Forward to the past 11

What does a conservative in the US most want to conserve? We would say: A commitment to liberty, the founding principle of his country. American conservatives may differ from each other on questions of religion, foreign affairs, entitlements and the economic “safety-net”, homosexual marriage and abortion, even on defense, but if they are not loyal to the Constitution and the idea of individual freedom that it enshrines, they are not true conservatives.

In Britain too, conservatives are dedicated to the defense of the traditional and hard-won liberties of the people.

In Russia, being a conservative means something different. The very opposite. What Russian conservatives want to conserve is their long and almost completely unbroken tradition of tyranny. The quarrel within their ranks would now, in post-Soviet times, be chiefly over whether they want a return to the Red Tyranny of Bolshevism, or the older tradition of Tsarist oppression, where cause for national pride may more confidently be found.

Owen Matthews, author of  Stalin’s Children, writes in the Spectator (UK) about a conservative Russian military leader:

Strange times throw up strange heroes — and in Russia’s proxy war with Ukraine, none is more enigmatic than the Donetsk rebel leader Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre of Igor Strelkov.

In a few short months, Strelkov has gone from being an obscure military re-enactor to the highest-profile rebel leader in eastern Ukraine. But at the same time Strelkov’s fame and outspoken criticism of Vladimir Putin for failing to sufficiently support the rebels has earned him the enmity of the Kremlin. Moreover, Strelkov’s brand of sentimental ultra-nationalism, extreme Orthodoxy and Russian Imperial nostalgia offer a frightening glimpse into one of Russia’s possible futures.

In the West, we are used to seeing Putin cast as a dangerous adventurer and nationalist. But to Strelkov, and to the millions of Russians who have come to admire him, Putin isn’t nearly nationalist enough.

Within weeks of his arrival in eastern Ukraine in May this year, apparently on his own initiative, Strelkov quickly became the highest-profile rebel leader thanks to his discipline and military bearing. A veteran of wars in Bosnia, Transnistria and Chechnya, Strelkov is a reserve colonel in the Russian army and a former (and possibly current) officer in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. With his clipped moustache, pressed fatigues and careful charm, Strelkov styles himself on a pre–revolutionary Tsarist officer. In May he mustered a 2,000-strong local defence force in Slavyansk, banned his troops from swearing and ordered two of his own men to be summarily executed for looting.

He wrote a manifesto calling his troops “an Orthodox army who are proud that we serve not the golden calf but our Lord Jesus Christ” and declared that “swearing is blasphemy, and a Russian warrior cannot use the language of the enemy. It demeans us spiritually, and will lead the army to defeat”.

Russian state television built Strelkov up as a hero. The nationalist writer Egor Prosvirnin praised him as the “Russian God of War” who “rinks the blood of foreign mercenaries to the last drop, and then asks for more”. …

And then, in mid-August, Strelkov mysteriously resigned his post as “defence minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — along with two other Russian citizens who had been the civilian heads of the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. All three rebel leaders were replaced by Ukrainian citizens.

The most obvious explanation for the reshuffle is that Moscow is preparing a negotiated settlement where the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine — or Novo-Rossiya, “New Russia”, in Russian nationalist parlance — will be given some degree of autonomy within Ukraine. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — from young soldiers’ Instagram selfies tagged to locations inside Ukraine to the Russian regular soldiers taken prisoners of war on Monday by Kiev’s troops — Moscow has also continued to insist that it is not a combatant in Ukraine. Clearly, having Russian citizens at the helm of supposedly autonomous rebel republics and their armed forces was a diplomatic inconvenience to the Kremlin which needed to be fixed — and pressure was put on Strelkov and his cronies to quit.

But there’s another, deeper meaning to Strelkov’s fall from favour. Though he’s often portrayed as a stooge of Moscow, Strelkov has in fact been consistently critical of the Kremlin’s failure to act decisively to annex eastern Ukraine as it annexed Crimea in spring. “Having taken Crimea, Putin began a revolution from the top,” Strelkov wrote in June. “But if we do not support [this revolution] now, its failure will sweep aside both him and the country.”

