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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’

Don’t Touch Nixon, He Saved my Life

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

JTA and the Forward are pushing a Reuters story suggesting the late President Richard Milhous Nixon made even more antisemitic statements in the Oval Office, both in person and over the phone.

This incriminating information emanated from 340 hours of tapes covering April 9 through July 12 1973, which have just been released by the Nixon Presidential Library.

In anticipation of Jewish demonstrators humiliating him with their “let my people go” demands concerning Soviet Jewry, right in front of the Soviet delegation to an upcoming cold war summit meeting, Nixon tells his pal Henry Kissinger, still national security adviser at the time (he was made Secretary of State on September 22, 1973):

“Let me say, Henry, it’s gonna be the worst thing that happened to Jews in American history. If they torpedo this summit — and it might go down for other reasons — I’m gonna put the blame on them, and I’m going to do it publicly at 9 o’clock at night before 80 million people.”

Did you just read the above quote as a Nixon impersonation? I know I did. And while that quote is at least anchored in a political strategy—many, including the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, believed that quiet, behind the scenes politics worked better for Soviet dissidents than Rabbi Kahane’s in-your-face demonstrations—other antisemitic quips were uttered with no political context, because the man had the antisemitism of his generation branded on his psyche.

I’ve learned over the years to ignore, if not outright accept that side of President Nixon, because of two big reasons: I believe he was the last great U.S. president, capable of utilizing the power of his office to deliver enormous benefits to a huge segment of humanity; and he saved my life.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft is being loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal

An F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft is being loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal

The second part is easy: along with my own generation, I was an enlisted man during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. It began on October 7—my 19th birthday—and lasted 17 days, but by about the 10th day, the Israeli army had run out of practically everything. You name it – we didn’t have it.

And so it was President Richard Milhous Nixon who ordered the U.S. army to start flying us everything we needed, from M-16 rifles to tank shells to dark green work uniforms to whatever else we needed.

I had the opportunity on a number of occasions to be present at the international airport in Lod and to watch the military C-5 Galaxy planes landing, packed with replenishment goods. It was like watching enormous spaceships landing in the dark. They kept coming, rows of them, and they were one major reason we got out of that cursed war by the skin of our teeth. We lost 3,000 soldiers, my age, in a little over two weeks—the entire war of independence cost us 6 thousand lives, over two years.

In Europe, no one would allow the planes to land for refueling, except for Portugal. The nice people in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg refused to get involved. Wouldn’t be fair. Only a Portuguese gentleman by the name of António de Oliveira Salazar, with a strong anti-democratic reputation, let the Galaxies land. So I don’t care much for bad language against him, either. He, too, saved my life.

And I’m aware of the fact that it was U.S. foreign policy which drove Israel into the unexpected war of 1973 in the first place. Even that does not change the fact that I am filled with gratitude to President Nixon.

That’s the personal stuff. But he was a giant among presidents on so many other fronts. I believe, in general, America has done best with a Liberal Republican in the White House and Democrats controlling the legislator. It’s a powerful mix that gave birth to the EPA, opened the trade route to China and ended the war in Vietnam, to name but three major achievements. None of those things came without a price, and later presidents have squandered the wealth Nixon had left them. No matter, I still believe he was the greatest U.S. president in my lifetime.

Egypt: This Is Big

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

One way to gauge the import of the conflict erupting in Egypt is by looking at the character of media coverage in America.  Both sides of the political spectrum have been slow to advance narratives of blame.  What’s going on in Egypt doesn’t fit into any pat, off-the-shelf narratives.

There has been a curious absence of “themage” on the left: no unified narrative about this all being the fault of Bush-era failures of good fellowship, or of the plight of the Palestinians, or (my personal favorite) of warmongering arms dealers, oil mavens, or ([insert ROTFLOL here]) international banks.

Meanwhile, blame-fixing criticisms of President Obama are getting little traction on the right.  (I even saw Sean Hannity shouted down by other conservatives the other day, when he was advancing an Obama’s-to-blame theory.)  I have the sense that most on the right see – accurately – that what’s going on is bigger than either Obama’s shortcomings or America’s predicament under his leadership.  While the Arab Spring might well have never happened if the United States had had a different president in January 2011, it is more than overstating the case to say that it happened because of Obama.

