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A good old American tug on the fraying fabric of peace

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Philip Kraske       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Imagine how different Ukraine would be today if the U.S. and -- prodded by the U.S. -- the European Union had not put their weight behind the Maidan Revolution. Lacking that sweet five billion bucks that Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland bragged about, the rebels would not have overturned the government. The country would be simmering, rather than shooting, and united at least in their disgust with their corrupt government. And Crimea would still be Ukrainian.

Imagine how different if the U.S. had favored, publicly and privately, negotiations between the pro- and anti-Russian elements in both the capital and around the country. This, together with an electoral, by-the-book change in the government might have been a truly salutary watershed in the country's politics.

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The Cold War -- how the U.S. military must be rubbing its hands! -- might not have been rekindled. And Russia, for its part, might not have been stuck once again with its reputation for hegemony.

"All around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying," New York Times columnist David Brooks lamented this past week. "The leaders of Russia and Ukraine escalate their apocalyptic rhetoric. The Sunni-Shiite split worsens as Syria and Iraq slide into chaos. China pushes its weight around in the Pacific."

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Yet the first two crises -- Ukraine and the Sunni-Shiite conflict -- are surely the result of Amercian bumbling, the latter the aftershock of America's ham-fisted invasion of Iraq. As to China, what weight is he referring to? Their half-hearted squawking about the Senkaku/Diaoyu isles, which Japan also claims? The Chinese government has not lifted a finger regarding "illegal" flyovers of the islands, which makes one wonder if the government isn't just making a gesture to domestic constituencies, like the military or the business elite who wants to exploit the area's oil and gas deposits. At any rate, the government is evidently not willing to throw any weight into the air over the issue.

Brooks quite rightly praises the system of foreign affairs going back to the Treaty of Westphalia, which protects "the desire for regional dominance and the desire to eliminate diversity." And he goes on to decry that "China, Russia and Iran have different values, but all oppose this system of liberal pluralism."

Surely he has forgotten recent American history. Has regional dominance anywhere been greater than America's in Latin America over the past century? Its foreign-policy domination of west Europe has been only slightly less great. And as to pluralism and diversity, who can forget Condoleeza Rice's carefree statement in an August 2008 Foreign Affairs issue, "Indeed, we have shown that by marrying American power and American values, we could help friends and allies expand the boundaries of what most thought realistic at the time." The list of abandoned, scarred offspring from that unhappy marriage lengthens every year.

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"Preserving that hard-earned [liberal, pluralistic system] ecosystem requires an ever-advancing fabric of alliances, clear lines about what behavior is unacceptably system-disrupting, and the credible threat of political, financial and hard power enforcement," Brooks concludes, and he's again right.

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Philip Kraske lives in Spain, where he teaches English, does translation, and writes both prose fiction (novels) and verse.

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