In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Russia threatened to send troops on behalf of the Egyptian army. President Nixon threatened a U.S. counteraction, reinforced the Sixth Fleet, and raised the U.S. worldwide military alert level to DEFCON 3.
Russia stood down.
That's how the region works. Power deterring power. Obama deals instead in empty abstractions — such as "international legitimacy"— and useless conclaves, such as "Friends of Syria" conferences.
Assad has a real friend.
Having watched Obama's retreat in Eastern Europe, his passivity at Russian obstructionism on Iran, his bended-knee "reset" policy, Putin knows he has nothing to fear from the American president.
Result? Putin floods Syria with weapons. Iran, equally disdainful, sends Revolutionary Guards to advise and shore up Assad's forces. Hezbollah invades Syria and seizes Qusair.
No warning that such balance-altering provocations would trigger even the most minimal American response.
Even Obama's chemical weapons red line is a farce.
Its very pronouncement advertised passivity, signaling that anything short of WMD — say, massacring 80,000 innocents using conventional weapons — would draw no U.S. response.
And when that red line was finally crossed, Obama went into lawyerly overdrive to erase it.
Is it any wonder that Assad's allies are on full offensive — Hezbollah brazenly joining the ground war, Russia sending a small armada and mountains of military materiel, Iran warning everyone to stay out?
Obama's response is to send the secretary of state, hat in hand, to Moscow. And John Kerry returns actually thinking he's achieved some great diplomatic breakthrough — a "peace" conference that Russia will dominate and use to re-legitimize Assad and marginalize the rebels.
To make sure Kerry understood his place, Putin kept him waiting for three hours.
The Russians know how to send messages. And the one from Qusair is this:
If you're fighting for your life and have your choice of allies — Obama bearing "international legitimacy" or Putin bearing Russian naval protection, Iranian arms shipments and thousands of Hezbollah fighters — which would you choose?
Krauthammer's email address is lett...@charleskrauthammer.com.