Strelkov’s close associate Igor Ivanov, the head of the rebel army’s political department, has also furiously denounced the “Chekist-oligarchic regime” of Vladimir Putin and has also predicted that Putin will soon fall, leaving only the army and the church to save Russia from chaos.

This mix of militarism, religion and a mystical faith in Holy Russia’s imperial destiny to rule over lesser nations has deep roots. Ivanov was until recently head of the Russian All-Military Union, or ROVS, an organisation originally founded by the White Russian General Baron Pyotr Wrangel in 1924 after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the civil war. Its guiding motive was to preserve the Tsarist ideals of God, Tsar and Fatherland. For much of the 20th century, ROVS was the preserve of elderly emigré fantasists — before a new generation of post-Soviet nationalists like Ivanov breathed new life into the organisation as a home for Russian ultra-nationalists who hate Putin’s brand of crony capitalism.

A similar outfit is the Narodny Sobor, or People’s Assembly, which describes itself as an “Orthodox-Patriotic organisation devoted to fighting ‘liberasts’ and western values, to promoting Orthodoxy, and to preserving the traditional family”, according to a recent study by Professor Paul Robinson of the University of Ottawa. In Russia, the Narodny Sobor has, along with the Russian Orthodox church, successfully campaigned for a tsunami of conservative legislation to be passed by the Duma, from banning swearing on television and in films to prohibiting the spreading of “homosexual propaganda”. The head of the Narodny Sobor’s Ukrainian branch is Igor Druz — a senior political advisor to Strelkov who has denounced the Kiev government as “pederasts and drug addicts”.

On the face of it, Strelkov and his ilk and Putin should be on the same side. They share a nostalgia for a lost Russian greatness — indeed Strelkov has a degree in history and was until recently an enthusiastic military re-enactor, playing White Guard and second world war officers. And this year, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, Putin has abandoned years of hard-edged pragmatism and economic prudence and moved towards the kind of mystical, Orthodox nationalism so beloved of the ROVS and Narodny Sobor crowd.

Yet as Putin prepares to sign off on some kind of compromise peace deal with the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, there will be millions of Russians brainwashed by months of state television’s patriotic propaganda who will agree with Strelkov that Moscow is selling the rebels down the river.

Strelkov himself has little chance of becoming a serious opposition figure to Putin; he is too stiff and too weird for public politics. But Putin’s main challenger, when he comes, will be someone of Strelkov’s stamp.

We tend to think of Vladimir Putin as being most politically vulnerable from the left — from the liberal, western-orientated professionals who came out in their hundreds of thousands on the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg three years ago to protest at Putin’s third term. But in truth Putin’s real vulnerability is from the right — from the racist football fans who rioted unchecked through central Moscow in 2010; from prophets of a Russian-led Eurasian empire such as Alexander Dugin, who was in the radical nationalist opposition to Putin before falling temporarily into step with the Kremlin in the wake of the Crimea campaign; and from militaristic ultra-conservatives on the Russian religious right.

So for the countries of Eastern Europe emancipated from Russian servitude barely a quarter of a century ago, there is not only the growing threat of re-subjugation, but the probability that it will be applied according to the whims of a madman, a religious fanatic living out fantasies of Tsardom and limitless imperial expansion by military means.

President Cruz? 4

He walked Independence Square in Kiev, the site of months of turmoil, and spoke with leaders of the protest movement, many of them college-aged. He visited a hospital in Tzfat, Israel, where he saw Israeli doctors provide free medical care to Syrians gravely wounded in the civil war there.

Despite his god-botheriness (an infection of irrationality from which no American politician known to us is free), and at risk of attracting the disapproval of some of our highly valued readers, we confess that we like Ted Cruz. We think he might make a good president.

Here’s an account of his current travels abroad issued by the Heritage Foundation, with the views he has expressed on issues of foreign affairs:

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, visited Israel, Ukraine, Poland and Estonia this week and detailed his travels in a conference call today …

Cruz gave a personal account of how those countries perceive American leadership during a turbulent time in the region. …

[He] reaffirmed his contention that Israel is America’s strongest ally and one that requires support to buffer peace talks with the Palestinians.

