04 March 2014

I Know You, A$$hole ... Putin's Russia


In the words of Gene Hackman from The Royal Tenenbaums:  "I know you, asshole!" Rather, we know you, Putin's Russia.  Royal Tenenbaum is having an early morning leisurely smoke, looking out the 3rd story window of his manse, joined by his aide-de -camp "the Pagoda," when he flicks a butt out the window and, looking down, spies Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) defenestrating himself through a lower-level window.  

Just prior to Royal's highly appropriate vituperation toward the unctuous Eli, he asks his pal Pagoda (RIP, Kuman Pallana), "what's that jackass doing?"  And so it is with Putin's Russia.  We first wonder what is this third-world jackass doing?  Then we remember all too well that we know this boorish turd in the punch bowl all too well. We're all too familiar with the current Russian kleptocracy of corrupt oligarchs and former Soviet apparatchiks who have been and will always be happy to keep Russia a third-world coulda-been-a-contender -- albeit one that retains an atavistic and powerful hegemony in the region.  

Statecraft is the expert policy maker's chess game. And, Obama is not a nuanced policy guy; sorry, but he isn't.  And, he doesn't have the best folks around him to fill-in the gaps as most recent presidents have had.  He's got Rice, Clinton and Kerry.  Whilst Hillary and Kerry are terrifically smart, in my opinion they're policy wonks domestique, more comfortable at home carving out a beachhead for their power bases.  And, as much as I admire the career track of Susan Rice, she's not of the same caliber as these cats:

  • Carter had Warren Christopher and Z. Brzezinski;
  • Reagan had Schultz, Powell and Poindexter;
  • Bush 41 had Baker and Scowcroft;
  • Bill Clinton ("Inter-Bush" as Alec Baldwin once observed) had Christopher and Albright;
  • Bush 43 had Powell and Condi Rice.  

Obama 44 remains an activist and a great speechifier, but he's also the first ADHD president the US has ever had -- why hasn't anyone opined on this yet? -- who doesn't have the stamina, nor the attention span to play this foreign policy chess game out to its required long-game length.  Give Obama a few setbacks on his ObamaCare and before you know it, the family is off to a vacation, or, more likely, BHO is off on another record-setting round of golf (not for his low scoring, but for the number of rounds he's gotten in over the last 5 years).

The Bush doctrine, as ably articulated by Sec. Condi Rice around the world, was to support nascent democratic movements in their respective climes and environs.  Especially those trying to shake free the shackles of tyranny and despotism.  However, Bush's foreign policy wasn't a 70's style CIA backed sub rosa, seeking to undermine sovereign governments, but he was in the business of nation building, which ultimately cost taxpayers at home untold billions still to be calculated.  But, Bush was strong and played the long-game to its logical end.

Now, am I advocating US involvement in the Crimea or the region?  Uh, no.  I wasn't in favor of Syria involvement, nor was I really all that keen on Iraq, truth be told.  Afghanistan was a tough call, but a necessary quagmire, and I'm glad we're getting out of Dodge as we speak.  If there is a distinct, limited, and well articulated US interest, with enumerated goals, then let's cowboy up and get the fugly done and done, because in this big, bad world, the grownups have to make tough decisions and move on.

Because Obama has been sized-up by Putin and his cadre of former KGB hacks now "legit" entrepreneurs, as being skittish on US involvement -- especially in light of Syria -- Putin will do whatever he wants in Ukraine and Obama will do little to nothing to reply in-kind.  Obama needs to realize that Ukraine and Poland are similar in their beginnings.  A feel-good ground swell, accompanying street demonstrations, with leaders from within risking life and limb to speak out -- not puppet proxies placed in Soviet Satellites by Russian leaders arrogating for themselves strategic territories.  Putin wants 1989 to go away.  He wants to pretend it never happened, and that the "domino theory" can never work in reverse, with regions and people groups laying claim for the first time a right to representative governments, whatever form they may take.

Note, Dear Reader, if you haven't seen this quaint Wes Anderson mise-en-scène, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.  The Royal Tenenbaums can be found on eBay or Amazon.com for purchase or rent.