World View: Russia Takes the Lead in Foreign Policy for 2014

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Russia takes the lead in world foreign policy
  • The Truman Doctrine versus Leading from Behind
  • France in 1940: Leading from behind
  • Things to watch for in 2014

Russia takes the lead in world foreign policy

World leader Vladimir Putin (Reuters)
World leader Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

In 2011, Russia was very unhappy that they'd abstained in the U.N. Security Council resolution allowing military action in Libya, because they felt that the U.S. and Nato had taken advantage of the situation to go much farther than they had said they would. ( "22-Apr-11 News -- Russia seeks to cripple Nato through Libya United Nations politics") At the time, I wrote the following, quoting an analyst from Jamestown:

"Russia plans to demand that Nato restrict its activities to only the humanitarian acts allowed by the UN resolution, and then veto any attempt to expand the resolution in the Security Council, in order to guarantee a continued stalemate in Libya.

This will set a precedent that allows Russia to effectively control future activities of Nato, since only activities approved by the Security Council, and hence by Russia, could ever be permitted.

Moscow has a broader interest in seeing the US and NATO tied down in wars of choice and other protracted confrontations. These wars increase Russia’s leeway for action in ex-Soviet territories, which is Russia's top priority, according to the article. Furthermore, if Libya's oil exports are stopped, then Russia's own oil exports become more valuable."

Little did I realize at the time how spectacularly successful this Russian policy would be. Under the leadership of Russia's president Vladimir Putin, not only Nato foreign policy but also U.S. foreign policy have become completed crippled. Whether we're talking about policy in Mideast, or Afghanistan, or the South China Sea, it's almost impossible to think of any action that President Barack Obama took that wouldn't have been fully approved by Putin.

This was most spectacular in Syria. Putin repeatedly humiliated Obama by forcing Obama to flip-flop on red line after another. Finally, on the issue of chemical weapons, Obama gave in to Putin completely.

And that's not all. Putin has humiliated Obama repeatedly in other areas as well, most notably in the handling of Snowden.

The Truman Doctrine versus Leading from Behind

Whether people like it or not, America has been Policeman of the World since the end of World War II. President Harry Truman made it so with the Truman Doctrine in 1947, saying that no matter how much it cost the United States to help others who wish to be free, the cost would be far less than the cost of World War II. President John Kennedy reaffirmed the Truman Doctrine, when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." ( "25-Sep-13 World View -- President Obama blasts Russia and Iran over Syria")

What's remarkable is how thoroughly America has abandoned the Truman Doctrine during the last couple of years under President Obama. Obama's policy of "Leading from behind" is the antithesis of the Truman Doctrine, the analog of a city policeman telling the street gangs to fight it out among themselves, and call him when it's all over.

France in 1940: Leading from behind

One reader in the Generational Dynamics forum compared Obama's attitude towards that of France when the Nazis invaded in 1940:

"I wonder if this is what it felt like before World War II. The players are different of course. The Philippines or Vietnam may play the role of Poland, and Japan perhaps France. Or maybe Japan is Poland and the United States France.

One could see when threatened with "a nuclear winter that no one could win" Obama would abandon Hawaii and other Pacific Island territories, plus the Panama Canal to China, and withdraw all surviving U.S. military forces out of the Pacific Theater leaving the U.S. west coast as a hostage guaranteeing U.S. neutrality.

As preposterous as this sounds, France surrendered in World War II to Germany with the vast majority of the French Army intact.

The French Army was the largest Army in the world at the start of World War II and considered one of the most well equipped with artillery and infantry weapons. France also had one of the largest Naval Fleets in the World. Most of the French Army sat on the border of Germany at the time of surrender with no significant German forces between that border and the German industrial heartland.

The bulk of the German army was far behind French lines, near Paris and other Northern French cities, with tanks and troop transports, but no fuel supplies that would allow those tanks and troops to withdraw and defend Germany.