“The U.S. needs to stand with Israel,” Cruz said on the conference call. “No one wants to see peace more than Israel. But consistently, the Obama administration has criticized and attacked the leadership of Israel. Over the last five years, America is receding from leadership in the world, and Russia, Iran, and China have stepped into that vacuum and made the world a more dangerous place.”

Cruz emphasized the U.S. has no business dictating terms of a peace agreement, but he criticized the Palestinians for recent failures in the talks, and established basic requirements he said any agreement must have.

“The Palestinians need to renounce terrorism and to declare that Israel has the right to exist,” said Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If not, negotiations will fail.”

Similarly, after meeting with Ukraine protest leaders in Maidan Square and later on with Ukrainian Jewish and Catholic leaders, Cruz described a country eager for help, in any form it can get.

Help also means deterring the force of Russia, by imposing tougher sanctions than the Obama administration has applied, he said.

“One thing I took away from the Ukrainian leaders is that the military lacks basic equipment, such as armor, communication tools and night-vision goggles,” Cruz said. “The leadership in Ukraine is looking for help wherever it can find it. And it’s in our interest to help. We ought to be using all the tools of soft power to impose significant sanctions on Russia.” …

Cruz declared the nuclear threat of Iran the biggest hindrance to peace and the largest test of American credibility.

He criticized the Geneva interim agreement, a pact between Iran and the P5+1 countries officially titled the Joint Plan of Action, which decreased economic sanctions on Iran as the countries work at a long-term agreement.

Cruz said sanctions should be lifted only when Iran disassembles its centrifuges and hands over its enriched uranium.

The current deal is a very, very bad deal and a historic mistake,” Cruz said. “In the best-case scenario, we leave Iran to the threshold of a nuclear breakout. There’s concern in Israel that the U.S. deal with Iran exacerbates the problem. Every leader I met viewed the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear weapon as the strongest threat facing Israel and the U.S.”

We agree with these views of his. (Only we don’t think there should be any “peace process” involving Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians should be integrated into some of the 21 Arab states, and Israel should set its borders.)

As always, we invite comment.

Posted under Commentary, Eastern Europe, Iran, Israel, middle east, Muslims, Palestinians, Russia, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 29, 2014

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The man who came in from the not-so-cold 3

No secretary of state has ever had to cope with problems as complicated and difficult as those the world now presents to John Kerry.

If one craves a little light relief in these days of continual vexation, one can always turn to him.

This video clip and comment by Steven Hayward come from PowerLine. 

The short video below captures our alleged secretary of state John Kerry in full. He speaks about the “bipolar” world of the Cold War, but it really isn’t a very good idea for a person of his limited mental capacities to use the word “bipolar.” More to the point: it takes a lot of moxie to talk about how foreign relations during the Cold War were “easier” or “simpler” than today. Back in the day, it was left-liberals like Kerry who complained endlessly that the Cold War was “complicated,” and disdained Ronald Reagan for his supposed simplicity in pointing out the simple fact that we were dealing with an evil empire that needed to be put in the course of ultimate extinction.

You need to see this, not to believe it:

 

 

And, to judge by his gesture, he seems to think “quashed” means “squashed”. Though how “many things were squashed”  back in the “bipolar” Cold War days is so obscure an idea, he might as well mean “quashed” for all the sense it makes.   

Posted under Commentary, Russia, United States, Videos by Jillian Becker on Monday, April 28, 2014

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Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

Russia sniffing under the door 1

Ukraine is a far away country of which we know nothing, and Democrats and libertarians can see no reason why Americans should care if Russia swallows it.

But Americans need to take notice that Russia is also sniffing under the door of their homeland.

This is from Front Page by Joseph Klein.

