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Belmont Club

Four Simple Words

April 1st, 2014 - 2:57 pm

The rhetorical question is often asked: what do conservatives want president Obama to do about the Ukraine? As one commenter put it: “are you suggesting we should mobilize and take off on another foreign adventure to secure Ukraine?”

This completely misstates the problem whose roots lie in the understanding of four very common words: could, can’t, won’t and will. One way to respond to the rhetorical question above is to facetiously answer: “no it’s better to wait until Putin reaches the border of Poland or tries to take over Finland.”  After all, Finland has been mentioned in the press as a future Putin target and Poland has declared itself worried.

But that is a digression. Back to the four words. If the question should ever arise: ”are you suggesting we should mobilize and take off on another foreign adventure to secure Finland … or the Ukraine … or the Baltic”  the first question to ask is can we?

Can is a statement of capability. The question of whether America should help secure the Ukraine is different from the issue of whether it can.  What’s destabilizing is the revelation that Obama can’t.  It’s a crisis of capability brought about by policy mismanagement. A policeman can shoot you with his service weapon though most people know sane policemen won’t.  But if the public learned that policemen can’t shoot — because there’s no ammunition or no gun — that is a a more serious issue altogether.

As another commenter put it on this site: if the USAF didn’t have the capability to nuke Chicago there should be a Congressional investigation demanding to know why. That would indicate a failure of capability.

President Obama has made it appear that he simply chooses not to stop Putin — won’t — as if it were a question of choice. But the allies are increasingly coming to suspect that he can’t because of cuts he’s made to America’s levers of influence, including hobbling its oil industry, in order to divert those resources to domestic political constituencies. It’s not that he won’t halt Putin, but he can’t.

His inaction is a necessity. It’s like having no lifeboats on the Titanic. You don’t choose not to get into a lifeboat, there’s nothing to get into.

When a president says he undertakes to perform a certain policy act, it reflects the combination of can, should and will. The problem with the Budapest Agreement is that the should embodied in it is without the can or the will.

This analysis also applies Obama’s Red Lines. Red Lines are a combination of these four simple words.

The Red Line Obama drew in Syria is supported by the can. The US Navy and Air Force can bomb Assad out of office. But Obama lacked the should — the legal authority — and above all he lacked will or determination to do it.  If you lack the will or the means, then no Red Line.

The United States can’t draw a Red Line in the Ukraine for another reason. It lacks the capability. If the United States had the capacity to intervene in Ukraine, then the discussion might revolve around the shoulds of the case. But we’re not even there since the capability to act has been traded away in any case. There’s no point invoking the Budapest agreement any more than it makes sense to ponder whether to visit St. Tropez or the Riviera for your next vacation when you can’t even afford a Greyhound ticket to Pittsburgh.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Wretchard, I cannot add to your formulation of the 4 words. In the case of the specific application to Buraq Hussein Obama, I would just note that ill-will and lack of capability can coincide.

And as far as Obama being on that pier; I believe that there was a colloquial word of the time that would have described him. I believe it was Makapili.

Asphalt Potato

Congress can be blamed for a major part of the fall of the American Republic. However a key part of that is the fact that they have deliberately given up the power of the purse. They have no control over spending anymore. We have not had a constitutional budget for over 5 years. While I have vast reservoirs of contempt for the Institutional Republican Party, I have to note that in their own inept way they have tried to follow the Constitution. They have just chosen not to ever fight for the Constitution, and have gone to war with anyone in their ranks who would do so. But they have passed a budget, a constitutional budget, with hearings and votes on spending line items every freaking year. It is Buraq Hussein Obama, who is the head of the Democrats, and his minions in the Senate; who have refused to debate or vote on or acknowledge the existence of a budget from the House [which according to the Constitution is where it has to come from]. In the absence of such a budget, we have been reduced to Continuing Resolutions that functionally leave all power in the hands of the President. Especially since his Federal Reserve can create money out of nothing for him to spend as he will.

The decline of our country is actively the fault of the Left, and passively the fault of what in theory is the Opposition Party.

Subotai Bahadur
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
It has occurred to me that to a certain extent Obama and his supporters are using his time in office as the means to execute a long-sought after reckoning by a significant number of Americans against white people and the middle class which they comprise, and also (perhaps especially) against rural and small-town white America. I don't have any idea how many blacks feel that Obama represents their first and maybe last best chance to get even with whites, and it disturbs me to think the number could be larger than I care to imagine. But I am convinced that, in his heart of hearts, Obama himself hates and despises white people and that he feels similarly towards blacks and other minorities who don't share his antipathy. I resisted these thoughts when Obama was first elected but I soon came around, however reluctantly, to believing that he is indeed driven to a large extent by his animosity for white people.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Options are so complicated. By eliminating options Obama is achieving Zen like purity that small minds cannot grasp. For example the risk of the US army going rogue and seeking to fight it's way through Pakistan to India is prevented by ensuring that our relations with India descend to the level where they are no longer available as an ally or counterpoint or refuge for our besieged military.
http://nsnbc.me/2014/04/01/us-ambassador-to-india-nancy-j-powell-resigns-as-diplomatic-chill-continues/
Yes this source is a genuine Lefty run out of Moscow agitprop device.

Earlier I was watching "They Were Expendable" and it leads me to think of a nuance or even disagree with wretchard. "Can" can have more than one standard of measure. There is physical capacity and moral capacity. We may have been wealthier and more industrially capable than most of the world tearing itself apart in 1941 but we were not the fat hegemon that Kennedy got to play Camelot with. America coming out of the Depression was still a poor country. There was no ostentation outside of Park Avenue and Hollywood. Even there it was considered a holdover of the Silent Era, the fading memories of the Norma Desmonds. The Old Rich in fact decried vulgarity as contrary to the Puritan New England standard they aspired to, and the trickles of those with new money still took their cues from tradition. What America brought to the table, at all social and economic levels, was a toughness in the face of adversity. These were the Americans waiting for the Japanese, and we believed it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj4YF58EwWQ
We didn't look to pretty either. We looked like men.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDJCg_xWaRc
Our women weren't afraid to be decent and let us be decent too.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZDdhiALIms

If we have that then we have enough to take on all the bums out there.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (177)
All Comments   (177)
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The Eichification of Condi Rice by Racist, Sexist Liberals:

Liberal Fascists Try to Drive Condi Rice from Dropbox Board

Despite blatantly stating that "this is not an issue of partisanship," several political events are noted by the site as reasons why Rice should not be on the board of a file locker like Dropbox. Clearly outlined are her roles and quotes from the buildup to the Iraq war, aggravated by death counts.

Also laid out as proof of her unsuitability for the role on the initiative's website are her involvement in the creation of the Bush administration torture program, support for warrantless wiretaps, and her role on the board of directors at Chevron prior to her tenure with the Bush administration. Possibly relevant to Dropbox is her support and approval of wireless wiretaps and presumed approval of the NSA monitoring programs she helped create, but as a director she would have no role in day-to-day operations.

http://www.electronista.com/articles/14/04/10/website.cites.her.roles.in.iraq.industry.as.alleged.proof.of.unethical.behaviors/
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
PJ should not only hide reported posts, but also their picture.

Attractive young Asian women are highly distracting.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Big stick? Even with a super majority, the cagey Kenyan never had more than a limp dick.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Resign and move back to Kenya.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
In Obama's infamous speech in Cairo he reversed decades of American policy by abandoning the U.S. role as the worlds nuclear policeman and by inviting Iran to develop nuclear technology.

If Obama was unwilling to take a stand against nuclear proliferation it should come as no surprise he is unwilling to take a stand against more conventional threats.

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, he's taking a stand against threats, alright. But not the threats 'to' USA/Israel, but 'from' USA/Israel.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't understand why real negotiations about real, tangible interests have not taken place. Russia wants to secure Sevastopol's hinterland. Ukraine has ~$20 Billion in debt. Russia should recompense Ukraine for Crimea and the naval assets that Russia has seized. All of the Hitler analogies and twaddle about abstractions have been less than useless. Cash for land, it's the only rational solution.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lack of capability? That was demonstrated when we invaded Iraq with all sorts of bravado and predictions of a short war (Cheney) and then got bogged down for year fighting a ragtag insurgency armed with homemade bombs and suicide tactics.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Heck, that's just what Baghdad Bob was sayin, when that Abrams ran over his mic.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our lack of will to go kill people and break things weren't what they should have been. We went trying to make friends, not trample on anybodies toes when we should have been there for one purpose; to go and wreck shop - with respect to not kill innocents.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cuts to the oil industry? Are you talking about the corporate welfare that extremely profitable industry gets from taxpayers?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
oh, lord --this has been debunked so many times for so many years it'd be a joke if it wasn't so ignorant. Look, search average profit margins per industry, and search how much of the price of a gallon of gasoline goes to a whole nuther round of state and federal taxes, after the corporate taxes that you find too low. Mercy --and you probably vote.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
You get paid by the what? Hour, comment? Let us know, inquiring minds want to know......
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oil companies do not receive subsidies ("corporate welfare") or even other than quite logical tax treatment pertinent to their particular business. Try again.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's just allow for the facts of the case. The President is stickless.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, but when the lack of capability is a choice the explanation collapses into a single proposition--foreign security and allies have never been a priority for this Administration, and they eroded the capability in order to pursue other ends because they never intended to do anything with that lost capability, anyway.

At that point, the distinction between ability and intent or will is almost meaningless, it would only matter if they changed their minds and now wished they had put the diverted resources into the ability to do something because they now want to do that. If they had the intent they would have taken steps to assure the ability. And, vice versa.

There is absolutely no evidence that they regret their choices. A serious response to Putin would have been to cancel at least the latest round of defense cuts, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and other actions along those lines. That they have shown no interest in any of that confirms they are happier with the current situation than with an alternative--trhey continue aggressively courting interest groups and plowing resources into specific domestic programs, and ignoring allies and foreign affairs to the greatest extent possible.

This has all been clearly Obama's intent since 2007, really much earlier. One of the man's few virtues is his consistency.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama will mess it up, as usual. But this is a very serious situation, deserving of study and strategic planning. Too bad Obama lost all our allies... very scary, very very scary. What does Putin want? It's not Putin per se, but Aleksandr Dugin:
http://nyyrc.com/blog/2014/03/geopolitik-russias-foreign-policy-plans-explained/
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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