It happened because of deep rifts and discontents in the Arab world.  Its progress since the initial trigger event has been shaped to some degree by the defensively triangulating inaction (mainly) of Obama’s America.  But there’s real there there, in terms of political divisions and conflict in the nations of the Middle East.

This is a genuine fight, not a series of mass protests out of which nothing will really change.  If we understand anything, it must be that.  The Western media have been reflexively – if perfunctorily – reporting the bloodshed in Egypt as a “military crack-down” on protesters.  But the truth is that, where military action is concerned, it is a strategy to get out ahead of civil war.  The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it intends to make a fight of this.  Its “protest camps” are not a stupid, time-on-their-hands Occupy Cairo escapade; they are bases from which to keep an armed fight going.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not care what happens to the people of Egypt: whether their streets become safe for daily life and commerce again.  It is willing to keep chaos and misery going for as long as necessary to topple the military’s interim government.  That is its present purpose.  The Muslim Brotherhood strategy is to make it impossible for the military to restore enough order and public confidence to move ahead with new democratic arrangements.  The strategy is pure Bolshevism, and we’ve seen it before, dozens of times over the last several centuries.

Reports from Friday’s fighting indicate that plenty of Egyptians are aware of this.  Citizens around the capital set up checkpoints to prevent the movement of Muslim Brotherhood formations:

Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.

And much of the fighting was between pro-Morsi supporters and other civilians:

Friday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches.

Few police in uniform were seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.

In keeping with the astonishing mass scale of the national revulsion against Morsi’s rule in June and July, the current fight is developing as a popular one.  The anti-Morsi citizens have no intention of waiting around to see their government fall back into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.  They are taking to the streets themselves.

This will have to be remembered in the coming days, when poorly armed civilians inevitably begin dropping out of the fight.  The civil population does care, and care enough to fight with sticks, stones, and fists, if necessary, even though It will take the military to put down the Muslim Brotherhood decisively – if, indeed, the outcome ends up being defined in that manner.

It may not be.  A key organizing factor in the June and July civil protests against Morsi was the “Tamarod” movement, a pastiche of anti-Morsi forces with little to unify them other than their objection to Morsi’s rule.  Some throwing in with Tamarod are Salafists themselves (including a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad); others bring some element of liberalization or secularism.  They made common cause with the military during the coup in July, but they are hardly a moderate, liberal, pro-Western force; in the days since, they have called for expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, and for Egypt to withdraw from the 1979 treaty with Israel.

Tamarod movements are busting out all over the Arab world (e.g., in Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain), portending many more months of instability and a long fight for the futures of these and other nations.  A movement with this much internal division to it will begin to splinter in Egypt: some of its members will want to take the lead in forging a new ruling consensus – specifically, in preempting the people to do so – and my bet for this is on the Salafists.

So there are more than two factions in the overall fight; this won’t come down to just the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whoever plays the spoiler role could put together some kind of modus vivendi linking the opposing factions.  A little bit of gesturing toward civil protections for the people; a little bit of door left open to shari’a.  It wouldn’t last long, if history is any kind of guide.  But Western observers are likely to put stock in it (and even be hoodwinked by it).

Today’s fight may not go the full fifteen rounds, but if it doesn’t, it will have to be fought again down the road.  Because there is no coexistence for soft despotism – or democracy-lite – and Islamism; there is no coexistence for anything else and Islamism.  And Islamism won’t stop fighting until it is put down decisively.

It is not actually unusual for the governments and media of the West to misread developments like these (or at least to have the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces as they witness them).  The last time there was comparative unity and accuracy of understanding about a Bolshevik moment was – well, the actual Bolshevik moment, in late 1917 and the few years following it, when Western governments sought briefly to support the White anti-Bolshevists.  Whatever the merits of that policy, the understanding on which it was based was perfectly accurate.  Bolshevism was an uncontainable threat.

