A four point sermon to aspiring US presidential hopefuls on how to avoid war and become partners with Russia
As the presidential race enters its final one-year phase, all the candidates must have figured out by now what kind of foreign policy vision they can present to the American people to get their votes.
One sure strategy is to bash Obama for all the mess he’ll have left behind when his term is over. It is a huge mess indeed, and there is no point in recapitulating all the blunders he and his administration committed over the years.
The results are on public display. Yes, it is always easier to criticize someone than to express alternative and better options; it is even more difficult to present the objectives that you intend to pursue after the victory, not just to fool the voters as politicians usually do.
For simplicity sake let us concentrate only on US--Russia policies; indeed, according to the Washington foreign policy establishment, it is Russia that is US enemy number one, worse even than international terrorism. The American people, however, have a different opinion. According to the recent WSJ/NBC poll, only 14 % said that Russia is an "immediate" military threat while 23% said Russia is not. This, despite the practically round-the-clock process of demonizing Russia and Putin in the mainstream media.
The remaining 60% of Americans do believe that Russia can be a potential threat in the future, but the question in the poll did not specify whose foreign policy, Russia’s or U.S., would be responsible for that.
Since it is more or less obvious that we cannot influence Russia’s policy, at least while Putin is in charge -- and this may last until 2024, and there is no guarantee that his successor will be a softy – why not try to come up with a more sensible US policy? We must do it because the current one has obviously failed dramatically, and because Russia is indeed too important for US security, for in terms of its nuclear weapons potential and delivery systems it is the only superpower that matches America. With its veto power in the UN Security Council Russia can also undermine US influence on the world stage. There are many other reasons why forcing Russia into a geopolitical corner is a bad policy, but these two should be enough.
So what is the alternative? One does not have to look too hard to find the answer. The guy to turn to for advice is well known, and he is none other than Abraham Lincoln, the man who said: “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”
Apparently Putin knows this expression better than Obama does, for he keeps saying that he wants to be America’s friend, so that the two countries might jointly cope with the world’s global challenges, including the fight against Islamic terrorism.
So far Obama has not shown any interest in accepting Putin’s continuous invitations but with the presidential campaign in full swing, and its attendant search for America’s future goals and overall direction, it is certainly of some use to sketch out America’s future foreign policy under a next president. So here are some points, a sort of fulcrum on which such a policy can rest.
Point one: avoidance of a global war or WWIII. For decades the world has been guided by the fear of MAD, or mutually assured destruction in a nuclear war but now that useful fear is dangerously waning. There is talk of a successful first nuclear strike -- which is a suicidal nonsense: no one can be sure of taking out all of the enemy’s ICBMs, especially not submarine-based ones. Then there is an equally dangerous idea of building an impenetrable anti-missile defense (AMD) from behind which America could tell Russia what to do, or else. Suppose Russia does not obey US diktat -- what is to be done then? Something like MAD2, which would close the original MAD loopholes, would serve us much better if avoidance of a global nuclear confrontation is deemed a first priority.
Point two: discontinuing the export of democracy through wars and “color revolutions.” It is too much like Trotsky’s export of the proletarian revolution or the Soviets’ aid to “national-democratic revolutions” in the former colonies, and it just does not work. Experiences in Afganistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine shows some pretty horrific results of hundreds of thousands of deaths and wounded, millions of refugees plus huge chaos, devastation, and ruined economies.
Point three: choosing a humbler role for America as the world’s leader. Constantly proclaiming the indispensability of one’s nation and its readiness to send its troops to any part of the world to protect its interests sounds and looks pretty pathetic. Can anyone point out some recent successes of such policies? Do they bring us more security or friends around the world? Do Europeans enjoy hearing obscenities from a highly placed State Department official, or of Vice President Biden gloating over twisting the Europeans’ arms to impose sanctions on Russia? Even Polish leaders, while publicly talking of their country being America’s most loyal friends in Europe, are privately talking of the US in the most cynical and derogatory language full of expletives.
Point four: America also needs more foreign policy professionalism and less lying, hypocrisy and double standards. Of course, there is nothing in the Ten Commandments against lying per se, and it has been practiced times out of mind not only in diplomacy, yet it is wise to keep it to an unavoidable minimum, for there cannot be any civilized intercourse among nations without some measure of trust. And how can the world trust America, when it preaches democratic values -- and is hand in glove with veritable antipodes of democracy like Saudi Arabia or Qatar.
At this time there are only two GOP contenders who are pledging to implement at least some of these points. They are Donald Trump and Rand Paul.
The rest of the crowd wants more of the same if not worse. Therefore, it would be pretty naïve to believe that change is coming.
It is, in fact, little more than a dream and a prayer.
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