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“Unregenerated Paulism Strikes Again!”: What Changed In The Last Six Years For “Paul The Younger”?

Last week MoJo’s David Corn drew attention to the rather large flip-flop being executed by the junior senator from Kentucky with respect to America’s relationship with Russia:

Earlier this week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slammed President Barack Obama for not doing enough in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea….

Paul went on to outline a number of steps he would take, were he president, including imposing economic sanctions and visa bans (which Obama has already implemented), kicking Russia out of the G-8, and building the Keystone XL pipeline. (He did not explain how helping a Canadian firm export tar sands oil would intimidate Putin.) He added, “I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic.” He griped, “The real problem is that Russia’s President is not currently fearful or threatened in any way by America’s President, despite his country’s blatant aggression.”

This was, Corn noted, a million miles away from Rand Paul’s reaction to Russian aggression towards Georgia.

[W]hen Russia sent troops into Georgia (on George W. Bush’s watch), Paul didn’t want to provoke Russia by placing missiles in Poland. Yet today, when Russia moves into Ukraine (on Obama’s watch), he’s all for dispatching missiles to Poland to send a message to Putin. Does Paul care more about Crimea than Georgia? Or does he care more about keeping a foot on the GOP’s anti-Obama bandwagon? Paul’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

It appears that Paul, an isolationist who doesn’t want to be isolated within the GOP, spotted the opportunity to develop some Obama-bashing hawk cred as the presidential campaign nears. “I stand with the people of Ukraine,” Paul declares now, though that was not what he said about Georgians. What’s changed in the past six years: geopolitics or Paul’s own political calculations?

Paul the Younger can safely survive exposure of his flip-flop by David Corn. But it’s a little more difficult for him to ignore Paul the Elder, who sees no need to change his own take on U.S. foreign policy, as indicated by his pungent op-ed at USAT today:

Residents of Crimea voted over the weekend on whether they would remain an autonomous region of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. In so doing, they joined a number of countries and regions — including recently Scotland, Catalonia and Venice — that are seeking to secede from what they view as unresponsive or oppressive governments.

These latter three are proceeding without much notice, while the overwhelming Crimea vote to secede from Ukraine has incensed U.S. and European Union officials, and has led NATO closer to conflict with Russia than since the height of the Cold War.

What’s the big deal? Opponents of the Crimea vote like to point to the illegality of the referendum. But self-determination is a centerpiece of international law. Article I of the United Nations Charter points out clearly that the purpose of the U.N. is to “develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”

Why does the U.S. care which flag will be hoisted on a small piece of land thousands of miles away?

Critics point to the Russian “occupation” of Crimea as evidence that no fair vote could have taken place. Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by U.S. troops was called a “triumph of democracy”?

Perhaps the U.S. officials who supported the unconstitutional overthrow of Ukraine’s government should refocus their energies on learning our own Constitution, which does not allow the U.S. government to overthrow governments overseas or send a billion dollars to bail out Ukraine and its international creditors.

Suffice it to say that “What’s the big deal?” is not a terribly popular position to take in contemporary Republican politics towards the infamous “weakness” of Barack Obama towards the rapacious Russian Empire. I suppose it’s possible Rand Paul is going to triangulate on his old man as a definitive illustration of his acceptability to the conventional conservative movement and its militaristic tendencies. Otherwise, there may be some tense moments at the next Paul family dinner.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 18, 2014

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Rand Paul, Ukraine | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Hawks Do Love Those Hitler-Era Talking Points”: Take John McCain’s Russia Advice And You Might Get Another Cold War

I’m not sure what we should do about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am, however, dead sure about what we shouldnt do. Please, Washington—don’t listen to John McCain!

The leader of the capital’s bombs-away caucus spoke exclusively over the weekend to the Beast’s Josh Rogin, who nailed the scoop. It was a relief to see McCain acknowledging that there is no plausible military option. So that’s progress. But the steps McCain advises are certain to heighten tensions and probably start a new Cold War, which is surely what the thuggish Putin wants. It’s most definitely not what the United States should want, at exactly the time when, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has proposed, we should be reducing the size of our military and the reach of our global commitments.

McCain floated three notions: tougher sanctions against Russia and its higher-ranking officials; NATO membership for Georgia; expanded and sped-up missile defense systems in Europe. The first is unobjectionable. The world has to do something here, and sanctions are that something. If we can’t prevent Putin from engaging in this kind of aggression—and face it, we can’t—we can at least do what we can to harm his economy and limit the foreign travel of his high government officials.

