FURTHER THOUGHTS ON THE NEW
Permit me to daydream for a moment that the editorial board of the Washington Post is reading my stuff. It was just a couple of weeks ago that I observed…
“…I don’t see there’s much the U.S. or the European Union can do to assure a smooth Ukrainian transition to honest government and genuine freedom. Is anybody prepared to draw a line over which Putin must not step in his pressuring of Ukraine?
“The U.S. has endured more than a decade of draining wars along with six years of fantasy-as-foreign-policy.”
“led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which ‘the tide of war is receding’ and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces …. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset … when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, ‘It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.’
“Unfortunately,” the Post editors observed wryly, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior.”
Well, okay, the fantasy aspect is pretty obvious. I’d just like to think that somewhere a few high-powered, highly paid journalists follow this blog.
That’s my fantasy.
The salient point, however, is that it’s the Washington Post dissing the President. The Washington Post. We’re talkin’ the mother ship of the mainstream media, the home of Woodward and Bernstein, the benchmark of liberal punditry.
This comes after Syria, and Egypt, and Iraq, and Hamid Karzai flipping us the bird in Afghanistan, and Chinese saber rattling in the Sea of Japan, and Iranian belly laughs over the anti-nuke agreement, and parking their warships off the Jersey coast.
And, of course, Benghazi.
Have we finally reached some kind of tipping point on perceptions of this administration?
Just to be safe, White House telephone operators should be instructed to refuse calls from Sweden. The Nobel committee might want its prize back.
Putin has moved decisively — and so far, bloodlessly, thank God — into Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, taking possession of airports and other strategic points, including territory around the Sevastopol naval base where the Russian Black Sea fleet is docked. It now looks like Crimea’s heavily ethnic Russian population will vote in a referendum to secede from Ukraine altogether and join Russia. The provincial parliament voted in favor of such a move 78-0. Even allowing for eight abstentions, that’s not what you’d call close.
Ukraine has long been a nation with deep divisions along cultural and religious lines. The western part is predominantly Catholic — Ukrainian Rite, one of the so-called Greek or Uniate branches of Catholicism, in full communion with Rome (Uniate = united). The eastern part of the country is primarily Russian Orthodox.
I should note that these Greek Catholics are referred to as being of an Eastern Rite, which gets a little confusing when you’re talking about Ukraine, since the Eastern Catholics are primarily in the western part of the country. (The term Uniate is not commonly used these days, since it’s often thought to have a negative ring. It refers to the fact that the Ukrainian Catholic Church united with Rome after coming over from the Orthodox communion. I’m guessing that the downplaying of Uniate is a bit of a diplomatic gloss — not wanting to rub our Orthodox cousins’ noses in an awkward bit of Christian history.)
Anyway, the situation in Ukraine doesn’t look like 1956 Hungary (as I had worried) — no tanks rolling, no cannons firing — so far. It may be that Putin is satisfied that his Black Sea base is secure, figures he can keep the rest of Ukraine in line with a big military presence, and so doesn’t have to make himself look too aggressively imperialist.
Or — this may be only the first bite in a nibbling campaign that will see chunk after chunk of Ukraine digested by a hungry Russian bear over time.
Hillary Clinton has taken a lot of heat for comparing Putin’s gambit to Hitler’s grab of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia before World War II. No doubt she wanted to come off as a tough mama, ready to take that 3:00 a.m. emergency call.
But impolitic as the remark was, there’s a certain crude similarity, which Puty himself underscored in pointing out his selfless concern for the dear brother Russians of eastern Ukraine. Never mind that a goodly portion of those Russians were planted there intentionally as part of a Communist program aimed at diluting the various ethnic enclaves of the former Soviet Union. In contrast, the Sudetenland had been carved out of German-speaking territories by the League of Nations after World War I to help create the new nation of Czechoslovakia.
So now that Puty’s made his move, everybody’s weighing in on how tough Obama should be.
He’s getting battered from the Right for being a wimp.
Damn! — I’ll just never live down the picture they took of me peddling a bike wearing that stupid, mushroom-shaped helmet and what Sarah Palin calls my ‘mom jeans.’
Meanwhile, Puty bears his muscular chest and wrestles mountain lions.
At the same time, Obama’s fast-shrinking support base in the Leftward media tags him as a war monger; tears him up one side and down the other for his reliance on drone assassinations; and keeps telling us that Ukraine is full of Nazis anyway.
Oh, for those blest days of yore — back before Edward Snowden, back after I took out Osama Bin Laden, back when everybody loved me.
If you’re worried about a war with Russia over Ukraine…don’t be.
