First published on March 20, 2014
President Barack Obama and top military leaders in the U.S. know nothing of the “coercive diplomacy” which Stanford political scientist Alexander George persuasively demonstrated has helped the U.S. avoid armed conflict on a number of occasions.
In his efforts to influence Putin’s calculus, Obama does not believe it is useful to maintain doubt in Putin’s mind as to whether the U.S. or NATO might respond with military force if, for example, Russia were to invade the rest of the Ukraine.
Obama pursued the same course in Syria, repeatedly reassuring his opponents (in Damascus, Moscow and Tehran), through his own statements or those of top U.S. and NATO military officials, that the U.S. and NATO would not use military force to halt the atrocities in that country.
When pushed into a corner by his own rhetoric about his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and his own inaction in the face of smaller-scale attacks with chemical weapons in the months leading up to al-Assad’s attack at Ghouta on August 21, 2014, he made preparations to launch cruise missile and other attacks against Syria. In the weeks leading up to the point of decision, the press was full of leaks about the nature of the strikes being contemplated, including assurances that they would not involve major or extended military action.
When the moment came to launch even these self-described minimal strikes, Obama flinched, and did not order the strikes. Instead, without consulting his top military and civilian advisors, he threw the hot potato to Congress for authorization, which he had to know was unlikely, while grasping at the lifeline Russia threw to him to remove chemical weapons from Syria. The agreement brokered by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Geneva and subsequently endorsed by the U.N. Security Counci, was reached in exchange for what has amounted to a policy of allowing al-Assad to remain in power and to continue his commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a very broad scale.
Obama apparently never heard of the old boxer’s maxim, “Never telegraph your punches.”
We are left with a leadership in the U.S, and Europe (except for France) of “hybrid” pacifists, who are unwilling to even think of the use of force to defend fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter and international law, and the Enlightenment values of individual freedom and respect for fundamental human rights (e.g., the right not to be tortured, or the right to trial by an independent judge), or indeed against the military seizure and annexation of the territory of another state.
They are “hybrid” pacifists because they will use force on a limited scale in Africa with Security Council authorization, but remain unwilling to consider the use of force in a major way to defend their most important national interests.
As the pacifists in Washington and Europe reassure Putin that they are not even considering the use of military force, no matter what he does, an entire civilization opens itself to the depredations of authoritarian rogue states like Russia, and a brutal reshaping of the political and economic order established and maintained for the last 70 years following plans for and the establishment of the United Nations.
Ronald Reagan in Berlin challenged the Soviet Union to “Tear down this wall!” Now Obama and the other pacifist leaders of the West reassure Putin and Russia (and China) that they will not even consider using force to defend their vital interests, no matter what Russia does, as new walls go up.
The sanctions for the miltary takeover of the Crimea hardly amounted to “a slap on the wrist”. The expansion of those sanctions to include additional targeted individuals and now a bank are more serious, but still unlikely to prevent Putin from further mischief in the Ukraine and with its economy over the next year or so, when the concentrated attention of the West has dissipated and things have returned to business as usual. There is no leverage to force Russia through negotiations to disgorge the Crimea. Thus, a military invasion and anexation of the territory of another state is likely to be left standing, in Europe.
Appeasement continues, as Russia and China urgently work on a treaty of alliance that would profoundly disrupt and reshape the postwar political and legal order. Meanwhile, the President of the European Parliament urgently warns of war in Europe if stiffer sanctions against Russia are not adopted.
Russian aggression. Tanks and rockets, and in the background rockets with nuclear weapons. Pacifist and clueless leaders in the West, determined to pursue–and to telegraph to Russia–a policy of appeasement in the face of Putin’s military threats.
The Trenchant Observer
Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
El Observador Incisivo