Monday, February 20, 2017

Big Trouble In Small Places
  There is no corner of the world so remote, no nation so insignificant that it does not represent a vital interest of the United States—Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration 
     Are you itching to go to nuclear war over Yongbyon, Dombass, Hormuz, Riga, Tartus, Sebastopol or the Spratleys? If not, you’re no doubt a peacenik liberal wimp.
    In higher and more sophisticated circles it’s perfectly proper to describe these United States as an empire with a self-proclaimed prerogative to rule the globe and punish disobedient nations. It’s only for the less knowledgeable classes that America’s role in the world is portrayed in comic book terms they can understand, with us, always the good guys, versus whatever bad guys of the moment.
    This fantasy calls for a fantasy solution.  So you will hear quite sincere but naive people saying we should stay at home and take care of America first rather than rushing around the globe to do good and drone bad guys.  That’s like telling the New England Patriots they should stop playing football and instead become checkers players.
    The bad guys of the moment are Russia, China, North Korea Iran, Iraq, Syria and the democratically-elected but unacceptably leftist governments of Latin America. Our goal is to put their governments out of business and replace them with obedient regimes like that that of, say, Bahrain.
    That goal is not working out and, in fact, making more trouble for our empire than we had to begin with. Putin is solidly in place in Russia, where the people remember the economic catastrophe visited upon them when Washington bossed Moscow in the Yeltsin era after the collapse of the sclerotic Soviet Union. Not even the most pollyannish diplo in DC can see China turned into yet another U.S. client state anytime soon. Indeed, it’s more likely that we will become their client. Meanwhile, there’s little we can do about North Korea without risking a nuke or two on our heads. 
         The great scandal of this era is the shameful failure of our corrupt and incompetent military to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan and bring down the Assad regime in Syria--not that I approved of those wars. There’s little hope then that Washington will be able to intimidate, let alone overthrow, the Iranian theocracy,  a far bigger and more fearsome foe than the feudal tribes people of Iraq and Afghanistan who have been running our vaunted military in circles.
    All in all, American foreign policy is in shambles.  Hillary promised us only a bigger mess.  Trump is clueless, but influenced—or compromised—by the same ultra-nationalist movements that rule Russia and are gaining sway in Europe. The only good thing about them is that they are not
jingoes like Hillary and the Dems with their same animus for communist Russia now transferred to a capitalist Russia.  Their demand that Russia leave Crimea, a Russian-speaking integral part of Russia for hundreds of years and home to its only warm water outlet to the world, is equivalent to Moscow demanding the U.S. get out of California. It's not going to happen.
    In the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, America, Russia, Cuba and the world were saved from oblivion by Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet sub commander who decided on his own not to fire his nukes.  We need some Vasilis now lest we end the world over Yongbyon, Dombass, Hormuz, Riga, Tartus, Sebastopol or the Spratleys?