’t a “soft” totalitarian so much as a slapdash one. His apparatchiks monitor the e-mails of both Jeffrey and George Osborne, but he still can’t tell one from the other. Likewise, in Syria as in Libya, “the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented” can’t tell a plucky freedom fighter itching to build Massachusetts in the sands of Araby from your neighborhood al-Qaeda subsidiary whose health-care plan only covers clitoridectomies.
His G8 colleagues have begun to figure out that America no longer matters. To be sure, the trappings of the presidency are a lagging indicator: He still flies in with more limos and Secret Service agents than everybody else, combined. Then again, the other American story to catch the fancy of the Fleet Street tabloids in recent days is that of the unfortunate Las Vegas man with the world’s biggest scrotum, weighing 140 pounds, yet unable to perform. Of his talks with Vladimir Putin, the president said, “With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence.” Putin aims to reduce the violence by getting his boy Assad to kill everyone he needs to. Obama aims to reduce the violence by giving a speech about the “intolerance that fuels extremism” — or is it the other way round? The world understands that Putin means it and Obama doesn’t — just as in Afghanistan everyone knows the Taliban means it and the fainthearted superpower doesn’t.
Thanks to the stork delivering his bundle to Miss Kardashian (see above), Americans seem not to have noticed that the U.S. has just lost yet another war. But in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, they noticed, and they will act accordingly. On the wings of love, up and above the clouds, Obama wafts ever higher on his own gaseous uplift. Down on solid ground, the rest of the world must occasionally wonder if they haven’t confused the U.S. delegation with the world’s most empty-headed boy band.