by William Teach | March 5, 2014 8:30 am
Robert Gates deserves our attention and our respect, but I think he’s missed a few things
(Washington Post) As the Ukraine crisis deepened, Sen. John McCain responded by criticizing President Obama’s “feckless” foreign policy, while Sen. Lindsey Graham called Obama “a weak and indecisive president [who] invites aggression.”
These sharp comments brought to mind a different time and crisis – and a different tone in foreign policy debates. This prompted me to call another prominent Republican who takes a quite different view. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, a brief historical digression.
So, David Ignatius jumps back in time to the Carter presidency to look for a link, right at the time in 1980 when Iran stormed our embassy and took our citizens hostage and Russia had invaded Afghanistan
What (Sen. Henry M.) Jackson (D-Wash.) said was surprising, even at a distance of nearly 35 years. Rather than demanding tougher statements or more saber-rattling, he said he worried about “overreaction” to events: “We appear to be going from one crisis to another,” with Washington dispensing “red-hot rhetoric at least once a week about the dire consequences of this or that or something else.”
“We need to be prudent,” said Jackson, who was perhaps the most prominent Cold Warrior of his day. “There is a need for the U.S. to make careful decisions, stand by those decisions, and avoid sending false or conflicting signals” to U.S. allies or the Russians.
How’d that work out? Can there be an overreaction to Iran violating our embassy and taking our people hostage? People wanted Carter to be strong in the face of that and the Russian Afghan invasion. As usual, he was tepid. Funny how neither Ignatius nor most in the American media were preaching calm and measured words while Bush was president, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, dealing with North Korea and Iran, and prosecuting the War on Islamic Terrorism.
What does Gates think about the Ukraine crisis? Distilled to its essence, his message would be the same as Jackson’s: Cool it, especially when it comes to public comments.
“I think considerable care needs to be taken in terms of what is said, so that the rhetoric doesn’t threaten what policy can’t deliver,” Gates explained in a telephone interview. Russian President Vladimir Putin “holds most of the high cards” in Crimea and Ukraine as a whole. U.S. policy should work to reinforce the security of neighboring states without fomenting a deeper crisis in which Putin will have the advantage.
What Gates is missing is that much of the criticism is based on wanting Obama to be stronger. We don’t want war. Not at all. There’s no chance at all that we launch military action against Russia. Zip. But we do want Obama to match Putin for tough talk and to be engaged. Skipping his National Security Council meeting Saturday shows weakness. He’s been to fundraisers Friday and Tuesday, with another scheduled for today. When he looks weak he makes America look weak.
And were was Gates when Lefties where assaulting Bush? Beuller? Beuller?
Gates, a Republican himself, urged the GOP senators to “tone down” their criticism and “try to be supportive of the president rather than natter at the president.”
I’d: be happy to do that regarding Ukraine and other international issues when he grows a spine and actually makes these issues a priority. Most international issues seem to be a minor distraction to Obama. And any criticism is well deserved, because most of his foreign policy is a mess, as are his international relations. Wasn’t it the same Washington Post which stated that Obama’s foreign policy was based on fantasy and that his “smart power” was a failure?
Furthermore, I’ll tone it down when Obama tones down his own hyper-insulting rhetoric of insulting private citizens who disagree politically with him.
Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.
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