Within a very few years after that, Western governments, and many in our media, had become invested in misreading or ignoring manifestations from the sanguinary arena of collectivist statism.  We were quite tolerant of Mussolini and Hitler until they declared war on Stalin, and to this day, tendentious narratives of popular support are adduced in our academies to explain the advance of Marxist totalitarianism across the map of the globe through the late 1970s.  There were major movements in the free world to define away the threat of communism incident not only to Stalin’s excesses but to Maoism in China, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the encroachments of Marxism on Latin America and Africa, and the standoff between East and West in Europe.

Throughout the 20th century, the bloody adventures of collectivism forced Westerners, and Americans in particular, to inspect and crystallize our view of who and what we were.  Through the “progressive,” statist movements in our own nations, we ended up being transformed away from the character we had once sought to honor and cultivate.  Yet for a time, in the late 1970s (with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK) and 1980s, we achieved a meaningful consensus that our liberal values had not been extinguished yet.  Acting on that consensus turned out to be enough, in that time and place, to overwhelm the failed ideology of Marxist socialism, in its totalitarian-state manifestation.

State-Islamism is doomed to inflict self-destruction and despair on its victims.  But what will we in the still-not-Islamist West do while it is organizing itself and launching its career?  We can’t go out and try to run everyone else’s county for him, after all.  And that said, we need not actively support the infliction of despotic Islamism on foreign populations.

How will we define ourselves during this process?  Will it be Islamism that has the momentum, with us defining ourselves as what we are not, in relation to it?  Or will we retake the public dialogue with our own propositions and language about liberty and limited government?  Our success in that endeavor was intermittent and incomplete, to say the least, during the Cold War.  Will we learn from that era and do better today?

Will we retain the capacity – always under attack, always fighting for its life – to define a totalitarian ideology truthfully, and let that truth be a guide to our policies?  These are questions to which we simply don’t know the answer.  There were days during the Cold War when even the most optimistic political observers would have answered them for us in the negative.

One thing we can be sure of, however – a thing we may see more clearly, I think, because we have the president we have today, and not a president who will act in a more traditional manner, according to the conventions of American statecraft.  The developments in Egypt have importance for the entire world.  They are about an ideological, Bolshevik-style assault on conventional, non-radicalized government.  That is the dynamic in play.  And, as much as they are about Egypt, the Egyptian people, and the fact that they do not want ideological “shari’a” rule, they are also, in an existential way, about us.  They are about who we are, and who we intend to be.  None of us will be the same when this is all over.

Decentralized Jihad

Monday, April 29th, 2013

If you gain mastery over them in battle, inflict such a defeat as would terrorize them, so that they would learn a lesson and be warned. — Qur’an 8:57

Allah made the Jews leave their homes by terrorizing them so that you killed some and made many captive. And He made you inherit their lands, their homes, and their wealth. He gave you a country you had not traversed before. — Qur’an 33:26

It’s been said that the Cold War was a conflict of civilizations, between opposing ideological views of the world. But it can also be seen as a simple geopolitical struggle between blocs. From the end of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was common to find local disputes turned into proxy wars by the opposing powers.

There were also conflicts that were primarily instigated by the powers, as they tried to find an advantage in the struggle to protect or extend their spheres of influence. While there were exceptions, I think it is correct to say that there was a degree of centralized control, or at least strong influence, over much of the mischief in the world, and it was located in Moscow (or, if you prefer, Washington — my point is the same).

Today we are in the midst of a real conflict of civilizations, one which has been under way for much longer than the duration of the Cold War. It has gone up and down in intensity, sometimes remaining on simmer for hundreds of years, sometimes erupting into large-scale conflict, taking the form of traditional war, economic struggle, demographic competition, or all of those.

Unlike the cold war, this war is not directed from the capitals of the great powers. And unlike the cold war, in which ideology was wielded as a tool of the combatants, this war is in essence a war between ideologies. And at least on one side, it has become a truly grass-roots struggle.

Of course I am talking about the religion-ideology of Islam, whose endeavor to overpower the West has been going on for hundreds of years.

