Don’t Buy Any of It….

From a comment I left at SWJ:

“Thank you for writing a piece that is thoughtful, rational and calm. How difficult it has been to find a calm voice.
The hysteria surrounding this tragic incident and the rush to politicize the incident by various stakeholders on all sides-Russian, Ukrainian, American, various militaries and NATO–is dishonest and dangerous.
I met someone who was on the Lockerbie flight, if only briefly. A favorite novelist of mine once wrote that a character who had just lost a child was “living the curious aftermath of a life.” What pain for the families, what they must be suffering.
Some days ago, I posted an article from June discussing the poor equipping and training of the Ukrainian border forces and how material was crossing the border. I had asked, “if this is a crisis of sovereignty, why is everyone so silent about this and discussing everything else?” And now I find this article:
From May 7:

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine used Pentagon money to go shopping in Kiev for supplies, including concertina wire for Ukraine’s ill-equipped border guards, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
The Defense Department funds also bought fuel pumps, car batteries, spare parts, binoculars and communications gear for the guards, who would be the first line of defense if the 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders invaded.
Embassy personnel bought the goods locally in Kiev, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
Warren did not have an initial cost estimate for the supplies, but Evelyn Farkas, a deputy assistant defense secretary, told Congress that the Defense Department has given Ukraine’s military and border guards a total of $18 million in non-lethal aid to date.
In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Farkas said that Ukraine’s requests for additional aid “vastly outstrips our abilities to meet them.”

We spent how many BILLIONS on”democracy promotion” in Ukraine already? And now Americans struggling with a flat economy and uncertain economic prospects have to scrape together nickels and dimes for more when Ukraine is awash with wealthy oligarchs and Europe has a collective GDP that parallels the US?
So this is the great crisis that requires a new Cold War? I don’t buy any of it.
1. I don’t believe NATO – a bureaucracy fishing for funds and increased prominence after the Afghanistan drawdown.
2. I don’t believe hawkish Senators that are grandstanding for votes or who have emotional problems with buckling down and doing the nation’s work and prefer strange pseudo-ideologic crusades.
3. I don’t believe a President that is looking for a foreign policy win.
4. I don’t believe a Pentagon–or an Army–still looking to milk the American people for their own needs. Missiles in Poland! Oh, please.
5. I don’t believe ‘independent’ analysts–or their contractor and arms selling friends–bought and paid for.
6. I don’t buy the Michael McFaul, retired military Cold Warriors that look at the world through ideological lenses and think the world is a playground for regime change and democracy promotion.
7. I don’t buy the Special Forces hype that see everything as an unconventional war to be countered by training troops, regardless of the strategic wisdom of doing so.
8. I don’t buy the British Chatham House crew, the Polish right, the American transatlanticists and the NATOists that are only concerned with harnessing American power for their own personal or national or ideological or money-making reasons.
9. I don’t buy the middle aged nostalgics for the Cold War and the armchair warriors that view war as a game, an entertainment for boring everyday lives.
10. I don’t buy the neoconservatives who are trying to derail an Iran deal with the Ukraine crisis.
11. I don’t buy the State Department line. State has never gotten over the Cold War and thus its attitudes toward Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Eastern European nations that it hasn’t helped on any level because they are still so dependent on outside funds.
Elements within Russia, the US, Ukraine, the EU/NATO “axis” are all grandstanding and maneuvering for their own selfish interests.
If anyone in the vaunted West really cared, the borders would have been the first thing worked on decades ago. And I don’t buy that it’s all just lack of funding. Oligarchs have money. They also like to bring in outside money from Russia and the West and pocket a bit of it and some people might not mind porous borders, if you get my drift. Which no one will because no one really cares.
I don’t trust people that talk about unconventional warfare and can’t even be bothered to vet the experts they cite, experts like Michael McFaul or Anne Applebaum. I don’t know if people are stupid, dishonest, ideologues, unwilling to think new thoughts, or what. But I don’t have to buy any of it.
Don’t start World War III, Washington Consensus, NATO, Russian hawks, and the rest of you. How will you be able to spend all those ill-gotten gains if you aren’t around for it to be spent?

16 thoughts on “Don’t Buy Any of It….”

  1. Mike K: you beat me to it. The odds are that Hussein signs a meaningless deal with Iran, returns to Washington waving a piece of paper and saying it means peace in our time, and completely lifts the sanctions. The Iranians will proceed with their mischief as if nothing has happened.

    Onepark: Relax. Hussein ain’t going to do nothin’, ‘cept spout off. What the next administration may do depends who it is, which we cannot know yet, and what the world situation is, which we cannot know yet.

  2. If the leadership of America, both official and unofficial, is corrupt as your list implies, clearly it must be abolished.

