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We Should Have Listened to Kissinger
And we should ignore the people who didn't
I knew a philosopher in college who told me that it’s impossible to have an even conversation with someone carrying a gun. He grew up in Arizona when it was one of the few states where open or concealed carry was common practice. After two hours of arguing, he won me over: an unarmed man is never on equal footing with an armed man, even when the unarmed man is unaware of the weapon in the room. Power dynamics affect relationships and behaviors, whether we like it or not.
This power dynamic gives an armed man an unfair advantage and a disproportionate duty of responsibility. The armed must withdraw from a confrontation earlier than the unarmed knowing that, if it goes too far, someone could get killed. When you’re packing, you’re always conscious of the duty to protect the weapon—and the potential duty to use it.
The armed man also knows that he can end a disagreement anytime he chooses. There might be consequences later, but he can end the conversation with one simple maneuver, as in this scene from my favorite Navy movie of all time, The Last Detail. (STRONG LANGUAGE)
This power dynamic has affected the way the United States deals with the world. In one sense, its superior firepower has made the US more responsible and patient. At times, it has allowed us to throw our weight around like Jack Nicholson in the scene above. But throughout, its ability to end an argument by blowing up its opponent has served to retard America’s diplomatic maturity.
Perhaps this diplomatic immaturity is why so many presidents have turned to the European-born and -educated Henry Kissinger.
The MiG Debacle
Antony Blinken learned the hard way that Poland isn’t to be trifled with. Poland has been involved in delicate diplomacy for a millennium, The United States is approaching its 250th birthday. Poland has been locked between competing neighbors with superior resources its entire existence, while the US has been sandwiched between sleepy Mexico and friendly Canada.
The US wasn’t taken seriously as a diplomatic nation until she acquired the means to blow up the rest of the world. As a result, she’s never had to engage with the sort of care and tact required of, say, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Slovenia, Romania, the Baltics, Turkey, etc. They touch each other. For most of the States’ lives, diplomacy meant playing European powers against each other while forging trading relationships with the noncombatants.
The United States jumped into the Great War because Woodrow Wilson craved the oak-paneled rooms of European diplomatic centers. He wanted the US to draw closer to Europe. He was the Great War was his chance to make America a player in European affairs.
Following the Great War, Wilson pushed the League of Nations. But the American people—the families that lost their sons in battles half a world away—would have none of it. After Wilson’s dreams of making North America a European annex, Americans turned to Calvin Coolidge to make America great again and keep its sons safe at home. Thus, the elites lost their first fight against the plebes. But the elites were not finished with their plans for world government.
Following World War II and its horrors, the United States became the big dog in a world that had grown much smaller. With nuclear bombs, a large fighting-age population, and enormous wealth thanks to industriousness, natural resources, a growing population, and the safety provided by two oceans, the US flourished. A devastated Europe turned to the United States for the money and the time to rebuild. This made the US a major player in European affairs, but a player with an unfair advantage—like being the only person with a gun.
When Antony Blinken tried to virtue signal by claiming he was working with Poland to transfer 28 MiG-29s to Ukraine, Poland brilliantly called his bluff, as I explained in this post which The Gateway Pundit kindly cross-posted.
Now, Poland has explained its rationale. From The Epoch Times:
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on March 9 that Poland is prepared to make its MiG-29 fighter jets available to Ukraine, but only via NATO as a whole, and not by Warsaw independently, as the move carries security risks.
The United States is unwilling to broker the deal for the same reason Poland is: no one wants to attract Putin’s attention. In this present crisis, Putin is the armed man in the room. He has nukes, and he’s made it clear he will use them if pushed.
The power dynamic has shifted. The armed man is no longer wearing the white hat. The guy with the gun is not a responsible concealed carrier but a criminal. The gun is not longer a means of defense, but a tool for extortion or worse.
Poland gets this—Antony Blinken did not until Poland educated him.
The New Reality
This episode between the US and Poland highlights, not only the power dynamic when one man is armed, but the immaturity of America’s diplomatic skills. Blinken violated a basic principle of diplomacy by releasing confidential information, inaccurately, in an attempt to pressure an ally to do what Blinken would not. That’s the kind of behavior that starts wars rather than ending them.
It also highlights why, sometimes, we need to turn to men like Kissinger. Not always. Kissinger is, I suspect, a New World Order guy. (I say “suspect,” because, despite reading his books and papers and even meeting him at a conference in 2003, I’ve never been able to discern its actual worldview. His realpolitik mindset seems to lack a worldview, preferring to deal with things and people as they are rather than imposing on the world some academic theory of how things should be. I suspect he hangs around with the Davos crowd more as a spy than as a confrere.)
Eight years ago, Kissinger warned the world that NATO and the EU were pushing the Russian snake, Putin, into a corner from which he would eventually recoil and strike.
Kissinger pointed out in this Washington Post opinion piece that Ukraine is not just another European country to Russia:
The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia.
But enough with antiquity. Kissinger also informs the world of more recent issues in Ukraine—issues that both the EU and NATO should have considered throughout the post-Cold War era:
The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or breakup. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system.
And, speaking directly to then-President Obama, Kissinger tells the US government what to do:
Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century. Not surprisingly, its leaders have not learned the art of compromise, even less of historical perspective. The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other. That is the essence of the conflict between Viktor Yanukovych and his principal political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. They represent the two wings of Ukraine and have not been willing to share power. A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.
Instead, Obama and his CIA meddled in Ukrainian politics. They destabilized the Russo-centric regime to advance the NATO-centric faction. In other words, the US did exactly the opposite of what Kissinger recommended. It tried to impose its theoretical, academic worldview on Ukraine instead of dealing with the reality of the situation.
And we have war.
None of this means I support the Russian invasion of Ukraine or, especially, the humanitarian horrors wrought by that war. I bring this up as a warning. The people trying to escalate the war (Lindsey Graham, Ukraine’s government, Antony Blinken, etc.) are the very same people who ignored Henry Kissinger and 1,000 years of history, leading Putin to recoil and strike.
Mature diplomats like Kissinger are not Putin-lovers but realists. They tried to point out that provoking a madman is a stupid thing to do. They tried to warn as that US interest in Ukraine involved cooperation, not conflict, because conflict in Ukraine would give Putin an excuse to move in.
This is why I urge people to curb their emotions and deal with reality. The reality is Putin has nukes and isn’t afraid to use them. And America’s immature diplomats and warhawks are intentionally provoking him still. It’s why I pray every day for a negotiated settlement of the war, even if that means Russia gets something it wants.
And, before you call me a Putin lover, ask yourself this: if the war ends today with terms acceptable to Putin (and repulsive to the rest of the world), will another maternity hospital get blown up?
Or, to put it another way, how many brave Ukrainians are you willing to get killed so you can feel better about Putin losing?
And a final question: if defeating Putin is more important to you than ending suffering, why are you not part of the foreign legions fighting on the ground in Ukraine? Ukraine’s government would welcome your presence on the battlefield, and your conscience would no longer be bothered by sending others to die for your feelings.
The reality is that America has a national interest in this conflict—to ensure it does not spread and kill Americans. Your emotions, my emotions, and Lindsey Graham’s emotions are irrelevant.