“President Obama was reportedly furious over (insert latest international outrage).
He continued to be furious for the full 18 holes.”
So goes the joke in the US where many citizens are becoming worried that their President has got less than his full attention on the world situation.
The Daily Telegraph has noticed it over here too, reporting recently on how Obama seems to be just “phoning it in” for his second term.
I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that the world is becoming an ever-more dangerous place.
Ukraine, Gaza, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan...
Such is the range of conflict zones encircling the European continent that if anti-aircraft missile technology of the calibre of the BUK missile-launcher that brought down Flight MH17 was widely available throughout these trouble spots the airlines would surely struggle to plot a single safe flight path either East or South of the continent.
We are surrounded by trouble.
As it happens it is likely that Flight MH17 would probably have safely reached its destination (and much other bloodshed in that region have been avoided also) had it not been for the EU’s expansionist ambitions in relation to Ukraine.
Brussels had sought to woo Russia’s western neighbour into the Euro-fold and for some reason expected that President Putin would quietly acquiesce to this. But someone really ought to have warned the Eurocrats that if you wish to plant your tanks on Russia’s front lawn it is a really good idea to actually have some tanks to begin with.
European defence spending is pitifully inadequate to meet the needs of an increasingly unstable global situation. And if you lack the military clout to take on the Russians then there is really only one safe course of action: don’t prod the grizzly.
So why did they?
As I see it the EU made two serious mistakes in relation to Ukraine.
Firstly, Brussels has hidden behind American power for so long that it treats its US-bought security as a given. They almost on a subconscious level think that they can play their soft-power games with impunity and will forever be able to run back between Uncle Sam’s coattails when it starts to get rough.
They do not seem to have noticed that those coattails are neither as extensive nor as generous as they once were, and that in any case Uncle Sam is off playing golf at the moment.
Secondly, the EU did not allow for Russian nationalism.
This is hardly surprising. To the average EU official, expression of love and pride for one’s country is viewed as an appalling throwback to the barbaric days of Old Europe.
It reminds them of those terrible times before the continent’s nations permanently welded open their border gates and clasped hands together to give a rendition of, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”
It simply does not appear to have occurred to them that anybody –even Putin – could possibly take offence at their clumsy land-grab in his front garden or that Russian national pride was a factor to be taken into account at all. It is quite simply a case of not understanding your opposition.
Worryingly the US is not performing any better on the world stage these days.
Obama was badly wrong-footed in Syria. He drew a line in the sand over the use of chemical weapons and banked on nobody being bold enough to cross it.
He was wrong.
The subsequent climbdown was a national humiliation for the United States. Some have even compared it to that suffered by Britain in the Suez crisis in 1956, and are suggesting that the incident could well signal the beginning of the end for American global hegemony.
If this is so then we could be in a lot of trouble.
As the British Empire waned in the first half of the 20th Century there was another great democratic power rising to take its place. As the shadows begin to lengthen on the day of America’s economic and military might who do we see ready to take up the cudgels in our day?
There does not appear to be another reserve global policeman waiting in the wings this time.
I recall a man with a proven track record of prophetic insight saying many years ago that the USA was all that stood between the world and the coming of Antichrist. I had a sense then that he was probably right and that sense has only grown through the intervening years.
What, fundamentally is the reason why the West is in this situation?
The problems are not especially financial – despite the economic traumas of the last few years these are still some of the richest countries in the world that we are talking about.
We can afford the defence spending. What is lacking is the will to effectively defend ourselves.
There is a colossal worldview issue here.
The Christian outlook that once prevailed in Europe and North America is almost vanquished. What we once fondly called “Christendom” has now gone entirely from Europe and in the US has shrunk into the heartlands of the Bible Belt where it doubtless intends to make a last glorious stand.
The West is now largely a spiritual desert where people have concluded that there is nothing to live for except personal pleasure and excess.
Once a society comes to the conclusion that there is nothing worth dying for then hard on the heels of that thought will come the realization that there is nothing worth living for either. Hence the growing culture of death all around us.
All of this is noticed by the world. We have communicated to other nations that we believe in nothing and that we are not prepared to die for it. The world looks us in the eye in search of resolve and sees none.
We are surrounded by covetous forces, envious and often resentful of centuries of Western wealth and power. The worry is that we do not seem to know this.
Yet here’s the kicker: we are the ones who are weird not them.
The rest of the world is merely playing according to the time-honoured rules of national self-interest, patriotism, religious & ethnic fervour. For them it is business as usual on planet earth.
We on the other hand now cannot understand why any nation would be driven by forces other than materialistic hedonism.
A classic case in point is Iraq.
Seemingly the West expected that when its military overthrew Saddam the happy people of that country would show their gratitude by settling down in front of their plasma TVs for the rest of their lives, watching the game and guzzling themselves into oblivion. That, after all, is what we had would have done in their place.
Doubtless there are those in Iraq who would have been happy to have gone along with that as a national future too. But along came radical Islam offering its adherents a rigid moral code for this life backed up with the offer of eternal bliss in the next.
That is a potent cocktail and the Iraqi army fled in the face of it.
Contrast such cast-iron religious certainty to what we now offer in terms of vision. The rallying call of the West in the 21st Century is: leave us alone so we can enjoy our stuff.
Empires & civilizations are not built on that.
A US President playing golf whilst the world burns around him may turn out to be the most apt image of all.