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Spengler

The Cold Ashes of Republican Foreign Policy

March 16th, 2014 - 6:12 pm

Let me state this as simply as I can: Russia has had Crimea since 1783, and there is now and never has been a scenario under which Russia would not keep Crimea. Crimea wants to be Russian and the Russians want to keep Crimea. The task of American diplomacy was to make Putin pay–in advance–for something he was going to get anyway. Instead we acted as if Crimea was going to belong to the West, and Putin got mad and grabbed it. Now our diplomats look like idiots. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving.

 

Let’s face it: We Republican hawks have done an utterly execrable job of identifying and promoting vital American interests overseas. Our own base has turned on us and embraced Rand Paul’s isolationism. Barack Obama has done everything but hand blueprints for nuclear weapons to Iran, and the voters won’t listen to us. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, a couple of them might go off in American cities. And if Iran gets them, so will Saudi Arabia, Turkey and everyone else in the region. As Henry Kissinger points out, we came terrifying close to a nuclear exchange when the U.S. and the Soviets were the only prospective combatants, and both sides had good command and control and an interest in avoiding conflict. Create a multi-player game in the Middle East with poor command and control, Kissinger argues, and nuclear war is nearly certain.

Why can’t we persuade Americans that Obama is putting America in danger? Because they can’t hear the signal for the noise.

We keep digging ourselves in deeper. Now Sen. John McCain wants American military aid for Ukraine. This is silly: the Ukrainian military couldn’t fight Russia with a century of American reinforcement, and every officer of the rank of colonel and above previously served in the Red Army. More than half of Americans oppose even economic aid to Ukraine while three-quarters oppose military aid–and they’re right. We’re all bluster and no bucks: try to come up with an aid package that will keep Ukraine upright given the mood of the American public. (If you think the voters have contempt for the foreign policy establishment, you should hear what our friends in Asia are saying about us.)

Russia has acted brutally and violated the norms of international conduct in the Crimea, and there isn’t anything we can do about it–any more than we could do anything about South Ossetia. Russian media is reporting a nearly 98% majority for Crimean union with Russia, which means either that the vote was invented or that the Crimean Ukrainians and Tatars were too scared to turn up at the polls. The West had the chance to sponsor a constitutional referendum that would have given the peoples of the Ukraine a fair chance to decide whether they wished to become a Ukrainian people, or separate peaceably. Now we have a Russian fait accompli.

We know what comes next; we saw it in Egypt. The U.S. Congress and European parliaments will hand the matter of bailing out Ukraine to the IMF, the IMF will propose austerity measures that the hodgepodge Maidan government can’t sell, the Russians will raise gas price and collect back debts, and Ukraine will stay in chaos. Maybe Putin will pick up other pieces; maybe he won’t. Sadly, it will depend on his whim.

Putin is riding a wave of popular support at home, which also should be no surprise. Remember that Putin threw his Serb allies under the bus during the wag-the-dog war of 1998 when NATO backed the secession of Kosovo. We lied about Serbian genocide then, just as Putin is lying about fascist threats to Russian nationals today. Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations, but I don’t expect the truth from Moscow–I do expect it from Washington. Putin stood back on Kosovo precisely in order to let NATO set a precedent for the secession of provinces with large ethnic minorities. It doesn’t matter what we think. From the Russian way of looking at things, the takeover of Crimea was justified.

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Top Rated Comments   
I could support a rational foreign policy implemented by leaders more interested in the country's welfare than their own welfare, provided that it couldn't be hijacked by political criminals for their own purposes. Unfortunately, those conditions don't exist in this country, so, it makes more sense to me prevent our own nutjobs in Washington from engaging with foreign nutjobs in escapades that kill more American patriots who join the military to protect their country but end up sacrificing their lives so America's nutjobs can make political hay.

So yes, like many, I have become an isolationist, not because I think that is the best policy in a sane world, but because it is the best policy in an insane world.

Where I differ from the Paulites, is that the one area of government where crazy spending makes sense to me is the military. We should maintain a defense infrastructure that can kill the foreign crazies ten time over. That's the best way to keep them at bay. And while saying that, I'm well aware that nutjobs like obama may hijack even that for their own nefarious purposes. That's a risk, but it's a bigger risk to gut the military as our Nutjob in Chief wants to do.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Rand Paul's isolationism"

I don't think you even know what the word means.

"We Republican hawks have done an utterly execrable job of identifying and promoting vital American interests overseas."

You "hawks" have certainly done that alright. You have plenty hurt America and it's troops though. And I don't think you much care as you keep on doing it.

"Now Sen. John McCain wants American military aid for Ukraine"

John McCain is utterly insane. He supported Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Eqypt and still supports those who would genocide Christians in Syria if they get the chance. He also supports the Mexican invasion of America. He is the one person in all America, among any major politician anyway, who might well have made an even worse President than Barack Hussein Obama.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sending our boy and girls to defend people who won't defend themselves?

Here in the United States, American citizens aren't allowed to defend themselves. The only people Barack Obama is comfortable making war against is American citizens who don't agree with his policies.

We are so f0cked.