And not just the West. Most people are familiar with the rapid Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, and Islam’s advance into Europe until it was stopped at Tours in 732, but not the conquest of India which primarily took place during the 12th century, with Muslim rule dominating until the 1700′s.  Indonesia, today the most populous Muslim nation in the world probably obtained its Muslim majority around 1600, with Islam gradually driving out minority Christian, Hindu and animist beliefs since then. In Africa, Islam moved southward and inland from the coasts, more or less continuously until the present day, when bloody fighting continues.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one of the most important “commandments” of Muslim doctrine is to spread Islam throughout the world, by any means necessary. To do Jihad.

The struggle with the West was on hold for several centuries, as the Christian nations of Europe made comparatively rapid scientific, technological and economic progress, in some cases actually turning history (and Islamic doctrine) on its head by colonizing or at least controlling Muslim lands. Militarily, it was no contest, with traditional Muslim fighters on horseback facing machine guns, tanks and air forces.

But something has changed. Europe has to a great extent abandoned its Christian faith and even seems to have abandoned its desire to reproduce, with birth rates below the replacement level. It has no stomach for warfare, or even to confront small-scale attrition by terrorism and ‘crime’ by Muslim immigrants (whose birthrate is much higher than that of the natives). The question is not ‘will Europe fall?’ but when it will happen.

Why did I mention Christianity? Because when individuals believe that the world ends with their own death, why should they care about the future of their culture as a whole? This is why religious belief is critical to cultural survival. Worse, what replaced Christianity is a secular humanism which is hostile to nationalism or peoplehood. What does a European have to fight for?

Muslims have learned to use modern weapons, and in places where the terrain and home field advantage is favorable enough, have managed to hold off Western armies, if not defeat them. The crown jewel of Western military technology, the nuclear bomb, is now in Muslim hands, although it is yet to be used. And the degree of commitment to Islam and Islamic ideology is growing and deepening among Muslims everywhere, thanks in part to modern technology.

A Bloody Endless Peace

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

“War is peace,” entered our cultural vocabulary some sixty-four years ago. Around the same time that Orwell’s masterpiece was being printed up, an armistice was being negotiated between Israel and the Arab invading armies. That armistice began the long peaceful war or the warring peace.

The entire charade did not properly enter the realm of the Orwellian until the peace process began. The peace process between Israel and the terrorist militias funded by the countries of those invading armies has gone on for longer than most actual wars. It has also taken more lives than most actual wars.

War has an endpoint. Peace does not. A peace in which you are constantly at war can go on forever because while the enthusiasts of war eventually exhaust their patriotism, the enthusiasts of peace never give up on their peacemaking.

Warmongers may stop after a few thousand dead, but Peacemongers will pirouette over a million corpses.

As you read this, Obama is probably stumbling through some ceremony or speech in Israel. The speeches all say the usual things, but there really is only one purpose to the visit. There really ever only is one purpose to these visits. The revisiting of the endless peace war.

Two decades after the peace process has failed in every way imaginable. Two decades after cemeteries on both sides are full of the casualties of peace. Two decades which have created two abortive Palestinian states at war with one another and with Israel.

Two decades later, it’s still time for peace.

Peace time means that it’s time to ring up some more Israeli concessions in the hopes of getting the terrorists and their quarreling states back to the negotiating table for another photo op in the glorious album of peacemakers. And if the photos are properly posed, perhaps there will even be another Nobel Peace Prize in it for all the participants.

It would be nice to think that the peace disease was one of those viruses carried only in the bloodstream of liberals. But it’s not.

Every so often I am asked about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab-Muslim conflict and the interrogators are baffled when I tell them that there is no solution. “No solution at all? But there has to be a solution. What of all the moderate voices of goodwill? What of all the mothers who only want to raise their children to sing happy songs about peace? What about all the old soldiers who are tired of war? What if we get them all in a room to shake hands and pose for photos? Then won’t there be peace?”

As society has become more progressive, it has become progressively more difficult to explain even even to intelligent people that the world simply does not work that way.

