Think They’d Settle For a Cage Fight?
One thing that’s truly exceptional about Americans is their firm belief that this is their planet and they make the sun shine and the rain fall on it. If something good happens on Earth? Americans had a hand in it. If something bad happens on Earth? Americans will fix it, tout de suite. Got problems? send America “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” and we’ll whip ‘em into shape.
And, after running The Greatest Show On Earth for over 200 years now, Americans are the world’s go-to experts on every topic under the sun, because . . . we say so. And the First Amendment guarantees that we get to say just about anything with authority and it must be respected.
So. If we don’t believe in evolution or climate change or bad things happening in American History, well, goshdangit, it doesn’t exist. And, to make sure it keeps on not existing, we’ll change the textbooks so our chilluns ain’t infected by bad ideas. And this is possible because, in America, a scientist has no more say than Sarah Palin. We’re a democracy, don’t you know?
What is it about the democratization of ignorance that some folks find so intoxicating?
Foreign policy is, naturally, one of our favorite areas of expertise. Keeping foreigners in line comes naturally to us because . . . World’s Biggest Army!! duh. The World’s Biggest Army, in turn, is what keeps our GDP so gross. SNAP!
And, sweet screaming Pinkos, nothing warms the cockles of the conservative heart and gets that sap pumping like reruns of the Cold War (i.e., America’s Finest Hour). Footage of the Russian Glenn Beck, threatening to pound the US into radioactive dust, makes neocons absolutely giddy, so it is no surprise that a lot of really silly foreign policy free association is currently flooding the media.
Willard Romney, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, George Will, Dick Cheney, Dana Frikkin Perino . . . dear God make it STOP!
Mitt Romney, feeling smugly presidential on his recent Miss Me Yet? Tour, attempted to mend his dinged-up foreign policy cred from the cheap seats at the Wall Street Journal, mewling, in detail, about the many colors of #ObamaFail that he, Willard Mitt Romney, Almost President, has observed during the Ukraine crisis.
And despite the thunderous applause of Erick Erickson’s cult, most of us are still counting our lucky stars that Richie Rich is not sitting in the oval office.
Even some pretty intelligent conservatives feel that way . . .
Daniel Larison of The American Conservative wrote a great STFU post entitled Thank Goodness Romney Isn’t President.
According to Larison:
It was bad enough listening to Romney try to make foreign policy arguments as a presidential candidate, but it is simply ridiculous to be treated to the same nonsense now that the election campaign is long over.
All that Romney demonstrated as a candidate was a knee-jerk hostility to Obama’s policies and equally reflexive hostility to improving relations with Russia. To the extent that he had a coherent idea for how to approach Russia differently, he thought that Russia should be provoked at every turn and that cooperation should be avoided. This approach was rightly mocked during the campaign, and one can only imagine how much more poisonous relations with Russia would be now if it had been official policy for almost five years before the crisis in Ukraine.
Dick Cheney, didn’t miss his opportunity to drop in on Face the Nation, recently, to connect the dots between events in the Ukraine and our currently leaderless (in his opinion) nation:
We have created an image around the world,” Cheney stated, “not just for the Russians, of weakness, of indecisiveness.
Meanwhile over at The Five, pundit-lite Dana Perino flipped her wig when she couldn’t get Bob Beckel to agree with her about the pivotal criticality of the Crimea to vital American interests, even after explaining to him that she had read all damn weekend about the Crimea—Expert Alert!
I would like to ask Dana Perino if she felt that her old boss, George W. Bush, was a weak leader and foreign policy wimp for his response to the 2008 Russia-Georgian War, you know, that other time that Vlad sent in the military to annex a little Georgian real estate? From my perspective Dubya’s response was to do exactly what President Obama is doing now, saying sternly into the camera:
Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighbouring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.
Followed by sanctions and humanitarian aid delivered by military, rather than civilian, planes. [Nice touch, Dubya] In Bush’s defense, he was probably a little preoccupied with getting out of office before the hot mess he’d made of the global economy got any worse.
Now that Perino’s spent an entire weekend becoming a foreign policy expert, I suspect she’ll have some good answers . . .
On the other hand, real foreign policy experts see this whole picture a lot differently.
As Robert Golan-Vilella, writing in The National Interest puts it:
The story . . . on the right—in which America’s failure to use military force in Syria and elsewhere spurred Putin to invade Crimea—has the benefit of being an easy-to-understand and politically convenient one for those who are opposed to the president. But there is simply no reason to think that it is true.
Last year, both Jonathan Mercer in Foreign Affairs and Daryl G. Press and Jennifer Lind in Foreign Policy . . . found that there is little to no evidence that this is how world leaders have generally operated in history. Rather, as Press and Lind wrote, “Power and interests in the here-and-now determine credibility, not what one did in different circumstances in the past.”
We don’t have to take this conclusion as the gospel truth. But what it does mean is that the burden of proof is on those asserting that Putin is being motivated by American “weakness” and Obama’s lack of “credibility” to provide some real evidence for this conclusion—something that they have thus far failed to do.
And for the cherry on top? enter the GOP’s Big Thinker of Serious Thoughts, Mr. Paul Ryan (R-Loon Lake) who, as usual, has a real-life, common-sense solution that absolutely sucks i.e., pretend we’re Ronald Reagan and get back to building that missile defense shield in Eastern Europe that Dubya started as a memorial and to keep his friends in the Industrial-Defense Complex cooking. Peace through Strength! USA!USA!USA!
A solution that Daniel R. DePetris and Erik French of The National Interest see as creating more problems than it solves:
. . . if the objective is to punish Moscow while at the same time deescalating the crisis in Crimea, it is difficult to see how more missile defenses in Russia’s neighborhood could achieve that balance. Playing to Putin’s sense of insecurity is not the best recipe for preventing further aggression.
Some nice Republican grey-beard might want to take young Mr Ryan aside and remind him that Dubya’s Eastern European Missile Shield was scrapped because it was an expensive and strategically obsolete boondoggle in 2009.
It hasn’t gotten any cheaper or more useful over the last five years.
But the most important lesson in all of this and, evidently, the hardest one for Americans to get a grip on?
If the objective is to be a model democracy and a world leader, it really is not helpful for politicians, many of whom know a lot less than Dana Perino about foreign policy, to constantly and publicly challenge the president’s authority, motives and credibility.
If politicians believe that America has a credibility problem, the first place they should be looking for answers is in the mirror. The American response to crises in the world has historically been to unify. What the Hell has happened to us?