In retrospect the conduct of the Bush White House over nearly eight years is probably the most mismanaged foreign policy the USA has ever seen. It began with the absurd buffoonery of George Bush claiming he had seen into Vladimir Putin’s soul and the strategic blunder of uniting unlikely bedfellows as enemies by enumerating the “axis of evil.” From there the Bush administration’s foreign policy progressed to an astoundingly mismanaged war in Iraq. That Iraq war was only recovered after more than four years when the Bush team ceased making strategic and tactical decisions, finally making use of the professionally trained personnel that are available to every administration.
Along the way, that same administration nearly ignored the war against Al Qaeda, resulting in the development of a new quasi-state run by Al Qaeda in western Pakistan, with a border approximately 90 miles from that nation’s capitol. All that time, this administration either ignored Russia, disregarded their claims, or had the secretary of state lecture Vladimir Putin like a schoolboy. More could be said, but more atrocious mismanagement would be difficult to make plausible in a work of fiction.
Concentrating on Russia, at this point I lean toward Barack Obama on foreign policy in the hope that Obama’s team will find good advisers and negotiate some reasonable deals. I seriously considered John McCain prior to John’s selection of a running mate. My reasons for considering John McCain are involved with his distancing from the Bush administration’s rhetoric, and hoping that the team would have learned something. The incident in Georgia showed me that the current Bush administration was incapable of making a sensible decision on its feet, because the USA did not fly air cover in Georgia. As a result the balance of power in the world has already shifted beneath our feet. John McCain’s involvement with the Saakishvili administration smacks of at least poor judgment by his adviser, Randy Schuenemann. All of those add up, after John’s appointment of a plausible successor who has no clue, to a vote of no-confidence from me. But, I don't think anybody "gets it" with Russia yet – not in America.
Both Republicans and Democrats have been blundering to the point of idiocy toward Russia. We are already in a new era, and we put ourselves there by proving to Russia that our solutions for them are worthless. We gave them shock treatment and it nearly destroyed them. We proved that we won't help them and probably aren't capable of it, when we gave them IMF loans like a thunderstorm on a desert, which put criminals and fools in power there, washing away civil society. We followed that up by suddenly cutting off the money and denying them credit, resulting in starvation. We proved that whether they are weak or strong, friendly or not, we will treat them as an enemy when we pressed to expand NATO and then bombed Serbia, which is culturally to Russia like England is to the USA. Additionally, we showed that we will disregard any claims they may have based on their investments and will do our best to cut them out of revenue streams when we kicked them out of Iraq with billions invested outstanding and refused to split the oil flow from central Asia with a Russian pipeline. All of these moves appear completely sensible to the USA and we sincerely believe that we are righteously correct. And yet ...
Consider that the USA has encircled Russia, pressing on their borders by expanding NATO through Democratic and Republican administrations. Meanwhile, both Democratic and Republican administrations have treated China with comparative kid gloves. We have shown China respect and pursued business deals there with élan. Now please note that China has yet to make any real gesture remotely similar to taking down the Berlin Wall. The message we sent is clear. Shows of weakness and demonstrations of good faith will be treated with a mixture of ignorance, contempt and possibly deliberate malice. That is, in a nutshell, the background and what we see Russia doing is what it must do to get what it needs to survive. Perhaps Russia will be able to thrive.
The Kremlin has, quite clearly, absorbed the message we sent them; that if a nation such as China goes so far as to knock one of our spy planes out of the sky, we will respond with respect and be happy to trade with them; that if a strong nation demands the return of territory it lost half a century ago, we will talk nice about it. But if Russia wants to get back territory that was Russia’s 20 years ago, we do what? Consider that China, with no gesture toward our values at all has been essentially told that we will not recognize Taiwan as not being theirs.
Contrast this with what Russia has experienced with Georgia and Ukraine. Now, nearly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, our stupidity, demonstrated by academics, government policy and programs, executive orders and absurdist “diplomacy,” the world has already changed. But nobody recognizes it yet from either party. In fact, I believe that to do so would be taboo in our national culture. As a result, now, we are only reacting, and our reactions are no better than what went before.
Folks, we are not in the driver’s seat anymore with Russia. We are dealing now with an opponent we insisted on having, an opponent that is now largely of our own making. The USA would not put up with Russia bringing an independent Washington State (somewhat like the country of Georgia) into an alliance between Russia and China. Nor would the USA put up with California declaring its independence (like Ukraine) and then becoming allied with the same Asian power axis. Not on your life would we accept that! And if, like Russia, to compound that, we had China just to our southern border, we would be extremely alarmed. That is what Russia’s situation is like. America needs to “get it.”
Bluntly, both Republicans and Democrats have been abysmal in their foreign policy toward Russia. Abysmal foreign policy toward much of the rest of the world (while continuing to be idiotic toward Russia) is an achievement unique to the Republican Party. Since John McCain chose a know-nothing running mate, and demonstrated foolishness in Georgia, I must put my vote with Barack Obama. His foreign policy initiatives have at least made sense for America, and not been characterized by overwhelming hubris. Frankly, that hubris can bring us low, and the speed of change in the world today is remarkable. I do not want to lose, and I think Obama is our best bet.