Blog No. 87. The President, the Contenders and ISIS

The President’s recent address from the Oval Office was clearly intended to reassure the nation. Whether anyone in fact felt reassured is highly questionable. As many observers noted, he offered nothing new to a strategy that has shown little sign of success thus far and gives little reason to believe that it will be more successful going forward. In fairness to the President, however, none of the current candidates for the presidency have offered a particularly persuasive path to a successful outcome for our struggle with ISIS and related elements of radical Islam.

The most detailed and comprehensive proposal for combating ISIS was provided by Hillary Clinton in a speech on November 14. Clinton’s proposal was similar to Obama’s existing policy, notably in prescribing a highly restricted role for American ground troops and hopeful reliance on the “65 country coalition.” It differed principally in a tone of greater urgency and a recognition, even before the San Bernardino shooting, that the past and present levels of effort were insufficient: […]

Blog No. 71 The Annals of Leading from Behind, Part II.

Part II. Ukraine and the Search for a Strategy

Back on June 4, we posted Part I, “The Islamic State and the Search for a Strategy” and promised that Part II would deal with Ukraine and Eastern Europe. After a somewhat longer interval than anticipated, we turn now to Part II. As it happens, little appears to have changed with respect to Ukraine and Eastern Europe since our previous post. Ukraine, and more broadly Eastern Europe, seems to have slid largely out of political and public consciousness. Yet that part of the world continues, in our view, to represent a highly dangerous situation that is almost certain to appear as a new crisis at some point. […]

Blog No. 43, Part III: Ukraine – and What Lies Beyond.

A period of relative calm had pushed Ukraine out of the center of media and public attention for a brief time when President Petro Poroshenko addressed Congress on September 18. It is, however, a situation that we dare not lose sight of for very long. President Poroshenko gave an eloquent speech that drew several standing ovations. He may be Ukraine’s most important single asset: a leader of vision, courage and pragmatism. While it is doubtful that Ukraine will receive the weaponry that he seeks, Poroshenko gave the impression that he will find a way for Ukraine to survive. […]

Blog No. 43. American Foreign Policy Part I: The ISIS Crisis

As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, much has been written about President Obama’s approach to foreign policy and what appears to many, both here and abroad, to have been a projection of weakness. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy—reliance on allies with minimal direct intervention by the United States—is just that, an approach. In the abstract, there is something to be said for Obama’s approach (just as there was to the approach George W. Bush’s in the 2000 campaign when he promised humility in a foreign policy unburdened by nation building.) But an approach to policy is not a policy itself, much less a strategy (a plan to achieve specific goals), and it must be flexible enough to respond to changing threats. Does Obama’s approach have that flexibility? Back on March 16, David Sanger wrote a perceptive analysis in The New York Times, “Global Crises Put Obama’s Strategy of Caution to the Test.” Since that time, as the crises have grown more urgent, the tests have only gotten tougher and it is far from clear that Obama’s “strategy” (more accurately, approach or instinct) is passing them.

At the moment, events in Ukraine have forced the President into engagement and leadership. Considerably aided by the tragic downing of the Malaysian airliner with its many Dutch passengers, he has been successful in persuading European countries to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia than many had thought possible. Nevertheless, effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be seen, and the extent of the Europeans’ commitment, the President’s–and ours–remains uncertain. Equally uncertain are the outlines of an overall strategy for Ukraine and more broadly, Europe. What will Europe and the United States do if the sanctions fail to have the desired result or, worse yet, if Russia takes even more aggressive actions. Is providing Ukraine with arms and other military support a good idea or bad idea? If Putin persists in his apparent attempt to revise the post Cold War map of Europe, do the EU and NATO have the resources and the will to resist? These and related questions will be addressed in a subsequent post, but here we will focus on a crisis that, for the moment, has lost prime attention from the media: ISIS.BLog 43 Iraq_ISIS_Abu_Wahe_2941936b

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Blog No. 33 Update 2: Another Message From Ukraine

We have received a copy of another email from Nita Hanson in Ukraine.  As indicated in a recent blog (“Blog No 33 Update – A Postscript Directly from Ukraine”), Nita is the founder of an American, faith-based mission in Ukraine. We thought that this message, like her earlier one, would be of interest to followers of RINOcracy.com, and an excerpt appears below.

Interest in Ukraine on the part of the government, the media and the public has appeared less intense in recent days. The situation is no longer referred to as a “crisis” and, in the fashion of current news coverage, it has slipped from the front pages. Perhaps that is because, despite the Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, it is believed that  Russia does not plan an invasion. For example, an April 10 article in The New York Times (relegated to page A8 of the print edition) was headlined “Russia Plotting for Ukrainian Influence, Not Invasion, Analysts Say.” That may be, and RINOcracy.com hopes that is the case, because as we have indicated, we see no prospect for a successful outcome to a military conflict in Ukraine.

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Blog No. 33. Putin, Ukraine and Echoes of Munich

After Britain and France approved Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement of 1938, it became a symbol of appeasement that still reverberates.  Indeed, Vladimir Putin’s telephone call to Barack Obama on March 28, offering a resumption of diplomatic discussions, raised the question of whether he may be seeking a 21st century version of the Munich Agreement. Russia’s incursion into Crimea, on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians, reminded many observers of Hitler’s purported grounds for annexing the Sudetenland.  A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton observed:

“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Putin and Obama shake hands […]

Blog No. 32. After Crimea: A Different World?

RINOcracy.com has been reluctant to add its voice to the cacophony of comment and opinion on the Ukraine crisis, much of it from sources far more knowledgeable than we. Yet it seemed there might be a point to putting down in one place what seem to be the principal issues:

1. Is the annexation of Crimea reversible?

2. Does the occupation and subsequent annexation of Crimea foreshadow a similar incursion into, and possible annexation of, eastern Ukraine?

3. Does Ukraine have the military capacity to resist a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine or beyond? Should the United States and NATO provide military assistance to Ukraine and, if so, what kind?

4. How serious a threat do the Russian actions in Ukraine represent to other nations of eastern Europe?

5. What is the purpose of economic sanctions and what effect will they have?

6. What is the likelihood of our being drawn into direct involvement in an armed conflict in Europe? If that should occur, are we sufficiently prepared militarily and politically?

The ultimate question is suggested by the statement of NATO Secretary Rasmussen, in Washington on March 19. Calling the Ukraine crisis a wake-up call for NATO, he observed that, “We live in a different world than we did less than a month ago.”  The question is whether we are prepared to deal with that different world.

2014. Russia annexes the Ukrainian region of Crimea, after Russian troops invade and the area votes to secede from Ukraine. The vote and annexation is condemned internationally. The Economist, Mar 20th 2014, K.N.C., P.K. and A.C.M.

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