Russia is also on the march far from its immediate neighborhood and much closer to the United States. According to Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who discussed his concerns regarding the increased presence of Russia in Latin America at a Senate hearing earlier this month, there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel. It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced last month plans to build military bases in ..  Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

Russia is already a major arms supplier to Venezuela, whose navy has conducted joint maneuvers with Russian ships. At least four Russian Navy ships visited Venezuela last August …

“Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers flew last October from an airbase in southwestern Russia and landed in Venezuela in routine exercise,” Russia’s Defense Ministry announced …  “The nuclear-capable bombers, which took off from the Engels airbase in the Volga region, flew over the Caribbean, the eastern Pacific and along the southwestern coast of the North American continent, and landed at Maiquetia airfield in Venezuela.”

Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela, is so enamored of Putin that he expressed support last year for the Russian president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. During a visit to Moscow by Maduro last summer, Maduro and Putin reaffirmed, in Putin’s words, “their wish for continuing their course towards strategic cooperation in all sectors”. 

Putin was the first Russian president to visit Cuba since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pravda quoted Putin as declaring in 2012 that Russia gained the consent of the Cuban leadership to place “the latest mobile strategic nuclear missiles ‘Oak’ on the island”, supposedly as a brush back against U.S. actions to create a buffer zone near Russia.

Last month, according to a report by Fox News Latino, “the intelligence-gathering ship Viktor Leonov docked in Havana’s harbor without warning”. It was reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Left-wing Argentinian President Cristina Fernández is intent on forging closer relations with Russia, inviting Russia to invest in fuel projects. In return for Russia’s support of Argentina’s quest to annex the Falkland Islands, Fernández supported Putin’s grab of Crimea. Crimea “has always belonged to Russia,” she said, just as the Falkland Islands have “always belonged to Argentina”.  …

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa praised Russia as a “great nation” during a visit to Moscow last October after Putin pledged to invest up to $1.5 billion into new domestic energy projects in Ecuador. Correa said Ecuador was also interested in buying Russian military equipment.

Brazil is planning to purchase short-to-medium-range surface-to-air Pantsir S1 missile batteries and Igla-S shoulder-held missiles from Russia. It has already bought 12 Mi-35 attack helicopters. This is all part of what Brazil views as a growing strategic relationship with Russia, as Brazil leads efforts to counter U.S. electronic surveillance that included alleged spying on Brazilian citizens. …

After Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista revolution, returned to power in Nicaragua in 2007, Russia and Nicaragua have moved in the direction of a strategic economic and military relationship. In October 2013, for example, Nicaragua and Russia signed a memorandum of international security cooperation. Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev noted during his visit to Nicaragua that “Nicaragua is an important partner and friend of Russia in Latin America,” pointing to the coincidence of views of the two countries’ authorities “on many issues”.  For his part, Ortega said: “We are very grateful and very much appreciate the Russian people’s support of our country.” Ortega welcomed the arrival of two Russian strategic bombers Tupolev Tu-160. …

Nicaragua’s parliament has ratified a cabinet resolution allowing Russian military divisions, ships and aircraft to visit the republic during the first half of 2014 for experience sharing and training of military personnel … Furthermore, the parliament has approved the participation of Russian military personnel in joint patrols of the republic’s territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from January 1 through June 30, 2015.

Russia is also forging a closer relationship with El Salvador, which has been led by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) that arose out of a left-wing guerrilla movement from the country’s 1979-1992 civil war. Leftist ex-guerrilla Sanchez Ceren has just won the presidential election. He can be expected to build on the Federal Law On Ratification of the Agreement on the Foundations of Relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of El Salvador, signed by Vladimir Putin in November 2012. It was the first interstate agreement between the two countries since they established diplomatic relations in 1992. In fact, given Ceren’s background – one of five top guerrilla commanders during the civil war that left 76,000 dead and over 12,000 missing – we can expect a more avowedly anti-U.S. government that will welcome Russia’s outstretched arms. After all, the FMLN leadership during the civil war described its own ideology as “Marxism-Leninism”.