  3. I don’t have a whole lot of trust for those institutions either, but there are some problems with all the hidden agenda and subtext theories (and I’m not saying you have any specific agenda but I’ve encountered all kinds of conspiracy conjecture from analysts I follow and their peanut galleries).

    NATO and the US have been in an irreversible military decline over the past few years. Obama didn’t deploy ABM systems in Poland specifically to appease Putin with his “Reset” policy.

    You probably saw this discussion on SWJ about American unilateral disarmament. We had actually just pulled all our tanks out of Europe right before the Euromaiden uprising.

    Just last week we appointed a German general as chief of staff of our remaining land forces (AFAIK, the highest position for a German in the US Army since Baron von Steuben at Yorktown), which will almost certainly put a damper on any aggressive posture we may have wanted to assume.

    Every summer for the past few years NATO has held a joint exercise with Ukraine called Rapid Trident, but they postponed it this year because they didn’t want to provoke Russia. My guess is it will not happen this year and probably not next year or ever with Russian troops on the doorstep.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but secret ill intentions by NATO or the US just don’t seem to match with their recent actions.
    I think the EU, and specifically Germany, bear a lot of the blame for this problem and the ongoing tensions, and they have also cleverly deflected a lot of the blame onto us and their agents in the White House.

  4. Don’t start World War III, Washington Consensus, NATO, Russian hawks, and the rest of you.

    We may not be interested in World War III but World War III is interested in us. I agree that much of our current policy towards Ukraine and the FSU is poorly conceived. However, I don’t think that our being pure would provide much protection. When we act weak we can expect other countries to try to exploit our weakness.

    Nation building, regime change, democracy promotion, ABM in Poland, opposition to Iranian WMD development, etc. were tools to further our national interests. They may not have been the best tools but they showed our adversaries that we would try to protect ourselves and would impose significant costs on them if they acted against those interests. And I think you are overlooking the extent to which some of our policies may have failed not for intrinsic reasons but simply because we have been irresolute.

    Our current strategy, implemented for a combination of ideological and domestic political reasons, appears to be withdrawal in the face of threats. I think that’s likely to be more relevant to what’s going to happen next than are any of the concerns you listed.

  5. “How will you be able to spend all those ill-gotten gains if you aren’t around for it to be spent?”

    So everyone worried about Russian expansionism is in it to make a profit? Maybe you have been watching too much Hollywood. Everyone wanting the sovereignty of the Ukraine are really just using that as an excuse for launching WW III because it’s a board game and we are bored? What nonsense. I spent a significant part of my young adult life 100 miles from the Iron Curtain on 20 minute alert to roll into initial defensive positions to fight that war you are so concerned about. While I think I understand the effects of Russian expansionism, both during the Cold War and re-emerging under their current recycled expansionists, no one wants to avoid that WW III scenario more than those of us who were signed up to actually fight it. Perhaps some of this group actually think that the current western response to the Russian actions in and near the Ukraine is the sort of feckless lack of resolve that actually increases the future likelihood of WW III? I think that this is what I believe, but perhaps you know my, and many other folk’s, motivations better than we know ourselves. Really?


  6. “When we act weak we can expect other countries to try to exploit our weakness.”

    What the political left and the effete elites never understand is that military strength deters aggression and war is less likely if we are strong. There is a myth about the First World War that it was an “accident” set off by too many countries armed to the teeth. The causes, as best I can understand from a fair amount of reading, is that industrial war relied on railroads and mobilization was critical because of the mass armies of the time.

    This was linked to an unstable Kaiser who was so erratic that his ministers kept things from him even though he was Head of State. The German General Staff was in the hands of von Moltke’s nephew who was much weaker than his famous uncle who founded the General Staff system. The elder von Moltke was far more astute.

    From this time Moltke’s strategy is remarkable for its judicious economy of force, for he was wise enough never to attempt more than was practicable with the means at his disposal. The surrender of Metz and of Paris was just a question of time, and the problem was, while maintaining the sieges, to be able to ward off the attacks of the new French armies levied for the purpose of raising the Siege of Paris. The Siege of Metz ended with its surrender on October 27.

    I wonder if he would have approved of the plans for World War I. Bismarck was dismissed by Wilhem and von Moltke might well have been, as well. He died in 1890. Bismarck was concerned with peace once the nation of Germany was united. He was uninterested in adventurism of the sort that was fatal to Wilhelm’s Germany.

    His had been a great career, beginning with three wars in eight years and ending with a period of 20 years during which he worked for the peace of Europe, despite countless opportunities to embark on further enterprises with more than even chance of success. … No other statesman of his standing had ever before shown the same great moderation and sound political sense of the possible and desirable. … Bismarck at least deserves full credit for having steered European politics through this dangerous transitional period without serious conflict between the great powers.”[61]

    We may have the opportunity to see how well weakness in foreign policy works. Stanley Baldwin should have taught us the results but we seem to have to relearn this every 50 years or so. Reagan was 50 years after Baldwin and we are only 25 years since Reagan.

