When George Mallory was asked in 1924 why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he snapped, "Because it is there." Fourteen years later, Adolf Hitler might well have given the same answer if asked why he wanted to annex the Sudetenland. And nearly a century later, Vladimir Putin is swallowing up the Crimea for the same reason: Because it is there for taking. Putin knows when it comes to invading and annexing the Crimea, no one is going to stop him.
Consider the three candidates you might think at first glance would stand in Vladimir Putin's path. First, there's Ukraine. But its military is no match for Moscow.
Second, there's the European Union. But Western Europe's anemic military budgets have taken a back seat to welfare spending in once-great nations that have said since World War II, "We'll sit this one out; we gave at the office between 1939 and 1945."
Third, there's the United States. But it is led by the weakest, most feckless, least intimidating President in the history of the republic. As Russian dissident Garry Kasparov recently said, "Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like Winston Churchill." Putin knows that the Crimea is there for the taking because he knows Barack Obama would rather collect Nobel Peace Prizes than stand up for American allies and interests and values.
This weak excuse for a President isn't about to "fight on the beaches"; he only fights in courtrooms defending Obamacare and on the stump excoriating wealth and success. He isn't offering "blood, toil, tears, and sweat," he's only offering cheaper student loans and free birth control. He isn't chomping on a cigar and praising his countrymen during their "finest hour"; he's wearing mom jeans and apologizing for his countrymen to the rest of the world.
Whereas Vladimir Putin is a Cold Warrior, Barack Obama is a class warrior. When he declares that "we're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends," the enemies he's talking about are entrepreneurs with the audacity to think they actually built their business, and the friends he's talking about are the adoring fans of this Celebrity in Chief. His style of warfare plays well among union leaders and community organizers, but it isn't much help against KGB-agents-turned-lawless-dictators intent on territorial expansion.
Don't get me wrong – I don't want to go to war over the Crimea. America shouldn't be the world's policeman. Instead, what I want is a president who projects strength. I want a president who understands that weakness provokes aggression. I want a president who doesn't draw red lines he can't back up; who protects our diplomats from terrorists in places like Benghazi; who invests in militarily necessary projects and soldiers; who isn't afraid to make a detainee stand on his feet for a few hours during an interrogation; and who doesn't telegraph his spinelessness by flip-flopping for political reasons on everything from gay marriage to campaign matching funds to the individual mandate.
In his best imitation of a real leader, President Obama has vowed that "there will be costs" to Putin's aggression in the Crimea. I doubt it. But there are costs to American weakness. Sadly, the people of the Crimea are paying those costs.