A Hell of a World

By Roger Simon

July 23, 2014 5 min read

"If you're going through hell," Winston Churchill once said, "keep going."

Last week felt like hell. A Malaysian passenger jet took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine by a missile supplied by Russia to separatist rebels.

All 298 on board were killed. As I write this, 251 bodies and 86 "body fragments" have been recovered — but only if you loosely define "recovered."

"Drunken — I mean literally, drunken — separatist soldiers are piling bodies into trucks unceremoniously and disturbing the evidence," Secretary of State John Kerry said on "Fox News Sunday."

Nowhere was there more anguish and anger than in the Netherlands, which lost 193 of its citizens on the flight, far more than any other country.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, not given to emotional outbursts, called the behavior of the separatists at the site "utterly disgusting" and demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervene.

In Gaza, Israelis unleashed horrific attacks in response to missiles fired from Gaza into Israel. One problem in reaching any solution is that both Gaza and Israel have hard-line governments. In fact, hard-line governments seem to be prevailing all over the world at the moment.

Putin, a former high-ranking KGB thug and ultranationalist, must have been baffled when Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Sunday told him to "man up."

The often shirtless, tiger-hunting, bareback-riding Putin seems to suffer from too much testosterone, not too little.

In any case, there is no reason for despair. All the forces in the world bent on chaos and destruction are up against a power they will soon have to reckon with.

That's us. Just in case you have forgotten.

As President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address on Jan. 24, 2012: "America is back. ... No, we can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs — and as long as I'm president, I intend to keep it that way."

The oft-repeated notion that America is "exceptional" can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831. But Obama was upping the ante. We are not just exceptional; we are now indispensable when it comes to world affairs.

"Never bet against the United States of America," Obama advised the graduates of the Air Force Academy on May 23, 2012 (a group that was unlikely to do so). "And one of the reasons is that the United States has been and will always be the one indispensable nation in world affairs."

As the years passed, even with world affairs seeming to slip away from us in Syria, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Crimea and Iraq, Obama did not change his rhetoric.

To the West Point graduating class, Obama said on May 28, 2014: "In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics."

Which led to this patented zinger: "The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past, and it will be true for the century to come."

And don't worry; Hillary Clinton is ready to pick up the torch. In the author's note to her recent tome, "Hard Choices," she wrote, "Everything that I have done and seen, has convinced me that America remains the 'indispensable nation.'"

So how come we don't feel it? Never mind that Gallup has Obama's approval rating in America at 41 percent, 1 point above his record low, and Putin's approval in Russia at 83 percent, tied with his all-time high.

And never mind that last September, The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis. ... More generally, Russia has at least for now made itself indispensable."

Not to worry. Obama can get the title back for us. Though, it won't be easy. On just three pages from The New York Times this Sunday, there were these four headlines:

"With Jet's Fall, War in Ukraine Is Felt Globally"

"Despite Israeli Push in Gaza, Hamas Fighters Slip Through Tunnels"

"5 Bombs Explode in Baghdad as Dispute Continues With Jordan"

"Attack Kills at Least 21 Egyptian Soldiers at Checkpoint in Western Desert"

Last week, it felt as if the world was going through hell. But we have no choice except to keep going.

And if the United States is truly indispensible, we ought to start acting like it.

Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist. His new e-book, "Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America," can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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