After weeks in which they have criticized Barack Obama's supposedly "weak," "ineffectual" and "incompetent" response to Russia's seizing of the Crimean Peninsula, and after not bothering to tell anybody exactly what they would do that would be far tougher yet not result in a full-blown war (especially since some of them have all but specified military action), the Republican Party has some 'splainin' to do. American voters and the world of nations deserve an explanation and probably an apology from the GOP, especially given this:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called President Obama on Friday to discuss a proposal by Mr. Obama for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, and the two leaders agreed that their chief diplomats should meet soon to explore it, the White House and Kremlin said.Obama's approach all along, tailored by the need to lead a more tentative (for legitimate reasons) European community in a coordinated response, was to impose stiff economic penalties and embargos on Russia as punishment for the Crimean takeover and continuing Russian actions that threaten the sovereignty of the entire Ukraine and perhaps beyond.
In a statement from the White House, officials said that the telephone call from the Russian president followed a proposal presented by Secretary of State John Kerry to Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, during talks at the Hague earlier this week.
While there was no immediate indication that either side was prepared to give ground, Mr. Putin’s telephone call in itself appeared to represent a shift in tone aimed at defusing a serious rupture in relations and Russia’s increasing isolation... .
Obama and other western leaders have mentioned the possibility of more widespread economic embargoes if the situation worsens. The US and the EEC have specified that further Russian intrusions might well trigger those additional, non-military steps. But it's already clear the current economic embargo (under which the financially tender Russians were kicked out of the important G8 and the country's stock market has suffered) clearly has been noticed by the Kremlin.
That outcome became even more obvious with Putin's reported call. Conservatives like to regard Putin as suitably daring and bold, and dream of a similarly confrontational US leader in the mold of Bush the younger or Reagan. But what is really important to the world right now is that Putin turn out to be wise and is not (as some of those same, cognitively dissonant conservatives would have it) insane. It's important that as much as possible he and Obama act like world leaders who do not want to escalate this crisis.
No certainties in all this, but a hopeful sign. Putin's call to Obama suggests he knows this is a serious matter that could escalate without serious attempts at peaceful diplomacy. So he's reaching out. Which is something the GOP has yet to try, either with Russia or Obama himself. Rather, Republicans are more interested in scoring political points than finding the safest path to resolution.
But go ahead, GOP, keep picking at the scabs of past wars your party's presidents started. Keep trying to convince voters who have no stomach for more such action that force is the only alternative and that anything less is cowardly. Your strategy so far could be boiled down to, "Let's Putin and Obama fight!" And it arguably would lead to escalation, which is where overheated rhetoric and domestic political threats usually push these kinds of issues.
After all, yours is just a game, right? And, gee, it isn't like you're playing around with World War III or anything.