August 31, 2009

The Strong Horse vs. My Little Pony

Osama Bin Laden: When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse. -- Transcript of Osama bin Laden videotape - December 13, 2001

The recent resurgence of Russian military posturing coupled with their invasion of Georgia last year ought to give some pause. Putin has effectively sold Russia's physical and industrial resources to his friends and now runs the world's largest criminal state. He can operate much more effectively as he has none of the drag of a communist system, but retains the desire to play a dominant role in the world. -- BLACKFIVE: Russian fists clenching

Early in August, Vladimir Putin went on vacation. It wasn't like the ongoing vacationfest of Martha's vineyard that has so tuckered out President Obama that he needs to flee to Camp David. Pictures taken on Putin's much more rugged vacation were published in Russia and around the world. In the US and Western Europe these images were greeted with almost universal derision.



The slumbering and addled Western press promptly had a field day with the images. Of course, in their rush to evoke sardonic laughter, they missed the point of the pictures. Instead of seeing these propaganda photos for what they were -- an evocation of Putin as a new Russian "Man of Steel" -- our feminized media saw them as grist for their always ambiguous position on "gayness." (Sometimes, it's GRRRreat!, and sometimes it's not. Depending.)

The London Times, its staff no strangers to catamites, led the chortling pack with: Bare-chested Vladimir Putin strikes a macho pose - Times Online August 5

Photographs were published yesterday showing the Russian Prime Minister stripped to the waist riding a horse through rugged terrain during a brief holiday in the Siberian region of Tuva. Wearing only green fatigues, his eyes hidden behind reflective sunglasses, Mr Putin also showed his gentler side as he fed the horse from his hand after the ride.

Mr Putin, who will be 57 in October, showed off a set of rippling arm muscles as he demonstrated his butterfly swimming stroke. The photos will inevitably trigger mass swooning by women all over Russia — as well as unfavourable comparisons of their husbands to Mr Putin’s manly physique. They will also confirm the Russian Prime Minister’s status as a gay icon.

Others in the press followed suit and the virus leaked into the blogosphere where it was summed up by the Fake Steve Jobs having a fake epiphany:

And Putin? When you get done playing Brokeback Cossack, could you please friggin send me an email? Also, can I just point out that when guys like you start working really hard to show how tough and macho they are, we all know what it means? Not that there's anything wrong with that. But anyway. Put on some clothes and get back to ruining the lives of your people. Okay? You daft old queen.

Vladimir Putin a daft old queen? Vladimir Putin, the son of a mother who was a factory worker and a father who was part of the NKVD? Vladimir Putin, the grandson of a man who was a cook for Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin? Vladimir Putin of the KGB? Putin, who has held supreme power in Russia for 10 years with another 10 in the offing? That man, "a daft old queen?"

Well, as a good friend of mine is wont to say, "Isn't pretty to think so."

Lost on the western media and assorted schmos from the blogosphere is the obvious fact that these macho pictures of Putin were not released for their amusement, but for Putin's benefit. And, in the current international climate, they benefit him quite a bit. They benefit Putin and Russia because, for most of the world unblotched by the the crippling "sophistication" of the West, Putin is compared, inevitably, to Barack Obama. And when that happens, it's like comparing a Wild Mustang to My Little Pony.

Obama and his fans.

Putin and his fans.

Putin and his Russian associates know the value of image probably as well, if not better, than the much-vaunted "handlers" of Barack Obama. And where "cool" and "smooth" may play well in the liberal enclaves of America, they are losers in the tougher places of the world: Iran, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Stans, and everywhere else Russia and Putin continue to be engaged in "The Great Game."

In those realms, it really is the Strong Horse that, through fear, wins the allegiance of countries essential to the future energy supplies of the world. During the Bush years, the President's image was such that none of the various leaders of these countries could actually know what he might or might not do. It was the Bush cowboy image that, by and large, kept a lot of the countries of "The Gap" in Thomas Barnett's concept of The Pentagon's New Map, off balance and out of play.

Today we've seen months of apology, vacillation, drift, and weakness signaled by President Obama, in word, deed, and image. The problem with Obama when it comes to maintaining balance in the world is that he both sounds weak and looks weak. The only thing more dangerous in this current era than an American president that is too aggressive is one that is too weak. This is, indeed, what is being projected from the Obama White House.

To emphasize this perception, Putin wisely put into play a series of photo-ops to underscore how strong and vital he, and by extension, Russia has become. It's playing for the hearts and minds of the weaker countries of the world. With the exception of the morally and spiritually weak nations of the west, it's a winning campaign.

In the Great Game, letting Russia seem strong and America seem weak is a losing proposition for the West and a winning one for Russia.

