What Of Ukraine?

Mr. Kerry Hasn’t A Clue

Posted: March 20, 2014

Three quotes that speak to the lamentable status quo and the inherent danger of a U.S. foreign policy best describes as “feckless” — that is, if it even exists.

Secretary of State John Kerry, commenting on Vladimir Putin’s revanchist dreams, as suggested by his incursion into Ukraine: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”

Columnist Cal Thomas, after duly quoting former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (“No foreign policy — no matter how ingenious — has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none”): “American foreign policy in 2014 hasn’t been born, because under this administration it does not even appear to have yet been conceived.”

William Faulkner, via George Will in today’s column: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

What can we take from these three quotes? For starters, that the United States, and the West with it, has neither clue nor idea how to deal with Mr. Putin’s aggression. Mr. Kerry’s remarkable observation speaks to this jarring discombobulation.

A 19th-century mindset? Time and again, in the 20th century — i.e., within collective memory — tyrants deploying magical forces such as “nationalism” and “self-determination,” crossed boundaries to seize lands not their own. Hitler in the Sudetenland and Mussolini in Ethiopia are merely two such examples. And, as Mr. Will points out, Ukraine has been similarly scarred — and an entire class of people, the “kulaks,” eliminated — at the hands of Mr. Putin’s spiritual predecessor, Joseph Stalin.

So, yes, Mr. Faulkner’s “aphorism” is decidedly axiomatic: The past is not dead; it’s not even past. Today’s events offer alarming truth.

So what can be done? Mr. Thomas recommends a middling path — a foreign policy “[s]omewhere between Ron Paul’s isolationism and neo-con interventionism.” In this vein, our initial inclination would be to shelve whatever neo-Chamberlain instincts may be evident, but that would suggest existence of a definitive foreign policy, or at least an approach grounded in logic, however aberrant, rather than some gauzy faith in security provided by the “international community.”

These searing developments in Ukraine scream for recognition, however belated, of how immutable human nature works, particularly in the geopolitical arena and, perhaps, for a “Eureka moment” for the naifs in the West Wing. For Jimmy Carter, if you recall, that moment came when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Will Barack Obama be similarly backhanded by reality? As Vladimir Putin schemes, an anxious world fidgets and waits for a reawakening in Washington and the birth of a hard-bitten foreign policy.

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