For a long time, the U.S. has been the dominant military power in the region. What has been so great about that? Instead of making us safer, our role has given us more enemies. If Putin wants to invite jihadists to turn their attention from attacking America to attacking Russia, more power to him.
We got involved in the region mainly to assure access to Persian Gulf oil. That imperative is less urgent than before, since we are producing more oil at home and consuming less. In any case, the U.S. is not about to leave and let the chips fall where they may. Our power has rested mainly on our navy, whose continued presence and supremacy are not in doubt.
Plenty of countries in the region will lean toward us regardless of what Putin does — including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Others will be uncooperative regardless, notably Iran. Russia’s venture isn’t likely to make much difference either way.
Obama’s critics portray him as weak and lost in the face of the bold Russian challenge. But the truth is he’s engaged in geopolitical jujitsu, using the opponent’s strengths against him. He’s avoiding risks that carry no commensurate rewards.