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“Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?” is a line from the bad guy, played by John Travolta, in the 1996 action flick “Broken Arrow.” Not a great addition to our national culture, but slightly enjoyable at the time.
The line keeps popping into my head during this Ukraine crisis.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, the current nuclear arsenal of the United States includes 7,700 warheads, of which 1,950 are Operational Strategic, meaning we could dump them on the Sov. . .excuse me, the Russians. And the Russkies hold 8,500, of which 1,800 are Strategic Operational, meaning they could pop them over your head in 30 minutes or less.
These numbers are down from about 40,000 total weapons for each side during the mid-1980s, before Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to wind down the Cold War and start cutting the arsenals.
That’s the Number One Reality of the Ukraine crisis. Both Obama and Putin know that. Each is followed everywhere by a military officer carrying a “nuclear football,” actually a brief case, holding the codes to launch Armageddon.
That’s why it’s highly unlikely the current Ukraine crisis will boil over into a major superpower conflict.
Even nutty Sen. John McCain isn’t in favor of military intervention by the United States. He conceded in a March 1 statement, “There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force.”
At AIPAC Monday, he called for massive economic sanctions on Russia, and proclaimed, “Why do we care? Because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”
Actually, McCain himself is as responsible for the waning of American strength as anyone except presidents Bush II and Obama. “Power is where power goes,” said Lyndon Johnson. That was the theme of Robert Caro’s “The Passage of Power,” about the transition from JFK to LBJ, which I reviewed in Chronicles a couple years back.
And power goes where it’s used sensibly. In 2001, American power was the greatest of any nation on earth – militarily, economically, politically, culturally (OK, not morally). Then it was frittered away murderously in the idiotic – no other word serves – Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most conservatives (although not Chronicles, of course), showing the hollowness of the movement, backed the wars to the hilt.
The wars displayed how the puissant, ultra-high-tech U.S. military couldn’t defeat guys wearing sandals and bathrobes and carrying Kalashnikovs. It showed the Bush administration and the military did not accept that we now are in a 4th Generation Warfare era, which means states vs. non-state actors. The key need for states under 4GW is to maintain the integrity of states, their own and others, because a dissolved state becomes a haven for terrorists and other non-state actors. So breaking the Iraqi and Afghan states, as bad as they were, was – idiotic.
In Ukraine, the U.S. government is at it again, this time spending $5 billion to bribe local non-state actors to topple the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, who in 2010 actually won a democratic election given the stamp of approval by international authorities. It’s true that he’s hopelessly corrupt, living in a giant mansion. But the U.S. puppet regime that replaced him also will be hopelessly corrupt. So, for that matter, are the dictatorships running Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other American protectorates, yet I don’t see U.S. efforts to overthrow them.
Part of the U.S. problem is that, instead of competent professional diplomats running the State Department, we get incompetent president wannabes like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. The latter looks like Lurch from “The Addams Family” and talks like upper-class-twit Thurston B. Howell III from “Gilligans Island.” It’s 1960s sitcom night on Diplomatic TV!
A month ago, Kerry factotum Victoria Nuland’s infamous “Ukraine-gate” phone call leaked, showing the extent of U.S. meddling. She blabbed profanely on an open cell phone, so anybody could intercept it, not just the Russian FSB, showing her stupidity.
As to Obama, I don’t think he really cares about what’s going on, just so that it doesn’t affect him. He’s looking toward the November election. His first priority is to make sure Democrats don’t lose the U.S. Senate. Doing so would make his life exceedingly miserable, as happened to Reagan after Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole’s incompetence lost the Senate for Republicans in 1986.
Obama knows that Obamacare is as unpopular as scabies. The Republicans are going to use it against his Senate buddies. The last thing he needs is for the Ukraine situation to intensify and possibly turn out really badly, with him getting the blame. He was in the Senate himself in 2006 when both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars turned into quagmires for Bush, losing Republicans the Senate and the House.
So America again is shown to be a paper tiger, as the ChiComs used to day in the 1960s, back when they produce famines instead of junk for the shelves of your local Walmart. And Ukraine could become a non-state that hosts 4GW elements threatening everybody.
More likely, the crisis will fizzle out in a few weeks. Americans, most of whom still don’t know Ukraine from U-2, will forget about it.
Putin will turn Crimea into a quasi-part of Russia for now, like his 2008 occupation South Ossetia not recognized by the international community. Some new elections will be held in the remainder of Ukraine. With the Russians in Crimea no longer voting, the elections will tilt toward the EU-oriented Ukrainians in the west of the country. Guarantees will be given to the Russian minority in the east. The oligarchs will continue looting to profit the EU bureaucrats.
Maybe some mild sanctions will be placed on Russia by the United States. But Russia is vital to the American supply network for our troops in Afghanistan. Despite the problems, Russia still is more reliable for getting materiel into Kabul than our good buddies in Pakistan. This is what happens when you run a global empire and ignore George Washington’s sage advice from his Farewell Address:
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…. the mischiefs of foreign intrigue…. In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe…. I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.”
I don't think that we need to worry about any military intervention. First of all it would be a suicide mission for this country, second of all the majority of the public (neocons excepted of course) appears to feel the same way.
re: public opinion---in the mid-teens most of this week, Saturday we expect the 50's. re: what me worry---to misquote Valenti -"I would sleep better at night if he were not my president "; or better yet if Bismark, Machiavelli, Richelieu or Kennan were conducting our foreign policy instead of wilsonian juveniles.
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