"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Opposing Lawlessness, At Home and Abroad

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 9
Publish Date: 
Sun, 03/23/2014


Since Teddy Roosevelt counseled, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” U.S. presidents have mostly followed his advice, cautioning adversaries to resolve conflicts peacefully or suffer consequences. 


Even President Carter brandished America’s big stick upon learning that bad things happen when you’re not respected, prompting him to Think Again about deterrence given “the Soviets’ ultimate goals.” 


But today, after unilaterally “resetting” relations with repressive regimes including Iran and Russia -- whose Ukraine incursion is “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War',” proclaimed NATO’s chief – America’s posture is more akin to “speak imprudently and carry a toothpick.”  


By not anticipating and mitigating gathering threats or adhering to our peace-through-strength tradition, America now “leads from behind.” We neither back good actors nor punish bad, nor are we perceived as tough and reliable enough to deter menacing behavior, rendering us “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend,” as Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis feared.


Conversely, on the domestic front, President Obama speaks powerfully and wields a bludgeon – a pen, a phone and a pledge to circumvent Congress by unilaterally re-writing, ignoring or negating laws he is constitutionally bound to “faithfully execute.”


Testifying before Congress on accumulating separation of powers violations, constitutional law professor and Obama voter Jonathan Turley warned that Obama is “not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system, he’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.”


To assert its branch’s authority, the House passed legislation providing legal recourse when the Executive Branch disregards the law, provoking a veto threat despite remedying the power abuses for which then-Senator Obama lambasted President Bush.


Meanwhile, though Obama declared Washington a negotiation-free zone on spending and debt issues, ruthless dictators like Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani are acceptable negotiating partners whose interests we’ve accommodated, distressing our allies.


Consider Ukraine, which exchanged its nuclear weapons in 1994 for assurances its sovereignty and borders would be respected. Post-Russian invasion, what prevents militarily insecure countries like Ukraine from pursuing nuclear weapons, never mind aggressive ones like Iran?


American “redlines” to limit bad behavior now signal the point at which we give up, devaluing our credibility, while bolstering adversaries. Though a valuable escape-hatch for ill-conceived redlines, accepting Vladimir Putin’s offer to oversee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stabilized mass-murderer Assad and elevated Putin’s stature -- and boldness.


In this power vacuum, Putin commands influence disproportionate to Russia’s economic strength, as did pre-WWII Japan and Germany whose playbook he follows. He claims the right to use “any means” necessary to protect Russian minorities from “extremists,” even insinuating “do as I say, or Iran gets a nuke.”


Seeking to unite Slavic peoples by repackaging the Soviet Union -- whose collapse he called the 20th Century’s “greatest calamity” -- Putin laments that millions no longer live miserably behind the Iron Curtain.  His greatest threat is the allure of freedom in stable and prosperous countries that respect the rule-of-law and human rights.


As if foretelling this crisis in a 2009 Moscow speech, Obama declared “state sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order,” arguing “a great power doesn’t show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries.”


But given Russian aggression and America’s widely ridiculed response – called a “slap on the wrist” by the Washington Post editorial board – whose authority is more respected, America’s or Russia’s?


Calling Obama’s foreign policy “based on fantasy,” the Post argued it centers more "on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality.”  In fact, the tide of war isn’t receding because 21st century behavior -- invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances – mirrors prior-century behavior.


Deterring tyrants like Putin, the Post contended, requires getting “ahead of him in adopting measures that inflict real pain, rather than waiting to react to his next act of aggression.” 


Such measures include: providing defensive weapons to Ukraine; reinstating European-based missile-defense, canceled to appease Putin; renouncing the 2010 arms-reduction treaty favoring Russia; and hurting Russia’s wallet and energy sector by restricting credit and approving measures to develop and export North America’s natural gas bounty.


The best retaliation is a strong, free and prosperous America, one that protects liberty by preserving our framers’ system of separated powers and dispersed authority – history’s most successful political experiment.


To imagine the world without America -- and appreciate our founders’ fear of concentrated and unchecked power -- examine Putin’s Russia whose nascent democracy was destroyed by constitutional changes granting him more authority.


Voters opposed to authoritarian governments with rubber-stamp legislatures – and their lawlessness – must stop the assault on America’s uniquely calibrated political system by speaking loudly, and badgering politicians with big electoral sticks.  


