Russophobia and Islamophilia
It’s hard to believe that it has been a quarter of a century since Ronald Reagan began to dismantle the ideological wall that divided Europe. Harder still to believe that American politicians, Right and Left, are trying to resuscitate the Cold War -- or something hotter. Recent events in the Ukraine seem to be giving the citizens of Europe and America hot flashes of deja-vu.
At the tactical level, US policy has devolved to “regime change.” At the strategic level, US policy is simply incoherent, if not nihilistic; swapping corrupt oligarchs for neo-fascists or religious zealots. The logic for supporting recent coups have little to do with common sense -- or democracy. And with Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and now the Ukraine, language needs to be coined to avoid words like coup.
By any other name, a coup is still a coup. And using a post-facto election to legitimize a coup is a little like putting a new hat on a dead cat. The Kerry/Obama team is giving subtlety and sovereignty bad names.
When Vladimir Putin, tongue in cheek, says there are no Russian troops in the Ukraine, he mocks John Kerry and Victoria Nuland who orchestrate dissidents in Maidan square, in some cases neo-fascists who did not get their way on the bail-out treaty with the EU.
The auction for the Ukraine is now closed. The price doubled overnight, from 16 to 35 billion dollars and counting. Politicians break it, now the taxpayer gets to pay for it. Kerry is now offering to buy the next Ukrainian election too.
Speaking of elections, Europe and America might need referendums at home on future bailouts, foreign and domestic. The EU and US look like the “two broke girls” of Capitalism. Angela Merkel might be the only European politician with any jingle left in her jeans these days.
When Putin says he protects Crimean Russians, again with a sneer, he mocks Samantha Power’s, now Barak Obama’s, humanitarian interventions. The fast track to imperialism is paved with words like “humanitarian.”
When Russia sponsors a referendum in the Crimea, the Kremlin pre-empts, indeed ridicules, the EU sponsored presidential election to be orchestrated by Kiev in May 2014.
When demagogues like Hillary Clinton compare Russian behavior to Nazi Germany, she mocks Allied history and the sacrifice of 5 million Russians in WWII. Russian blood chits, we might add, that made the Allied victory over Nazis possible in 1945.
The name of the game in the Crimea is not the Ukraine in any case. Maidan Square and the Crimea are merely board pieces, according to Vicky Nuland at the State Department; moveable parts in another Great Game -- Europe versus Russia redux. Back to the future, indeed!
The pillars of Obama foreign policies are now explicit; Russophobia on one hand and Islamophilia on the other. Indeed, a renewed Cold War with Russia, sponsored by a lame duck, allows Media shills to change the subject. With the Ukraine in the headlines, the domestic health care debacle and those failed Muslim wars fade to background noise.
Yes, Russophobia! The pragmatic gains of the Reagan era have been set aside for an irrational fear of all things Russian. Never mind that the difference between Putin’s Russia and Gorbachev’s Soviet Union is like the difference between caviar and carp.
America and the EU have nothing in common with Arabia and greater Islam save oil, debt, and indigestible immigrants. Yet, Americans have much in common with Russia: history, religion, art, literature, sports, dance, dogs, music, science, space travel, adult beverages, recreational sex, and almost all things cultural, including Nureyev in tights and Sharapova in shorts.
Russia, the EU, and America also share a common enemy, that insidious fifth column: domestic and global Islamism.
The Cold War, until a few weeks ago, was over. The Warsaw Pact has been dead now for some two decades. Projections about a new Russian empire are fantasies. It is NATO and the EU that aspire to expand to the Russian border. Putin is no eagle scout, but he’s no chump either. Unlike European and American demagogues, Putin knows the difference between defense and offense.
Russians are not killing Americans. Putin is not a BFF, but Russia is not the enemy either. The West cannot say the same for Arabs and Muslims. Islamism is the sanguinary enemy whose name we dare not speak.
