Foreign Policy Relived

“The 1970’s called and they would like their foreign policy back.”

President Obama addressed this quip to Romney in a pre-election debate.

Now it’s a couple of years later and President Obama probably wishes he could get the 1970’s on the phone to learn how to shape an effective foreign policy against a hostile Russia.

During both of his campaigns Obama promised to get the United States out of Iraq. He has used his authority to accelerate our departure despite warnings of the dangers.

Circulating on Facebook right now is a news clip of Bush stating that if we leave Iraq too quickly, and against the advice of the military leadership, it will become the next terrorist stronghold. He was referring to the area which is now the stronghold of ISIS.

President Obama is in a pickle. The world he faces runs contrary to his political banter. This largely happened because he failed to see the world as it really was. Russia really is a tremendously powerful country, with aspirations to reclaim all its lost territories. Within the portion of the world dominated by Islam, terrorists will rise up.

I remember history teachers, from junior high up, telling us the reason we study history—to avoid repeating it.

 

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Seeking Courageous Leadership

“Every day the sun comes up, it says something about us.” This statement was made by Kevin Costner, playing Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O’Donnell, toward the end of the movie Thirteen Days, which is about the Cuban missile crisis.

He was referring to the hard reality that ever since the nuclear proliferation of the cold war, humanity has the ability to end the world on any given day. This movie was about an event in history which if not stopped would have placed the rest of the world under Russia’s heel. Thankfully, they were backed down by courageous actions, and the world took a different shape for the following decades.

Now we are in a similar point in history.

Russia was prematurely declared dead. They are rising up with ambitions of restoring their former place, and those who should be standing against its ambitions in Ukraine are surprisingly quiet.

Nuclear proliferation is no longer descriptive of the US and Russia. Instead it is the growing number of countries which have nuclear capabilities, and the number seeking to gain this capability. Some countries are progressing toward nuclear capability, and political activity to stop them has taken place. But remarkably little attention is given to these issues either on the world stage or in the press.

I know the world has changed. I realize the challenges are different and bigger. But these trite explanations don’t change the fact we are once again marching toward the brink of destruction. I don’t wish for a return to simpler times; I know there is no going back. But I do wish for a return to the style of leadership would stand in the face of evil and stop its progress.

The Cowardly New World

There is a lot of concern over whether or not Russia is about to seize additional territories from among the former Russian territories. My expectation is, of course they will. When I answer this so directly I am not claiming to know the future, I am simply observing the pattern of the past.

When a country ramps up its patriotic and nationalistic rhetoric internally, they are on a path to act on those emotions. Putin gave a speech recently about the restoration of the former glory of the Soviet Union in which members of the audience were brought to tears over perceived wrongs done do them when those nations seceded.

Nations led primarily under the leadership of one ideologue, will take greater risks when attempting to secure or expand national interests. Putin is the national hero in Russia. He has carefully crafted his image as a strong leader, a man’s man, and the people look for his leadership either by direct mandate or more subtle orchestration.

Hostile forces, if not opposed with equal or superior strength, tend to keep going until they meet such a resistance. The US response to what has happened in Crimea has been to state there will be severe circumstances, but everyone is quick to say, “No boots on the ground.” This is really all Putin needs to hear. In addition, we really haven’t tried the economic sanctions which would be most painful to them, energy related sanctions, because they would also affect us.

Many of the former Russian states have large numbers of Russian sympathizers. Once these groups are riled up by the rhetoric of Russian nationalism, they likely will act in their regions to seek reunification. When efforts are met with resistance, or especially violence, Putin will go in to protect the Russians in that region. Then hold a referendum, started and controlled by the sympathizers, which of course will result in favor of reunification. This is exactly how it happened in Crimea. Putin didn’t have to start the problem, he only had to be ready to take full advantage of the problem.

The United States has made it clear military options are off the table. No one else will have the gumption to stand up without the US. Whatever financial or other resource consequences we put on them, they will see as less significant than returning the USSR to its former glory. They also have reason to believe we will treat these other consequences in a similar way, namely we will lose heart to continue once it begins to affect the American public.

Without the courage to stop Russia early on, we will have to contend later with whatever it is we allow them to become.