For two Cold War generations it was nearly impossible to communicate that there really would be no peace with the Soviet Union other than the cold kind maintained by a mutual balance of power. Their children and grand-children appear equally unequipped to understand that most serious wars end with either one side definitively losing and fundamentally changing as a result of that defeat or both sides maintaining a cold peace that will last only as long as neither side believes that it can squash the other with a surprise attack.

Israel did have peace until it began peace negotiations. It wasn’t a perfect peace, but aside from the minor problems of the Intifada, a comparative pinprick set against the violence that began after that infamous Rose Garden handshake, it was a good time whose like was then not seen again until Israel stopped playing peace process with the terrorists and learned to keep them away instead.

But the relative absence of violence, according to the amateur peacemakers, isn’t peace. A wartime peace isn’t what they want. What they want is a peacetime war. Let there be handshakes and suicide bombings. Let there be bloody bodies scraped off the sidewalk, but let there also be children’s choirs singing about peace. Let a thousand tombstones rise, so long as everyone can believe that peace is at hand.

This vulgar worship of peace as a religion, a creed that restores the faith of faithless men and women in humanity is a combination of empty sentimentality and calculated ignorance.

How to Use American Influence

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Colonial powers – France, Britain, Belgium and Russia, in particular – believed there was no substitute for their own armies and officials to ensure that their colonies stayed in line. Instead of colonial occupation forces, the US takes its money, arms, training and agenda abroad. It is a specifically American conceit that people in other countries and other societies want our social and governmental blueprint as well as our money, medicine and weapons.

As the Syrian civil war expands, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry finally determined that, “The conflict has been overtly sectarian… government forces and its militias, dominated by Alawites, have been attacking Sunnis — who are “broadly (but not uniformly)” backing the armed groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government. And anti-government armed groups have been targeting Alawites.”

This is not news. It has, however, prompted another spasm of the belief that US support for this side or that, this person or that, could have or would have produced in Syria a secular, moderate and tolerant revolution, led by those who would be America’s friends. The estimable Barry Rubin blames “the deliberate decisions of President Barack Obama and other Western leaders. Even if one rationalizes the Islamist takeover in Egypt as due to internal events, this one is US-made.”

It is hard to see the difference between the “internal events” in Egypt that made the Brotherhood victory “inevitable,” and “internal events” in Syria that could have produced a different outcome. In both countries, the Brotherhood had been repressed and suppressed in the most brutal ways. Hafez Assad killed an estimated 20,000 people in the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in just a few weeks in 1982; Junior has a long way to go. In neither country did the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood go away or lose their fervor – the opposite. And in both places, lifting the lid brought the Muslim Brotherhood back from underground.

Rubin adds, “Obama and others believe that they can moderate the Muslim Brotherhood and this will tame the Salafists… This is going to be the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last century.” It may be a blunder, but it would be the same one Rubin makes in the other direction. Both believe American military, economic and political support can moderate or redirect longstanding ethnic and religious beliefs and hatreds. They both believe American “influence” can create moderate, tolerant governments in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia.

The counter-argument is the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Libya.

The Oslo Accords were predicated on the mistaken belief that international economic support would create a moderate, liberal Palestinian state living peaceably next to Israel. The US also believed that with American training and financial support, Palestinian “police” would “dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.” Palestinians are the world’s largest per capita recipients of international assistance. The US has spent nearly $500 million a year on the Palestinian Authority, including $100 million each year for “security forces” under the tutelage of an American three-star General. Separately, the US is the largest single donor to UNRWA; $2.2 billion in its first 50 years (1950-1999) and $2.18 billion in the last 13 years (2000-2012). In 2012, the US contribution will be $249 million.

What have we achieved? After a Palestinian war against Israel in 2000 (with terrorists using our training) and a civil war, the PA is corrupt, bankrupt and no closer to democracy or accepting Israel as a permanent part of the region than it was before the application of our money or our “influence.” The “armed struggle” promoted by Hamas is finding ever more favor with Palestinians as PA President Mahmoud Abbas seeks “unity” with his erstwhile enemies. Abbas openly defied President Obama on negotiations, UN recognition and the internationalization of the conflict. He threatens “retaliation” against Israel if its citizens choose Netanyahu in the upcoming election. PA-Israeli security cooperation has been faltering and there are open clashes between Palestinians and the IDF.

