Category Archives: Europe

Obama’s Enlightened Foolery

He views Putin, the 21st century, and himself as in a fun-house mirror.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

President Obama talks about Vladimir Putin as if he were a Pennsylvania “clinger” who operates on outdated principles, who is driven by fear, and whom unfortunately the post-Enlightenment mind of even Barack Obama

Mykl Roventine  via Flickr

Mykl Roventine via Flickr

cannot always reach. Deconstruct a recent CBS News interview with President Obama, and the limitations of his now-routine psychoanalyses are all too clear. Consider the following presidential assertions:

Obama said in the CBS interview that Vladimir Putin was “willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union.”

Is that any surprise? Why would Putin not “show a deeply held grievance” — given that Russians enjoyed far more pride and influence when they had far more territory and power than they do now? Just because elites in the West might consider Denmark and Luxembourg model societies, given their per capita incomes, ample social services, high-speed mass transit, and climate-change sensitivities, does not necessarily mean that the grandchildren of Stalingrad and Leningrad would agree.   Read more →

Loud + Weak = War

China and Russia are no more impressed with empty bluster today than Japan was in 1941.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.477px-Franklin_Roosevelt_signing_declaration_of_war_against_Japan

The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.

Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Britain at the same time promoted a loud Singapore Strategy, trumpeting its Malaysian base as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” But London did not send out up-to-date planes, carriers, or gunnery to the Pacific.

Japan was not impressed. It surprise-attacked the base right after Pearl Harbor. The British surrendered Singapore in February 1942, in the most ignominious defeat in British military history.

By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete. He began to slash both their budgets. Read more →

Of Pre- and Postmodern Poseurs

Obama’s postmodernism has met its match in premodern Putin.

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

Vladimir Putin thinks he has a winning formula to restore the global clout of the old Soviet Union. Contemporary Russia is a chaotic, shrinking, and petrodollar-fed kleptocracy. It certainly lacks the population, the vast resources, and territory of its former communist incarnation. For Putin, restoring a lot of the latter without necessarily the former failed communist state makes sense — especially if he can do it on the cheap with passive-aggressive diplomacy and not getting into a shooting war with the far more powerful U.S. If there is a downside for Putin annexing the Crimea in the short term, no one has yet to explain it. Read more →

The Hitler Model

Why do weak nations like Russia provoke stronger ones like the United States?

by Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas 

An ascendant Vladimir Putin is dismantling the Ukraine and absorbing its eastern territory in the Crimea. President Obama is fighting back against critics that his administration serially projected weakness, and thereby lost the ability to deter rogue

World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum

regimes. Obama, of course, rejects the notion that his own mixed signals have emboldened Putin to try something stupid that he might otherwise not have. After all, in terms of planes, ships, soldiers, nuclear strength, and economic clout, Putin must concede that he has only a fraction of the strength of what is at the disposal of the United States.

In the recriminations that have followed Putin’s daring intervention, Team Obama has also assured the international community that Putin is committing strategic suicide, given the gap between his ambitions of expanding the Russian Federation by threats of force and intimidation, and the rather limited means to do so at his disposal. Perhaps Putin is pandering to Russian public opinion or simply delusional in his wildly wrong calculations of all the bad things that may befall him.

Do any of those rationalizations matter—given that Putin, in fact, did intervene, plans to stay in the eastern Ukraine, and has put other former member states of the former Soviet Union on implicit notice that their future behavior may determine whether they too are similarly absorbed?

History is replete with examples of demonstrably weaker states invading or intervening in other countries that could in theory or in time bring to their defense far greater resources. On September 1, 1939, Hitler was both militarily and economically weaker than France and Britain combined. So what? That fact certainly did not stop the Wehrmacht over the next eight months from invading, defeating, and occupying seven countries in a row.