Has Putin ever renounced the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the KGB, in which he served? He thinks the fall of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy, so the answer is “probably not”. But we guess that his main reason for regretting the passing of the USSR is that it was, or seemed to be for the greater part of some 70 years, a mighty power, and he is more concerned with extending Russian power again, recreating a Russian empire, than with the old failed Bolshevik ideology. South American leftist leaders may want to cozy up to Putin because they enjoy the Gemütlichkeit of a shared love of Communism, and he is obviously happy to have them hug him for any reason, but his motive in exploiting their sentimental friendship is to achieve imperial ends. He probably hates the fact that the West won the Cold War. He surely cannot hope to reverse that outcome. It would be an insane dream – if the US were not under the presidency of Barack Obama. Putin – and Iran, and China – can do a lot of damage to the world and the US in the three years left of Obama’s feeble leadership.

That’ll teach them! 26

The fatuous Secretary of State John Kerry says that if Russia invades eastern Ukraine (what’s left of it now that the Crimean peninsula has been hitched to Russia), a “hard line” will have been crossed.

Daniel Greenfield comments:

It’s not clear what will happen when the “hard line” is crossed. It may involve…

1. A phone call from John Kerry to anyone in Russia who still takes his calls for laughs warning that Russia is on “the wrong side of history”.

2. Sanctions against the Deputy Under-Governor of Southern Siberia

3. An emergency shipment of 2,000 copies of “Dreams From My Father” to besieged Ukrainian soldiers

Posted under Commentary, Russia, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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How strong is a piece of paper? 2

Tsar Vladimir of Russia (whose  eyes may be small but at least they’re close together) has invaded Ukraine and taken the Crimean peninsula. It is an act of war. He defies “international law” and no one can do a thing about it. He ignores the romantic UN charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 which discourages the use of force to settle international disputes, and the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 by which Ukraine agreed to surrender its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for a promise that Russia would not invade Ukraine – a promise confirmed by yet another treaty between the two countries in 1997.

Charters and treaties are pieces of paper. They are not armor or armament. Unless armament is brought to bear to enforce what they “guarantee”, they are useless.  At best they record intentions, an agreement convenient for a time. Intentions change, disagreement arises, and whoof! the paper with its signatures has gone with the wind.

Today the Tsar is getting hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper from people of the Crimea, their votes cast in a referendum on whether they want to be part of Russia or Ukraine. A majority will vote to be part of Russia. The Tsar knows this or he wouldn’t have ordered the referendum. His confidence in the outcome allows him to pay homage to paper as rulers do. If the almost impossible should happen and the vote go against him, he’ll keep his troops there anyway. The Crimea has been annexed to Russia and so it will stay, though blizzards of paper protesting the fact were to smother the land ten layers thick.

No document is proof against violation. Not even the Constitution of the United States, as the Obama administration proves daily.

Put not your trust in paper. Get your guns.

In praise of a cowboy nation 2

As so often we are in agreement over an important issue with Daniel Greenfield, who writes at Front Page on the international order – or disorder:

The international community looked into Putin’s eyes and blinked. Multilateralism has failed as badly as it did in the days of the League of Nations, but then again it never actually worked.

The international order that everyone pretends is a real force in world affairs is really the United States and a few partners doing all the work and letting the diplomats and bureaucrats of the world pretend that they matter.

Without America, the United Nations would be just as useless as the League of Nations. With America, the United Nations is only a deterrent when the United States puts its foot down and the rest of the world doesn’t get in the way.

It has become fashionable to denounce the United States as a rogue state. A military intervention, even with the backing of its Western allies, but outside the framework of the organizations of the international order, was deemed unilateralism and cowboy diplomacy. …

The multilateral system is helpless in the face of aggression. That is as true today as it was eighty years ago. International agreements are worthless without steel and lead behind them. The United Nations is incapable of acting when one of its more powerful members is the aggressor, the foreign policy experts of the left crank out editorials explaining why we can’t do anything and the Secretary of State explains that our weakness is really a strength.

Truth is, there is no such thing as “international law”  in the sense that there are laws within nations;  because no “international law”  can be enforced  – unless it is in the interest of the mightiest power to enforce it.

