Russia, Ukraine, Poland and 2 Timely New Saints

“President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.”

That’s the Washington Post’s ultimately restrained assessment, not mine.

But I think along similar lines. The man’s sense of himself has been over-indulged to a reckless point.

The current sense of impotence, however, is not wholly Obama’s fault. Yes, he damaged his own credibility, and ours when he drew a red line regarding Syria (and then not only ignored it being crossed but tried to deny that he ever drew it) but in truth, the stage was set for this situation when the Marshall Plan was put into effect and American military became a kind of “world cop.” With that, we placed our bases strategically throughout Europe and Europe got to treat its own security as an afterthought.

This worked great, as long as everyone behaved themselves. Now, Putin is misbehaving, and Europe has limited strength to respond; America is weary of war and her president is — let me be diplomatic, here — ideologically disinclined toward military commitment, and has made no secret of it.

The Obama White House is learning the hard way that presidential power requires something more substantial than an eternal marketing campaign and an endless spin-cycle, because no matter what a utopian president thinks the world should be like, the reality is this: in human life, peace is a transient thing, and in geopolitics, it is more often than not an illusion that quickly reveals itself as one. If Europe has been “at peace” these last 60 years, it’s a profound aberration in the scheme of history.

Obama (and his Secretary of State) seem to believe that humanity has — by virtue of nothing at all, except perhaps his say-so — transcended itself and entered into a we-are-stardust-we-are-golden happy place, where (in Europe, at least) nobody wants war, because everyone is loving peace.

That is a rather terrifying demonstration of naivete. Even a so-so student of human history and behavior (like me) knows that someone always wants war. Someone always wants more power. Someone is always looking for a way to avenge what they believe are past insults.

Naivete gets a second hit as Obama seems not to understand that his idea of patriotism (bowing, talking and receding as much as possible from the fore) has absolutely nothing to do with how Putin understands patriotism. Obama’s kind of an introverted patriot; he’d like America to keep to itself. Putin is a kind of extroverted patriot. He wants to extend his boundaries.

He demonstrated that in 2008, when he moved into Georgia, fully understanding that President Bush was a “weak horse” without the capital to do anything. That move was enough for Mitt Romney to warn in 2012 (and Sarah Palin to note in 2008) that Russia under Putin was a geopolitical threat to Ukraine and more — a notion that Obama blew off as “’80′s ideology.”

Putin saw another weak horse. Particularly after Syria.

If the WaPo believes Obama has been living in a fantasy world, well, he seems to still be there — how else does he believe he can simultaneously cut our military back to pre-WWII levels while “squeezing Russia”, diplomatically, as though diplomacy has been his strong point, or something.

But my intention here isn’t to pick on Obama, so I’ll stop. He’s getting some very good advice here and here, and if he takes it — as it seems he is beginning to, he may still be able to eke out a foreign policy face-save.

Here’s what I urge us to think and pray about: Poland, Lithuania and a Kremlinesque march to the Baltic Sea.

Glenn Reynolds writes:

If I’m the Poles, the lesson I’d take is that if Ukraine had kept its nukes, this wouldn’t be happening, and if I want to be safe, I should get hold of some nukes myself. If I were Lithuania, even more so.

I take his point, but that option may have passed for good, and Mutually Assured Destruction only works as long as people remain educated and sane. What are the odds?

Europe should be worried, because Putin clearly has no intention of conquering Ukraine and then relaxing with a bowl of borscht.

There is another sort of weapon, however, and it has already successfully served Poland and helped beat Russia back; it is solidarity and prayer. And interestingly enough, on April 27, Pope Francis will canonize one pope (John Paul II) who is credited with helping Poland strengthen its resistance against soviet forces, and another (John XXIII) who had a hand in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.

Two saints who both were alive during Russia’s last turn at aggression, understood the Soviet ideology and worked effectively against it. Another one of those weird synchronicities. Just when we need some heaven-based prayer-warriors, they’ve being supplied.

Because we live in interesting times.

RELATED:
Crimea: The Tinderbox

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Anna

    There are a lot of steps between shrugging our shoulders and sending in troops.

  • http://harryhuntington.com/ Harry Huntington

    The party in Beijing must be everlasting at this point. How soon folks forget that Kissenger opened the door for Nixon in China, in part, to gain another counter-weight to the Soviet Union. Kissenger found it mostly useful if China and the Soviets were not best friends.

