More Ukraine Related Updates

Vladimir Putin has announced that “he sees no immediate need to invade eastern Ukraine.” I presume that this statement is meant to cause us to fall to our knees and thank whatever deities we might believe in for his forbearance, but readers will forgive me if I don’t see the phrasing in this announcement as heralding unqualified good news. It is reassuring to note that the markets are moving to punish Russia for its actions, and that there are at least some people in the (largely state-controlled) Russian media who are willing to condemn the Putin regime for its actions in Ukraine, but that doesn’t mean that this crisis is apt to come to an end anytime soon.

I know that I don’t agree with Stephen Diamond on many a political issue, but I think that he makes some very good points in discussing the crisis:

. . . One by one the left ignored the implications of Obama’s approach – in Tibet (snubbing the Dalai Lama, in Iran (snubbing the Green Revolution), in Venezuela (cozying up to Chavez), in Cuba (cozying up to Raul Castro), in Egypt (standing by the military), in Syria (erasing his own red line).

But now with the invasion of Ukraine by Putin the results of five years of Obama foreign policy are undeniably clear.

Obama has thought all along he could appease authoritarian regimes and lure them into a fantasy world of global trade and governance. The fact is that despite the end of the cold war more than 20 years ago authoritarian regimes persist and have shown incredible resiliency. China’s neo-stalinist model is working, for the party and its allies in the new entrepreneurial class. And in Iran, Syria and elsewhere, authoritarianism continues to draw widespread support. These authoritarians have no interest in neo-liberal fantasies about free trade and free markets. The volatility and instability of those markets, brought home to hundreds of millions when the western financial system collapsed in 2008, is fuel for the fires of the authoritarian alternative.

To this alternative Obama has no answer. He rode the wave of naive liberal left distaste for global war and politics to office and now that political capital has exhausted itself.

. . . The country is led by someone who does not understand what is going on in the world and cannot craft a coherent response to it. He is wedded to a relativist outlook born in the pro-third world neo-stalinist rhetoric of the late 1960s that helped shape his early world view. He will not be able to shed that history or outlook and it is extremely difficult for the institutional apparatus of US power to act coherently when the White House is led by a team that is so intellectually and politically stunted.

I certainly don’t think that “free trade and free markets” are merely “neo-liberal fantasies”; they are better than any other alternative out there. But to the extent that this president actually has a worldview, that worldview has caused him to look at the world not as it is, but as he wishes that it could be. So much for the never-credible belief that Barack Obama is a foreign policy realist, or a serious practitioner of realpolitik.

A blast from the past, courtesy of Henry Kissinger, is appropriate here:

Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace…. Whenever peace — conceived as the avoidance of war — has been the primary objective of a power or a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of the most ruthless member of the international community.

Relatedly, now that the 2012 presidential election is over, and now that some people no longer have to worry much that being intellectually honest would give aid and comfort to the political opponents of those people, maybe it is high time for Mitt Romney’s critics to admit that he was right.

Comments

  1. Was this the same Henry Kissinger who openly admired Stalin for his cold calculated ruthlessness (in his book “Diplomacy”), or who was responsible for such statesmanly successes as the installation of Augusto Pinochet and Pol Pot? One has to wonder.

    Nevertheless, even by his cruel and inhuman, though sadly realistic, standards, our jingoist war-cheerleaders are failing. A negotiated solution would be straightforward. Let Russia have part of the Ukraine in exchange for something of value (for instance, natural gas).

    The remaining part would have a firmly pro-West outlook and we would no longer have to compete with Russia on who can better manipulate elections anymore to get our respective puppets “elected”. There would then be peace.

    But everyone wants to play chicken with a war. Fun.

    • I find it more than a little interesting that you denounce Kissinger for the alleged admiration of Stalin (Kissinger in fact calls Stalin “a monster” in Diplomacy) and the alleged installation of Pol Pot (where precisely did you get the idea that the communist Khmer Rouge were backed by either the Nixon or the Ford administrations?), and yet you are willing to “[l]et Russia have part of the [sic] Ukraine,” thus rewarding the “cold calculated ruthlessness” of Vladimir Putin. How very “statesmanly.” Equally ridiculous is your claim that we are “compet[ing] with Russia on who can better manipulate elections anymore to get our respective puppets ‘elected.’ There would be peace.” I realize that some people get their foreign policy opinions from the back of a cereal box, but higher standards are at work in the comments section here. Do try to live up to them. At least, try not to be a troll.

      I suppose that I should note as well that I don’t want to “play chicken with a war,” and you haven’t cited anyone who does. I also should note that no one wrote anything about “Obama’s character,” though last I checked, he is president, and thus does “run the show.”

  2. Firstly, I think you are close to the main point I wish to make. The best (most effective at their goals) statesmen are in fact cynical monsters. Just as businessmen are judged on one thing and one thing only — making money — statesmen and women are judged by advancing the interests of their states, increasing their power relative to others. Moral considerations do not enter the picture, except when they have a practical effect (i.e., some higher power punishes the state for something it did wrong. the 2 or 3 most powerful states are usually free of this concern).

    When a leader or spokesperson for a state is on TV, with flags in the background, it is extremely naiive to take at face value any statements about “international law” or “moral considerations” or even “right and wrong”. Quite often their intentions are further from their words and closer to 180 degrees from what they are saying.

    My mission is to rid the blogosphere of this ancient and easily disproved propaganda.

    Secondly, the note about Obama’s character was intended for the Republican jingo-hawk audience who complain that he is not violent enough. Maybe I should stick to one simple message. I apologize if that was confusing.

    Thirdly:

    you say “Equally ridiculous is your claim that we are “compet[ing] with Russia on who can better manipulate elections anymore to get our respective puppets ‘elected.’”

    Why is this ridiculous? Have the russians not supported a candidate friendly to them with significant material support? Have we not done the same?

    Finally, I want some of that breakfast cereal! what’s it called?

    • The problem with your message wasn’t that it was complicated. The problem with your message was that it was riddled with factual errors and contradictions, and that it attributed positions to me that I never took. Kindly refrain from all such errors in the future if you wish to continue to comment at this blog; it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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