  7. I said the people GRANDSTANDING are not interested in Ukrainian sovereignty. It’s not just money, it’s bureaucracy, power politics, ideology.

    One piece of evidence is that Ukrainian border forces are ill-equipped despite all the hot rhetoric and money spent.

    There are many other pieces of evidence from, you know, 2014. I’ll post them as I get the chance.

    None of this is helping the Ukrainian people by the way, the warring on the East has led to a refugee crisis and Ukrainian units are deserting. There are anti-war protests. Some of this propaganda, but some good sources report these events are happening. If Western Ukraine was interested in its own sovereignty, it would govern better.

    Outside nation building doesn’t help and turning Ukraine into Afghanistan or Kashmir doesn’t really help anyone.

  8. No Cold War president did a thing about Ukraine, from Eisenhower to Reagan. They didn’t want the Cold War to go Hot.

    This is basic history.

  9. Ukraine has a crisis of governance – its leaders are corrupt and not all the unrest is Russian causes, anymore than everything in Afghanistan is about Pakistan. Outside help just fuels the process.

    They need a ceasefire, to have new elections, to figure out how to include the East and South into governance and to focus on border security. Instead, oligarchs are shelling civilian areas.

    How this keeps the big bad Putin at bay is beyond me.

  10. Srategy is more than pontificating on how to be strong. Being strong is being strong. Like, say, stiffening your own border. Except not everyone in Ukraine wants the border closed. How is NATO including, say, Georgia, going to change that? The actual details matter.

    Missiles in Poland do nothing for American interests, not even Polish interests, and, besides, Poland has internal political struggles too. Not everyone wants American meddling in their politics.

    Actual details matter. Study matters. Research matters.

  11. The leaders of other countries see us as systematically disarming ourselves, disengaging from international power relationships that we formerly dominated, attempting (ineptly) to engage our enemies, punishing or abandoning our allies and dissolving our borders. Putin, ISIS et al are acting rationally to fill power vacuums that exist largely as a consequence of our disengagement. Putin didn’t risk open intervention in Ukraine ten years ago. In 2014 it’s clear that the risk for him is much lessened, so he acts and seems likely to come out ahead.

    Ukraine is a symptom and a warning. I don’t think that we can reverse our decline merely by cleaning up Washington and making our positions on Ukraine and other geopolitical controversies internally consistent. We should focus on the main problem by rearming and resuming the consistent defense of our interests. This will be very expensive and we will probably not start doing it until after we are attacked again.

  12. “Actual details matter. Study matters. Research matters.”

    So does logic.

    It seems to me that most posts in this thread fail to meet those antecedents based on their content. On the other hand, I see much more convincing reasoning and support in MikeK’s and Jonathan’s posts. It is our lack of clarity about our objectives and our weakness, not about the Ukraine’s. Russian expansionism is a threat to us because it threatens the ideals we try to uphold. In the area of security, I don’t believe it is logical or realistic to give up on our ideals and engagement because some abuses have occurred within our security, intelligence and political communities for all the usual bureaucratic reasons that big government is always trending toward cronyism.

    It is high time for voter oversight to replace “political” oversight. I wholly agree that more judicious use by us of multinational and international groups is warranted. Term limits, a balanced budget amendment and repeal of the 17th Amendment would go some ways to forcing some accountability and realism.


  13. Putin is a gangster and his support is mostly concerned with ill-gotten gains. Ukraine was up to the nose in Russian oligarchs and their money. The pipelines are a big concern of Putin’s as Russia is “a gas station with a foreign policy.”

    We could accomplish a lot by just fixing our economy which is suffocating from Socialist meddling. The fracking boom should be expanded and encouraged. Export of LNG would get Putin’s attention. Just building the terminals would do a lot. We don’t need a 600 ship Navy these days but real strategic thinking would be helpful. Our Army is crippled with idiots like Casey and other PC senior officers. Obama wants NASA to focus on Muslim outreach. Meanwhile, Voyager shows what the earlier generation could accomplish after 36 years.

    Obama blathers about Muslim contributions while most of them seem seem to blow up in our faces .

    The message was clear: Boston’s Muslims, as an integral part of the community, stood with fellow citizens in solidarity and support.

    In many ways, the attacks are the first real test to efforts by Muslim organisations across the US to alter ugly misperceptions after September 11, and become a visible, vocal presence in political and civil life.

    “September 11 taught many Muslim communities that if they did not step up and speak for themselves and represent themselves, people acting in bad faith were going to do so,” said Sahar Aziz, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of American Muslims. “The marathon has been an example of how that’s come to fruition.”

    Yes, the Marathon showed us a lot. Among the “ugly misperceptions” was one of Muslims celebrating .

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