Thursday, August 14, 2008

our insane foreign policy establishment

theodore roosevelt's guiding principle in foreign policy was to "speak softly and carry a big stick." when it comes to our handling of the current situation with russia, the approach seems to be to "speak loudly and carry no stick."

russia has completely disregarded the west's interests in georgia, laying bare our complete impotence in the region. now talk of adding georgia to NATO has collapsed and our secretary of defense is warning the kremlin: "pull out, or we'll say mean things about you." the very notion of adding georgia to NATO was unwise in the first place because it would commit the US to war against anyone who might attack -- including russia.

aside from an oil pipeline, georgia has little importance to anyone in the bigger world. it's a small, unstable country wedged between russia and iran, controlled by moscow over most of the last several centuries. does anyone consider it a worthwhile place to start WWIII?

in reality, our pushing for its NATO membership was always a dangerous provocation to russia. when moscow tried to place missiles in cuba, the US correctly resisted. if canada were to suddenly withdraw from NATO and ally itself with Russia, we might also object.

it doesn't take a genious in foreign policy to understand that washington's embrace of tbilisi was a poke in russia's eye. the most worrisome thing is that it was one of many delivered against the russians in recent years. others include:

  • the recognition of Kosovo as an independent country
  • the plan to station anti-missile defenses in poland
the kremlin provided ample warning in both cases it opposed the measures. the georgia incident cannot be understood in a vacuum. russia has been attacked at least three times by europe (napoleon, WWI, WWII), and already supplies the continent with much of its natural gas. now the europeans are trying to encircle them and establish political supremacy by imposing their will in the balkans. there's little surprise the kremlin gets worried.

the US currently has major military and diplomatic commitments in iraq and afghanistan, and would like to excert some influence in Iran. these are major responsibilities where russia's help would be of some use -- especially in iran and afghanistan. instead of looking at these realities, our foreign policy establishment is committed to expanding and strengthening this behemouth called NATO. how will kosovo independence help us in Iran? how will missiles in Poland or hot air over georgia help us combat terrorists or ensure a positive outcome in next year's election in Iran?

if anything, it will fail on these fronts... after all, it proves the US is nothing but a paper tiger: after giving moral support and military training to the georgians, we leave them twisting in the wind when the rubber hits the road. why would a new regime in Iran want to work with such an unreliable power? how can the next government of pakistan, whatever that is, feel confident working with us?

as I posted in an earlier blog entry, the US needs to seriously reconsider its foreign policy objectives. we need to carefully identify our interests and our natural allies. in my view, russia is our strongest natural ally. aside from the cold war, when the kremlin extended beyond its normal sphere of interest, russia has always been the ally of the english-speaking atlantic power. aside from the crimea war of 1854-65, I know of no time that russia and england were not friendly with each other. russia was also one of the first countries to recognize the USA after indepence, sold us alaska and found itself on the same side as us in WWI and WWII.

unlike our relations with other countries, such as mexico or china, russia and the USA have nothing to fight over. we have no territorial or military disputes. the only reason we have a disagreement now is that the USA extended its sphere of interest deep into europe. in fact, since the end of the cold war, we've pushed even further from our own shores and closer to russia, while they have withdrawn their tentacles. who is the imperialist?

much of this reflects problems I see in our existing foreign policy establishment:

1- the state department is the product of the cold war. when countries had to choose between soviet tyranny or american paternalism, they might not have liked it, but chose the latter. this allowed us to become like spoiled children who always get their way. but spoiled children don't make good diplomats.

2- we've become too tied up in too many endeavors... whether it's trying to cure AIDS, fighting a global war on drugs or trying to liberate cuba, the state department has its fingers in too many pies.

3- the federal government in general is very ineffective at most things it does. during my time in caracas in the late 1990s, educated professionals told me about their multi-year efforts to get visas to live in the US (of course, at the same time, millions of less educated mexicans were entering illegally every year.) I knew one woman who married an american and then was forced to spend more than a year in venezuela waiting for her paperwork to come through. (and this was before 9-11.) and, there have been documented cases of iraqis who have risked their lives to serve as interpretters for US troops who have been denied entry into the US.

it's worrisome to think we trust something as important as our relations with other countries to such a confused and incompetent organization.

perhaps it is time to return to the words of our wise founders.. george washington said it was our "true policy to steer clear of any permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world" and asked "Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?"

thomas jefferson followed this by promising "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

let's now take a look at NATO: it has joint force command headquarters in Brunssum (Holland), Naples and Lisbon, rapid deployable corps in turkey, italy, germany and spain and standing naval forces in the mediterranean, atlantic and english channel... not to mention an electronic warfare advisory committee and its own defense college.

what's the purpose of all this structure? in case of an "armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America ... each of them .. will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force." (italics added.)

in other words, it's an organization designed for war. because of its joint-defence structure, anyone attacking one country is like declaring war on all of them.

NATO is a giant web with the potential to draw the US nuclear arsenal into WWIII. while this was needed to prevent a soviet conquest of war-torn europe in 1949, its useful lifespan has passed. most sane people would seek to limit, or even disband, such a potentially dangerous entity. instead, our state department is seeking to englarge it.

it's time Americans ask "what does NATO do for me?" how does it make my life or family safer? it's time to ask whether NATO has become, in fact, the very thing Jefferson and Washington both warned against.

their wisdom, restraint and character gave us our freedom and prosperity. what happens to us if we ignore their lessons now?

1 comment:

Clown George said...

their wisdom, restraint and character gave us our freedom and prosperity. what happens to us if we ignore their lessons now?

Now?

In the 20th century, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and other assorted commie/fascist thugs made clear the true nature of totalitarian socialism -- that it's an inherently oppressive and murderous ideology.
The United States, by sticking with at least the fundamentals of the founders' wisdom and restraint at home, was thus comparatively the good guy in terms of the way its own people were treated. As nasty as the U.S. gov't was to various different Americans last century, it didn't shove people into gas chambers, send them to gulags, or deliberately starve millions of them to death. The virtues of even seriously restrained capitalism and freedom eventually became obvious in light of the charnel houses that hardcore collectivism made out of the countries where it was imposed.
Unfortunately, while the totalitarian nations were busy setting records for the mass-murder of their own people, the record for the slaughter of foreigners was set by the good old USA, generally in the name of "freedom," "human rights," etc ...
Who are the imperialists? Good question.
Anyway, to be clear, I totally agree with what you've said here.
We won the damn cold war, but we're still living in the same mindset. And despite our being on the right ideological side in that conflict, that mindset was never anything particularly virtuous -- it mostly violated the founders' principles and made us become more like our enemies. The (as you point out, generally incompetent) federal gov't became an increasingly centralized authority, and created a vast military-industrial complex, a permanent marriage of big business and big-government that is completely divorced from the average person and his family's best interests. I know "military-industrial complex" is a favorite term for lefties, but it was Eisenhower (hardly a pinko, unless you're Robert Welch) who coined it. And it's appropriate, far as I'm concerned. The left is right about a lot of problems with this country. They're just confused about the nature of those problems, and cling to a lot of the same flawed ideas that have gotten us to where we are in the first place.

I think.

Sorry for the rambling post, just ranting a bit.