International law couldn’t stop Hitler. It couldn’t stop Japan. It took the United States to do that. The foreign policy experts will deny it, the editorials will decry it and the Common Core textbooks will refuse to print it; but it takes a rogue nation to stop a rogue state. …

The issue isn’t whether the United States should intervene in Ukraine, but whether it should have the option to do something more meaningful than draw faint red lines and threaten worthless sanctions. Every mob throwing things at soldiers and police isn’t necessarily composed of the good guys just because they have photogenic protesters and colorful flags.

Our instinct to automatically support the underdog is just another dangerous figment of the multilateral mindset.

The United States has unselectively adopted the human rights agenda of the internationalists and allowed our foreign affairs priorities to be curated by the diplomats of the left who know exactly whom to denounce and what not to do about it.

UN Ambassador Samantha Power, wearing a bitter frown, agonizing over the woes of the world, is the face of our senseless and useless diplomacy that forces us to play the moral scold without being able to back it up.

American foreign policy has become indistinguishable from the United Nations agenda and just as impotent, fixated on the recommendations of human rights committees instead of national interests, incapable of addressing historical alliances, and unable to build its responses around anything except the same Powerian empty shriek of self-righteous human rights outrage.

Obama’s America has turned a cold impartial face to its allies, aspiring instead to become the vessel of international organizations while assigning its morality to an international committee. American foreign policy is under international management and that transfers its decision process from D.C. to an international network of committees incapable of doing anything except generating worthless reports and denouncing Israel.

The United States was the ghost in the machine of the United Nations, but now that the United States is the United Nations, the United States has become the puppet of a puppet. …

The United States should have a strong military, not so that it can use it, but so that it won’t need to use it. Military budget cuts send the message that we won’t intervene in international conflicts which makes it more likely that our enemies will start conflicts and that some of those conflicts will drag us in anyway …

The United States should have clear commitments and agreements that it keeps, rather than randomly butting into every single conflict and human rights violation on the planet. Its leaders should decide whether they really are serious about Syria or Ukraine or any other place on earth that they issue press releases about and keep quiet about them if they are not. …

History isn’t made by nations defending international law, but acting on their own imperatives. Only a rogue nation that isn’t bound by the chains of multilateralism can take the unilateral action necessary to stop a rogue state.

American cowboy diplomacy is the only defense the world has against commissar diplomacy, cossack diplomacy and caliphate diplomacy.

Knock-knock 1

Again we have filched a brilliant Putin and Obama cartoon from PowerLine.

Posted under cartoons, Diplomacy, Russia, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, March 8, 2014

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Tyranny’s wife 1

The EU is a much prettier version of tyranny than rough Russia.

One might say it is the feminine version. It dresses nicely. It has its hair styled. It paints its nails. It smiles. It thinks it is alluring. It spends more than it has.

It is easy to understand why half the Ukrainians want to live with it. With her. Rather than with unshaven, violent, shabby, ill-mannered Daddy Russia.

Her corruption is prettily packaged.  Her despotism has a gentle touch. It really is more pleasant to live with her than with him.

But it would be better for the Ukrainians if they just took off on their own.

Bruce Bawer offers that very advice. He writes at Front Page:

It’s in Europe, and it’s huge – after Russia and the top five EU members, it has Europe’s largest population, and twice as many inhabitants as all the Scandiavian countries put together – but Ukraine isn’t a nation we often think of in the West, except when, as in recent days, it’s in the midst of a crisis. It has spent most of its history being conquered and brutalized by its more powerful neighbors, and in the last century underwent one savage chapter after another: 1.5 million people died in the civil war that ended with its absorption into the USSR; millions more died in Stalin’s deliberately engineered famine in 1932-33; during World War II, Hitler slaughtered an additional three million in what was intended to be the first stage of a program of exterminating two-thirds of the country’s population and enslaving the rest.

And, it should be added, its own historical record of brutal persecution and oppression is fully equal to any of its neighbors’. (See here and here and here.)

