America responds to airliner attack with sadness, not strength

The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti set the stage on Friday for the present standoff between the West and Russia, and the Obama administration’s complicity in allowing events in Europe to spiral out of control:

“I think it was a brilliant stroke,” Hillary Clinton says of the “reset” policy the United States pursued toward Russia when she was secretary of State. She has an odd understanding of brilliance. The “reset” gave us a world where Georgia remains illegally occupied, where Poland and the Czech Republic lack missile defenses, where American parents cannot adopt Russian babies, where Russian bombers fly within 50 miles of the Pacific coast, where Ukraine is sundered, where the prospects for ground war in Eastern Europe are high, where Putin says U.S. sanctions against his cronies will take bilateral relations to a “dead end.”

On Thursday, the smoldering conflict between the West and a revanchist Russia took on a new and unthinkably dangerous dimension when pro-Russian separatists armed with sophisticated Russian weaponry attacked a civilian airliner, killing nearly 300 noncombatants including one dual American citizen.

“It strains credulity,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said on Friday when asked if he thought the pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine operated the powerful anti-aircraft battery that took MH17 out of the sky on their own. He added that there must have been “at least some measure of Russian support.”

This escalation in the face of repeated American attempts to resolve tensions in Eastern Europe peacefully, through the application of diplomatic pressure and the imposition of “smart power” sanctions regimes on Russian individuals and industries has not, however, led members of the administration to express their justified exasperation. Instead, America’s leaders have projected emotion.

United Nations Amb. Samantha Power presented a compelling case on Friday against Russia in the United Nations Security Council. In her speech, Power indicated Moscow’s protection and support of rebel factions in Ukraine led to this escalation in refreshingly clear terms. She began, however, with a display of sentiment when detailing the grim results of this gross crime.

Hours later, President Barack Obama followed her lead when he announced, neither his decision to agree to supply Ukraine with the lethal aid they have requested nor that the United States was redirecting troops and carriers to the region in order to protect the citizens of NATO allies under threat, but his support for a thorough investigation into the attack.

In that announcement, Obama, too, projected sorrow rather than warranted anger.

“So now’s, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened,” he said. “Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences.”

I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we had imposed. He said he wasn’t happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path that would result in peace in Ukraine, but so far, at least, Russia has failed to take that path. Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire. That’s why, together with our allies, we’ve imposed growing costs on Russia.

It has been apparent for some time that Moscow views those “costs” as acceptable.

On Thursday, the president called the attack on MH17 a “tragedy.” He said then that he did not want to get in front of the facts of the investigation into that incident. The facts are, however, known today, and they indicate that this was no “tragedy.” An earthquake is a tragedy. A natural and unpreventable calamity that can only be met with prayer and reflection is a tragedy. This was an atrocity.

While the president called this act of terror an “outrage” and several times insisted that Russia had instigated this heinous act by supporting brutal partisans in Ukraine, he urged caution and patience while an already corrupted and actively resisted investigation into the attack takes place.

Meanwhile, the United States weeps for those who lost their lives on Thursday and they left behind. That is fine, but those souls taken too early as the result of actions by an irresponsible and aggressive foreign power also deserve to be avenged.