    Today the enemy is China. Obama was correct to pivot to Asia. As if by magic, our gaze heads back to Europe, however, because folks are speaking fantasy speak about Russians invading Poland. Of course our hostility to Russia drives Russia into the waiting open arms of the Chinese. Delightful.

    Our most natural ally against China is Russia. Instead of finding was to cross Putin, we should be finding ways to make him our good friend. The key to facing off with China is a strong tie with Russia, as well as strong ties with India, Japan, Vietnam, and both Koreas (North and South).

    That will never happen so long as neo-con cold war fantasies still dominate thinking.

  • I_R_A_Darth_Aggie

    So, I should not intervene if my neighbor is being mugged, raped or in the process of being murdered?

    Good to know.

  • I_R_A_Darth_Aggie

    If we do something, you whine about.
    If we do nothing, you whine about that, too.

    Do you not remember Rwanda? we did nothing and…were castigated for it.

  • Suzy Malavasic

    I would make these points:
    1) In August 2013, with the eruption of chaos in Egypt, the US government had to consider the possibility that if the Suez Canal was closed to our ships, we would be forced to use military intervention.
    2) The press has not reported the violence in Kiev against Jews and the burning of synagogues.
    3) Early reports of clashes between Russians and Islamic Tatars living in Crimea have never been elaborated on… and now silenced. The Tatars were thrown out of Crimea after WWII (when it was still part of Russia) because the Tatars had collaborated with the the Nazis (not surprising when they hate the Jews).
    4). Crimea is heavily ethnic Russian and geographically thinly attached to Ukraine.
    5) Wouldn’t it be better for Ukraine to jettison the Crimean Peninsula, to insure the most efficient and non-entangled juncture with the West? Let it go and prosper in peace.

  • Mike Smith

    You didn’t ask me, but I offer three reasons:

    1) Conservatives value loyalty: When your country goes to war, you support the troops.

    2) America is polarized along the Left-Right political axis. Conservatives see opposition to war as a “liberal” position and therefore, wrong. But it wasn’t always like that. In the first half of the 20th century, the Old Right was isolationist, while the Left pushed for intervention in both World Wars.

    2) The government uses a combination of deceit, lies, and exaggerations to convince Americans that foreigners pose a direct threat to their way of life. Most conservatives would never sacrifice their sons and daughters to spread democracy to the Middle East, but if the government can convince them that Saddam has WMDs and connections to terrorists, Americans will support the war effort.

  • Gaffer7

    “TODAY THE ENEMY IS CHINA” — me thinks that is sound thinking, and I do believe that STEVE MOSER – who wrote the book; HEGEMON would agree.- in his book, he said that it was not IF China would attack – but WHEN!.– Being Charismatic. and holding on to HOPE, I am remembering our Blessed Mothers words – that Russia will be her most favored daughter. Some of us can learn from our Mistakes (we all make them) – and we all need to be praying for PEACE.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    I don’t know. It could be the delirious belief on exceptionalism that perhaps makes America an idol, as if above God’s justice, to those who never see a war they don’t like and who consider the death of innocent civilians “collateral damage”.

    Then again, following the money, half the population has a relative in the armed forces and maybe they can’t help rubbing their hands on a prospective combat pay.

    Unfortunately, many orthodox Catholics, even theologians, are quite comfortable with it and go out of their way to justify every exercise of raw military power on whole nations and the atrocities committed against their populations, even the defense of torture.

    The fact remains that the US has not fought a just war in 70 years. From the difference that tipped WWII to a conclusion, they sadly became the world’s most violent aggressor.

  • Nate Whilk

    You leftists always find ways to blame us for Mother Russia’s behavior. Russia is NOT innocent. Get over it.

    “Instead of finding
    was to cross Putin, we should be finding ways to make him our good
    friend.”

    Gosh, you mean Obama offering Medvedev his “flexibility” after the election isn’t enough?

    “That will never happen so long as neo-con cold war fantasies still dominate thinking.”

    Putin has Cold War on HIS mind. For us to simply deny that as our “fantasies” is suicidal.

  • Mike Smith

    All politicians everywhere are thugs to some degree, but Putin has a higher approval rating than the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and France—so he must be doing something right. I’m more concerned about oligarchy and human rights abuses in my own country than getting riled up about Putin’s shortcomings. At the end of the day, a stable, conservative, Christian Russia is a solid bulwark against the Muslims, secularists, globalists, and cultural Marxists that seek to destroy the remnants of Christendom. Considering Russia’s history of tyranny and turmoil, they could do A LOT worse than Putin.

