Years of bungling and retreat by the Obama administration's foreign policy team continues to increase pressure on international systems, resulting in the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

By R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

The Syria crisis, during the late summer of 2013, presented a disturbing window into the tumult and confusion of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus. President Obama's request for Congressional approval, as a delay tactic, to use force and an general unwillingness to respond as the Syrian regime fired chemical weapons in civilian areas confirmed that the president's words were empty and that consequences would not follow.

As hope for the Arab Spring disintegrated into mayhem, it became clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was witnessing the reemergence of an American foreign policy not experienced since the presidency of Jimmy Carter. 


Following the Russian invasion of Crimea, President Putin learned with each geopolitical inroad that Western Europe and the United States were not willing to apply meaningful pressure, beyond rhetorical threats and thus far, ineffective economic sanctions directed at individual Russians in Mr. Putin's inner circle.

The lack of meaningful pressure on countries violating global conventions increases entropy on international systems and order.  

America's 'old' foreign policy, that the Obama administration viewed as 'arrogant' and 'paternalistic', was in fact, the glue that kept relative order in a world very capable of unraveling.  

The 'unravel' begins on a micro level as regional players make a calculus to increase their own political or economic influence at the expense of weaker neighbors. 

During the 20th century and continuing following the Cold War, the U.S. accepted the responsibility of maintaining regional stability through democratic and autocratic means. This required supporting regimes of varying respectability, but it generally 'kept the peace', in less than stable parts of the planet.

America's new total disengagement policy leaves most of the world vulnerable to the wishes of a stronger neighbor, in this case, the Ukraine is being bullied by its Russian neighbor.

The loss of flight MH17 is a result of political disengagement by the United States during a time of economic strife and debate of what America's role should be in the world. As any predator, Russia senses a weakness from the West not seen in decades. The opportunity for Russia to rebuild some of its lost glory has been the irresistible impetus when presented with a pacifist American president.