I think commentator David P. Goldman, who writes as “Spengler,” has pegged the situation perfectly. He figures the whole story is pretty much over by now, and we should stop worrying about Ukraine — a country whose politics are thoroughly corrupt, Russians or no Russians…
“There isn’t going to be a war over Ukraine. There isn’t even going to be a crisis over Ukraine. We will perform our ritual war-dance and excoriate the Evil Emperor, and the result would be the same if we had sung ‘100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ on a road trip to Kalamazoo. Worry about something really scary, like Iran.”
It all brings to mind that classic episode of the ’70s TV series, “Happy Days” when Fonzie is coaching Ritchie on how to handle himself in confronting a bully. The Fonze tries to shore up Ritchie’s self-confidence, but offers a word of caution…
“With that Howdy Doody face, you can only be so tough.”
Believe me, Puty has seen the Howdy Doody face. He’s assessed our leadership and our national condition quite clearly. He knows exactly how tough we are right now.
So what about sanctions?
Do you really think the West is going to kick Russia out of the G-8 trade and economic relations group. Russia? One of the world’s preeminent suppliers of oil and gas?
Doesn’t seem likely to me.
And about the idea of putting visa restrictions on Russian and/or Ukrainian citizens who support Putin — not to mention talk about freezing their U.S.-based assets… These are citizens of nations with which we’re not at war, and that aren’t engaged in terrorist acts against us. Do I have this right?
And doing this puts us on the side of the angels?
My paternal grandfather came from Ukraine, and I’ve probably got relatives there, though I have no idea who they might be. I hope they’re in western Ukraine — as far west as possible — and I pray for their peace and safety. Because they’re not likely to get much help from us.
The only thing we can do is plan for the future. I’m thinkin’ post-2016, when we might be able to start rebuilding our position on the world stage. Might, that is. Elections matter.
In the meantime, I’ll admit that I love a good daydream. In fact, I have a very active fantasy life (all writers do). And of course, fantasies can provide timely — even healthy — distractions from troubling realities.
But when even the Washington Post is calling you a daydream believer, it’s time to start paying attention.
“After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.”
Ah…if only Sarah Palin were Pro-Choice. What a role model she could have been to the Feminist Left. Beautiful, strong, independent, politically astute, takes-no-guff-from-anybody. A true woman of the people.
But alas, as a Pro-Life Republican, she can’t possibly be those things. The blog, Wonkette, provides a textbook illustration of how deeply ingrained Palin-hatred is among Progressives…
“…it turns out that in addition to knowing the mind of Vladimir Putin so well that she can predict his next move and only be off by five or six years, Sarah Palin also thinks that the big Russian dictator is packing a real wallop in his pants.”
Now there’s a respectful statement that certainly exemplifies Leftist sisterhood. Plus…
“Palin has to be delighted that in 2008 some McCain speechwriter loaded a line about Ukraine onto her teleprompter at that campaign event, because now she can point to her prescience in noting that Obama was a big weakling…”
In the same article, Wonkette tries to provide cover for Obama by pointing to tough statements made by George Bush and John McCain on Russian aggression, which also had very little effect…
“Unless the West shows egregious weakness in the face of the Russian aggression, Putin is unlikely to grab more of Ukraine. With Crimea under his control, he can build a new pipeline to Western Europe, which gets one-third of its natural gas from Russia. With this pipeline in place, which will be routed around Ukraine, Putin will hold Ukraine in a stranglehold….”
So, how egregious is egregious?…
“Don’t listen to Obama’s Ukraine critics: he’s not ‘losing’ — and it’s not his fight”…
Putin has his supporters, too. That venerable Progressive stalwart, The Nation, featured a lengthy piece that sees current news coverage of the Ukraine crisis as consistent with a long history of negative treatment of Russia by the U.S. media…
“Americans are left with a new edition of an old question. Has Washington’s twenty-year winner-take-all approach to post-Soviet Russia shaped this degraded news coverage, or is official policy shaped by the coverage?”…
Here’s another hit on our current fantasy-as-foreign-policy from the Washington Post — this time from the Post’s conservative spokesman, Charles Krauthammer. Answering a question from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly about why the Obama Administration seems to careen from one diplomatic disaster to another, the good doctor observes…
“I think it’s a kind of arrogance. He thinks he has a good foreign policy. I think he is semi-delusional about the results of these five years. There is not a spot in the world you can go — from Syria to Libya to Iran to China, to Russia to Ukraine — where the United States is not worse off, less regarded, considered weak than it was five years ago. This is a completely failed foreign policy. And he seems radically unaware of that.”
(Note that Charles Krauthammer is a licensed psychotherapist, which gives his observations about delusion a certain clinical heft.)
To add insult to injury, Krauthammer even draws a favorable comparison with Jimmy Carter’s reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — favorable to Carter! Check out the video…