John Boehner Vindicated on Foreign Policy?
It’s nothing short of astounding how recent history has validated Republican foreign policy analysis where Russia is concerned. And it’s tragic how ineffective Republicans have been in translating their prescient analysis into tangible policies that serve America.
Sarah Palin correctly predicted Vladimir Putin’s current incursion into Ukraine. Mitt Romney correctly identified Russia as the biggest geopolitical threat to U.S. security. (Newsweek’s August 1 cover will call Vladimir Putin “the West’s public enemy #1,” while Time will announce Putin’s “dangerous game” and his “the new cold war.”)
But hindsight shows that the brightest star in the Republican ranks was quite likely House Speaker John Boehner.
Back in October 2011, Boehner gave a speech at the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation. He correctly predicted that if the U.S. did not turn away from the cowardly policy of appeasement pursued by Barack Obama and towards the values-oriented policies of Thatcher and Reagan, the U.S. would see neo-Soviet resurgence and aggression from Russia.
Joined by Russian dissident Gary Kasparov, Boehner warned: “In Russia’s use of old tools and old thinking, we see nothing short of an attempt to restore Soviet-style power and influence. Soon, Russia will be officially led by someone known to harbor intense Soviet nostalgia.” And he urged Americans to reject Obama’s craven “reset” policy: “We cannot sacrifice values, or get away with walling off our interests from our moral imperatives. We can and should make clear certain ideas are non-negotiable while keeping the door open for cooperation.”
Boehner used the world “Soviet” half a dozen times in his speech to emphasize the risk that Putin was seeking to recreate the era of international terror by the USSR, which sought to subjugate its neighbors and sow the seeds of anti-Americanism all around the globe.
Boehner asked his listeners to remember the stirring victory by the U.S. hockey team over the USSR in Lake Placid in 1980. He urged them to realize that while Russia may look formidable, it is riddled with weakness. He warned that “Russia has continued to expand its physical, political, and economic presence under the guise of what’s strangely called a ‘sphere of influence’” and that Putin was consolidating his power at home in order to launch focused attacks on freedom abroad.
Boehner warned that weakness toward Russia on missile defense, the World Trade Organization, Georgia, and Iran would only encourage further Russian aggression abroad, and he warned that allowing Putin to consolidate power at home would pour gasoline on this inferno. He issued a clarion call: “Instead of downplaying Russia’s disregard for democratic values and human rights, we should call them on it. Publicly, forcefully, frequently.” In hindsight, no thinking person can characterize his warnings as anything but precisely on the mark.
And Boehner reminded his listeners that he had put his views into action: “As Speaker, my first meeting with a foreign head of state was with the Georgian president. That was no coincidence. Not long after that, I met with a group of opposition leaders from Belarus. I came away thinking one thing: we should have their backs. Last month, I opened the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy.”
Boehner’s speech is generally thrilling to read, but it is also deeply depressing. It’s amazing that Republicans were so right about Russia so early, and disheartening that they were so unable to convince Americans of the rightness of their views, leading to the re-election of Barack Obama and the total collapse of U.S. foreign policy towards Russia.
If you want to appreciate how smart Boehner was, you need only to read what now must be viewed as a hilariously misguided, vicious personal attack on his speech by a prototypical Russia apologist blogger named Mark Adomanis, who said talk of Russia being “neo-Soviet” was “nonsense” and called Boehner a “lachrymal party hack.” In the typical pattern of the neo-Soviet hit man, Adomanis twisted facts beyond recognition and then simply sought to change the subject with a straw-man argument that even Soviet propagandists would have ridiculed.
Adomanis used a Gallup poll that showed Russia being very unpopular worldwide, just like the USSR, in order to show that it was nothing like the USSR and very popular. That poll showed 61% of Ukrainians approving of Russian leadership and only 21% disapproving, something that Adomanis felt proved Russia to be nothing like the glowering Soviet demon of old. Adomanis smugly rejected Boehner’s prediction that this could rapidly change, and history has now rolled over Adomanis like a Mack truck as Ukraine rejected Russia, embraced Europe, and entered a state of hot war with its giant imperialist neighbor.
Then Adomanis completely ignored Boehner’s thesis about international aggression and attempted to prove that since Russia isn’t (yet) as much of a command economy as the USSR, it could not be called neo-Soviet and could not be considered an international threat. This ridiculous attempt to change the subject and launch a personal attack on Boehner in order to discredit him was scurrilous when made, but in light of Russian aggression against Ukraine, it is downright treacherous.
Adomanis’s piece is a classic bit of haywire leftist stereotyping of Republicans as moronic apes whose ignorance and belligerence places the world on the brink of a disastrous World War III. Folks like Adomanis believe that talk of American values and American leadership are proof of inadequate education and dangerous nationalism bordering on racism.
But history has shown otherwise. History has emphatically revealed that Adomanis was wrong and Boehner was right. It has show that those who voted for Obama were deeply misled and contributing to an international climate ripe for breeding dictatorship, terror, and economic stagnation. We have seen the Russian economy fall into exactly the kind of malaise that afflicted the USSR, and for precisely the same reasons of excessive centralization and resulting lack of innovation, just as Boehner stated.
And yet, for the past decade or more, it has been the utterly misguided and fallacious analysis of those like Adomanis and Obama, who understand nothing about the Russian reality and dwell, like the Russians themselves, in a bizarre world of illusions and self-deception. Republicans have failed not just to win the Oval Office, but to influence it, and American foreign policy has led not only our country, but the world back into a dismal struggle with an evil empire.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.