Vladimir Putin, that "daft old queen," underscored this last week: Putin defends rebel regions' independence one year on August 26

At a meeting in Moscow with South Ossetia's President Eduard Kokoity, Putin said he was unconcerned that only Nicaragua had followed Moscow's lead in recognizing their independence and warned that Russia would repel any new Georgian attack.

"Just because a large number of states have not recognized their independence doesn't harm them," Putin told reporters. "Russia's recognition was enough."

Putin hinted that, unlike Russia, most countries would not dare make such a decision.

"Not many members of the international community use their sovereignty in the full sense of the word and are under the influence of one superpower -- the United States -- and carry out its will," Putin said.

He said such a situation would change because "no one wants to be a vassal."

"No one wants to be a vassal...." especially a vassal of My Little Pony.


Related Essays:

Obama: Not Man Enough to Be President

Does Obama Possess Courage?

Posted by Vanderleun at August 31, 2009 2:01 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Exceptional insight, Gerard. What passes for machismo in America does not equate to the rest of the West. I'm sure there are plenty of pols in Eastern Europe looking at the Russky Man of Steel, their borders, their erstwhile American ally, and thinking... hmmm.

Posted by: Velociman at August 31, 2009 4:22 PM

Can you see Putin apologizing for the excesses of Czarist Russia/Soviet Union/Modern Russia, like Obama is wont to do for America? Me, either. Russia has a lot of problems that Putin's bare-chested canter through the woods can't fix, but at least he looks strong and capable of dealing with them. In most of the world outside of Western Europe and the northern 2/3 of North America, an image of strength sells, while suave pseudo-sophistication a la Obama is perceived as weakness. Unfortunately in Obama's case, I'm convinced the image of weakness is all too real. As for Czar Vladimir I, he's a worthy opponent who will cost us much during his reign. And apologizing to him won't make him go away.

Posted by: waltj at August 31, 2009 5:49 PM

We are so screwed.

Posted by: Fat Man at August 31, 2009 6:00 PM

Obama is a perfectly fine example of a barefoot Kenyan long distance runner.

He would also look mighty fine in the robed finery of some African backwater cleptocracy--especially when he sticks his chin in the air and smirks.

Posted by: Koblog at August 31, 2009 8:22 PM

Why do the thugs vests say "Russia" in English?
It's POCCHR (as best rendered with roman letters).

Posted by: Jim Ellison at August 31, 2009 8:34 PM

Obama is a perfectly fine example of a barefoot Kenyan long distance runner.

Except that the Luo tribe (his father's tribe) isn't the one known for producing distance runners. That would be the Kalenjin.

Posted by: baldilocks at August 31, 2009 8:39 PM

"my little pony"

It'd be funny if he wasn't in a position to do so much damage to the country.

(ok, it is funny nonetheless)

Posted by: pdwalker at August 31, 2009 8:41 PM

For Obama the actor, cleverness and cunning may pass for intelligence, as hatred and contempt will for courage. But against real events and real players, acting is no defense.
'Courage is so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected, even in vice.'
Obama has no virtue, no vice, no courage, and no respect. Things are finally starting to look up.

Posted by: james wilson at August 31, 2009 9:26 PM

Putin's pictures remind me of the pink pony story. Some Oriental despot assembled his generals for a meeting and showed them his pink horse. He went on and on about it. Anyone that didn't join in to praise the 'pink' horse got their night's sleep extended to permanent dirt nap.

Putin looks a little goofy or at least, he looks normal (like everyday people I know camping) but trying to act like more than that. But he rules like a thug, so you can't call him out if you’re under his sphere of influence. Better complement his pictures / pink pony, or else.

And yeah, Obama looks even worse even when not striking a pose... At least Putin does look like what I consider a normal guy…

Posted by: Thomass at August 31, 2009 9:36 PM

"I'm sure there are plenty of pols in Eastern Europe looking at the Russky Man of Steel, their borders, their erstwhile American ally, and thinking... hmmm."

They're not thinking "hmmm", they're thinking "h-o-l-y shit!"

Why is it only the freaking blogosphere comes up with this kind of analysis? Well done, Gerard!

Posted by: brass buttons at August 31, 2009 9:39 PM

NSFW link but goes along the lines of this article. I will never think of Obama the same way again.

Posted by: Neifi at August 31, 2009 10:15 PM

The Vassal from the castle has the pellet with the poison, the phony like a pony has the brew that is true.
Get it? Got it! Good.

Apologies to Danny Kaye, now there was a great gay guy.

Posted by: bc at August 31, 2009 10:17 PM

He can parade around in his shorts all he wants. He still won't get his warm water port.