But if the US got nothing for millions to the Palestinians, it is currently getting nothing for billions in military and economic aid to Egypt. The aid was to have ensured a pro-American military, adherence to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and security in Sinai. Since 1987, the U.S. has spent about $1.25 billion annually for arms plus about $250 million in economic support. Additional millions were spent on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) between to help Egypt create civil society organizations to provide wider space for political parties and media.

America Has No Foreign Policy

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The United States of America has a State Department, it has row after row of people who speak badly every language from Arabic to Swahili badly, and it has rich donors who take on the task of acting as ambassadors to some foreign country every four to eight years. There are think-tanks, actual tanks and institutes dedicated to turning out papers on foreign policy. And despite all this, or perhaps because of all this, the country still has no foreign policy.

Americans are by nature isolationist. American leaders, since Woodrow Wilson dumped ashes from his pipe on the Oval Office carpets and dumped America into the international game of empires, are bent on getting involved in world politics. Unfortunately everything they know about world politics comes from the back of cereal boxes. And yes that includes our current precious genius who comes to us from eating dog and living the life of a privileged member of Indonesia’s upper classes, but knows almost as little about the world outside Chicago, as he does about economics.

The big problem with American foreign policy is that there isn’t one. Our current foreign policy can be boiled down to three words. “Don’t Hate Us.” The current administration has introduced an innovative fourth word. “Please.”

It’s a long way from a century ago when American leaders still had no foreign policy, besides warning European countries to stay out of their hemisphere, but had begun to think that being involved in the affairs of other countries was a prerequisite for global good citizenship.

Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize for trying to get the Russians and Japanese to end a disastrous war in which the Japanese had the suicide determination and the Russians had the machine guns, but barely broke even.

Roosevelt, like many of his successors, had no true foreign policy beyond articulating American greatness on the world stage. But the deeper those successors involved themselves in international politics, the more they came to see American greatness as the obstacle, not the point. The more the United States became involved in organizing global alliances to hold back one threat or another, the more that same national greatness began to be seen as an obstacle to maximizing those alliances.

A hundred years ago, American presidents thought that their country should be a world power because of the manifest destiny of its national greatness. A century later they were minimizing that national greatness to preserve world power status.

Roosevelt’s “Pedicaris alive or Raisuli dead” became “Let’s Pull Together” and “Don’t Hate Us” during the Cold War. And today the motto, in a world where a whole lot of people want to do it, is, “Please Don’t Kill Us.”

The United States does not appease in pursuit of its objectives, appeasement has become the objective. Being hated is the ultimate national security threat. Being loved is the ultimate national security objective. These aren’t even sarcastic observations. They are actual policy.

CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) through outreach to Muslims is our foreign policy and like global warming and gay rights, it encompasses every single area of our government, to the absurd extent that NASA’s top priority under the dog-eater-in-chief was designated as improving Muslim self-esteem. NASA’s former priority of boosting American self-esteem was no longer appropriate because that would just make people hate us even more and make us act in such a way that they would hate us.

Americans and American leaders now both want the same thing. To be left alone. But American leaders remain convinced that the best way to be left alone is to appease those who might want to attack their country by minimizing national power and contributing more lunch money to their international cause of free lunches.

America is often accused of bullying other nations, but our policies are not those of a bully, they are those of his victim cowering in the corner with broken glasses and smeared tears, one hand extended with his crumpled up lunch money inside. Our lunch money total comes into the many billions, but as our bullies and their advocates remind us, we’re rich enough to be able to afford it.

The kid in the corner has been bullied enough that his only policy is avoiding another incident. That is our foreign policy, driven by CVE or Here’s Some More Halal Lunch Money, finding ways of getting the bullies to leave us alone. Even the more militant elements of our military campaign are defensive, ripe with ways to convince the bullies to leave us alone, using drones to minimize civilian casualties and nation building exercises to turn our bullies into friendly peaceloving countries.

