Anybody remember “The Brady Bunch”?
Jan would get jealous of her sister Marcia and complain that Marcia was getting too much attention.
“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” was Jan’s retort.
The reason this came to mind over the past couple of weeks was because of all this renewed angst toward Russia.
It’s “Russia, Russia, Russia” these days. I saw a meme on social media. A couple of guilty-looking dogs were staring up at their master saying, “We’re glad you’re home! The Russians pooped in the hallway.”
In the geopolitical sense, Russia has always been the bad guy. But lately, since president-elect Donald Trump made off-the-cuff comments like, “Putin is a smart guy,” and suggested that maybe he could get along with him, it’s been Russia, Russia, Russia.
The White House and the media are in full-on bash Russia mode, which is OK, I guess, except I would like to point out what a jarring paradigm shift this is.
Does anyone recall in 2012 when Mitt Romney ran for president? He said this to Wolf Blitzer on CNN: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. The idea that he (Obama) has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling, indeed.”
Remember what happened next? Obama and his pals on the left belittled Romney.
Obama: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because … the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
Vice President Joe Biden accused Romney of belonging to “a small group of Cold War holdovers.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said the former Massachusetts governor’s understanding of Russia must have come from a 1980s movie. “Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching ‘Rocky IV.’”
The folks at MSNBC, of course, had a field day:
Rachel Maddow:
“He read about Reagan’s private, outside-the-CIA cabal of team-B (read that, Bush) zealots who were telling him that Russia had all the stuff they didn’t have so he could justify a giant defense budget.”
Chris Matthews:
“I don’t know what decade this guy’s living in. Is he trying to play Ronald Reagan here, or what?”
Then, of course, there was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s infamous “reset button.”
In 2009, she visited Geneva and palled around with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Well, “palled” might not be a descriptive enough term. She fawned all over the guy. Handed him a homemade reset button. He said he would keep it on his desk.
The reset was an outgrowth of an inclusive Obama policy, that, not unlike Obama policies around the world, attempted to embrace Russia. To make it feel more accepted on the world stage.
Russia was not so much an adversary, but a poor underachieving country that had fallen behind.
Obama surmised that if he engaged Russia, he could convince them that they should play nice with their neighbors. After all, it would be in their own best interest to do so.
That was mistaken assumption No. 1.
Additionally, Obama didn’t like America being the global beat cop. He also was no fan of “American exceptionalism.” Obama figured if we backed off, our allies would take up the slack.
That was mistaken assumption No. 2.
Colin Dueck is a professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He wrote a book, “The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today.”
ForeignAffairs.com said the book “should be required reading for all 2016 presidential candidates and their staffs.”
Here’s an excerpt:
In the case of Russia, the Obama administration pursued a strategy of engagement and accommodation, with little payoff in the end for distinctly American interests. When first running for the White House, Obama suggested that President Bush had been too confrontational toward Moscow, and that relations needed to improve.
Russia's invasion of neighboring Georgia in August 2008 threatened that concept. ... But after necessary condemnations of the invasion itself, Obama quietly drew the conclusion that the war had been as much the fault of Georgia and the Bush administration, as of the Russians.
But you don’t have to take some over-educated pundit’s word for it. Here’s Obama himself, in 2010, quoted from WhiteHouse.gov.
He was speaking alongside Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the U.S.-Russia Business Summit.
It is a pleasure to be here with my friend and partner, President Medvedev, and I want to thank him again for his leadership, especially his vision for an innovative Russia that’s modernizing its economy, including deeper economic ties between our two countries. ...
As we all know, despite the surge in trade in recent years, the economic relationship between the United States and Russia is still largely one of untapped potential. And I pointed out last year that our trade with Russia is only about the same as our trade with Thailand — a country with less than half the population of Russia. So obviously there’s more work to do.
That’s why part of the reset of the U.S.-Russia relationship required us creating the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Partnership Commission — Presidential Commission — to explore a whole range of new opportunities, including economic partnerships that create jobs and opportunities for both our peoples. ...
Companies represented here today are moving forward with a series of major trade and investment deals that will create jobs for both Americans and Russians across many sectors, from aerospace, to automotive engineering, to the financial sector and high-technology.
So today, President Medvedev and I agreed to expand trade and commerce even further. ...
Hey wait, didn’t Exxon CEO and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson just get skewered on Capitol Hill for doing precisely that?
Along comes March 2014 and Russia invades Crimea. Following that, Russian troops made several military incursions into Ukraine. Obama’s response was tepid at best.
Despite pleas for troops from NATO countries throughout the region, no troops were sent.
Instead, Obama pursued a strategy of reassurance to NATO allies, bolstering the Ukrainian government and penalizing Russia with sanctions to promote a change in its policy.
But suddenly, almost three years later — and just a couple of weeks before the Trump inauguration — Obama saw fit to send thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to the Russian border with Poland. It’s the biggest military buildup on the Russian border since the Cold War. Wait! What? Are they taking their foreign policy cues from watching “Rocky”?
But there was the Russian hacking, you say.
Well, according to wired.com, cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike released a comprehensive report in June. Crowdstrike found one of the hacking groups had been accessing the DNC servers for almost a year. So yeah, send in those troops — 19 months later.
Bottom line is, for years folks on the left didn’t think Russia was so bad. But then Trump got elected and started running his mouth — or his Twitter account.
So now, Obama’s turned into a regular neocon.
And what is the motivation for this deployment of troops? Standing up to Russia? Regional stability in eastern Europe?
Nah.
Put Trump in a box. Delegitimize him. Force him into a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.
Let’s recap:
Bush was being mean to Putin, so Obama decided to be nice.
Trump was being nice to Putin, so Obama decided to be mean.
Is it just me, or does this sound like schoolyard diplomacy?
Sure, Trump is a blowhard and Democrats hate that he won the election.
And maybe having troops and tanks in Poland is the right call.
But decisions like these shouldn’t be driven by political revenge.