19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (142)
All Comments   (142)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Bill Gates TED2010 · 27:49 · Filmed Feb 2010
17:07

If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years --
I could pick who's president,
I could pick a vaccine, which is something I love,
or I could pick that this thing
that's half the cost [of current lowest cost energy] with no CO2 gets invented --
this is the wish I would pick.
This is the one with the greatest impact.
http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates
http://dotsub.com/view/9022846a-0f34-4026-81aa-86344f88270c/viewTranscript/eng
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Our own base has turned on us and embraced Rand Paul’s isolationism"

Not exactly. We are just tired of sacrificing our best and brightest for lost causes. When my son and his unit returned from Afghanistan, some of his comrades did so in body bags. There are now wives without husbands and children without fathers. For what?

We're not isolationist, we just think it would be sensible to evaluate each foreign 'adventure' according to the following criteria:

1. Do we have a strategic interest there?
2. What will be our objective?
3. Is that objective actually achievable?
4. What is the plan to achieve the objective?
5. What is the plan for AFTER the objective is achieved?
6. Do the American people support this action?

Call us isolationist if you want. I for one am damn tired of sacrificing American blood for no good reason.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Iraq and Afghanistan had all of those things in place.

Your emotion has gotten the better of you.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would add 7. Do not change the objective in the middle of action. For example, do not substitute the objective of defeating the enemy with a nebulous objective of "winning hearts and minds".
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment


Kill the cost of energy and a lot of bad stuff just fades away. This is what real world strategic policy looks like. Its simple.

The US government grasped this simplicity in the mid 70's with the first OPEC oil embargo then forgot.

What happens when you kill the cost of energy.

The Russians lose their influence on Europe. The Gulf arabs no longer have money to pay for terrorists. The Iranians won't have the funds to buy missles or make nukes. The Chinese will lose their interest in the south and east china seas.

Kill the cost of energy and desalination becomes economical sufficiently for agriculture and the deserts around the world can be cultivated. The size of the habitable earth doubles.

Kill the cost of energy and a lot of bad stuff just fades away. This is what real world strategic policy looks like. Its simple.


19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The US government grasped this simplicity in the mid 70's with the first OPEC oil embargo then forgot.

What happens when you kill the cost of energy."

We didn't kill the cost of energy then. The alternatives we were developing threatened the OPEC stranglehold on oil supply. What OPEC then did was end the blockade and so reduce the cost of oil that our alternative energy efforts became economically unsustainable.

Our position now is much better, but remember that fracking for oil and gas is not cheaper than pumping it from great big existing reservoirs. The question is, at this time, whether or not the Russians and the others can afford to increase production and decrease price so as to cut out our increasing advantage in supply.
Oh, and by the way, we do not now, and will not for some years, have the capability to export significant amounts of LNG to Europe. Putin will have the Eurps where it hurts in the useful near term.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't follow who you think this "we" is, and what you think is Rand Paul's isolationism. As you point out there's a lot of idiocy running loose these days. Let's try not to add to it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
A classic example of Paul's isolationism and "idiocy" is that he was one of only two Republican senators to support the recent (unsuccessful) legislation to threaten Iran w/new sanctions (Cruz supported).

Another example of "idiocy" was the focus of big parts of his 13 hour filibuster on the fantasy-threat of imaginary armed FBI drones over the US. That's a good tactic for him to increase his own support among the Alex Jones wing, but, IMHO, not helpful in terms of debating how to balance US national security procedures w/civil liberties.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Although Democrats seem to be marching in lockstep behind Obama right now, Republicans are in a pitched battle for the future of American foreign policy. McCain can't seem to keep his nose from where it doesn't belong, but “Fortress America” is no answer either. The United States needs to prioritize between enemies and rivals. Rivals are annoying, but they rationally pursue their own interests. Enemies seek, for their own theological reasons, to commit genocide against the American people – among others. Enemies must be destroyed. Rivals must be subdued, befriended, or kept at bay.

A wise statesman is able to tell the difference between an enemy and a rival. Iran and al-Qaeda are our enemies. Russia and China are our rivals. Britain, France, Germany, Brazil, and India are also our (relatively friendlier) rivals.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
One essential problem the United States faces is how the strategic interests of Washington DC diverge from the strategic interests of the rest of the country. To put it bluntly, if Washington DC isn't the most vulnerable spot in the entire country, it comes close. It is ridiculously easy to attack in comparison to an interior capital. This legacy of vulnerability leads policy makers inside the Beltway to be more prone to see threats than people outside of the Beltway. In chess, there is something called castling – one keeps one's king away from the center of the board. If the American political establishment were playing chess, it would be making contingency plans for moving the District of Columbia to a new location further inland and shifting important operations toward more defensible locations.

