Obama wants to reduce the violence by coaxing Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is winning the war, to attend a conference at which he negotiates the surrender of his power. Putin wants to reduce the violence by helping Assad complete the destruction of his enemies.
Regarding Syria, Obama is tentative and, if he insists on the folly of intervening, tardy. He is giving Putin a golden opportunity to humiliate the nation responsible for the “catastrophe.” In a contest between a dilettante and a dictator, bet on the latter.
Obama's vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Is everyone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy's “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan's “Tear down this wall”? With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: “As I've said, Angela and I don't exactly look like previous German and American leaders.” He has indeed said that, too, before, at least about himself. It was mildly amusing in Berlin in 2008, but hardly a Noel Coward-like witticism worth recycling.
His look is just not that interesting. And after being pointless in Berlin, neither is he, other than for the surrealism of his second term.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP