"A soft answer turneth away wrath," teaches Proverbs
Our new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, seems familiar with the verse.
For his handling of Saturday's wintry blast from Vladimir Putin at the Munich
security conference was masterful.
"As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with
nostalgia for a less complex time," said Gates, adding, "Almost." A former director
of the CIA, Gates went on to identify with Putin: "I have, like your second
speaker yesterday … a career in the spy business. And I guess old spies have
a habit of blunt speaking.
"However, I have been to reeducation camp, spending the last four-and-a-half
years as a university president and dealing with faculty. And as more than a
few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty
it is either 'be nice' or 'be gone.'"
Gates added he would be going to Moscow to talk with the old KGB hand,
who will be retiring as Russia's president around the time President Bush goes
home to Crawford. Excellent.
For one of the historic blunders of this administration has been to antagonize
and alienate Russia, the winning of whose friendship was a signal achievement
of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And one of the foreign policy imperatives
of this nation is for statesmanship to repair the damage.
What did we do to antagonize Russia?
When the Cold War ended, we seized upon our "unipolar moment" as the lone
superpower to seek geopolitical advantage at Russia's expense.
Though the Red Army had picked up and gone home from Eastern Europe voluntarily,
and Moscow felt it had an understanding we would not move NATO eastward, we
exploited our moment. Not only did we bring Poland into NATO, we brought in
Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and virtually the whole Warsaw Pact, planting
NATO right on Mother Russia's front porch. Now, there is a scheme afoot to bring
in Ukraine and Georgia in the Caucasus, the birthplace of Stalin.
Second, America backed a pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan
through Georgia to Turkey, to bypass Russia.
Third, though Putin gave us a green light to use bases in the old Soviet
republics for the liberation of Afghanistan, we now seem hell-bent on making
those bases in Central Asia permanent.
Fourth, though Bush sold missile defense as directed at rogue states like
North Korea, we now learn we are going to put anti-missile systems into Eastern
Europe. And against whom are they directed?
Fifth, through the National Endowment for Democracy, its GOP and Democratic
auxiliaries, and tax-exempt think tanks, foundations, and "human rights" institutes
such as Freedom House, headed by ex-CIA director James Woolsey, we have been
fomenting regime change in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics, and
U.S.-backed revolutions have succeeded in Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia, but
failed in Belarus. Moscow has now legislated restrictions on the foreign agencies
that it sees, not without justification, as subversive of pro-Moscow regimes.
Sixth, America conducted 78 days of bombing of Serbia for the crime of
fighting to hold on to her rebellious province, Kosovo, and for refusing to
grant NATO marching rights through her territory to take over that province.
Mother Russia has always had a maternal interest in the Orthodox states of the
These are Putin's grievances. Does he not have a small point?
Joe Lieberman denounced Putin's "Cold War rhetoric." But have we not been
taking what cannot unfairly be labeled Cold War actions?
How would we react if China today brought Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela into
a military alliance, convinced Mexico to sell oil to Beijing and bypass the
United States, and began meddling in the affairs of Central America and Caribbean
countries to effect the electoral defeat of regimes friendly to the United States?
How would we react to a Russian move to put anti-missile missiles on Greenland?
Gates says we have been through one Cold War and do not want another. But
it is not Moscow moving a military alliance right up to our borders or building
bases and planting anti-missile systems in our front and back yards.
Why are we doing this? This country is not going to go to war with Russia
over Estonia. With our Army "breaking" from two insurgencies, how would we fight?
By bombing Moscow and St. Petersburg?
Just as we deluded ourselves into believing this war would be a "cakewalk,"
that democracy would break out across the Middle East, that we would be beloved
in Baghdad, so America today has undertaken commitments, dating to the Cold
War and since, we do not remotely have the resources or will to fulfill. We
are living in a world of self-delusion.
Somewhere in this presidential campaign, someone has to bring us back to
earth. The halcyon days of American Empire are over.
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