The recent jingoist, chest-beating against Russia is disturbing for several reasons, but mostly its disturbing because it proves that we haven't learned a Gawd Damn thing from both recent and distant history.
#1) Putin is a bad guy
Answer: Yes he is. So the Hell what?
In case people have so quickly forgotten, we've already tread this path before just 12 years ago.
Saddam Hussein was a bad guy to, but concentrating on Saddam for his badness is committing the same mistake the neocons made 12 years ago:
We are taking our eyes off the ball.
Our current foreign policy has committed troops and resources all over the middle east and in every single country we've touched chaos and bloodshed has ensued.
These are just the two most obvious examples. We have two major oil producing nations that could collapse into chaos and rule by anti-American islamic jihadists any day now.
In fact, it is not just possible, it is looking likely.
Since when did that stop being important? I must have missed that memo.
I know the temptation in politics is to put distance between you and a foreign policy disaster but focusing attention on a different crisis, but that isn't going to make the foreign policy disaster consequences go away.
The fact is that we only have a certain amount of resources available, so we must use them wisely. It's a lesson we should have learned a decade ago.
#2) Putin is arming terrorists
Answer: I have a problem with that description because an actual terrorist would have shot down a passenger plane on purpose, not by accident.
But even if we let that fact go, we are still in no position to talk because we are arming terrorists too.
It's not a secret. President Bush started doing it a decade ago and Obama simply took it to the next level.
The problem isn't that our terrorists are doing worse things than Putin's could ever dream of, it's that our terrorists are threatening to undermine our entire middle east policy. We've known for years that heavy weapons we purchased from Libyan militias and sent to Syrian rebels have wound up in the hands of jihadists, the same Libyan militias and Syrian jihadists that are now threatening to turn those nations (and Iraq) into failed states.
Or to put it another way - we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
So when you are in a hole the logical thing is to stop digging, not grab another shovel (i.e. Russia).
#3) We've got to respond!
This situation doesn't require a response. The separatists in the Dombass are blowing up bridges as they prepare for a last stand.
The Ukraine army is about to put an end to this rebellion no matter if we do something or not do something. To put it another way:
This problem is about to go away
Will it be bloody? Probably. Our intervening can only make it more bloody.
#4) What about Putin?
Answer: What about him?
It's not like we are going to seek regime change in the only other great nuclear power. Or have we learned nothing from the Cold War?
And do we really want another Cold War? That would be the sign of a foreign policy failure.
Not learning from history
Congress is stalemated about what to do concerning Iraq, while President Obama hasn't laid out a clear plan.
Both stressed they saw no military solution to patching up Iraq's political and ethnic divisions or to peeling off moderate Sunnis from the insurgency that calls itself the Islamic State.Of course for both the Democrats and Republicans, the only question is "how much military response". That's despite the fact that Iraq has been blown up and shot up for over a decade and things are now worse than ever.
According to the British charity Oxfam, around "28 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, " and "70 percent lack clean drinking water."We spent $2 Trillion to blow up Iraq. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had instead fed and clothed everyone at probably a tenth of the price?
One of the problems of our Iraq foreign policy is the Myth of The Surge.
The Surge Myth goes like this:
Against political pressure from the Democratic Surrender-Monkeys, Heroic President Bush temporarily added 20,000 troops, and extend the duration of the troops in Iraq temporarily.
In response, the Iraqi terrorists were defeated, the war was won, and freedom triumphed over Democrats.
Or something like that.
Why after four years of fighting a temporary 20% increase in troops was supposed to accomplish this was never explained, and never will be.
Instead we were left with the Myth of the Bigger Hammer is the solution to everything.
The reality is that violence continued to escalate for months until three things happened:
1) Muqtada_al-Sadr ordered his shia militias to stand down in late August when fighting between the various shia factions started getting out of control.
2) The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was largely over by mid-2007.
However, the biggest change to happen is the one thing that almost never gets talked about - 3) we put the Sunni rebels on our payroll.
Or to put it another way:
We paid them not to shoot at us.
The Awakening groups emerged in 2005 when Sunni tribesmen, who had previously fought the US military and Iraqi government forces, allied with US forces, accepting arms, money and training.The insurgents became allies.
There are about 100,000 Awakening fighters in Iraq and analysts say they are one of the main reasons for the recent marked reduction in violence in the country.
Allow me to tell you exactly how this goes:
1) We easily defeat Saddam's armies by bribing his generals
2) We de-Baathify the country and thus cause tens of thousands of families to lose their sole source of income. They start shooting at us.
3) We put the Sunni insurgents on our payroll (see above) and they stop shooting at us.
4) In 2009, the Iraqi government disbanded the Sunni Awakening, but continued to offer them jobs until 2013.
5) The Sunni Awakening has decided to cut deals with ISIS rather than fight them in 2014.
When you look at it from a monetary perspective this looks very logical. Give people money and jobs so that they can live like human beings and they don't shoot at you.
But when you look at it from the Myth of the Bigger Hammer perspective, the kind that the American media and Washington loves, it looks like a bunch of crazy people in Iraq that only understand violence.
Which brings me back to the same question: what do you think would have happened if we hadn't spent $2 Trillion blowing up Iraq, and instead spent $200 Billion feeding Iraq?
It doesn't leave any room for politicians to beat their chests and look tough in front of the camera.
Lastly I want to point out that today is the 100th Anniversary of the day the Austrian Minister presented the Serbian Government with a list of demands, demands that no sovereign nation could agree to.
Within a week this failure of diplomacy and the unwillingness to seek a diplomatic solution began the start of World War I. A war that would wipe both nations off the face of the Earth and kill millions of these two nation's citizens.
It's ironic that this anniversary is happening while Washington and Moscow are squaring off.