This isn't the Barack Obama we know from speeches filled with pathos and fire – starting with the profound comments he made in favor of democracy at Cairo University to the emotionally moving address he delivered in favor of peace at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
The sparkle is gone, reality remains. To his listeners and viewers, Obama explained in detail the limitations of force and influence experienced even by the only super power in the world. America, he said, is expected to get involved in every conflict on earth and be able to solve it, but "America does not control everything around the world," he clarified.
We can, he said, "try to bring the parties together. We can lead them to resolve some of the technical issues and to show them a path, but they’ve got to be able to make their own decisions."
The talks about the world powers' limitations of influence are not new. The innovation in Obama's confession is an analysis of the reasons. According to the American president, leaders of states, movements, organizations and nations act irrationally too often, causing intentional damage. They are ignoring their own vital interests and are not even trying to solve the problems.
The sad and tired Obama lamented the irrationality of decision makers after a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and after receiving the full information about Hamas' violation of the ceasefire.
The two incidents were not isolated: As far as Obama is concerned and in his rational view, the Putin regime has been walking down the road of foolishness since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, while Hamas has been sliding down the slope of destructive idiocy since the murder of the three Jewish teens. They are both acting against long-term interests, of Russia and of the Palestinian people.
Astonished and disappointed, Obama has been facing repeated outbursts of the blurring of wisdom in international relations and has been talking about it in public. But even if in his sixth year as president, Obama seems as though he has despaired of understanding the loonies around him – he is not giving up.
America under my leadership, he promised in that press conference, will continue to get involved and play an active role in settling disputes and conflicts which don't exactly concern the Americans ("the rockets aren't being fired into the United States," he noted) because of its "special responsibilities." We will not stop trying, he said.
Many people have been wrong about Obama. Some have seen him as an innocent idealist, some have seen him as a person with permanent doubts, and some have seen him as a quarrel-monger and hypocrite.
Obama as president is neither of those. He is a very realistic, down to earth leader of a world power. He acknowledges the existence of evil and the need to fight it mercilessly. In one average month he orders more targeted assassinations than George W. Bush ordered in an entire year of presidency.
Obama uses sanctions more aggressively than they have ever been used. His threats convinced Syrian President Bashar Assad to destroy the chemical weapons arsenal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to destroy the uranium enriched above %, and Putin to give up on a planned invasion of Ukraine. For now.
Obama will not stand in Israel's way to bring down the Hamas government in Gaza. He will even welcome it, if it doesn’t entail a high death toll among Palestinian civilians. The way the US president sees it, uniting the two parts of the future state of Palestine under one rational leadership is an interest shared by the US, Israel and the Palestinians. This is the blessing that may develop from the misfortune of the fighting.
Operation Protective Edge is being increasingly perceived as a turning point, not just militarily but also diplomatically. Not everyone is happy about it.