Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pawns, Beware

The estimable Victor Davis Hanson gives a tour de force at Pajamas Media, drawing connections to the inevitable-in-retrospect but far-from obvious at the time messages one can draw from WW2. It is through this lens that he examines the Obama Administration's erratic and perilously unserious approach to foreign policy, specifically viz Russia and Iran. Here's a sample:

Consider Russian calculation: A nuclear Iran causes the U.S. all sorts of headaches, along with its Sunni Arab allies. There is money to be made in arms and nuclear sales. Nuclear Iran–or the efforts to stop it– will cause havoc in the oil-exporting region, and such uncertainty can only help raise the price of oil for what is now the world’s largest oil exporter (7.4 million Putin barrels sold per day abroad).

In other words, Iran is a win/win/win deal for a Russian dictatorship, always was and probably will be. We wonder why is Putin causing trouble, or why did Bush offend him? The only proper question is why not cause trouble without much risk if you’re an ex-KGB thug?

Trouble means lucrative trade, with rogue oil states that want to buy blow ‘em up stuff from Russia.

Trouble shuts up the self-important, moralizing Western Europeans.

Trouble sends a message to former subjects.

Trouble means the U.S. is tied down with a nuclear power threatening Israel and the pro-US Arabs.

Trouble means billions of dollars in new oil profits as global prices soar.

Trouble means showing the world’s onlookers that the Obama hope and change rhetoric is a good way to get yourself in a lot of trouble, and reminds others that Russia is a dependable if not thuggish regime to have on your side. (When the Wehrmacht approached Moscow in late 1941, “civilized” European neutrals like Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Spain and Portugal all started to horse-trade with the sure winner Hitler, angling for trade, cash, borderland, the clearing of old grudges, etc—without a whit of care that he was killing millions of Russian civilians and murdering on sight the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine.[By late 1944 these same “civilized” states were damning Hitler and now angling with the allies]). So yes, the past is helpful.

Obama's foreign policy has not been without successes. Where they have occurred, I have marked them with ungrudging satisfaction. That is not the point. I have been a fairly competent chess player from a piece-by-piece perspective. However, as Mr. Hengist could tell you, I never developed my game to the point where I was especially good at setting up a campaign culminating in check-mate for my opponent. Consequently, I would not place any wagers on myself in a game with Kasparov. Obama, being a bright fellow, has shown an ability to score tactical victories. But his strategic vision is cloudy and incoherent, and he is matched up against some very hefty chessmasters, whom one can imagine chortling with astonished glee at the gift which the American electorate has bestowed upon them. It would be hard to sit in the Kremlin, watching Obama deal haphazardly and distractedly with one vital geopolitical issue after another before returning his attention to the task of remaking the US into a model of Western Europe (while the latter seems to be straining in the opposite direction!), and not take heart at the opportunity before them.

It would be hard to sit in Warsaw or Tblisi, or Tel Aviv, (not to mention Tegucigalpa) scanning the horizontal and the vertical (and the diagonal), and not experience the uncomfortable sensation of seeing unopposed rooks and bishops all around.

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