Today, unsurprisingly, Ukraine is a basket case of a country, riddled with corruption and living in the shadows of its historic horrors. It’s also a linguistically and philosophically divided land, torn between a western chunk whose people speak Ukrainian and identify with Europe and an eastern chunk whose people speak Russian and still feel an attachment to their massive neighbor to the east.

Viktor Yahukovych, the corrupt, autocratic president who disappeared last weekend in the face of mounting public unrest, is a Russiophile whose fatal error was his decision to strengthen bonds with Moscow (which coveted Ukraine as a key ally in a new Eurasian Union) and to turn down a free-trade agreement with the EU; most of the rioters who sent him packing are Europe-oriented types, the majority of whom are eager to see Ukraine become a Western-style democracy free of Putin’s influence, but some of whom, it should be noted, are neo-Nazis who look westward to Germany for the least attractive of reasons.

Most of the Ukrainians who favor European ties also want to see their country join the EU – which, in their eyes, as one Swedish newspaper put it the other day, is “above all…a symbol of a society free of corruption”.  Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was sprung from prison on Saturday after Yahukovych took it on the lam – and whose own years in office (ending in 2010) were far from corruption-free – told the Kiev crowds shortly after her release that she’s “sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future and this will change everything”.

Change everything! What is it that makes presumably liberty-loving Eastern European politicians talk about the EU as if it were a magic freedom elixir, a miracle cure for former victims of tyranny?

I suppose part of the explanation is that these politicians travel to the great cities of Western Europe and take in the relative freedom, the relative prosperity, and the relative lack of corruption and thuggery, and assume that all this has something to do with the EU. And part of it, naturally, is the ceaseless stream of pro-EU propaganda poured out by the Western European media and, not least, by the Western European politicians whom the likes of Tymoshenko consort with when they visit the West.

Yet how odd that the superstate’s economic woes haven’t put a dent in the magic for people like Tymoshenko. How odd that even the merest glimpse of the way things work in Brussels – where corruption is, needless to say, very much alive and well, even though it doubtless falls far short of Ukrainian levels – doesn’t give them pause. And how odd that when they witness the arrogance that’s characteristic of virtually all Brussels bigwigs – their habit of responding to any reasonable criticism of the EU not with cogent arguments but with vicious ad hominem attacks – they don’t immediately recognize that they’re observing tyrants in the making, the sort of folks that you’d think they’d had more than enough of over the centuries, thank you very much.

Take European Council president Herman van Rompuy, that colorless, Politburo-style mediocrity, who in a 2011 speech blithely ignored the essentially undemocratic nature of the EU, describing it – outrageously – as “the fatherland, or the motherland of democracy”.

Or take European Commission president José Manuel Durrão Barroso, who started his political career as a Maoist, and who in 2012 argued that the EU’s democracy deficit isn’t a bug but a feature: “Governments are not always right. If governments were always right we would not have the situation that we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong.”

What he says is not untrue (even democratically-elected governments are almost always wrong), but he is making an argument for despotism.

Or take halfwit EU Foreign Affairs honcho Catherine Ashton, whose 2011 Guardian article lecturing Hosni Mubarak on the need for democracy in Egypt was widely (and rightly) ridiculed as the work of someone who, as Brendan O’Neill neatly put it in the Telegraph,

… has never once bothered the ballot box, never once ventured into the rowdy arena of public opinion to win the masses’ backing, and who was elevated to her current position as the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs through backroom wheeling and dealing.

Noting Ashton’s enthusiasm, in her Guardian piece, for what she called “deep democracy”,  O’Neill explained that “she doesn’t mean deep as in profound – she means bureaucracy, the grey and unaccountable sphere that she haunts, the removed realm of experts and unelected high representatives” – a phenomenon Ashton contrasted (favorably, of course) with mere “surface democracy”, the undesirable, old-fashioned sort of system in which elected officials actually seek (horrors!) to honor their constituents’ wishes.

