November 14, 2014

The liberal foreign policy game

As Vladimir Putin has marched troops into various parts of the Ukraine, we’ve watched several Obama administration officials, including the president himself, all say more-or-less what John Kerry said: "You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in a 19th century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pretext.”  Such statements, frankly, take my breath away.  It is one thing to have weak foreign policy – it’s another thing altogether to be in denial about how reality works.  Military might doesn’t just go away because the liberal intelligentsia have agreed that it’s old-fashioned and distasteful.  Putin is a realist.  He knows that Europe and America will wag their fingers at him, but nothing more.  In the end, Putin can do pretty much as he likes.  How much does he have to fear from a bunch of anti-militarist ideologues that don’t even believe that countries should have borders?  What’s the worst they might do?  Have a bunch of political science professors at UC Berkeley threaten to withhold an honorary degree?  Arrange a mild tongue lashing on NPR?  You and I have taken worse abuse than that from Democrats and lived – Putin probably figures he will too.  The Russian president is no brilliant statesman by historical standards – it’s just that his opposition has conceded in advance.
The administration’s response to militant Islam has been equally bizarre – more about the preservation of the Western liberal worldview than about the world itself.   If Putin is playing by 19th century rules, the Islamists draw their rules from the 7th.  The grizzly practice of cutting people’s heads off still works perfectly well.  The knives don’t fail to penetrate because it happens to be the 21st century.  To be fair, I haven’t actually heard the “You just don’t do that in the 21st century” phrase used in connection with militant Islam – but only because liberals can barely bring themselves to acknowledge that militant Islam even exists.  It is an assumption of the average liberal mind that any non-white person in the world ought to know instinctively that liberals are their friends.  If forced to acknowledge that some of them don’t know this, supremely egalitarian liberals show themselves capable of the most outrageous sort of ethnocentric arrogance.  They believe the liberal culture of the West is so perfect and so inherently invincible that no backward radical of color can possibly pose it any threat.  They close their eyes and launch a few missiles to appease a fearful public, just hoping that it will all, eventually, fade away so they can get back to the business of perfecting the world.  Liberals would like to censor conservatives – but no one even talks about the possibility of censoring the web sites of jihadists.  That, you know, would be intolerant.
Iran, I think, is a different matter than the rest of militant Islam.  In the first place, it’s Shiite – in the second place, it’s nuclear.  Even if you consider the position of the Iranians objectively, forgetting that they are a warped theocracy that might actually want to use the bomb, it is obvious that they would be crazy not to build it.  George Bush’s Axis of evil consisted of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.  The Iranian leaders only have to look at what happened to Iraq (which didn’t have the bomb) and at what didn’t happen to North Korea (which does have the bomb).  Does any sane person really think we are going to talk them out of that particular piece of national life insurance?  During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian regime was willing to throw a generation of young Iranians into battle untrained and practically unarmed.  Does any sane person really think the Iranian regime is going to be particularly sensitive to economic sanctions?  The bitter clerics that run Iran don’t seem to be starving, and neither do they seem very concerned about being a politically correct feature of the 21st century.  They may be theocratic despots – but they know how power works.  They know it isn’t all about “the messaging.”
Liberals in general, and the Obama administration in particular, find the nasty, competitive, unforgiving realm of international politics distasteful.  Their revulsion toward the military only underlines this.  The liberal model of international affairs is contemporary Europe, in which a small elite of unelected technocrats have worked steadily to make nation states – and elections – irrelevant.  The goal of the left is not world peace, but eventual world government.  They love that particular game so much, they are incapable of accepting that not everybody in the world wants to play.  Putin isn’t interested in being the European Union’s overgrown awkward cousin, and the Islamists aren’t interested in any game in which they cannot crush the decadent, satanic West.

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