As Ukraine pushed back against Russian interests last week, vast sections of our elite foreign policy establishment, currently populated mainly by ‘realists’ opined with typical conviction that for any number of reasons President Putin would not do exactly what he did do.
The evidence suggests that President Obama’s foreign policy advisors don’t see enemies; they only see opportunities for diplomatic engagement. They are fools! Will the President begin to question the path he is on or insist on an additional series of international embarrassments before a critical reevaluation occurs?
The Eastern Europe missile defense system, announcing a departure date in the same breath you announce a surge in Afghanistan; cherry picking Quranic verses out of context in the Cairo speech, failing to execute the options available in the Status of Forces agreement with Iraq, leading from behind in Libya, the pink line in Syria, Benghazi, rushing to announce the death of bin Laden when a few days of silence would have allowed for some review of the raw intelligence creating the opportunity to collapse the al Qaeda structure even further and giving the Pakistanis a chance to save face. The list of misjudgments, false starts and fallacious assumptions is five years long. There is not a single thing the administration can point to as a self generated success on the world stage, despite the many claims of success. And yet, last week the Greek Chorus sang with a singular voice; “Putin can’t afford to act against Ukraine! He will not act against Ukraine!
Embarrassment, however, is not the issue. The real issue revolves around whether or not our intelligence and foreign policy establishment is capable of, or willing to step outside of their own politically correct, self induced prejudice, group think and intellectual dysfunction to be able to see the self interest and motivations of the party sitting across the table?
Ukraine is one thing; Iran with the bomb is another. Ukraine is illustrative and begs the question; do we have any indication that the Obama Administration is capable of determining the Iranian self interest and carefully evaluating how far they are willing to go in pursuit of that interest? There is no evidence to date that the capability exists. Iran has been publically flogging the U.S. ever since the ‘agreement’ was reached. Iran has been publically flogged the agreement itself and the parties involved in reaching the ‘agreement’. We’ve had nothing to say and have done nothing to change course. The same advisors that assured the President that Putin would not move against Ukraine are also advising him on Iran. Be afraid, be very afraid. Be afraid because the last voice the President hears belongs to Valerie Jarrett and she has been instrumental in creating a geometric error sequence.
The key advisors in the White House appear to be living moment to moment. The latest evidence is the release of, complete with the mandatory picture, of the fact that the President spent 90 minutes on the phone with Putin yesterday. When Putin refuses to change course, which will be the case the President looks even more feckless than ever; proof positive that the Obama magic is no more significant than the magic of the Great and Powerful Oz. You can be assured that the Russians predicted exactly that based on even the most cursory analysis of how the President and his administration works. This President can be ‘set up’ and has been time after time. The ability to set up the President of the United States is a danger to us all.
Russia is clear on where their interests lie and what their goals are. America is not. Russia operates within a strategic context, America does not. Russia stands up to their alliances, America does not. Russia deals with the world as she finds it; America currently lives in the land of illusion marked by the phantoms of the ‘International Community”, ‘coordination’, engagement and diplomacy.
The image of Russia is a shirtless Putin in the great outdoors, the image of America is a bike helmet and Mom Jeans.
President Obama unleashed the full power of his rhetorical magic. Cable news commentators on CNN and MSNBC spoke to the ‘strong’ statement by the President regarding Ukraine. A Wall Street Journal reporter in Russia, whose name escaped me, hit it on the head stating that President Putin would pay no attention to President Obama’s statement and will view it as weak!
Let’s go with the ‘strong’ statements by the President.
“Deeply destabilizing”, ouch!
“We will stand with the International community”; take that!
“We will coordinate with allies”; no, no please stop I can’t take the pressure!
“There will be a price to pay”; take that Vlad. Oh, maybe not, as the President also said we will “coordinate with Russia”. What the hell does that mean?
And then overnight the administration leaked they’re real hammer; we might decide to miss a meeting. Oh no, please, not that!
And of course, as was the President’s predilection after many incidents including Fort Hood and the Boston bombings he cautioned restraint on the part of the victims. He commended Ukraine on its restraint as if they have much of an option.
We’re not going to engage a shooting war with Russia, that would be foolish but there are actions that could be taken. Unilateral economic and diplomatic sanctions could be applied. Economic sanctions won’t cripple Russia but it would be ………….. wait for it ……………… a strong leadership position. Diplomatic sanctions could include recalling our Ambassador and kicking the Russian Ambassador out of the country. U.N. actions are a non starter as Russia will veto any Security Council actions.
Re-start the missile defense program in Eastern Europe that the Russians hate so much on an expedited basis. Expand NATO membership more aggressively in Eastern Europe; we’re going to need to replace Turkey eventually anyway. Exclude Russia from further G 8 attendance. There are Russian operatives in the U.S. we would hope that the FBI has identified some number of them, they should all be sent home. Cancel any and all educational and cultural exchange programs immediately. If we want diplomacy to be our first option there has to be a price to pay for the absence of diplomatic progress.