But then, if I were Russian, I would feel better if Russia's capital were in Tomsk or Novosibirsk rather than Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
By the way, the United States already has had sufficient authorization since 2001 to bomb both al-Qaeda factions (al-Nusra and ISIS) in Syria. The reason why the Obama administration isn't bombing al-Qaeda positions to help non-Qaeda Syrian rebels against al-Qaeda is because the Obama administration chooses not to. He attacks al-Qaeda with drones in Yemen, but where are the drone strikes against al-Nusra and ISIS? It almost makes one wonder if Obama thinks he has some kind of truce going on right now...
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment

Comment below; "You have however also pointed out the degree to which we have exceeded our national interests ... . perhaps it's time for the Europeans to defend Europe ..."

Actually, US troop strength in Europe has declined from more than 350,000 in 1989 to well under 75,000 today (http://www.army.mil/article/26261/)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
So that would be about a quarter of what it was when we feared invasion by the Warsaw Pact, most of whom now belong to NATO...

How about 0% and the mature industrial democracies of Europe defend themselves unless we have an Article 5 situation. Then we devote those resources to a foe that actually exists. Obviously some modest basing and NATO participation is warranted, so zero is probably low, but let's cut current force levels to a quarter of what they are now and try that.

Russia is sane, it can be handled with diplomacy, economic pressure and mutual interest. Iran and Saudi Arabia are the big issues, and we like to pretend one of them is an ally...
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
We benefit from our German bases, militarily, moron.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Forward basing, just in case. Looks prudent from here.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wrote "well under 75,000" because that figure was from 2009, when all or most of 1st Armored Div was still deployed I Europe. They are now garrisoned at Ft Bliss, TX. Presumably supporting air and support units were also decreased. Currently, there seem to be only two brigade/regimental combat teams deployed to Europe (http://www.eur.army.mil/organization/units.htm) along with various support and HQ units.

If the US has a national interest in the security and stability of Europe and adjacent regions, I doubt it is possible to do it with fewer troops. In any case, whether they are garrisoned in Europe or the US it costs about the same to maintain them (training, spare parts, fuel, payroll, etc.).

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think you are confusing the sane with safe. They are not the same thing at all.

So long as they choose what is sane from Putin's perspective it is the diplomacy of containment which must deal with them, and the more closely--to them--invested, the better.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Mr Putin,

We will be going to the UN tomorrow to put forward our plan for a no fly zone over Syria. The plan to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons has been delayed due to foot-draggin by the Syrians. Your guarantees that this plan would be a success have not been lived up to.

Whether it is approved by the UN or not we will be bombing Syria from 30,000 feet within a week. We will destroy all Syrian air assets and will attack any Syrian military that we observe from the air.

Dear Mr Putin, Syria and Ukraine. Pick one.

Of course Obama will never have the cojones for this.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ukraine is a graveyard for well meaning adventurers who don't know the terrain. Charles XII's defeat at the Battle of Poltava smashed more than his army – it smashed Swedish hegemony over the Baltic. What had been the Swedish fortress of Nyenskans became the site of Russia's new capital.

Ukraine and Russia are like Siamese twins who passionately hate one another. Despite their long history of mutual animosity, they depend upon one another. Ukraine gives Russia strategic depth much as Scotland gives England strategic depth. So of course Russia will be intimately interested in Ukraine. Given the blood Russia spilled to conquer and defend Crimea over the centuries, Russia's obsession with Sevastopol is understandable.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Time is running out for the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Crimea. Although the results of any independence referendum would probably have been the same under UN auspices, such a process would slow down the clock. The best possible scenario would have been some kind of agreement between Ukraine and Russia – or Crimea and Russia – to create a “Republic of the Cimmerian Bosporus”. By harkening back to the Bosporan Kingdom and making the official language Bosporan Greek, but with everyday language usage in Russian, this would outmaneuver Crimean Tatars who are falsely claiming to be indigenous. (Greeks were there before Tartars...) Establishing a Bosporan Republic in Crimea would also be an expression of solidarity with the State of Israel, whose lineage goes back to a state that was contemporary to the Bosporan Kingdom.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
So you're for real right?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have little interest in saving Ukraine. They may not be more anti-semitic than the rest of the world. But certainly they are no less.

No one in the west cares about Ukraine. They just don't want to see Russia get its way. Unfortunately there's not much to be done. Russia can do what it wants. Certainly no Americans should die to save Ukraine. And certainly no Eurps will die saving Ukraine.

The Russians, Chinese, Iranians are busy investing in stealing US and Western Intellectual Property and other secrets to use against us. They are also building up their cyber-warfare abilities to wage asymmetric warfare against the West when the can and when they need to. Some articles I read have said that the Russian cyber-warfare against Ukraine is less than the previous cyber-warfare against Georgia during that crisis. We should be kicking Russia's butt on that right now.

The reason that Russia is feeling its oats is due to Oil money. We should be doing our best to lower the global price of oil and NG. This crisis is an example of the limits of US power. We can't just threaten or flip a switch and get what we want. Let's hit the oil ticks in the pocketbook. Export LNG to Europe. Russia and Iran have been raising the price of oil for several decades by saber rattling.

Let's frack them to death.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
1. Coming nuclear wars in developing word are inevitable - if they happen relatively soon the body count will be lower due to lack of weapon sophistication.
2. Failing state is a norm rather than exception now we should stop trying to defend the world order and switch to defending ourselves from coming anarchy.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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