Two Friday Links On Ukraine

We don’t necessarily want a continuation of the Cold War, but understanding the strategic realities The Cold War created is as vital as ever. The younger generation in Ukraine, as well as a lot of people in the West, are getting a hard lesson in Putin’s power politics.

Young Ukranians have yet to taste the economic possibilities of getting a job in a growing economy without living amidst the corruption and cronyism of a rotten, post-Soviet oligarchical no-man’s land.  They have yet to learn how to build and defend institutions that can secure their liberties against Putin’s aggression, and also protect them from the ethnic, linguistic, and historical strife within.

And now the Russian bootheel is back.

I think we ought to be pretty clear about where we stand on Ukrainian aspirations for such an economy, such liberties and the possible development of such institutions.  We have many strategic interests at stake here, despite our clear limitations.

The drift of the current U.S. administration is sending many messages, and not just to Ukranians.


The Cold War strategists are still around:

Henry Kissinger At The Washington Post: ‘How The Ukraine Crisis Ends:’

‘Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers’

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Coping With Crimea: In Ukraine And Beyond

‘It’s hard to understand how Putin could calculate that doing what he did in Crimea would make the Ukrainians more supine toward him in Kiev. So unless it’s a sudden burst of poorly calculated activism, the Crimea operation could be the first stage of a series of steps he’s planning, perhaps to create exploitable unrest in eastern Ukraine. The aim would be to demonstrate that Ukraine is falling into anarchy, thereby making a case for a wider Russian intervention, and then we’re back to having to ask ourselves: “How do we react to make that not happen, and if it does happen, how do we make it ‘


Vice link from a reader:

From Newsweek: ‘Meeting Of The Diplomats’

Full conversation here.

Newweek talks to former and current Secretaries Of State Henry Kissinger and Hilary Clinton.

Quote by Kissinger:

“Nobody has more at stake than the administration in office. But if you look at the debates we had on Vietnam, Iraq, and so forth, ending the war became defined as the withdrawal of forces and as the primary if not the exclusive exit strategy. But in fact the best exit strategy is victory. Another is diplomacy. Another is the war just dying out. But if you identify exit with withdrawal of American forces, you neglect the political objective.”

Also On This Site:  From The Associated Press: The Text Of Obama’s Afghanistan Speech, December 1st, 2009

From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

See Also:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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From Newsweek: Henry Kissinger ‘Deployments And Diplomacy’

Full article here.

“The prevailing strategy in Afghanistan is based on the classic anti-insurrection doctrine: to build a central government, commit it to the improvement of the lives of its people, and then protect the population until that government’s own forces are able, with our training, to take over.”

But despite our efforts (we have been misallocating resources…largely due to the Iraq War ), the central government we helped to build is mired in corruption. And I suspect it isn’t just the Karzai government that’s corrupt, but the corruption is due to other more fundamental issues which our military may not be able to address.  The basic levels of national identity, economic and educational development as well as infrastructure (the ring road?) may not have been met to build a functioning government for which the worst Afghans can lay down their weapons (or be forced to by an Afghan military)

Kissinger finishes with:

“For the immediate future, it is essential to avoid another wrenching domestic division and to conduct the inevitable debate with respect for its complexity and the stark choices confronting our country.”

But our domestic political divisions include a reasonable debate about whether or not the broader goals (a viable Afghan government, or something holding Afghanistan together beyond the Taliban’s version of Islam) can be reached by the military (and those who likely have the best understanding of what’s going on on the ground).

It’s still stark…and can any sitting U.S. president allow the chance of Al-Qaeda (and even Bin Laden) to come back…?

Addition:  Pakistani troops take action in South Waziristan.

Related On This Site:  From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

From Bloomberg today:

President Barack Obama and top U.S. military commanders are under pressure from senators and civilian advisers to double the size of Afghan security forces, a commitment that would cost billions of dollars.”

and this would be potentially added to an existing pledge:

“…to fast-track the buildup of combined Afghan security forces to 134,000 Army personnel and 96,800 police — 230,800 in all — by 2011, according to U.S. Central Command. The Defense Department has requested $7.5 billion for fiscal year 2010 to fund the expansion.”

Apart from the facile Afghan/Vietnam comparison which I’m already guilty of by having written this, here’s a short memo from Henry Kissinger to President Ford in 1975 about lessons of the Vietnam War:

“One clear lesson that can be drawn, however, is the importance of absolute honesty and objectivity in all reporting, within and from the Government as well as from the press.”

Elusive objectivity…I could do with honesty and focusing on our reasons…

One arguable difference:

We are not using military force to protect our political and economic interests in Afghanistan against the advancing threat of an adversarial state and its ideology (I suppose there existed a real fear was that we would eventually threatened at home), but rather against a stateless ideology, with roots in Islam (the theology is debatable) and though pursued by a few, I suspect is tolerated by many in the Muslim world who aren’t necessarily happy with the scope of American influence there.

It still doesn’t seem like a a situation any sitting U.S. president could allow politically (an Al-Qaeda training camp that produces another attack, and so we are protecting our interests), but it also seems that with the tribal nature of much of Afghan society, the lack of education and infrastructure, we are also committing to a lot of “nation-building.”

Insterestingly, Kissinger, like anyone with a foreign policy interest, longed for consistency on our end, to have met more of our commitments in Vietnam, and perhaps to have maintained what he thought were our moral aims there.  But alas, this is politics.

A notable similarity:

Perhaps many people are supporting the war because they support Obama, just as Kennedy inherited Vietnam and many supported Kennedy, not necessarily the war…

Just a few thoughts.  Feel free to highlight my ignorance and/or share your knowledge.

Also On This Site:  From CSIS-Anthony Cordesman On “The Afghanistan Campaign: Can We Win?” Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”

What are our moral obligations to the Afghan people?:  From Bloggingheads: Andrew Bacevich And Heather Hurlburt Discuss Afghanistan And Pakistan

Are we still living in Huntington’s shadow?: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

Addition:  And a quote from that Atlantic piece:

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.

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