In Chinese, we are told, the word for threat is the same as the word for opportunity.
While the deep and profound implications of that linguistic anomaly could and probably have been mined by scholars of various cultures for centuries, illustrating the roots of the Asian culture's capacity for endurance, resilience, steadfastness and "unruffability" in the face of any kind of storm, unless and until pushed to the brink, it is now time for the west, and especially for the United States, and more precisely for the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, to demonstrate that, history has given him and his administration both the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity to leave a lasting and positive imprint on history.
If Obama believed, as he said in Grant Park in November 2008, on the night of his first election to the White House, that "this is our moment", and it clearly was the moment when the stars coalesced around a favourable galaxy for the first black man to live in the White House in U.S. history, then this moment, in the Ukraine and for the world, confronts the man, his presidency and the world's stability going forward.
Fareed Zakaria has called the crisis the most significant geopolitical crisis to face the world since the Second World War. If his assessment is credible, and while it trumps Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Bosnia and more recently Syria and other conflicts since the mid-twentieth century, and Zakaria himself is not prone to melodrama and exaggerations, then Obama's historic moment, on the world stage is now.
Foraging a path through the economic crisis of 2008, the housing bubble and the economic collapse that he inherited, bailing out the auto companies, passing the Health Care Affordability Act, helping to clean up after hurricane Sandy, steering the country through Sandy Hook and Aurora's bloodbaths, negotiating with Russia the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, and even negotiating an end to the Iranian hubristic ambition for nuclear weapons (both still a work in progress)...these pale in comparison to the potential for the world if a country's boundaries can be changed by an aggressor with barely a shot being fired in the "Caesarian" removal.
Putin's actions in reclaiming Crimea, after Kruschev openly "gifted Ukraine with its territory in 1954, must not become a model for future leaders in any hegemonic administration of any country, including the Chinese, the Japanese, and even the United States.
However, the task of bringing the "herd of cats" that is the European Union, the Kremlin, and the
United Nations, along with both the people of the Crimea and the Ukraine to a table, to forge a negotiated settlement of this open and potentially lethal geopolitical tumor will require the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, the intellect of an Einstein, and the good humour of Bob Hope.
And it will require all of the libraries of the world to be deeply mined for their storehouse of evidence of leaders rising to the peek of their potential, demonstrating the best angels of humanity, for all of history both to remember and to summon as examples of courage, imagination and collaboration.
And it will have to happen amid the storm that is Gaza, Syria, Iran, the South China Sea disputed islands, the threat of cyber attack, and the growing threat from climate change and global warming, to which human beings are contributing at a rate that threatens humanity.
Can the moment be perceived by enough leaders with enough strength to be able to "give" and not to insist on the bullying approach of "taking" ( because national and individual hubris, emerging from a sense of desperation drive it) and can Obama both write the manuscript and conduct the orchestra in the world debut of his "diplomatic concerto" in the time remaining in his presidency?
That is a question for which the world is eagerly waiting for an answer...and the "perfect storm" has set the table with enough chairs and more than enough of an audience, that should Obama be successful, even partially successful, his name and reputation, along with that of the United States itself, will be so restored and refined for the next century.
Let us all pray that Obama is 'the man' for this critical moment in history, and offer not the kind of heel-biting, and more serious character assassination criticisms that will only hinder his progress on behalf of every human being on the planet.