Monday, September 15, 2008

Forget the Bush Doctrine. We need to look forward.

Coffee break talk last Friday centered on Sarah Palin’s first interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson. In general, she received good marks for her adroit responses to Gibson’s questions, with the one exception being Gibson’s alleged “gotcha” moment when he asked her: "Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?''

Palin paused, looking a bit perplexed, and tried to get some clarification by asking: “In what regard?”

When Gibson finally—and rather pedantically—revealed that he was referring to the Bush policy of pre-emptive strikes, Palin responded by reaffirming that the US has the right to respond to what it perceives as an imminent threat.

Liberals tried to point to this moment as an example of how Palin is weak on her comprehension of international policies and is ignorant about the “Bush Doctrine”. All which is powerfully contradicted by the brilliant commentator, Charles Krauthammer, in his article “Gibson’s Gaffe”.

Krauthammer makes the point that there is not one “Bush Doctrine”, but rather a total of four. The one to which Gibson referred is the third in the series, and technically was incorrect, because it is Bush’s fourth policy statement that will probably be remembered as his “doctrine”:

"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of
liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of
freedom in all the world."

Liberals have remained fixated on Bush’s third policy statement, the one stating that the US has the right to preemptively strike against nations that harbor terrorists or support them and pose a threat to US security. They cling to this argument because they believe they will gain political points—and political office—by reminding America of how we got into the war in Iraq.
This may be an interesting discussion, but discussions of "presidential doctrine" is table fare for historians and will do nothing for America's future. So Charlie Gibson's question was not only misleading and probably wrong, but really was totally irrelevant!

I’d like to use this moment as an example of how these so-called “leaders” are not leading at all. It was not Bush’s third policy statement that is now heating the current and riskiest global crisis, but his fourth and most far-reaching that needs deeper examination.

The “Bush Doctrine” quoted by Krauthammer is potentially the more controversial of the two. After all, it this part of the Bush policies that has inspired the administration to take such an aggressively supportive role of Eastern European democracies such as Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, and Georgia. Bush’s determination to defend the former Soviet bloc countries is making Moscow feel threatened. In response to the ‘missile shield’ that the United States is offering to put into Poland and the Czech republic is at the source of the conflict with Georgia/Russia. We must remember that it was shortly after the Bush administration worked out deals to locate the missiles in Poland that Moscow responded, threatening that their response could be a military one.

Russian President Medvedev was quoted in NOVOSTI, Russian news source:

“These missiles are close to our borders and constitute a threat to us,"
Medvedev said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television on Tuesday. "This will
create additional tension and we will have to respond to it in some way,
naturally using military means." … The Russian president said that offering NATO
membership to Georgia and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics, would only
aggravate the situation.

Shortly afterward, the Russians apparently manufactured a political crisis in Georgia by encouraging Georgian rebels of Russian descent to ramp up their activities. The Georgians responded militarily in an attempt to restore control of the breakaway region, giving Moscow the excuse it wanted to invade the territory in the role of “peace keepers.”

While the US and Europe wrung their hands over the issue, it became clear that the US was not willing to confront Russia militarily. But the Bush administration did respond diplomatically, and began to press to speed the inclusion of the other Soviet bloc nations in NATO, thus providing them with a promise of multilateral military defense, if needed.

Predictably, this action again provoked Russia. But watch this time, it appears that the Russians are looking to expand their influence in our hemisphere.

Weeks after the Georgian conflict, as tensions between the United States and Russia continue to escalate, Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez declared that Venezuela sided with the Russians in the Georgian affair, and bragged that the Russians and Venezuelans were planning war games in the Caribbean region.

The Russians then flew two Tu-160 long distance strategic bombers into Venezuela. Chavez declared that the presence of the bombers was a warning to Washington that “Venezuela is no longer poor and alone.”

Other reports indicated that Chavez had been courting Russia for a long time in the hope of convincing Moscow to establish a Navy port there and install an aircraft carrier in the Caribbean.
Congresswoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said she was not concerned about the presence of the Russian bombers in Venezuela: “I don’t think Russia would launch attacks on the United States.” By contrast, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) said that “There is a continuing pattern over the last several months of Russian intimidation…and they are using the same old bullying intimidation tactics that go back to Brezhnev and Stalin.”

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, stated clear concern.

“What you are suggesting doesn’t surprise me, and yes it concerns me,” said Murkowski. “If it is clearly a flexing of muscle and effort to display force, it makes you wonder what the objective is and what the appropriate response should be.”

What is the objective?

Today’s leaders—both Republicans and Democrats—may be missing the point entirely. The threat is not that Russia might launch a military attack against the United States. It is that the Russians might act as a shield to protect Chavez’s socialist regime, giving him the ability to increase his interventionist policies in regional countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and others.
This past weekend, violence erupted in some of the Bolivian ‘departments’ (the equivalent of states) between supporters of socialist president Evo Morales and his conservative, capitalist opponents. The Bolivians expelled the American diplomat, claiming that he was promoting violent protests. Chavez stepped in and expelled the American diplomat in Caracas, causing a quid pro quo expulsion of the Venezuelan ambassador from Washington. Chavez then demanded that the Bolivian government respond with force to the “imperialist aggression” and that if Morales was overthrown, he—President Chavez—would send Venezuelan troops to Boliva. “I am prepared to die for Boliva,” he professed.

If the Russians had a naval base in Venezuela, Chavez would feel free to deliver on his repeated, hollow threats. The borderline-dictator and friend to the Colombia FARC terrorists, having bought the technology to build a Kalashnikov AK-47 and ammunition factory in Venezuela, would have the ability to arm hundreds of thousands of rebel forces throughout the continent, thus turning his dream of creating a continental revolutionary army into a reality. Russian protection would make US intervention in this plan much more difficult.

The objective that eludes our congressmen and women could be this: if the US continues to make threatening moves in the Russian neighborhood, they will respond with parallel maneuvers. If we are uncomfortable, we will have to back off our support for the Soviet bloc democracies to get the Russians out of our back yard.

I cannot reiterate strongly enough how potentially dangerous this is. Chavez has repeatedly insisted that the “non-aligned” nations, including Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, etc. need to work together to create an “asymmetrical” attack on the United States, in his words, to create many “Viet Nams” which would simply be too much for the United States to handle.
The United States is already struggling with the entry of millions of illegal aliens, and this during a time of relative peace throughout Latin America. If Chavez manages to create a wave of socialist revolutions across the continent, the number of refugees could increase exponentially.

It is time for the representatives in Washington to get this through their heads: Hugo Chavez is a serious threat to Democracy in the hemisphere, and his alliance with Russia is potentially explosive.
What should be the American doctrine on the Eastern European democracies? Are we really ready to go to war to defend them when they are threatened by Russian imperialism? If so, are we willing to go to war to defend democracies in our own hemisphere that are threatened by local (Bolivarian) and European (Russian) imperialism? The two concurrent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have nearly broken our nation. Are we going to be drawn into the many "Viet Nams" in which Chavez and his cronies want to lure us, in order to lure us into our own doom?

The best thing that could happen right now would be for idiots like Charlie Gibson to stop playing "Gotcha" and instead start asking Presidential candidates Obama and McCain to address this issue now and clarify what they would do about the situation.

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