But Georgia in NATO and missile defense? McCain and other hawkish types (including, very distressingly, Joe Biden back in 2008) have been banging that gong for years now. Calls for Georgian entry into NATO go back to the mid-2000s, when “Rose Revolution” president Mikheil Saakashvili made it a top priority. It was a horrible idea then—expanding a military alliance right up to the doorstep of a certain country, all but surrounding it, is bound to be seen in that country, and not unreasonably, as a provocative act. It’s even worse when that country happens to have 8,500 nuclear weapons.

And don’t forget NATO’s famous Article 5: an attack on any NATO country will be taken as an attack on all. What would the implications of that commitment have been in 2008, during the Russo-Georgian war in Ossetia? It’s true that Georgia moved first in that conflict, but pretexts for such action are absurdly easy to establish. Would the United States and the other NATO countries have been forced into war against Russia in 2008 if Georgia had been a NATO member then? It’s not at all an idle question, and it’s one well worth keeping in mind now.

As for missile defense, the United States is already scheduled to install missile interceptors in Poland in 2018, which is mistake enough. But at least Obama has drawn back here from stronger commitments to Poland (a charter member of the coalition of the willing, remember?) made by the Bush administration. The Bush commitment was for interceptors of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Obama scaled that back to interceptors of intermediate-range missiles. There will now be pressure from McCain and others to go back to Bush’s plan, and to get them there faster than 2018, which is the Obama timetable.

I’m hardly an expert on the different types of missile interceptors, so if the question is which one to deploy, I readily confess I’m not your man. But I have a better question: What in blazes does Poland have to do with this anyway? Is Putin set to invade Poland—a member of the European Union and of NATO? Is this 1939? The hawks do love those Hitler-era talking points. Yes, certain parallels can be drawn between what Putin is doing here and what Hitler did in the Sudetenland. But do we really think he wants to drag all of Europe into a war, wipe Germany off the map, put Russia’s and Europe’s gay population in concentration camps? Putin is a hideous person, but a latter-day Hitler he is probably not, and even if he did want to do those things, trillions of dollars in trade are at stake for him in his relations with Europe in a way that wasn’t at all true in the 1930s.

In fact, yesterday Putin accepted Angela Merkel’s mediation offer for a contact group to discuss the crisis, suggesting perhaps that his aims here, however repugnant, may fall short of world domination

We have to express our disapproval, and we should impose sanctions. Beyond that, there just isn’t much we can do, and there isn’t much we should do. Timothy Snyder, a leading expert on the region, writes in The New Republic that the EU should undertake a series of moves designed in effect to banish Russia’s upper classes from European banks and cities and private schools and resort playgrounds, which might well get the attention of the only people (Putin-approved kleptocrats) who can possibly influence Putin’s behavior.

And as for McCain and his Cold War caucus: McCain wants the United States to do the things he wants it to do so that the United States remains the world’s only true hegemonic power. For almost all of John McCain’s sentient life, we had a bipolar world, and then, after 1991, a unipolar world. The McCains of America think the bipolar world was a freak accident of history and the unipolar world is the default way things ought to be.

But the unipolar era of U.S. dominance is—increasingly, was—itself a product of particular historical forces, and those forces are changing rapidly. We’re returning to a multipolar world in which there will be other powers that can operate more or less on the United States’ level. Far from resisting this we should welcome it. I’m not a liberal isolationist, and certainly no pacifist either. Although it’s not possible to quantify—it’s like trying to measure how much rain didn’t fall—I think there’s no doubt that our global military presence has prevented more problems than it has created, and we shouldn’t pull too far back. But we should start sharing that burden with other nations and multilateral organizations more than we have.

And most of all, recreating a bipolar world of U.S.-Russia conflict is at the very bottom of our global “to do” list. We don’t have to like Putin or what he’s doing here, but let’s not pretend that who controls the Crimea is a question of first-rank global importance, and let’s not play into Putin’s grubby hands. Demagogues only gain power when they can whip their people into a frenzy about an outside enemy. Obama must not help him, and must’nt let himself get cowed by a hectoring neocon right into saying things he shouldn’t say.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 3, 2014

March 5, 2014 Posted by | John McCain, Russia, Ukraine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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