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.