Even a cursory look at the careers and pronouncements of these unelected demigods, these self-regarding technocratic hacks, is to recognize them as people who itch to rule an empire and who are, quite simply, outraged at anyone who dares to stand in their way for a moment. Given the transparency of their lust for monolithic power – a power, moreover, utterly liberated from any notion whatsoever of responsibility to an electorate – it’s baffling that so many observers can actually take the EU seriously as a formula for European peace rather than for European autocracy.

What Europe has in Barroso, Ashton, & co., after all, is a pack of men and women who have done their level best to impoverish real political debate, to blunt its impact, and to make it seem obsolescent, counterproductive, and in every way undesirable.

Former Czech president and staunch EU critic Václav Klaus asked in his 2011 book Europe: The Shattering of Illusions:

Do we have real politics in Europe today – the political conflict of opinions – or have real politics been in fact eliminated by reducing the weight and importance of the nation states and by the self-confessed apolitical ways of Brussels?

Which is another way of saying that Brussels isn’t a city of politicians who have different political philosophies and who come together to debate ideas and hammer out compromises; it’s a city of technocrats who share an ideology and who work together as a team to translate that ideology into policy – never mind what the rabble think. (Or, as Klaus put it even more bluntly: “the European Union is no longer the symbol of democracy it pretends to be.”)

Klaus has coined the term “Europeism”. It’s a useful word, because it places the unreflecting, reality-defying enthusiasm for Europe in the category it belongs to, along with other, earlier European-isms. Among much else, Europeism views the free market as uncivilized and anarchic, places collective rights above individual rights, and strives, as Klaus excellently puts it, “for a homogenized, ‘decaffeinated’ world (with no flavour, aroma, and smell)”.

Europeists, he writes,

… do not believe in spontaneous, unregulated and uncontrolled human activity. They trust the chosen ones (not the elected ones), they trust themselves or those who are chosen by themselves. They believe in a vertically structured and hierarchized human society  …  They want to mastermind, plan, regulate, administer the others, because some (they themselves) do know and others do not. They do not want to rely on spontaneity of human behavior and on the outcomes resulting from this spontaneity because they think that rationalistic human design is always better than an unplanned result of interactions between free citizens, constructed and commanded by nobody. Even though we thought that after the collapse of communism all this was a matter of the past, it is not so. It is around us again. Europeism is a new utopism and, I add, it is an extremely naive and romantic utopism.

Above all, writes Klaus, Europeism “is based on the idea that states, more precisely the nation states, represent the Evil – because they were once the cause of wars among other things – while the supranational, continental and global entities represent the Good, because they – according to eurocrats – eliminate all forms of nationalist bickering once and for all”. This understanding of things, he adds, “is obviously childish, yet it is generally accepted in Europe”. Yes, it’s accepted because millions of today’s Europeans have been brainwashed into thinking that national feeling – patriotism – was the root of all of the worst things that happened to the continent in the twentieth century. No, ideology was the root – ideology in the form of Nazism, fascism, and Communism. And Europeism – which, by the way, has multiculturalism and fanatical environmentalism built into it – is the twenty-first-century heir of those wretched systems of thought.

Which brings us back to the latest developments in Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s speech on Saturday night was followed on Sunday by the news that the EU – notwithstanding its own massive financial difficulties – is now ready to hand over bushels of cash to the newly Europe-friendly government in Kiev. …

Note to Ukrainians: accepting the EU’s money is one thing. Go for it. But why this longing, on the part of Tymoshenko or anyone else in your country, to board the Superstate Express? Set aside, if you wish, the economic downside of the whole project, the looming disaster that is the eurozone, and just ask yourselves this: after spending most of your history taking orders from far-off imperial capitals, most of the twentieth century living under the nightmare of Communism, and most of the greater part of the generation that followed under the gravitational pull of post-Soviet Kremlin despotism, why be so desperate to subordinate yourselves to yet another set of haughty, high-handed foreign rulers? Why slip away from being under one thumb only to voluntarily place yourself under another?

Ukraine, here’s one simple piece of unsolicited advice: vote for sovereignty. Vote for freedom. Take the money and run.

Stay out of the EU.

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