The French just decided not to trade the destruction of French cities for the destruction of German cities.

One could only guess what would happen in Western Europe and the Middle East if the U.S. was no longer willing to risk anything to defend U.S. allies."

The situation with France in WW II is a fascinating one, and it really only makes sense when you consider what happened in France's two previous major wars.

In World War I, France had fought the bloody Battle of Verdun and Battle of the Somme, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. It was horrific. And then what happened? First the Americans came over. Next, the Germans surrendered, not because they were defeated on the battlefield, but because of internal political squabbles in Berlin's government during their generational Unraveling era. And after the French fought all those bloody battles, who got all the credit for winning? The Americans.

Also, in 1940, there were still memories of the 1871 Paris Commune, where tens of thousands of Parisians rose up and killed each other in a battle that was historically viewed as insane.

In 1940, the French well remembered the Paris Commune and World War I, both wars with insane results. So in 1940, the mood was, "Hey, here we go again. Let the British fight this one. Let the Americans fight this one. We're going to sit this one out, because to do anything else is insane."

From France's point of view, this worked out great. London got bombed, but Paris did not, and the Germans were defeated anyway. I doubt that the French would have openly gloated about that, but "Leading from behind" worked very well for them in WW II.

Unfortunately, Leading from behind hasn't worked so well for America so far, as American foreign policy has been disastrously weak and naive, and has led to problems around the world:

  • Russia and Iran have taken the leadership roles in the Mideast, making Syria a magnet for Sunni jihadists around the world, and creating a rising sectarian conflict throughout the region. Saudi Arabia is becoming an American enemy.
  • Obama's determination to avoid conflict has allowed Iraq to return to the worst sectarian violence in years, and is threatening to result in a rout in Afghanistan, as America withdraws in 2014.
  • In the Asia Pacific, former allies are questioning America's willingness to meet its commitments in mutual defense agreements, and Japan, Philippines and other countries are bolstering their own militaries.
The problems are part of a trend that's leading to a new world war, but that's going to happen anyway.

It was almost ten years ago that I said that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, China, Pakistan and the Sunni Arab countries would be the "axis" fighting against the "allies," the West, India, Russia, Iran and Israel.

Ten years ago, the thought that we might be allied with Iran seemed fantastical, and indeed I was criticized for suggesting it. But few people would consider it fantastical today. Iran and West are moving closer together, while Saudi Arabia is moving away from the Wet.

At the same time, it's probably a good thing that Japan, Philippines and others are arming themselves, as we'll need all the help we can get confronting China's plans for full-scale war.

Things to watch for in 2014

Here are the major things to watch for in 2014:

  • China is continuing to arm itself rapidly, preparing to launch a pre-emptive missile attack at America's cities, military installations, and aircraft carriers. Only the timing is unknown, but now thanks to the Edward Snowden's disclosures to the Chinese and Russians, America may be almost completely defenseless against such an attack, and China may decide to take advantage in 2014.
  • Tensions are sky-high between China and Japan, China and Philippines, and China an Vietnam, and it would not take much for a minor military confrontation to occur, and that could spiral into a much bigger military confrontation.
  • Thanks to the situation in Syria, the entire Mideast is becoming inflamed along Sunni/Shia sectarian lines and, once again, it would not take much for a minor military confrontation to spiral into something bigger.
  • The Wall Street stock market bubble has gotten so large that mainstream financial advisers are predicting a crash soon. (See, for example, Estimating the Risk of a Market Crash, John P. Hussman Ph.D.) According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations) on Friday (December 27) morning was 18.98, which is astronomical by historic standards, indicating that stocks are far overpriced, and the stock market bubble is worse than ever.
In U.S. domestic policy, Obamacare continues to be a growing economic disaster, and it's expect to cause major dislocations in the healthcare industry in 2014. ( "1-Dec-13 World View -- Obamacare: 500M lines of code, $500M, only 60% completed")


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