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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
\x34Rants and Raves\x34 includes everything from political commentary to movie reviews
America gets Red-lined
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By Stephen Browne
Steve Browne is an award-winning reporter and columnist who entered journalism by accident while living and working in Eastern Europe from 1991 to 2004. He is the author of two books for English students: \x34Word Pictures: English as it is REALLY ...
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Rants and Raves
Steve Browne is an award-winning reporter and columnist who entered journalism by accident while living and working in Eastern Europe from 1991 to 2004. He is the author of two books for English students: \x34Word Pictures: English as it is REALLY Used,\x34 published in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and Novosibirsk, Russia, and \x34English Linguistic Humor: Puns, Play on Words, Spoonerisms, and Shaggy Dog Stories.\x34 In 1997 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Yugoslav Movement for the Protection of Human Rights. He is currently living in his native Midwest, which he considers \x34the most interesting foreign country I have ever lived in.\x34
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By Stephen W. Browne
Sept. 17, 2013 11:14 a.m.



You want to know how I think Vladimir Putin feels these days? I bet he’s feeling pretty sick right about now.

Sure he’s just humiliated the president of the mighty United States, made us a laughingstock among nations, frightened our allies, heartened our enemies and with one stroke vastly diminished our influence in the Middle East while vastly increasing Russia’s. And I bet the victory tastes like ashes in his mouth.

Putin is former head of the KGB, the dreaded secret empire of Russia and one leg of the troika that formerly ruled: Party, army and KGB. He’s a stone killer and would-be Czar of a reborn Russian Empire, the Third Rome.

A man like Putin wants a man as an opponent in the Great Game.

Right now he’s thinking, “History will say I humiliated Barack Obama, and how hard was that?”

Astonishingly there seem to be any number of people in denial of the glaringly obvious fact that the president of the United States just got owned.

Obama made a threat he didn’t have the guts to back up and panicked. It’s that simple.

He waffled and equivocated and bleated, “It wasn’t ME who drew the red line, it was the world.”

John Kerry, secretary of state and born-again hawk went off-message, “It’s going to be a pin prick, you’ll hardly notice you’re being severely punished for gassing a thousand people or so.”

Gassing people to death is somehow far more heinous that shooting them with small arms fire or blowing them up with artillery like the other 99,000 or so Syrians over the past two years it seems.

Then Kerry went further out in left field and remarked as how if Assad gave up his chemical weapons maybe something could be worked out.

Putin leaped on it and offered to help take them and dispose of them. Like it wasn’t Russia giving the Syrians weapons to begin with.

To add insult to injury Putin then published a column in the New York Times which reeks of subtle mockery. He genially cautioned Americans about how dangerous it is to think of ourselves as an exceptional nation. He told us his relationship with Obama is one of growing trust.

To anybody who’s knocked about in the lands where the looming presence of Russia is a historical constant, the message is plain, “Your time as a great power is drawing to a close. The leader of the free world is weak, vacillating and in way over his head.”

You see Putin understands something Obama doesn’t, nor do many Americans for that matter. That the world is a dangerous place.

Consider. Putin was head of the KGB, the Soviet secret police. But the KGB is actually older than the Soviet state.

A secret police organization has a head, a mid-level bureaucracy and a vast network of street-level informers. When there is a regime change the head may get chopped off, and what head of a secret police expects to die in bed of old age? But the bureaucracy and network of informers is not something lightly thrown away.

The Russian secret police has an organizational continuity going back centuries. Its purpose is to protect a tyrannical state by maintaining a constant level of terror in the population. This is the sea Putin swims and thrives in.

Obama? Exclusive prep school in Hawaii. Harvard on a scholarship. World travel essentially as a tourist. Chicago community organizer, a town where politics is for sure dirty – but the price of losing is seldom death these days.

His knowledge of history is superficial and error-ridden. He has no military experience. He has never risked death for himself and his family for picking the wrong side of a political conflict. He has never killed a man he could see die.

Right now, anyone who isn’t worried isn’t paying attention.

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