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Mark Caserta: Can the US retain superpower status?

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 09:15 AM

Recently, the New York Times featured an op-ed column by Russian President Vladimir Putin lecturing the United States and President Obama on the shortcomings of U.S. foreign policy and, more specifically, how we should respond to the recent events in Syria.

The irony of Putin's action is so immense it's difficult to capture with brevity. While much of the column's content was condescending and ineffectual, the brazen nature of his undertaking is disturbing.

Appointed to office in 1999 by retiring Russian president Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin served as president of Russia until 2008. A stint as the country's prime minister preceded his re-election to the presidency in 2012. For 16 years prior he served as an officer in the KGB, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Described by some as arrogant and ambitious, it's widely accepted that President Putin is on a mission to return Russia to her communist "glory days" and reposition his country ahead of the United States as a superpower.

Having once described the break-up of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century," Putin has been involved in all of Russia's major foreign policy decisions over the past 12 years.

Make no mistake -- Vladimir Putin understands the power of influence and manipulation. His opinion piece in the Times was not just meant for the American people, but the world.

In foreign policy, perception is everything. For years foreign governments have been studying the decision-making tendencies of Barack Obama. Unfortunately, many of them now see the U.S. as weak and passive in our international relationships resulting from the unsteady hand of our president. His impotent leadership has emboldened our adversaries to act in a manner which heretofore would have been considered foolish.

Putin senses the diminished confidence in U.S. leadership right now. He believes there is so much distrust and partisanship among Americans that even a communist dictator can seize the opportunity to "nobly" communicate to the people of the United States, and at the same time the world.

The vagueness as to what President Obama stands for has created massive domestic and international unrest. Putin's op-ed piece is a manipulative attempt to further weaken the perception of American "exceptionalism."

I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev attempted such a forward action with President Ronald Reagan.

First of all, it would never happen. Gorbachev would have never tried to circumvent Reagan, "the great communicator," in addressing the United States. There was no window of opportunity.

Ronald Reagan defined leadership and steadfastness as president. He took actions to strengthen the United States, not weaken it. And he did so unapologetically.

In stark contrast, Barack Obama's actions have arguably weakened the United States both domestically and internationally -- and at times, included a misplaced apology.

Can the U.S. retain its status as the world's superpower or will it be relinquished?

Right now, it's in President Obama's hands.

And three years is a very long time.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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