Reactive foreign policies are a recipe for defeat, but America has never had any foreign policy beyond progressive world citizenship and coalition building against global threats. And that has made American into the world’s social worker and the world’s policeman for so long that it has hardly any sense of what it might want for itself, as a country.

America is still involved in global citizenship projects even though the dictatorships who are the plurality of the global polity and the progressives who define global citizenship innately hate it. while working hard at maintaining global coalitions that do not exist against a threat that not even it is prepared to name. Whatever relevance these had, they no longer have any relevance when the conventional clash of nations of the Cold War gave way to the ride of the barbarians in the Islamic Wars of Terror.

The United States has been suckered into playing the same game as Israel. The impossible game of winning wars without alienating anyone. And that game is played by not winning wars and being more hated than if they had won all those wars. If we are forced to fight because we are hated, then the only way to avoid fighting is not be hated which means fighting just enough to survive, but not enough to earn us any more than the minimum amount of hate balanced against the minimum amount of survival. And if we win, maybe they’ll leave us alone. If they don’t, we’ll fight back even less.

During the Cold War the United States sacrificed its economy, its trade balance and its manufacturing sector to score coalition points and contain Communism. With Communism defeated and capitalism thriving in Russia and China, the United States is now stripping away civil liberties to counter Islamic terrorism. But that doesn’t just mean strip searches in airports, it means outlawing anything that offends Muslims. And if we survive that, and the Muslim world becomes a mecca of free speech, then we’ll have won yet another Pyrrhic victory at our own expense.

Countering external threats is a legitimate foreign policy interest, but it cannot be the only interest. That way leads to a purely reactive foreign policy and down the garden path to Stockholm Syndrome politics that accept responsibility for the actions of an aggressor to maintain the illusion of control over his actions. Our leaders, the ones who eat dogs and the ones who just pose for photos with them, are already there. If we reach European critical velocity, then we’ll be there as an entire nation, not just members of our chattering and spending classes.

America needs a foreign policy that is bigger than its defensive needs but smaller than progressive ambitions of global citizenship. It is a foreign policy that cannot be defensive or altruistic, but that actually resurrects the long buried question of American interests, rather than American obligations or needs. And to get there, the country’s policymakers have to get in touch with their 19th Century selves and stop asking what America is obligated to do for the world or what it desperately needs from the world, but what it would like to do with the world.

That is the way that Russia or China think. It’s the way that most countries, from the largest rivals to the smallest islands, approach the outside world, not as a place that they are obligated to or whom they dare not offend, but as a place for extending their ambitions and sense of self into. That does not mean going on a spree of territorial expansionism, necessarily, but that too would be a healthier way to function than the listless apathy of appeasement that has overtaken American foreign policy.

A foreign policy is assertive. It seeks to gain things, rather than to minimize losing things. It is not as concerned with the feelings of the world, as it is with the feelings of its own citizens. To the question of what it wants, it does not answer with the time-honored response of Miss America contestants, to make the world a better place, but rather it answers to make America better, bigger, richer and stronger. That answer is not idealistic, it is realistic. It is how other countries expect us to think and it is how they react no matter how altruistic our policies may be.

American foreign policy needs goals and horizons to gain definition. It needs to want something more than a way to avert the next big explosion or to feed the hungry people of Warlordistan to have a foreign policy that is based on substance, rather than cobwebs of fears and dreams. It needs to stand not for a better world, but for a better, stronger and richer America.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

J.E. Dyer: A Tale of Two Embassies

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Are liberty and the right to intellectual freedom – including free speech – on “the right side of history”?  I’m increasingly unsure how the Obama administration would answer that question.  I’m even a little unsure how the American public would answer it.  The latest and most disturbing case in point is the handling of the situation with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was escorted out of the US embassy in Beijing this week and left in the hands of the Chinese authorities.

Chen, who is blind, was transported to the US embassy on 22 April by well-wishers in China, barely escaping pursuit by authorities.  To secure his departure from the embassy compound, the US agreed to a deal with China by which Chen and his family, who have been tortured and subjected to a brutal form of house arrest for seven years, would be allowed to live, undetained, near a university where Chen could pursue academic studies.  No information has been released as to how the features of that deal would be verified.

