The Putin temptation

Over the years, Mr. Putin has put virtually all media, especially television, under his effective control. What the Russian people read, hear and see is a nonstop river of anti-U.S. and anti-European propaganda. People who have lived in Russia recently say there has never been anything like the virulence of this invective, not even during the Cold War years.

No one in the free world should want to be party to such massive falsity.

Still, there is the reality: The demagogues show up when the democrats become weak. Since the end of World War II, the traditional political leader of the Western democracies has been the president of the United States. Policy differences aside, U.S. presidents from Truman through George W. Bush have been willing to lead, period. Now comes Barack Obama.

The famous oxymoron, “leading from behind,” emerged from the White House foreign-policy shop during the Libyan crisis. This notion is sometimes attributed to Mr. Obama’s leadership idiosyncrasies. That’s wrong. It summarizes the explicit, thought-out strategy of the Democratic Party’s current generation of foreign-policy intellectuals.