Thursday, February 15, 2007

Putin's Remarks In Munich

President Vladimir Putin addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy February 10, 2007 with a rather forceful reproval of American policies. Such an outburst of criticism was summarily trounced in most press accounts as a bellicose loosening of the tongue on the part of the Russian leader.

Two opinions contrary to those rebukes come from Ivan Eland and Patrick Buchanan.

In Buchanan's opinion piece he suggests that there are more than just a few grievances that Russia could have with the U.S. in terms of international relations:

"When the Cold War ended, we seized upon our "unipolar moment" as the lone superpower to seek geopolitical advantage at Russia's expense.

Though the Red Army had picked up and gone home from Eastern Europe voluntarily, and Moscow felt it had an understanding we would not move NATO eastward, we exploited our moment. Not only did we bring Poland into NATO, we brought in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and virtually the whole Warsaw Pact, planting NATO right on Mother Russia's front porch. Now, there is a scheme afoot to bring in Ukraine and Georgia in the Caucasus, the birthplace of Stalin.

Second, America backed a pipeline to deliver Caspian Sea oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, to bypass Russia.

Third, though Putin gave us a green light to use bases in the old Soviet republics for the liberation of Afghanistan, we now seem hell-bent on making those bases in Central Asia permanent.

Fourth, though Bush sold missile defense as directed at rogue states like North Korea, we now learn we are going to put anti-missile systems into Eastern Europe. And against whom are they directed?"

Buchanan goes on to name more, but the point is stated fairly well just with these four; that the U.S. has been camping in the backyard of so many issues close to Russia's interest would make any policy maker take notice and wonder if some of these initiatives aren't a bit too far-reaching.

Eland comes to many of the same conclusions that Buchanan does, but concentrates on the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan to restate that the aggressive militarism promoted by the Bush Administration has served world security quite poorly, and (if one looks beyond the tragedy that is modern day Iraq) has damaged the United States acutely. He goes on to write in his concluding paragraph:

In his most astute criticism of the lone superpower's foreign policy, Putin noted that the power amassed by a global power "destroys it from within." Alluding to the aggressive, militaristic U.S. foreign policy, Putin noted correctly that, "it has nothing in common with democracy, of course." Surprisingly, Putin, a domestic autocrat himself, seems to see what the U.S. Founders knew, but what the occupants of the post-World War II imperial presidency have not been able to fathom. During the Roman Republic, the concentration of power associated with a militarized foreign policy led to the disintegration of the republic itself. The same thing is happening in the United States now. Thus, to safeguard one of the greatest domestic systems in the world, U.S. citizens and policymakers should drop the Tarzan foreign policy and return to the Founders' policy of minimal interference in the affairs of other nations.

Pay special attention to the phrase "destroys it from within." So long as America willfully engages in active armed conflict without a definable national security interest, the country will slowly tear itself down without the help of a foreign power lifting a proverbial finger.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Non-Binding Resolutions From The 109th

During the ongoing debate on President Bush's force escalation being hosted in the House of Representatives, many have claimed that since the debate is over a non-binding resolution the whole affair is meaningless.

John Boehner, Republican Representative from Ohio, said that the debate was "a political charade lacking both the seriousness and the gravity of the issue that it's meant to represent."

It would appear that non-binding resolutions are not unusual in Congresses past and present. Two quick examples come from the 109th - H Res 861 pledged support to the President and called for no timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. A then majority member of the House was quoted as saying: "Retreat is not an option in Iraq,'' declared House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Achieving victory is our only option, for the American people and our kids." At the time it was not a charade to pass such legislation.

Then there was the pro-Israel, anti-Hizbullah non-binding resolution passed in July of 2006 that supported the military effort of the IDF. It placed on record 410 members in favor of Israel's tactics while only 8 voted against the measure.

So what is wrong with Congress putting something on record? It would seem that both parties enjoy using the procedure to generate debate and coverage of political issues while avoiding the full force of law by their actions. It is a tactic to an end, and it only matters for which side the tactic is used before it can be judged right or wrong.