President Barack Obama’s reaction to the worst attack on a civilian aircraft since September 11, 2001 was …underwhelming. Without even issuing a statement of condemnation, as did his last predecessor to face Russian aggression did, the president devoted all of 38 seconds to addressing what he called a “tragedy” over the skies of Ukraine.
Some of the president’s defenders have suggested that Obama is merely displaying excess caution amid heightened tensions in the midst of a situation that could quickly spiral beyond anyone’s control. Those supporters are quick to add that this caution is a welcome change from the last administration’s shoot first, ask questions later approach to foreign affairs – an unfair and misguided assessment, but one which is nevertheless prevalent among president’s backers.
The individual vying to become his successor, a former Secretary of State no less, put the lie to the notion that Obama was merely being extremely cautious when he did not deviate from his schedule of eating sampling Delaware’s local fare and sermonizing about “roads and bridges” for the umpteenth time.
No, Obama’s caution is another example of the president refusing to address crises in a timely fashion due to what he probably believes is an attachment to the doctrinal fantasy that the United States is overextended in the world. Hillary Clinton confirmed that when she told Charlie Rose on Thursday night that this whole plane mess is really Europe’s problem.
“As you know, the Europeans have tried to figure out the best way forward,” she said when asked how the United States should respond to clear evidence that pro-Russian separatists using Russian hardware killed nearly 300 foreign civilians. “From my perspective — and I have the benefit of not being in the government — if there is evidence linking Russia to this, that should inspire the Europeans to do much more.”
After noting that the world should put “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin on notice” and not “stand idly by,” Clinton reassured Rose that the United States would stand idly by.
“So Europeans have to be the ones to take the lead on this,” said the former secretary. “It was a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over European territory. There should be outrage in European capitals.”
That sucking sound you hear is the rapid formation of a power vacuum in Europe as the United States signals its noninterest in matters of regional and global security.
As of this writing, the bodies of only 181 of the 298 passengers on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 have been recovered. There has been no confirmation from the U.S. government that American citizens were not on that plane. For Clinton, an aspiring President of the United States to suggest that Americans killed on a civilian transport flying over hostile territory — made hostile, by Obama’s own admission, by Russian actions – is not America’s problem is insulting and irresponsible.
Fortunately, at least insofar as the reaction in the British press is concerned, Europe is taking this escalation of hostilities with the seriousness it deserves:
UPDATE: Video has surfaced of Clinton’s appearance with Charlie Rose: