When the US spotted signs of a Russian buildup on the Ukraine border, the Obama administration decided not to share the information with Kiev. Rep. Michael Turner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee confessed himself nonplussed. “This is not an issue of means and methods and techniques. This is straight up, almost Google Earth-type analysis. Even giving Ukraine (intelligence) about how best to utilize its forces against Russia would be beneficial.”
It wouldn’t be the first time someone decided it was best for others not to know. “Senate insiders say that senior Treasury Department officials have been lying for years about their backroom efforts to oppose and dismantle Iran sanctions legislation that ultimately forced Tehran to the bargaining table over its illicit nuclear program.” Because if they admitted the goal was to surrender to the Ayatollahs then how could they pretend they were containing them?
Bad news has a way of forcing politicians to face up to it. In order to avoid this problem the solution is to shoot the messenger. Foreign Affairs notes that Russia is probably cheating on arms controls agreements. If this knowledge became general, then it would undermine the goal of reaching more such beneficial agreements.
At the moment, Russia’s march on Crimea tops the United States’ list of issues with its onetime foe. But it is hardly the whole list. Rather, as The New York Times reported in January, Washington apparently believes that Moscow has also been busy violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact between the two banning the use of both nuclear and conventionally armed ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles within a certain range. This is no minor matter. When the treaty was signed in 1987, it was taken as a signal that the Cold War was finally thawing and, since then, it has been a been a defining element in U.S.-Russian relations, the United States and NATO’s deterrent posture, and the broader architecture of global arms control.
Wouldn’t it be better to lie for the sake up peace? Admitting Russia is dishonest would also make it politically difficult to cut defense spending. So the pretense agreements are in effect continues, so that at least half of the parties can live up to them, because admit it, a partial disarmament is better than none at all. “The Pentagon will shrink the number of its nuclear weapon-carrying bomber aircraft and reduce the number of submarine ballistic missile launch tubes as it modifies its force posture to meet the limits of the New START treaty with Russia, the US Defense Department announced Tuesday.”
The Air Force will convert 30 B-52 bombers to a conventional-only role, meaning they could not deploy nuclear weapons, a senior defense official said. That will leave the service with 66 nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, 60 of which will be in deployed status.
There are 336 ballistic missile tubes on the Navy’s 14 Ohio-class submarines. Four tubes on each of the Navy’s 14 submarines will be converted “so that they cannot be used to launch missiles,” the senior official said. The submarine-launched ballistic missile tube limits under New START are 240 deployed and 40 in non-deployed status.
DoD plans to remove warheads from 50 of its 450 ICBM launch silos, the senior official said. The cuts will be distributed across the Air Force’s three ICBM bases in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana.
A lot of problems can be solved by simply ignoring them. As the Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt notes, the best way to respond to the return of tyranny in Hong Kong is to say ‘what tyranny?’ “In the global war of ideology that President Obama says is not happening, Hong Kong is on the front lines.”
democracy’s hold has grown more precarious — “I’m quite frankly surprised at the rate of deterioration,” she said during a visit to The Post — and she is hoping the United States will speak out.
Will it? Obama recently told an audience in Brussels that, though the future belongs to those who support freedom and democracy, “those rules are not self-executing” and “the contest of ideas continues for your generation.”
Yet he also insisted that there is no new Cold War. “After all,” he said, “unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.”
If the coda of the Clinton years was there was “no controlling legal authority” the Obama administration equivalent might well be “those rules are not self-executing”. That means that just because the administration says something doesn’t mean they have to do anything about it.
Making an effort is so much trouble. Why not just issue a press release and forget about it? Instead it is far easier to do nothing and to simply pretend things are other than they are. Why not? If the press will let you get away with it then go for it. Recently the Obama administration demonstrated an obscene eagerness to say anything — anything at all — in order to paper over the problems in Egypt over and get back to business as usual. The Washington Post writes:
Secretary of State John F. Kerry has made clear that he is eager to certify that the Egyptian regime of Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is “taking steps to govern democratically,” as Mr. Kerry is required to do by law before military aid to Egypt can be fully resumed. But Mr. Kerry conceded a few weeks ago that the generals “need to help us help them . . . by implementing some of the reforms that we’ve been talking to them about with respect to inclusivity, journalists, some of the arrests and so forth.”
The administration could of course, embrace the current authoritarian regime in Cairo, having embraced the previous authoritarian regimes in Cairo. But that would be too forthright, and too direct an admission to fly. What would happen to their reputation for being Lightbringers to the Middle East? So it’s a lot better to simply pretend that the Egyptian junta is not a junta and ask Congress for aid money to bribe said junta into not becoming a junta. At least not openly. This is exactly what John Kerry, without a shred irony, is asking for. Who cares if it’s doesn’t fool anyone. So long as we fool ourselves that will be sufficient.
If there is any shortcoming at all to current political process, it stems from the persistently bad habit of critics to pull aside the curtain. Our unwillingness to credit the administration with intelligence or competence makes it hard for them to sustain the illusion. And illusion’s a valuable thing when it is considered a substitute for reality.
The Weekly Standard notes that “in his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony last week, Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel for the breakdown in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.” The negotiations were dead to begin with. The failure of the talks to return from the dead is likened by the Standard to the Tinkerbelle scene in Peter Pan. If you believe in its possibility hard enough you can always blame the doubters.
The argument seems to be that peace is possible because Kerry has relationships with leaders, Kerry is trusted, Kerry was in the Senate for 30 years, Kerry chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, and Kerry was on the White House lawn when Rabin shook hands with Arafat. So our job is to have faith in him, and if we believe that peace is possible, it will come.
But I think this is wrong. Perhaps neither Kerry nor Obama believe in a thing they say. It’s only an act. They only hope the audience believes it, because “those rules are not self-executing” is another way of saying the action on stage ain’t real.
Recently the Washington Times observed that the next Iranian ambassador to the United Nations once took hostages from the US embassy in Teheran. “Asked if the U.S. is aware that Mr. Aboutalebi was a member of the militant group, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to comment.” If they commented they might have to do something about it. And they don’t do action, so Silence is Golden.
Asking embarassing questions is like inquiring into whether Russia is cheating on nukes, or massing troops at the Ukrainian border, or reigniting the Cold War or whether the “peace process” has failed, or asking whether the Iranian UN diplomat once kidnapped diplomats would be OK. It’s like asking whether the stage king’s crown is real gold or just gold-painted. Asking puts the public in a position where it must question their faith in Obama.
If pressed the administration may even admit that the UN ambassador was in fact a once hostage taker, but now nothing can be done since he is protected by diplomatic immunity. A Radio Free Europe story demonstrates that such logical somersaults are not only conceivable but normal today. Recently a NATO official said “the alliance does not expect the use of Russian territory to transport supplies used by Western forces in Afghanistan to be affected by NATO’s suspension of cooperation with Moscow.” Of course not.
And so one doesn’t see the buildup on the border of Ukraine because it may — you know — affect the supply lines that won’t be affected by spotting Russian troops massing on the border of Ukraine.
The administration is now in complete contempt of the facts. Falsum in omnibus is Latin for “trust me.”
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