Pandering Americans, Europeans, and now the Chinese, are complicit in the spread of Islamic political terror. Non-Muslims are killed with such regularity, world-wide, that the civilized world has come to accept each new atrocity as a fair price for assuaging the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Indeed, European social democrats and the American Left now seem to believe that even Israel itself might be a small price for submission.
Russia has no illusions about militant Muslims. Indeed, you could argue that Putin has literally rebuilt the Russian Orthodox Church as an ideological barrier against the spread of toxic Islam in Russia. Would that Europe or America support Judaism and the rest of Christianity with such unapologetic aplomb.
The objective threat to the West and Asia comes from religious fascism. Cultural arrogance does not allow the West to admit that political Islam and freedom, irredentist Islam and democracy, are mutually exclusive ideas. And sadly, a misguided sense of humanitarian imperialism rationalizes interventions in the Ummah, expeditions that usually fail. The West cannot save Islam from itself. Nonetheless, westerners seem willing to sacrifice a host of Enlightenment values and young lives on the altar of good intentions.
Manufactured crises, like the Ukraine, are studies in weak or incompetent leadership. Alas, the Obama/Kerry cocker spaniel is no match for the Putin/ Lavrov Rottweiler. NATO leaders have not been the equal of ayatollahs and imams since 1979 either. Jimmy Carter’s ghost still haunts the American Left. Putin should send a case of vodka as a thank-you to Foggy Bottom for providing the Kremlin an excuse to return Sevastopol to Rodina.
John Kerry is the daffiest US administration duck, scion of the Jane Fonda wing of the American Left. Who sends an anti-war “activist” to a Mid-East fracas or East European brawl? Nobody wins a real street fight with their mouth -- or frequent flyer miles.
And the American Right is not blameless; excusing terror, regime change folly, the recent litany of imperial failures. In the 2012 US election campaign, there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between candidates, Right and Left, on US foreign or military policy. And neo-conservative sycophants are led by foreign policy loose cannons like John McCain who believes Moscow might be “sanctioned” into submission. As if sanctions were working with true pariahs like North Korea or Iran!
McCain seems to be the captain of a latter day light-headed brigade; oblivious to what Russians already have: a compliant Crimea, money from resource exports, a space bus for American astronauts -- and a choke-hold on all of Ukrainian and a third of European energy supplies. Demonizing Putin here only strengthens his hand there. The Russian president enjoys genuine popular support like no politician in the West.
The Cold War is making a comeback; this time without deterrence. The nuclear threshold is lowered when conventional capabilities are reduced to a level of assured impotence. Secretary of Defense, Charles Hagel, has unveiled a plan to abandon tactical missions like A-10 close-air-support in favor of unproven and costly technology like the F-35 problem child. Wishful thinking is a poor substitute for facts, performance, or experience. Cyber warfare (see STUXNET) and global drone strikes blur the lines between limited and general war.
Such contractions are not lost on Islamist tacticians or strategists. For the Pentagon, all recent combat is tactical where Islamist motives are defined as local (see almost any RAND Corporation report on the subject). Ironically, those tactical resources for future fights are on the chopping block. As with speculations about Russia, American myopia fails to accommodate the Islamist world view. For too many Muslims, the struggle, indeed the jidad bis saif, has been global since 632 AD.
With a future US Army under 500,000 troops, America should have just enough soldiers to get into a fight, but not enough to win. And with a small all-volunteer force, every trooper should have enough rotations in the Ummah to get maimed or be killed -- in vain. A small Army in isolated cantons, like air travel, is another target-rich environment for terrorists.
The future is Malthusian. The nuclear threshold has been lowered, small war humiliations are more likely, and Islamic terror will continue to be ignored or excused. Politicians care little about how many lives it takes to lose. Yet, the glyphs of the Barack Hussein Obama era are not just appeasement, retreat, and defeat. The real handwriting on the wall is unilateral disarmament in the world of tactical and strategic ideas.
G Murphy Donovan is the former Director of Research for Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence. He writes now about the politics of national security.