Tuesday, March 4, 2014

US and EU Hurrying for What in Ukraine?


There's not much he says with which I can heartily agree.

But in an essay he wrote for Libertarian website LewRockwell.com regarding the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia, political agitator Pat Buchanan makes a lot of sense.

As we've watched conditions deteriorate in Kiev these past couple of months, and Russia exerting more and more pressure on Crimea just within the past several days, the international community has begun to lay the political groundwork for some sort of participation in whatever military conflict might erupt.  And, as has become a hallmark of our current American administration, the signals being sent by our president and secretary of state ring hollow and not entirely informed.

Ukraine, after all, is one of those regions of the world that has never been a bastion of peace and harmony.  Even the most casual of historical research on the topic of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia reveals people groups proud of their heritage and fiercely loyal to their homeland, rather than the state.  A brittle form of democracy currently serves the people of both Ukraine and Russia, but the rampant corruption and sloppy enforcement of civil rights in these two countries mock the concept of political choice more than they honor it.

For his part, Buchanan sees the way Ukrainians have deposed their duly-elected president as reason enough for the United States and the international community to keep our noses out of their problems.

"In Crimea and eastern Ukraine," Buchanan summarizes, "ethnic Russians saw a president they elected and a party they supported overthrown and replaced by parties and politicians hostile to a Russia with which they have deep historical, religious, cultural and ancestral ties."

He points out that even in that region's relatively recent history, American leaders - both Democratic and Republican - have stayed out of conflicts there that have been quite brutal, including Russia's killing of 50,000 Hungarians in 1956, during which Eisenhower refused to commit American soldiers.  What happened in Kiev's Maidan Square last week may have simply been the latest salvo from a perpetually angry culture where power convulses, as it has for generations, from one agitated band of fighters to another.

"Crowds formed in Maidan Square, set up barricades, battled police with clubs and Molotov cocktails, forced the elected president Viktor Yanukovych into one capitulation after another, and then overthrew him, ran him out of the country, impeached him, seized parliament, downgraded the Russian language, and declared Ukraine part of Europe," chronicles Buchanan.  "To Americans this may look like democracy in action.  To Moscow it has the aspect of a successful Beer Hall Putsch, with even Western journalists conceding there were neo-Nazis in Maidan Square."

How legitimate an overthrow is it when a band of disgruntled citizens physically force a democratically-elected president out of office?  Isn't there some constitution in Ukraine that spells out the recourse its citizenry has for recalling elected officials or calling for new elections?  How much of this bloodshed stemmed from impatience, or impertinence?  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my hesitation to support the uprising, since I didn't believe either impatience with government reforms or impertinence against playing by Ukraine's constitutional redress of grievances provided sufficient Biblical justification for revolt.  From what I saw and read about the crisis, it seemed to me as though democracy was only tolerated in Ukraine when it fit what people wanted from it.  Otherwise, they were willing to choose violence over democratic due process.

Of course, I'm no expert on that region of the world.  And frankly, I doubt Buchanan is, either.  But I was surprised to read his appeal for reason and perspective, even as our mainstream media continues to fret, and clamor for President Obama and the European Union to stick our noses in Ukraine's mess.  I would even have gone a bit farther than Buchanan, and wonder out loud if President Obama, with his posturing over Ukraine, is still smarting from Russia's welcoming of secrets-spoiler Edward Snowden, and Putin's power-brokerage in Syria.

Sure, there are concerns about ordinary civilians who have likely already been - and indeed, may still be - killed as a result of this violence, and Russia's flexing of its military muscle.  But America has gone down this path before, most notably in Iraq, where logic - along with Iraq's national sovereignty - was utterly ignored as some of the worst men ever to advise a president gleefully orchestrated an attack on a country that hadn't attacked us, deposed its leader, and in the process, gutted the religious liberties, women's rights, utilities, educational system, and economy that had made Iraq one of the most stable countries in the Middle East.

And those warmongering hawks in George Bush's cabinet had the temerity to push their boss out onto the flight deck of an aircraft carrier underneath the appalling banner reading, "Mission Accomplished."

Yeah, right.  Tell that to the thousands of military personnel who've since died in Iraq.

Buchanan actually does not believe that the international community should simply walk away and let Russia do whatever it will with Ukraine and its people.  I don't believe we should do that, either.  But at this point, there's nothing to suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't fully aware of the risks to his country and himself by taking too much advantage of the discontent Kiev's demonstrators have handed him on a silver platter.  Right now, there's plenty of sabre-rattling going on, and while Putin may be appear to be gambling like a drunken sailor, and maneuvering troops recklessly, Ukraine's reformers haven't employed the best tactics in their pursuit of the changes they desire, either.

Some pundits have suggested that Kiev's demonstrators staged their little stunt when they did to see how much they could get away with as Putin prepared to host - and then personally attended - the Sochi Winter Olympics.  And Putin, as crafty and powerful as he was to deliver an Olympics experience that was violence-free, likely isn't stupid enough to swagger mercilessly into Ukraine.

However, if he is, then we'll take stock of things like we always do, and evaluate our options.  But if the United States wants to play peace police, Ukraine hardly needs to be at the head of the line.

Over the past three weekends, 74 Nigerians have been murdered and dozens more injured by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria.  That's almost as many as the number of protestors killed in Maidan Square.  These attacks are part of a religious slaughter that has been going on there since 2009, in which Boko Haram has killed three to four thousand people, mostly cultural Christians.  And what has the Obama administration done about it?

Just last fall, the State Department officially designated Boko Haram a "foreign terrorist organization."  And, um, that's about it.

Yet more proof that America is willing to wait... until we can figure out how our intervening in another country's political strife can work in our favor.  And even then, as in Iraq, things can backfire horribly.

The old saying keeps proving itself:  those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.  With Ukraine, as Buchanan asks, what's the hurry?
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Update:  For more on the religious warfare that has been waged over the Black Sea region, consider this historical account.


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