Optics

Today a plane was shot down over a hot zone on the border of Russia and Ukraine. Both sides are known to be firing at aircraft. It’s unclear what happened. That analysis will take days to work through. What some find shocking, besides the 298 people killed, is how our POTUS chose to respond. Updated: The initial reports had 23 Americans on board, but that was contradicted by records held by the Malaysian Airline. At this time, the number could be 4, or none at all. It still doesn’t make the flaccid response from the POTUS any less unsettling. Here’s a thorough timeline via The Sydney Morning Herald, including a list of the nationalities of the casualties.

One would think, our POTUS would address the incident the first moment he found himself in front of a microphone, but he didn’t. He talked about developing infrastructure, which is what was scripted. That is to say it’s what was on his daily agenda. He mentioned the tragedy briefly afterwards to reporters. Like journalist Jason Howerton says here, this is about optics. The optics are not good. They also aren’t clear, as pointed out to me by Mohamed Elibiary, a former counter intelligence official.

One might suppose that this is what the president meant by “more flexibility” after his election. Which is something he was caught saying to Vladimir Putin. We don’t yet know who shot down the plane, but we do know that it was the current administrations foreign policy approach that set the table, that allowed the plane to be shot down, in the first place. His “flexibility” allowed Putin to start the regional posturing that has caused both sides to start firing at aircraft.

It was a Malaysian commercial airline, shot down by either Ukraine forces, or Russian backed separatist forces, or maybe Russia herself. It’s still unclear. No one in their right mind would try to pin that on the POTUS, but his business-as-usual-follow-the-script approach in the hours after the story has broken, is unsettling.
It feels like unsettling times. The headlines from Gaza, Turkey and, Tripoli, later in the day, only reinforced my unsettled feeling.

Update

20140723-110820-40100052.jpg
(Photo via Ambassador Powers)

One notable effort in this whole thing has been Ambassador to the UN Sammantha Powers. She seemed to be the only person in the current administration who understood the optics of this incident. It appears she was aware that things could keep spiraling even more out of control in the region. Which, unfortunately–they have.

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