It was only an item on page 5 of the NY Times about an incident on the Estonian-Russian border. The Estonians charged that one of their officers had been kidnapped, or detained – take your pick – by the Russians who promptly denied the story. The Estonians, empowered by their membership in NATO and Obama’s recent visit are quite aware that Article 5 of the NATO treaty obliges every member nation to come to their aid if attacked. Far from his nation’s voters who think less and less of him, Obama seems to have given little Estonia a virtual blank check when he said that if anyone – meaning Russia – made a move against the Baltic states Russia would have to fight the US too. That’s our President. Tough abroad and weak at home.
Fortunately, nothing has happened on the border, at least not yet. But by continually calling every border episode an "invasion," as Ukraine does, is designed to get the attention of NATO and Washington, especially since the US pays the major portion of NATO’s bills and nothing can happen without its approval.
No wonder Ukraine desperately wants to be included in NATO and why our perpetually bellicose hawks would like nothing more than to give Putin, no angel he, a good whack and teach Moscow who’s the real boss. All this, of course, without calling in American ground troops (and scaring Americans at home), as Obama and everyone in Washington’s Iraq-tainted War Party keeps repeating, while wink-winking, knowing that no-one really believes in that fairy tale should things take a bad turn.
Ukraine, bankrupt and corrupt, has become our latest freedom-loving heroes, battling the brutal pro-Russians in its eastern region while hosting our Vice-President, CIA Director and super hawks like John McCain. Overlooked are some of the new champions of liberty we’ve inherited.
Tom Parfitt, who writes for the conservative British daily Telegraph, has been on the scene watching Ukrainian militia groups – some of them openly neo-Nazis – in the battle against eastern Ukrainian dissidents. One of them, the Azov Battalion, wrote Parfitt, "use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites." Azov, by the way, has the official backing of the Kiev government and is overlooked by all those visiting American officials and politicians who have flocked to Kiev, apparently – but who knows? – with Obama’s approval. "Forgive them God for they know not what they do."
The fact is that Ukraine has been in Russia’s sphere of influence for centuries and like it or not is infinitely more vital to its national security than it is to the US. Provoking the nuclear-armed Russian Bear by expanding NATO to its borders and trying to integrate Ukraine with the West is risky and dangerous. Provocatively, the US has sent an antiballistic missile ship into the Baltic Sea to "promote peace." 200 US soldiers are now in Ukraine, 120 air force personnel and six F-16 fighter planes will participate in another military “exercise” in Poland while several US naval ships have been in the Black Sea, ever closer to Odessa and Russia’s Navy in its only warm water seaport. The possibility of war is never mentioned. Can you imagine the hysteria and fear mongering in Washington if Putin dared send 200 Russian soldiers to, say, Cuba, Venezuela , Bolivia or Ecuador, and Russian naval ships were sailing around the Gulf or Mexico or the Caribbean?
Like it or not we now have an Obama Doctrine. Beyond Europe he has committed the US to the so-called "pivot to Asia," involving "close-in" aerial and naval scrutiny of China, and where the US is bound by treaty to defend Japan should its dispute with China over some rocky uninhabited islands end in a shoot out or worse. There are also 25,000 US marines stationed in Australia for a mission neither explained by the administration nor investigated by our mass media.
And then, of course, there is the Middle East, where we should never have intervened save for our appetite for oil and defense of Israel, a nation which can defend itself given its vast horde of nuclear weapons, mastery of American politics and intimidation of American presidents. And now, unexpectedly, ISIS has become the code word for a new and endless Middle Eastern war with a brutish and cruel enemy who hate America and Americans.
Regularly, we still hear about regional menaces that, if left unchecked, supposedly and regularly threaten US interests and even our mainland. No matter that the US hasn’t won a war since 1945, the reliance on military might remains the same. From Reagan to Bush 2, it’s been used to project American power in Central America, Panama, Kuwait the Balkans, the Middle East and even against Grenada, that menacing Caribbean military-industrial power.
Eric S. Margolis, an insightful commentator rarely if ever seen in our mass media, has posed the central question of our time. "Who came down from the mountain and said the US must police the globe from the South China Sea to the jungles of Peru? After losing wars in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the US should reconsider its overly militarized foreign policy and exaggerated international pretensions. You can’t rule the globe on money borrowed form China and Japan," adding that, "he who spends on wars everywhere, ends up broke. And he who ignores domestic needs for the sake of imperial glory is cruising for a bruising."
Poor Barack Obama. Everyone seems to want him to "Do Something," subtly reminding him of Munich and the dangers of "isolationism." Seeking advice, he recently called together a group of carefully selected foreign policy "experts," not a dove among them, such as George Ball who warned the liberal icon JFK not to mess around in Southeast Asia. But JFK knew better and told him, "George, you’re crazier than hell." Ball tried again with LBJ, warning him to stand down before Vietnam destroyed his presidency, but LBJ wasn’t going to be the first president to lose a war and be damned by home front warriors. Failing to stop Ho would sooner or later have us fighting on American soil, or so the old line went, and still goes.
Naturally, no one asked me but I would have invited to the seminar Andrew J, Bacevich, retired army colonel, Vietnam veteran, academic, whose lieutenant son was killed in Iraq and whose book "Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War" challenges the views of all the invited guests and their mantra of the "indispensable nation." And I would have also invited Noam Chomsky, who’s been prescient about East Timor, Vietnam Israel and Palestine, et al., and whose presence would have resulted in an livid, heated, absolutely necessary debate.
Expect nothing very good to happen. As Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s former Secretary of State, once said to Colin Powell, "What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it"? It’s a temptation too hard to resist. Doing business the same old way is much easier for the world’s policeman.
Murray Polner wroteNo Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran, Disarmed & Dangerous, a dual biography of Daniel & Philip Berrigan (with Jim’O’Grady), andWe Who Dared Say No To War(with Thomas Woods Jr.).