I suspect none of the above is on the table for the Obama administration.
Vladimir Putin is unafraid. He has no reason to be. He knows based on the history of the past five years and the stumbling and bumbling of recent days that the U.S., the U.N. and the E.U. will do nothing beyond meaningless rhetoric as he moves to bring the Ukraine under control. U.N. resolutions are only meaningful or valid to Vlad when they hamstring the West.
He knows that the U.S. by way of, God help us, Mr. Kerry offered assistance but as is Mr. Kerry’s and this administration’s history, there were strings attached. The strings, in any immediate sense, are totally impossible for Ukraine to execute as their treasury is empty and the full scope of the corruption is just beginning to become apparent.
Vlad knows that the U.S. could have pumped aid into the Ukraine absent conditions as a push back against Russia and a reward to Ukraine for spending their blood to resist Russian hegemony; we did not. Vlad knows that we have not, over the past five years, confronted him with anything stronger than press releases and high minded statements, he knows we will not do so now.
Vlad knows that there has been no price to pay for his years of intransigence at the U.N. related to Iran and North Korea. Vlad knows that his arms sales in the Western Hemisphere, Venezuela specifically, have resulted in no penalty. Vlad knows that he controls significant portions of critical energy supplies to Western Europe, Germany being a key to that equation and having already felt the lash of Russian displeasure. Vlad knows that his announcement that he will build navel bases in Latin America have elicited no public response from the U.S.
Vlad knows that an incursion into Crimea is easily defended, two land routes; one from Ukraine one from over the border in Russia. Sevastopol is a critical port on the Black Sea from which a wide variety of strategic control points present themselves. Vlad knows that Russians have been present in Sevastopol since the 1780’s. Vlad knows that he can choke Ukraine by controlling the Crimean peninsula.
Vlad knows that should Ukraine attempt to move against the many Russian pipelines that transit Ukraine he will have his justification for action against Ukraine proper.
But most importantly; Vlad knows no one is going to do anything to confront him in any real sense so long as he stays in his region or ‘plays’ with the West. He has certainly tried to elicit a response, to determine where the line is but so far there appears to be no line. No line; no limitations. No limitations; no reluctance.
The old Eastern Block is being reconstructed by Vlad, so far the smart money is on him being able to do so. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be smooth but there is no a single indication that anyone will push back. Welcome to the Cold War V.2. Oh, and by the way, whether or not Mr. Obama thinks it’s a zero sum game or not has no impact on Vlad who thinks it is.
I, like many rushed to express dismay at the pending Defense cuts announced by our hand puppet Secretary of Defense, Mr. Hagel. Yup, I’ve engaged in name calling again, I must be spending too much time listening to arguments on the Left.
But I digress. Our military is more than the finest active fighting force in history; it is a message. The inconsistency is the message delivery system which is a function of who sits in the Oval Office and who controls Congress. As party dominance changes to and fro so does the message, the money and the mission.
Throughout the Cold War, while politics existed on the fringes, the core strategic imperatives remained consistent. That is likely the last challenge we will be able to point to as a demonstration of consistency across party lines, and thus we are less secure. But no such challenge exists anymore you say. I would argue that a conservative estimate of 1.5 million radicalized Muslims gives lie to that argument. The Imperialistic history of Islam would also negate the argument that we do not face threats worthy of unity. Russian and Chinese desires also give lie to the absence of unified strategy, regardless of political leaning. The absence of a unifying strategic approach leads to …… well …… what we see now; reeling from crisis to crisis making it up as we go along.
The message? The message is that we will retreat from our Post WWII role. Prior to WWII democracies existed in the single digits, in the decades that followed 120 democracies existed. They came into being because America provided the example, context and security for that growth; as America retreats that number will diminish replaced by despots and oligarchs. The message is that we’re tired and we don’t want to be a superpower anymore. The message over the last five years and the message that will exist over the next three is that if you hunger for freedom, if you are prepared to take on a tyrant, if you are willing to commit your life to such an effort; you’re on your own! Greens in Iran, protestors in Venezuela and the Ukraine; Georgia, East Africa you’re on your own. Genocide, nearly anywhere on the globe; ‘sorry, we don’t have the resources to make it stop’. Keep in mind that as we ‘led from behind’ in Libya, the Euros taking the lead quickly ran out of ordinance. This is the security environment that we will now embrace where our allies can’t seem to afford to buy bullets!
Okay, I get it, I’m tired too; I’m tired on behalf of the folks who have actually served and done the dirty work. I’m tired for the grief their families have suffered, for the wounds, for the displacements, for the nightmares. I’m tired of hearing politicians speak of their support for the troops and then turn on them when there is a dollar involved. Want to save some money, eliminate fifty percent of the flag officers meandering around the halls of the Pentagon and save the pay and benefits for those who ate dust, took fire, flew the missions and sucked jet fuel fumes. Replace seniority with meritocracy and we won’t even miss those flag officers.