Chen reportedly made the decision to leave the embassy when he was told by American personnel that his wife would be beaten by authorities if he did not give himself up.  Chen is in a Chinese hospital, in an extremely vulnerable position, and has been making appeals through the foreign media for help for him and his family.  He has now officially requested asylum of the United States.

Embassies do not make a practice of publicly spiriting asylum-seekers out of host nations, although the embassies of a number of nations, including the US, have quietly assisted over the years in getting asylum-seekers to safety.  During the Cold War, there were official procedures for handling the issue in US embassies and consulates.  Nevertheless, in a publicized case inside the country the dissident seeks to leave, the embassy will not, during normal peacetime relations, take him out of the country by force majeure.

What the embassy can do, however, is offer refuge to the dissident.  The grounds of the US embassy, anywhere in the world, are sovereign US territory.  And what the United States can do is put pressure not on the dissident, but on the dictatorial communist government, to allow Chen and his family to be reunited, and to travel abroad if that’s what they want to do.  Such pressure is more effective when the US has the dissident in safety, and is clearly going to withstand any pressure to give him back to a government that has been torturing and imprisoning him for his beliefs.

The US can put a spotlight on the dissident’s plight, and ensure that the world is watching anything the communist authorities do to his family.  More than that, the president can make it a personal priority to see the dissident released into a safe situation – abroad, if necessary or desired – and a promising future.

How do we know a president and his embassies can do this?  Because it’s what was done by two presidents – Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan – for two Russian Pentecostal Christian families in the former Soviet Union.

On 27 July, 1978, two Pentecostal families from Chernogorsk, in Siberia, burst into the US embassy in Moscow, seeking American help to leave the country.  They had been attempting to emigrate from the USSR for as much as 20 years (in the case of one of their number), which had resulted only in more assiduous oppression by the Soviet authorities.

Of President Carter, we may say that he did at least the minimum by allowing the Pentecostals to remain in the embassy (where they eventually lived for five years).  There is an interesting echo of the accounts of embassy pressure on Chen in this exchange in October 1978 between Carter and the press (view it here in the papers of the Carter administration):

Q:  Mr. President, a family of Russian Pentecostals, the Vaschenkos, are seeking asylum and are lodged in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  They said in letters that have been smuggled out that the embassy is bringing subtle, emotional pressure to expel them into the hands of the Russians, probably at great risk.  Did you direct the embassy to seek their ouster, or are you willing to give them asylum and visas?

The President.  They are Russian citizens, as you know, and have been in the embassy in the Soviet Union, in Moscow, the American Embassy, for months.  We have provided them a place to stay.  We provided them a room to live in, even though this is not a residence with normal quarters for them.  I would presume that they have no reason to smuggle out correspondence to this country since they have the embassy officials’ ability to transmit messages.  I have not directed the embassy to discharge them from the embassy, no.

Reagan had a more proactive approach, one remembered and affirmed by others in later years.  His concern for those suffering persecution in the communist world was genuine and passionate.  Kiron Skinner wrote about Reagan’s intervention with Soviet authorities – including direct appeals to Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov – in his 2007 book Turning Points in Ending the Cold War.  (See excerpts from pp. 103-4 here.)  According to Skinner:

By the summer of 1983, at the height of the Cold War chill, Reagan and Andropov had privately worked out the details of the Pentecostals’ release from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the families were allowed to leave the country.  As Secretary [of State George] Schultz writes in his memoir, “This was the first successful negotiation with the Soviets in the Reagan administration.”  Schultz further notes, “Reagan’s own role in it had been crucial.”

Skinner recounts further the release of well-known dissident Natan Sharansky in 1986 (then known, before his emigration to Israel, as Anatoly Scharansky), as well as Reagan’s advocacy for the Pentecostals and the army of intellectual dissidents in the Soviet Union on his radio program in the 1970s.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/j-e-dyer-a-tale-of-two-embassies/2012/05/07/

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