    Ukrainians have every right to defend themselves, but NATO obligates the United States to defend any member country that gets into trouble. As an American, I think I should have some say in who my government is obligated to defend. Ukraine is a basket case. Nobody knows for sure what’s going on over there. Some of them like Russia, some of them don’t, a lot of them seem to switching sides or wanting independence for their own region. Frankly it’s a mess. The U.S. has no business throwing fuel on the fire. Americans have neither the will nor the money to be starting a new Cold War, so let Europeans deal with European problems. As an American, I’m more concerned with American problems:

    -record levels of government, consumer, and household debt
    -record levels of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and autism
    -record number of Americans out of work
    -record level of economic inequality
    -record percentage of out-of-wedlock births
    -record low approval ratings for all major public institutions (government, banks, media, etc.)
    -near-record percentage of the population that is foreign-born
    -simmering racial tensions
    -a surveillance state on the brink of total information
    awareness–tracking the movement, spending, and communications of every American
    -the militarization of police and the loss of civil liberties
    -the highest documented incarceration rate in the world
    -crappy schools and crumbling infrastructure
    -skyrocketing costs for medical care and college tuition
    -falling wages and disappearing jobs
    -a falling birthrate and an aging population

    That’s all I got.

  • Mark

    1. I don’t think it was a secret that by 2008 Bush was broken and would be able to do nothing, internationally or domestically. The fact that Russia held back until then does suggest that the expansion of NATO, attempt to install a missile defense and willingness to put boots on the ground in 2 countries that weren’t strategically important to the US. Suggest, but no means prove. And, unfortunately, doing nothing in Georgia may have set a ‘precedent’ for Russia to reclaim its territories.

    2. The Obama administration was eager to appear friendly to Russia and please them. It “led from behind” in Libya, wanted to decrease military presence overseas so increased the drone program, watched some regimes fall without (appearing) to consider the ramifications, drew a red line in Syria and then looked to Russia to save them, and withdrew a possible defense against Russia. So, yeah, Putin may have gotten the notion that the US would sit back while Russia expanded its territory and sphere of influence (I would argue that it always had influence but that it pushed our influence out).

    3. Yes, expansion, often as a protection from invasion, has been Russia’s policy for hundreds of years. But after contraction with the end of the Cold War, it didn’t return, actively, to this policy until it was sure we could/would do anything. While it would have been no guarantee, continuation of the policies of the 3 previous administrations may have kept Russia in check. I think it could be argued, from his own speeches, that Obama doesn’t have a sense of American Exceptionalism.

    If I thought that Russia would stop with the Crimea, sitting back and doing nothing may be alright. I don’t know anything that could be done now to roll back Russia (that should have been done the previous 5 years), but we might be able to stop Russia from going into Baltic states. As for Poland, the threat of NATO may keep Russia at bay. Realistically though, the rest of NATO is unable and/or unwilling to act. Is the US, given her present strategies, able to hold off Russia? I don’t know and I don’t want to find out.

    I don’t think any of Russia’s moves (past, present, or probable future) would rise to the level of the requirements of a Just War. And the West’s dependence on Russian oil and our present strategy do nothing to halt Russia’s expansion. How far will Putin take Russia? How many millions will fall under Russia’s new Czar?

  • Suzy Malavasic

    I agree with what you have written, Mike. Western Europe and the United States are very different societies today than they were at the end of WWII. Russia is also. But the media wants to keep alive the Cold War stereo types. There are so many aspects of what is happening in Ukraine that are just not being brought to the discussion.I would make these points:
    1) In August 2013, with the eruption of chaos in Egypt, the US government had to consider the possibility that if the Suez Canal was closed to our ships, we would be forced to use military intervention.
    2) The press has not reported the violence in Kiev against Jews and the burning of synagogues.
    3) Early reports of clashes between Russians and Islamic Tatars living in Crimea have never been elaborated on… and now silenced. The Tatars were thrown out of Crimea after WWII (when it was still part of Russia) because the Tatars had collaborated with the the Nazis (not surprising when they hate the Jews).
    4). Crimea is heavily ethnic Russian and geographically thinly attached to Ukraine.

    5) Wouldn’t it be better for Ukraine to jettison the Crimean Peninsula, to insure the most efficient and non-entangled juncture with the West? Let it go and prosper in peace.

  • Gdmurray

    First paragraph is a tad facile.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    That’s ridiculous. Which wars are you talking about?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X