I am all for resisting Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, but it is hard to weaken this petro-dictator without a national energy policy of our own that will bring down the price of oil and create alternatives. It is true that Obama could do more to “lead” the Europeans on Ukraine, but it is also true that Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany, today sits on the board of a giant Russian oil company. Think about that. Europeans don’t want to take on Putin.
Our biggest problem, though, is not Europe or Obama. Our biggest problem is us and our own political paralysis. The world takes America seriously when they see us doing big hard things together — when we lead by example. If we want to do more nation-building abroad, then we have to come together on a plan to do more nation-building at home first — including infrastructure investment, replacing income and corporate taxes with a carbon tax, a major new push for both energy efficiency and properly extracted natural gas, skill-building and immigration reform and gradual long-term fiscal rebalancing. That’s how we build our muscle and weaken Putin’s.
What is most scary to me about the world today is the fact that we are doing neither smart nation-building abroad to make the world more stable nor smart nation-building at home to make America more resilient and strong. We need both to be safe. We need more leverage from nation-building at home to have the staying power to lift others, but we also need those foreigners to provide a solid, unified foundation so our leverage can work. It’s hard to replace a flat tire, when your jack is broken or is sitting on quicksand. This is not just about Obama.