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letters | responding to the ukraine crisis

It’s easy to chide Obama, but what actions do critics want instead?

JEFF JACOBY echoes a familiar refrain among conservative commentators: President Obama’s response to the Crimean crisis has been unacceptably weak (“Wobbly US strengthens Russia,” Op-ed, March 19). Jacoby criticizes George W. Bush for the same thing, in fact. Bush’s response to Russia’s annexation of portions of Georgia was “little more than a scolding”; we should have “forced Russia to disgorge its conquests.”

Yet Jacoby also writes, “no one expects or wants the United States to go to war over Crimea.” So what, exactly, should we be doing? Jacoby doesn’t say — and neither do the other saber-rattling commentators on this, and so many other, foreign policy issues.

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It’s easy to criticize; what’s hard — and Jacoby acknowledges this not at all — is doing something effective in the absence of military action (or the threat of military action). So far, Obama has sanctioned individuals in the Russian government; perhaps Jacoby wishes the sanctions were broader, but broader sanctions would harm the general Russian population, who can’t be blamed for this latest incident. Furthermore, effective sanctions require an international effort, and it’s not remotely clear the European Union is willing to back such an action. So I’d like to know what Jacoby thinks Obama should actually do.

Sam Bayer

Cambridge

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