China keeps 2 million men under arms, Russia 800,000; this plan will place us behind Turkey in terms of a standing Army. Turkey! Yes we have superior technology, but the history of arms tells us that the other guys always catch up. Will this budget provide for ever more sophisticated weapons development and will that development be capable of holding off the mass that potential opponents can bring to the field? Should Turkey decide that Northern Iraq is a security threat under the guise of Kurdish incursions who stops them? Should Russia invade Eastern Ukraine who will intervene? Should China move against Taiwan what will stop or even de-motivate them? Over the recent past it was the threat of American power; that threat is being taken off the table unilaterally, bit by bit. It’s not as if there have not been cuts; Secretary Gates reading the Tea Leaves set out to make common sense cuts ahead of the politics; the sequester mandated more cuts, now this.
The Administration can’t get out of its own philosophical way. The administration brings Samantha Powers to the U.N., Ms. Powers’ reputation was made as the author of a policy that argued for intervention to defend human rights; she must be very disappointed. White House security advisors operate within the context that the Military is not to be trusted. Joe Biden has poisoned President Obama related to trusting relationships with military leadership. Joe “I’m wrong about almost everything’ Biden is a chief advisor on military affairs; God save us all!
So, what’s the takeaway, the message? It’s the same message FDR delivered as he increased government spending everywhere except the military. Prior to WWII our military spending levels were behind Portugal. It’s the same message that the Soviets saw after Vietnam as they got ready to invade Afghanistan. The converse of that message was Regan as he saw American security as a function of strength and peace as a result of no one being willing to mess with you. Regan contended that his strategy was the one that would keep us out of war and, in the long run, save thousands of lives. He was correct if history is to be our guide.
But there is more than message here. There is obscenity! Outside of the sequester, I cannot, for the life of me, recall one single area of the Federal government where significant cuts have been made, not one, albeit I stand to be corrected.
The obscenity is that those who serve voluntarily, leave their families, live in extreme conditions, bleed and die must bear yet another burden because it’s the easy way out. The obscenity is that the 1% who serve to protect and defend the 99% are asked to do yet more, and more, and more!
If there is a clearer definition of obscenity, please point me to it!
We have been down this road before, Democratic cuts to Defense infrastructure and staffing always, always, results in panic when we ended up faced with challenges that demanded expansion of our military capabilities: Carter, Clinton and now President Obama. In the good old days it was called the ‘Peace Dividend’, even when there was no real peace in sight. I t always costs more in the long run to re-establish infrastructure than it does to maintain it in the first place; it’s why we change the oil in our cars.
This time however it’s insidious. This time the cuts, at least partially, are aimed at the men and women who serve. This aspect alone defies logic. If you need to be leaner and meaner the quality of the individuals must be counted upon to bridge some of that gap. It that case common sense demands increasing compensation and benefits to attract those folks who can bridge the gap. But I digress.
The overwhelming strategic imperative of recent Defense policy was the ability to engage in two conflicts simultaneously. One of the underpinnings of this imperative was that we could not become so mired in one conflict that we were left naked to all other potential threats. That idea is being thrown overboard as is national security and the ability to prevent conflict by way of the projection of power. The Russians and Chinese are no doubt thrilled, as is the entire Jihadi community. Allies, however, are wondering if they should cuddle up to those forces as they are incapable of protecting themselves. Should they decide to, in fact, cuddle up, in hopes that the alligator will eat them last U.S. military reach will be reduced geometrically. U.S. military power has made Europe safe for Social Democracy and there is no indication that Europe will up their military game.
Were we to have first heard the strategic plan that the budget cuts were intended to address, were reallocation of resources or alterations in spending priorities consistent with and complimentary to a strategic plan we could engage in a thoughtful critique inclusive of the benefit of the doubt. We heard none of that. This was not a Pentagon initiative. This was the President’s West Wing security advisors who want the money for domestic programs and simply do not accept the fact that budgets should follow strategic initiatives and serious threat assessment. This is a budget that represents the President’s fundamental distrust of the military infrastructure. This is a proposal that operates from the premise that domestic entitlements must overwhelm national security.
Are there cuts that can and should be made? Yes! But the cuts announced today are in the view of an isolated West Wing, low hanging fruit. We’ll have to check the details but I’ll take a bet from all comers that the ‘climate change’ money that DOD spends is still there. I’ll take on all comers that the ‘green initiative’ money is still there.
Kill off one of my favorite planes the A-10 Warthog, it’s hurtful but I understand that a tank killer is not a high priority in today’s world. But what are you doing with the money? Where is it going? Is there an asymmetric threat strategy that will be supported instead?
After over 10 years of war, thousands of dead, thousands more critically wounded, uncounted scars obvious and hidden and the message from this administration is that they are overpaid??? That they’re not worth the money??? That they should pay for the poor management of the process by the administration that they should pay for the sycophants in the West Wing???
By way of this effort the administration clearly defines itself as criminally negligent! It is difficult to come to any other opinion.
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