Hitler was far weaker than the Soviet Union. Still, he foolishly destroyed his non-aggression pact with Stalin to invade Russia on June 22, 1941. Next, Nazi Germany, when bogged down outside Moscow and having suffered almost a million casualties in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, certainly was weaker than the United States, when Hitler idiotically declared war on America on December 11, 1941. Read more →

The Incoherence of Western Foreign Policy

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The crisis in Ukraine is just the latest in a long series of foreign policy failures brought about by the incoherence in our thinking about foreign relations. On the one hand, we have championed ethnic-national self-determination as the highest international good, while on the other we have assumed that all these various nations and peoples share the same ideals, principles, and goods, and so can comprise a transnational order that will eliminate war and conflict and create peace and prosperity. Over a hundred years of history reveal these ideals not just to be incompatible, but also to foment and worsen inter-state violence. Read more →

‘This Is the Last Territorial Demand I Have to Make in Europe’

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner 

Vladimir Putin all but said the above yesterday, after annexing the Crimea — and promising to let alone the rest of the Ukraine. If we just insert Ukraine and Russia for Czechoslovakia and Germany, the following speech could easily be Putin’s: Read more →

The Chihuahua Theory of Foreign Policy

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner 

The new administration party line is that Putin is now weak and acting out of just that weakness by sending troops into Ukrainian territory — a sort of chihuahua who took on a pit

bhlogiston via Flickr

bhlogiston via Flickr

bull because he knew he was weak.

But even weak states do not typically invade others because they accept that they are weak (and thereby expect to lose?), but usually because, even if weak, they at least still expect to be strong enough to win. Even demonstrably weak Mussolini apprised the political and military landscape and thought that he could win something when he opportunistically invaded a tottering France in June 1940.

Of course, the point is not so much whether Putin is acting out of weakness and frustration at Obama’s purported strength (a fantasy), or even whether he is acting out of strength due to Obama’s clear weakness (most likely), but rather that he is acting at all.

While he absorbs eastern Ukraine, we may call that gambit stupid, catered toward Russian public opinion, self-destructive, strategically inept, and proof of weakness. But those remain Read more →

A Modest Proposal on Ukraine

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s the Corner 

Of all the advice to Obama to reverse his brand of Carterism, the best might simply be to shut his eyes, and every time he gets angry and is about to say something about Israel, stop, and think first to substitute the reset vocabulary he has used with Putin in the past. And vice versa: Imagine Russia is “Israel!” and Putin “Netanyahu” each time he wants to see red and reset reset. Read more →

Sacrificing the Military to Entitlements

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Vladimir Putin, playing geopolitical chess while our president plays tiddlywinks, has effectively taken over Crimea. Armed men, looking suspiciously like Russian military personnel, have seized both airports and established border checkpoints decorated with Kalashnikovs and Russian flags. This comes after other armed men seized two government buildings and raised Russian flags, as the legislature appointed a pro-Russian regional

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein after arriving at the missile alert facility and launch control center at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., Jan. 9, 2014. Hagel was on a two-day trip to visit commands in the western United States.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, center, is escorted by U.S. Air Force Gen. Jack Weinstein 

leader. Meanwhile Russian military forces are gathering on the border, with Russia’s parliament unanimously voting to approve deploying troops in Ukraine.

This is just Putin’s latest revanchist expansion of Russian power throughout the region. He’s been at this for a while. Remember that during the Bush administration he stole chunks of Moldova and Georgia, using the same argument of ethnic self-determination that served Hitler so well in 1938, when he made the Sudeten Germans the pretext for gobbling up Czechoslovakia. Remember when in 2005 Putin said that after the collapse of the Soviet Union––the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, as he put it–– “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”? And just as England and France did nothing except talk about Hitler’s aggression, so too the West has blustered Read more →

The Stepping Stones to the Ukraine Crisis

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner 

Each step to the present Ukrainian predicament was in and of itself hardly earth-shattering and was sort of framed by Obama’s open-mic assurance to Medvedev to tell Vladimir that he would more flexible after the election.

Limbic viz Flickr

Limbic viz Flickr

Indeed, Obama, as is his wont, always had mellifluous and sophistic arguments for why we had to take every soldier out of Iraq after the successful surge; why we needed to drop missile defense with the Poles and Czechs; why we needed both a surge and simultaneous deadline to end the surge in Afghanistan; why we first issued serial deadlines to Iran to ask them to please stop proliferation, then just quit the sanctions altogether just as they started to work; why we needed to “lead from behind” in Libya; why the Muslim Brotherhood was largely secular and legitimate and then later not so much so; why we issued redlines and bragged about Putin’s “help” to eliminate WMD in Syria, and were going to bomb and then not bomb and then maybe bomb; why we kept pressuring Israel; why we cozied up to an increasingly dictatorial Turkey; why we reached out to Cuba and Venezuela; and why we sometimes embarrassed old allies like Britain, Canada, and Israel. Read more →