Think Again -- Isn’t it our obligation to remain a “government of laws, not of men” so future generations can inherit a secure and strong America?

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Succinctly stated with the

Succinctly stated with the purest of historical references, there can be no meaningful rebuttal to what you have stated: REALITY.

As usual your article was

As usual your article was worth waiting for and an analysis that really can't be countered. Problem is, what to do?

I know our elections this year are a big step in the right direction but if they fail to provide new direction what then?

I am reading Os Guinness' "A Free People's Suicide" which is his analysis of our society coming from an outsider. The subject of the book is how do you sustain freedom once it has been obtained. Ours is 237 years old and has been sustained so far but this past few years has put sustainability in question. I'll quote from the back cover of Guinness' book: "Nothing is more daring in the American experiment than the founders' belief that the American republic could remain free forever. But how was this to be done, and are Americans doing it today?

It is not enough for freedom to be won, It must also be sustained. Cultural observer Os Guinness argues that contemporary views of freedom are unsustainable because they undermine the conditions necessary for freedom to thrive. He calls us to reconsider the audacity of sustainable freedom and what it would take to restore it."

I believe the long term solution involves mentoring inner city kids at their schools, teaching Sunday School boys classes and mentoring young, 20 something men. It took a long time for us to arrive at the current cultural state of mind and probably it is a long climb back but......"baby steps" plus working towards a change in the coming election.

There seems to be growing discontent but we both know that when the battle rages towards November, the leftists will pull out all the stops. Hopefully the "WHY" coming from the right side will be succinct and have the necessary impact.

It is my observation that we

It is my observation that we the people are all to blame for what is happening in our country. We have become numb to the world around us as we plug into our Iphones and lead excessive lives. If our country were to be invaded by Putin right now we would lose...

this is what happens when a

this is what happens when a position coach takes over as head coach. he is more suited to sports info guy. we have a coach who can't size up the opposition and has no one to help look at film. he can't size up his own players. he can't schedule practices and time before the game. he goes into the challenge underprepared as are his people. melanie, as per usual has not only put her finger on this, but explains it so well. (TR was my fav president)

another great piece of

another great piece of excellent journalism

one thing missing in all the references to the situation in the Ukraine.

The US state department has had a hand in creating the upset that has resulted in the Crimea take over and the new soured relations with russia.

It was, in fact, the combo of kerry, rice, powers, and nuland that, in the arrogance of power, fomented much of the upset in the quiet but fragile balance between the west and russia over the ukraine, and much before the recent crisis became evident.

I am afraid that they miscalculated in helping and arranging the tearing away of ukraine from russia and into the hands of the west.

Having some say over the Ukraine is a vital interest of russia, and not a vital interest of the US.

Seems there is some hypocrisy there--- supporting the overthrow of a legally elected government (ukraine) while opposing the same in other places (morsi in egypt for example)

And with the present sanctions, i think russia can suffer much longer than Europe can suffer the loss of energy supplies. The russians love to suffer for mother russia, and will if the goals seem appropriate. The west also loses an ally in dealing with so many other internatuonal crisis, including Iran, Egypt, Syria etc etc.

The west is driving russia east and likely to stronger ties with china, where questions of sovereignty over territorial waters has now become a high risk venture.

The US has entered the domain of unintended consequences, and not properly evaluating the old law: every action has a reaction.

Another winner. Thank you.

Another winner. Thank you. It’s ironic that Putin has limited democracy within Russian through Constitutional change while our democracy is being limited with a pen and a phone.

I was going to read the whole

I was going to read the whole article, but I was dissuaded by the blatant embellishment that "U.S. presidents have followed his [Teddy Roosevelt´s] advice, cautioning adversaries to resolve conflicts peacefully or suffer consequences" (in the first sentence of the article).

I don´t know of any president who has ever cautioned "adversaries" (or any other countries) to "resolve conflicts peacefully or suffer consequences." It would be arrogant and unwise for any president to issue that kind of unenforceable threat.

Great article, by the way...I

Great article, by the way...I look forward to more “Think Again” submissions. My favorite (and the scariest) paragraph:

“By not anticipating and mitigating gathering threats or adhering to our peace-through-strength tradition, America now “leads from behind.” We neither back good actors nor punish bad, nor are we perceived as tough and reliable enough to deter menacing behavior, rendering us “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend,” as Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis feared.”

“Speak softy and carry a big

“Speak softy and carry a big reset button.”

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