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The 1980’s called and the 1960’s answered

March 21, 2014

President Obama, in one of the  2012 presidential campaign debates, told challenger Mitt Romney that his view of Russia as a threat was a defunct foreign policy view, famously saying “The 1980’s called, and they want their foreign policy back”.

Given the President’s response to the Crimean situation, it looks like the peace movement philosophy of the 1960’s is in play.

Unfortunately Russia and  its current leaders are still living in the 1980’s, perhaps even in the 1950’s. We, on the other hand, are walking softly but throwing away the stick.

It would be lovely if the world and all of its people could just get along in perfect harmony, existing in one pastel-colored, lavender-scented world. The likelihood of that happening is about as probable as believing that you can stand in the middle of a forest fire unprotected and not be burned to a crisp.

Power is not inherently bad. The misuse of power is, but misuse is defined by who is using it, and who it is being used against. Grabbing your small child by the arm to keep him from running out in the road is an exercise in power, but it is not evil or unwarranted. Pushing him into the path of an oncoming train is also power but it is bad. In both instances you are using the physical difference in strength and size to control your child, and the good or bad of it is defined by its intent. Not being a bully doesn’t automatically mean you have to be a patsy.

Whether we could have stopped Russia from grabbing Crimea is unknown, even doubtful. As these things go, the Russians acted in a political nanosecond to seize upon events, striking quickly and decisively to accomplish their goal. Apparently everyone thought they would at most make a diplomatic fuss about the treaty that guaranteed Russia use of the warm water port. That’s the idealist’s view of how everything ought to work in the world.

In that ideal internationalist world, Russia would have gotten in touch with the new Ukrainian government, negotiated a new treaty guaranteeing Russia the use of the port and negotiated ways to protect the rights of the ethnic  Russians living in Ukraine.

In the real world, that didn’t happen. Those aren’t iPads the Russians are carrying, they’re Kalashnikovs. They aren’t driving electric cars, they’re driving tanks.

It will always be the1930’s, 40’s and 80’s somewhere. In the real world if you are attacked by a bear, it only winds up in one of two ways  You’re either dinner or you aren’t. If you aren’t going to be the bear’s dinner, it’s probably because you are going to employ some form of self-defense. If bear spray works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, you’d better have something with a bit more punch in reserve.

For some reason, this administration can only plan for the best case scenario. When reality intrudes, they are simply caught flat-footed. That’s exactly what happened with Obamacare. It was the perfect vision, so everything should go perfectly…except that it didn’t, and now everyone is trying to pick up the pieces.

The stakes are a bit higher when you are playing on the world stage. Maybe this Ukraine thing will all turn out okay, and we can go back to pretending that all is good in the world. Bears might evolve to lose their teeth and claws too, but I’d hate to bet my life on it. 

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