Well, have you noticed we live in interesting times. Yep, I live out here where the US Cavalry used to prowl. You remember them, right. The guys who
ran away from Sitting Bull died with their boots on at the Little Big Horn. Wasn’t the smartest fight we ever got in, but they did their best and the general was right there with them.
Lke Tom Clancy said, “If you’ve ever seen a classic John Ford western, you know who the cavalry are. They are the ones who hold the line on the lawless frontier. They are the soldiers who come to the rescue.”
Times have changed, Bill Kristol writing in Time put it this way, as his indictment
The message is clear. The problem is its content. Obama certainly isn’t sending the message that Colin Powell, after the Cold War, wanted America to send: “Superpower lives here.” Obama’s message, by contrast, is: “Superpower once lived here. No forwarding address.”
Putin understands Obama’s message. He knows he’s won Crimea. The question is whether he’ll win Ukraine.
He thinks he will. He’s dealing with the Obama administration, after all. He looks at the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, he witnesses the failure to enforce the red line in Syria and the subsequent successes of his friend Assad, he chortles at the relaxation of the sanctions on Iran and the desperate desire to cut a nuclear deal, and he sees Obama’s defense cuts. And he reads the New York Times, where David Sanger reports, “Mr. Obama acknowledges, at least in private, that he is managing an era of American retrenchment.”
So Putin sees retrenchment. Putin sees retreat. And Putin sees that Obama is unlikely to reverse course.
Pretty much what I see as well. And it doesn’t make for a peaceful forecast. To be fair, Obama is correct, Russia is a regional power. The problem is, that region is Europe, and that’s where the game is being played. Russia isn’t trying to invade Canada.
The other day, I defined a superpower, here. The definition of a regional power is one that can exert great power over a short distance. Russia, perhaps alone in Europe, qualifies. The only other contender is the United Kingdom. And they, like we, run into the rule that nuclear powers can’t fight each other, simply because it can get out of hand too easily. That’s what won the cold war, it’s also why Cuba is still communist, everybody recognized the rule.
Given that, Poland, and the Balts are likely safe, although it’s a thin cover. In military terms I’d call it concealment, not cover. But it’s worked before, at least for a while.
Bill Kristol continues
In late 1979, with the seizure of American hostages by Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter was mugged by reality. Carter then tried, however haplessly, to change direction. But Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter. Will Obama increase defense spending, as Carter did? Is he likely to launch a military excursion, as Carter did, over the objection—and then resignation—of his dovish secretary of state?
Carter, whatever his problems, was more hawkish than most in his party. In this he followed in the footsteps of every other Democratic president in the past century. Until Barack Obama.
It’s been a bit bewildering, even disorienting, to watch Obama get mugged by reality and refuse to press charges. But of course he doesn’t want to press charges. He doesn’t believe in an international system in which the American role is to lead. Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal was asked by the Financial Times recently about Putin and Obama. He explained: “While the wolf is eating the sheep, there is no shepherd to come to the rescue of the pack. This is where we find ourselves today.”
And that’s all true as well.
Russia is hardly a juggernaut. It’s troops are conscripts, not the combat veteran volunteers we in America and Britain are accustomed to. But in the bad old days, NATO had a saying “Quantity has a quality of its own”. It’s still true. And that calculus, ain’t on our side. Great Satan’s girlfriend reminds us:
European powers in recent years have shelved entire divisions and weapons systems. The British Royal Navy doesn’t operate a proper aircraft carrier. The Netherlands in 2012 disbanded its heavy-armor division, and France and the U.K. each now field a mere 200 main battle tanks. France has cut its orders of Rafale combat jets to six a year from 11. This isn’t even a Maginot Line.
Most alliance members are also dangerously demobilized: Germany last year announced plans to cut its troops to no more than 180,000 from 545,000 at the end of the Cold War. The French military has shrunk to 213,000 from 548,000 in 1990. The U.K. now has 174,000 armed forces, down from 308,000 in 1990.
NATO countries have also been deferring maintenance of major equipment and cutting back weapons inventories. Such neglect, normally hidden, became apparent in 2011 when Britain and France ran out of precision-guided munitions during NATO’s Libya campaign.
Remember, we don’t have much of a committment to Ukraine, just an agreement to consult. Which is just as well, cause we’d have a devil of a time getting much there, and our supply line to Afghanistan goes through Russia. And Europe buys most of its natural gas from Russia as well.
But, supposedly we are leaving AFPAK, and a sensible energy policy would let us make up most of Europe’s shortfall in energy, but we have to decide. We know what the President believes but, the people of America are sovereign.
Should the bugler sound ‘assembly’ or ‘retreat’?