The non-interventionist wing of the party, best represented perhaps by the 2016 aspirations of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, R, is in a tough spot trying to fault Obama for what has happened. The more bellicose national security wing of conservatism is having an “I told you so” moment about Vladimir Putin. Of all people, Mitt Romney was surprisingly prescient in declaring Russia America’s top geopolitical foe.
The results of American diplomacy over the last five years have been disastrous from either perspective — to give two examples, both the results of the Libya invasion and the effort at rapprochement with Putin appear to be profound failures. And third, after accepting a Russian-brokered arms inspection deal with Syria, the U.S. has been humiliated by obstinate non-compliance.
This doesn’t necessarily recommend more wars — and that certainly isn’t what Americans want. But war isn’t the only way to show toughness or resolve.
A couple points to get out of the way first. It’s going to be difficult for the GOP to unite behind a single foreign policy Big Idea, just because of the multipolar nature of the post-Cold War world, and because of the dark nature of the terror threat. Defeating the Soviet Union required standing up and standing tough at every opportunity. Defeating al Qaeda (for lack of a broader and more fitting term) requires both less and more. The other point is one from yesterday — nobody “lost” Ukraine. It was never ours to lose.
The broader problem in the post-Soviet region is much like the broader problem in post-colonial Africa. The borders suck.
European powers drew lines on a map in a Berlin conference room in 1885, which made little ethnic, linguistic, or even economic sense. Instead of allowing Africans to redraw those lines, upon their exit from the continent, the Europeans insisted they be adhered to still. There have been precious few border changes since 1885 on a continent in desperate need of them.
Same deal with the old Soviet Union. Communist thugs drew the borders, giving little thought to if they made any sense. In order to avoid massive bloodshed upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia and the other 14 constituent Soviet republics agreed to keep the old borders. But what made sense in 1991 makes less sense today.
But making adjustments, probably necessary in the long term, is proving difficult and bloody in the short term.
The best we can probably hope for is to try and do what we can to help make the transitions as bloodless and peaceful as possible. But that would require a position of strength and positive American leadership — which is all but impossible given the nature of the American President and Moscow’s post-communist thug.