Fareed Zakaria shouts at Obama to “do something”:
The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the Cold War. Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled up over the past three decades, this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences [bold mine-DL].
Why would Zakaria abandon his previous “wariness” about intervention when a crisis involves a great power? The involvement of a great power undoubtedly makes the crisis significant, but it also undermines all of the usual interventionist arguments. It is fairly easy and relatively low-risk to demand “leadership” and “action” against small dictatorships that have few allies, but it should be much harder to spout the same bromides when it involves one of the more powerful states in the world. The U.S. has usually been able to involve itself in foreign crises and conflicts without any real risk of a larger conflict involving another major power, but that is exactly the danger now. That suggests that the U.S. should be much more cautious about how it responds, and more reluctant to resort to its usual set of coercive and punitive measures. To show caution over Syria or Libya, but to then cast caution aside because Russia is directly involved in a crisis makes no sense at all. The crisis in Ukraine is potentially dangerous enough that it should give even the most aggressive, knee-jerk interventionist pause, but the reaction in U.S. media generally seems to be just the opposite.
Zakaria goes on to insist that the U.S. “truly is the indispensable nation” in this situation, but it is difficult to see how that phrase applies in this case. The U.S. can be as assertive as it likes, but it won’t change the fact that many European countries have much more to lose in a confrontation than we do, and their governments are not going to be “pushed” into causing serious economic harm to themselves. If Zakaria could have identified one specific measure that the U.S. should take that it hasn’t taken, the rhetorical overkill might not be quite so terrible, but he doesn’t do that. Declaring that the U.S. is “indispensable” without being able to explain why that it so is no better than demanding the president “do something” about the crisis without identifying what he should do. It’s an otherwise meaningless act of jumping on the activists’ bandwagon, and an argument like that isn’t going to persuade anyone that hasn’t already jumped on board.