Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ukraine and Us


The Ukrainian people throw out their authoritarian, Russian backed President in a popular uprising that people throughout the world have almost unanimously praised. Vladimir Putin responds by sending troops into Crimea. Now it appears that the popular revolution is in danger of being usurped by Russian tanks like Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Georgia before them. Of course the big difference between the Ukraine of 2014 and the Prague Spring of 1968 is…the internet. Now, the entire world is watching, in real time without ideologically friendly editors at the New York Times running interference.

Yesterday, President Obama strolled into the White House press room to make a statement. In it he warned Russia that “there will be costs” to any military adventure, that any violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity (which had already taken place at the hour of his statement), would be “deeply destabilizing” and would represent a “profound interference” into the internal affairs of a sovereign state. As punishment, the President is said to be considering the cancellation of a planned trip to Russia this summer. At least he didn't use the words, "red line."

I’m certainly no diplomat, but if this is the sort of statement you’re going to make…don’t say anything at all. The only possible way our President could have appeared any weaker is if he had burst into tears. Pathetic.

However, for us it’s probably a good thing that our President is so weak. He clearly doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation and frankly we don’t have the money to back him up if he did! But Doug, but Doug, what about those brave protesters? What about them? The fact that they are protesting and demonstrating bravery is immaterial to our national interests. God bless them, but what’s going on in the Ukraine is no more our business than a massive Tea Party anti-government rally on the mall in DC would be any of Russia’s business. Besides, the words of Napoleon seem appropriate here, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.” How much of their national treasure and world reputation (which Putin just spent 51 billion dollars trying to improve in the winter Olympics) would be squandered over the next 5 years fighting a civil war on the Black Sea? My advice? Stay out of it.

I’m aware that a foreign policy that features non-intervention in other countries isn’t very sexy. I’m also aware that very smart and informed people will consider it isolationists and defeatist. They will accuse us of withdrawing from the world, of shirking our responsibility as the leader of the free world. I do have sympathy for these points. But, sometimes being a leader means minding your own business. Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us the limits of intervention. The cost of military adventures about which Obama warned Putin is something we should know quite a lot about. Between these two misadventures, our nation has squandered 4 trillion dollars and lost over 6,700 men and women. And when we finally pull out the last battalion from each of these countries, they will still be ungovernable hell-holes.

That’s not leadership…that’s an epic tragedy.