Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Games That People Play

Garry Kasparov-a man who knows a thing or two about strategy and Putin-takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to detail how the Russian leader is playing for keeps in the real world while President Obama is playing make believe in a fantasy land where everyone actually plays by the rules.

The continued slaughter of Sunnis in the region will draw in more support from the Saudis and more foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia. The situation will metastasize like a cancer, which suits Mr. Putin fine. War and chaos create more enemies and more opportunities for him to look like a tough guy on Russian state TV. Iran’s regime needs conflict for similar reasons, which is why it can never give up “Death to America.” A growing war will also drive up the price of oil, a benefit that isn’t lost on Tehran or Moscow.

These consequences may be acceptable to Mr. Obama, but he cannot pretend to be ignorant of his role in creating them. I, too, would like to live in the world of diplomacy and law that Mr. Obama seems to believe we inhabit. But unfortunately we do not. Power and action still matter, and in places like Syria and Iraq you cannot have power without action.

Mr. Putin didn’t say anything new at the U.N., because he didn’t need to. He knows that he has concrete assets that are more effective than mere words. He has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House.

The cliche that some invoke is that Putin is playing chess while Obama is playing checkers, but for that to be true the President would actually have to moving pieces on the board. We would be lucky if he were even that engaged. The reality is that while Putin is outmaneuvering the United States on almost every front our leader is not even in the game.