[N.B.: For whatever reason WordPress doesn’t seem to have sent out subscriber emails when my post (“Unicorn Dreams Melting in the Crucible of Reality” – EoT – 2014-03-03) was published last night. Go figure; click the link if you missed it.] Moving right along…
Eugene Robinson. He seems like a nice guy, or at least not malicious and hateful; naive and ignorant but true to his principles. I have some respect for that, as opposed to the party hacks like E.J.Dionne who employ whatever situational principles will support their side. Yesterday Eugene weighed in on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and says – we have a credibility problem (“In the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has a credibility problem” – WaPo – 2014-03-03):
Is it just me, or does the rhetoric about the crisis in Ukraine sound as if all of Washington is suffering from amnesia? We’re supposed to be shocked — shocked! — that a great military power would cook up a pretext to invade a smaller, weaker nation? I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the unfortunate events in Iraq a few years ago?
No, Eugene, it’s not just you – it’s Liberals (and pinko Lefties, and conspiracy nuts). Liberals like you have indeed forgotten that the Senate Select Committee on Iraq Pre-War Intelligence found that the case for Iraqi WMDs was not fabricated. That was the bipartisan Congressional investigation which Liberals demanded – Demanded! – because they just knew that W had lied – Lied! – about Iraqi WMDs. Bush, Cheney, Feith, and the rest of those criminal neocons, all lying liars who tell lies! So they stamped their little feet and banged their spoons on their highchairs until they got the Congressional investigation they wanted.
Sort of. They got the bipartisan Congressional investigation, all right, but the results were not to their liking. What the report said was that while some of the evidence was flawed, none of the evidence for WMDs was fabricated, and actually there was even more evidence which would have made an even stronger case but was withheld by the White House because they didn’t deem reliable enough. The intelligence agencies were, however, unanimous in their confidence that Iraq had WMDs (chemical, probably biological, and maybe nuclear), which is why the liaison to the White House of all of those agencies, CIA Director George Tenet, told POTUS W that the case for Iraqi WMDs was “a slam-dunk”. The intelligence agencies of our allies concurred; Germany even thought Iraq would get a nuclear weapon within five years.
As you might expect, this was not the conclusion Liberals were expecting or hoping for, so they demanded – Demanded! – an investigation into the intelligence agencies, because surely they had been pressured to cook up the “right” answers. Surely Dick Cheney had paid an unofficial visit to Langley, put his arm around the shoulder of those quaking analysts, and told them just exactly what they were going to “find”, right? They got their bipartisan Congressional investigation – see the Robb-Silberman report – and after all the intelligence analysts were interviewed, in private, with assurances of immunity, each and every one stood by their reports and denied categorically that anyone had influenced their conclusions in any way. In fact, every bipartisan Congressional investigation has failed to deliver what the Liberals were really after – a basis for impeachment and trial for the “war criminals” of the Bush Administration – and despite that Liberals have always gone right back to accusing W and his cohort of evil neocons of cooking up a pretext to invade Iraq. They openly maintain that fiction to this day, as above.
[…] the United States, frankly, has limited standing to insist on absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states.
This straw-man set-up needs some work. The United States does not and never has insisted on an “absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states” – Robinson is just making this up. It should be noted, however, that after overthrowing the bloody dictatorship of Hussein and his psychopathic sons in 2003 we turned Iraq into a self-governing constitutional republic, while simultaneously crushing the internal and external jihadists and Baathists who tried to keep Iraq in thrall. Again, not exactly a good counterpoint to Russia and Crimea today.
Before Iraq there was Afghanistan, there was the Persian Gulf War, there was Panama, there was Grenada.
Yeah, Panama and Grenada, I’ll give him those, but the Persian Gulf War? You’ll recall that this was precipitated by Saddam Hussein outright invading and annexing Kuwait – and subsequently we smashed his military and then we handed Kuwait right back to the Kuwaiti emirates, so that flies in the face of his claim, yes? For Robinson, it doesn’t matter; at this point he’s just rattling off U.S. wars that he opposed, because War, Man, y’know, it’s just Bad! We’re Bad! We warmongers, bad bad people are we. All wars bad. We’re bad. So thanks for clarifying that, Eugene.
Come to think of it, Panama and Grenada were also handed back to their citizens, free and democratic. This is in sharp contrast to what Russia is doing, and did you notice that Robinson throws in Afghanistan? So, let me get this straight: Afghanistan hosted terrorists who attacked the United States, and so we changed their regime into a constitutional republic and went after those jihadists who opposed us – and Robinson is effectively saying this was bad, because we didn’t respect the territorial integrity of Afghanistan? What jackassery.
And even as we condemn Moscow for its outrageous aggression, we reserve the right to fire deadly missiles into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else.
Robinson has a legitimate grievance here but it doesn’t apply to his thesis. I agree with him that there are problems with firing missiles into other states unless those states allow us to do so (as does, for example, Pakistan). However, in contrast to Russia/Crimea, we are not seizing territory or doing regime change, so this doesn’t really belong in Robinson’s opinion piece. Not this one, anyway.
The Obama administration has been clear in its condemnation of Putin’s operation. Critics who blame the Russian action on “weak” or “feckless” U.S. foreign policy are being either cynical or clueless.
It is meaningless to rattle sabers if the whole world knows you have no intention of using them. There is no credible military threat by the United States that could conceivably force Putin to surrender Crimea if he doesn’t want to. Russia is much diminished from the Soviet era but remains a superpower whose nuclear arsenal poses an existential threat to any adversary. There are only a few nations that cannot be coerced by, say, the sudden appearance on the horizon of a U.S. aircraft carrier group. Russia is one of them.
The accusations that POTUS Obama is weak and feckless are not predicated on his lack of a military response to the Russian invasion of Crimea. He is weak and feckless because he has not pursued economic pacts and undercut military ties to Eastern European countries (abandoning plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic come to mind, by way of example). In doing so he created a power vacuum, which is now being filled by the ruthless Russians.
I’d also add that POTUS Obama is an utter fool for pursuing arms treaties with and making unilateral preemptive concessions to Russia despite their having violated every major weapons treaty they’ve ever signed, as well as having repeatedly flown nuclear bombers into our Air Defense Identification zone, simulated an attack run on our missile defenses in Asia, and prowled around our East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico with attack submarines. I’ll further add that POTUS Obama has pursued this despite Russia having been most helpful to Iran and Syria in waging wars against their own people. I’ll further assert that the “weak” and “feckless” accusations are probably based more on Obama’s tendency to stay out of world political events in the hopes that they’ll resolve themselves without his having to say or do much of anything, and then when the problems get bigger he wades in cautiously and noncommittally, usually too late. Much as he did with Iran in 2011/2, Syria 2011-present, and today in the Russia/Crimea invasion.
If the man had brains or balls, in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea, he’d be publicly and enthusiastically invite former Soviet Bloc countries into talks on free trade and military preparedness. Countries like (what’s left of) Ukraine, (what’s left of) Georgia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Message: “There’s a big bad bear in them thar woods; let’s partner up.”