Posted by: Rix at August 31, 2009 10:38 PM

"Obama is a perfectly fine example of a barefoot Kenyan long distance runner."

You've got to be pretty tough to be a barefoot long distance runner in sub-Saharan Africa.

Tougher than Obama-tough anyway.

Obama is the effete Western equivalent of the Latin American or African Colonel-self-promoted-to-President.

He lacks the experience or character to actually do the job properly, but managed to game the system with something other than merit to land in place; then, once there, presumes to be the Father of the Country.

Posted by: amos at August 31, 2009 11:37 PM

Jim Ellison....what was the point of trying to spell Russia in Roman letters when the point of your mini rant was asking why they put RUSSIA in English on their jackets? Don't you have Russian keyboard configuration on your computer?

РОССИЯ....there, I fixed it fer ya.

Gerard....never misunderestimate the danger that Little Ponies represent:

Giddy up.

Posted by: Jewel at September 1, 2009 1:05 AM

For all his apparent toughness in these photos, let's face it Putin falls into the trap of looking...well... gay. Sorry Vladimir, see you at the leather bar.

Posted by: Mike G at September 1, 2009 4:04 AM

It is interesting that the Russian bikers choose Roman rather than Cyrillic letters for their colors. This probably reflects the origin of this style in the USA, and the Russians' aesthetic sense that using Roman letters is more "correct." In a similar way, I think, Japanese automakers put their model names on their cars in English, even in Japan. It just looks "right" that way. Perhaps a similar phenomenon here is the deployment of Chinese-character tattoos by many.

Posted by: Punditarian at September 1, 2009 4:07 AM

Compelling post! There's a small typo -- the quotation is "Isn't it pretty to think so." It's the last line from Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises."

Posted by: Mrs Whatsit at September 1, 2009 4:30 AM

Lets have Putin throw out the ceremonial pitch at the next All-Star game.

Posted by: john at September 1, 2009 5:31 AM

I am pretty sure those are not not just Russian bikers. They are Russian Hells Angels. I bet Putin uses them as some sort of modern cavalry unit.

Posted by: Lance at September 1, 2009 6:07 AM

For a man who would be king, Obama has clearly not read the instructions.


Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 1, 2009 6:24 AM

For people who strongly believe being gay is normal, they sure throw the label around to insult/downgrade a person.

reminds me of the line from Magnum Force:

Harry Callahan: You know those guys?

Early Smith: They came through the Academy after me. They stick together like flypaper, you know? Everybody thought they were queer for each other.

Harry Callahan: Tell you something. If the rest of you could shoot like them, I wouldn't care if the whole damn department was queer.

Posted by: at September 1, 2009 10:51 AM

Thanks to liberal/jewish guilt, the west is apologizing for being who we are. Russians, despite many problems, don't wake up, look in a mirror, and decide how they are going to pay pennence for their very existance.

Posted by: Smarty at September 1, 2009 2:39 PM

I wouldn't read much, if anything, into the alphabet choice. Moscow, at least, is littered with signs that mix the two together. Two amusing ones from my last visit: "кино, играл, mp3" and "папа джон pizza" (Russian has a word for "pizza" but they transliterate "papa john"?!?). Bathrooms are often labeled "WC" despite Cyrillic having neither a "w" nor a "c" ("c" is "s" not "c").

For what it's worth.

Posted by: mrsizer at September 1, 2009 3:50 PM

It's interesting how many people in western culture (see Mike G's comment & the cited TofL comments) have decided that assertive displays of the male form and "manly" behavior are as queer as Liberace. The feminist brainwashing of the culture has been overwhelmingly successful. A total victory for them, in fact.

Posted by: SnivelyWhiplash at September 1, 2009 5:32 PM

That is why I greeted the Bush 'Mission Accomplished" with applause even though contrary to media reports the mission accomplished banner was, as old navy hands know, a reference to the carrier's mission. Sorry, to me, Obama comes across as wimp. From my worldwide travels, I cannot believe that he is not seen the same way in our enemies' camps.

Posted by: Al Reasin at September 2, 2009 5:38 AM

Al Reasin seems spot on in his observations. Having seen a bit of the world, thanks to Uncle Sam's Naval international bar hopping society, one wonders indeed, what not only other world leaders think of our current occupant of 1600 Penn Ave, but how those who are pursuing with great haste, the act of imposing their particularly heinous version of change on the rest of us, think of him as well. My guess is they are quite content with the man, and his complete lack of ... well anything even remotely related to real statecraft, and or a spine.

Posted by: Guy S at September 3, 2009 10:23 PM