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Do be sure to check out this brilliant, marvelous, incandescently stupendous piece by our very own Messiah of the Moment, Max “I used to be Otto von Bismarck in a previous life” Fisher, in which Fisher explains the Obama Administration’s attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from gobbling up any of the Baltic states. Especially wonderful and heartwarming is Fisher’s tendency to breathlessly explain the principles of deterrence to his audience as though (a) he just learned about those principles and (b) his audience consists exclusively of two-year olds. Consider the following excerpt:
President Obama gave a speech on Wednesday, in a city most Americans have never heard of, committing the United States to possible war against Russia. He said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Western military alliance better known as NATO, would fight to defend eastern European members like Estonia against any foreign aggression. In other words, if Russian President Vladimir Putin invades Estonia or Latvia as he invaded Ukraine, then Putin would trigger war with the US and most of Europe.
Obama’s speech from the Estonian capital of Tallinn, though just a speech, may well be America’s most important and aggressive step yet against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. While the speech will do nothing for Ukraine, it is meant to stop Russia from invading, or perhaps from sponsoring rebellions in, other European countries — so long as those European countries are part of NATO, as most are.
And this one:
Obama was making a promise, and a very public one meant to reverberate not just in European capitals but in Moscow as well: If Russia invades any member of NATO, even these small Baltic states on the alliance’s far periphery, then it will be at war with all of them — including the United States.
And this one:
The idea, though, is not that Obama wants to go to war with Russia, it’s that he wants to avoid war with Russia — this is also why the US and Europe are not intervening militarily in Ukraine to push back the Russian tanks — but that avoiding war with Russia means deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading these Baltic states in the first place by scaring him off.
And this one:
Here is Obama’s dilemma, and Europe’s: They want to prove to Putin that they will definitely defend Estonia and Latvia and other eastern European NATO members as if they were American or British or German soil, so that Putin will not invade those countries as he did in Ukraine.
And this one:
This all started when NATO invited a bunch of former Soviet states, such as Estonia, to join in the 1990s and 2000s because it wanted to keep them safe from Russian aggression, and wanted to isolate Russia. The entire point of NATO is as a military alliance, and mostly an anti-Russian one, in which declaring war against one member means you are at war with all of them. So the idea is that this will prevent Russia from invading Estonia, because this would trigger war with the US, UK, Germany, France, and many others, which Russia would lose.
And this one:
That’s why Obama went to the Estonian capital of Tallinn this week, and why he stood up with the Estonian prime minister to pledge as clearly as possible that he would definitely go to war against Russia if it came to it — precisely so that it never will come to that.
(All emphasis mine.) So, now we know that President Obama’s tough rhetoric is meant to deter Vladimir Putin from trying to annex any or all of the Baltic states, because the Great and Glorious Max Fisher saw fit to say so seven separate times in his piece. It is so tremendously nice of Fisher to write his piece as though it were issued by the Repetition Department of Repetition, just in case there is one reader out there who is still unclear on what the Obama Administration’s aims are. And congratulations to Fisher for discovering deterrence theory. He obviously got a huge kick out of writing about it.
To think that Jeff Bezos missed out on having all of this concentrated intellectual firepower at the Washington Post. Surely, he must be kicking himself for his shortsightedness.Published in General
That’s just awful writing, laughable from a sophomore in college. I’m not sure who he thinks his audience is: people who need to be convinced that Barry’s going to actually call the Pentagon and ask them to move divisions against Russia should NATO obligations demand it, or people who are confused as to what a “treaty” is, what “NATO” is, and what a “Tallinn” is.
Let me be perfectly clear. While Barry was still in gym shorts choomin’ it up in the back seat of a Pacer, I knew where Estonia was on a map, and knew the name of its capital. 5 bucks says Barry didn’t know either of those things until Putin started taking his shirt off and scaring President Milquetoast with his angry, no-place-in-the-21st-century rhetoric. And actions.
VOX: Spreading freshman political philosophy to the world since 2014.
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Or even …
Of course, when the President constantly blusters and talks tough but then fails to follow through when the chips are down, it makes it that much harder to deter with words alone.
Putin should have gotten a clear message from this speech that he would have no chance to take the Baltic states. Instead, he’s got to be evaluating the situation and wondering if this isn’t just another ‘red line’ to be crossed at will without consequence.
When you’ve lost your credibility and your enemies don’t believe what you say, you lose the ability to deter with words. The world then becomes a very dangerous place.
Here I thought the Budapest Memorandum committed the US to guarantee Ukrainian territory should they give up their nukes. Violations of Ukrainian sovreignty are met with ‘non-lethal support’ because those were only words on paper. P. Obama’s speeches are also only words on paper (before being transferred to teleprompter). NATO treaty obligations are also only words on paper.
And Putin knows it.
Of course, clearly stating that the promise to go to war is being made only because we really, really want to avoid going to war kinda destroys the deterrent effect, don’t you think?
Not necessarily, because history backs up the promise.
The allies promised to go to war with Germany if Germany advanced into Poland, because the allies really, really didn’t want to go to war.
Hitler didn’t believe the allies were serious, and so they went to war.
Today, the allies are making the same promise. It would seem like poor reading of history to bet that this time they really don’t mean it.
That’s my point. Stating that the promise is for deterrent effect only can easily be interpreted as “not really meaning it.” Especially given Obama’s other pronouncements and inaction. Saying we don’t want war but if others do we will not shy away might be a better locution.
Deterrence is simple. Capability * Will.
Obama has governed on reducing capability (shrinking the military) and his lead-from-behind-strategy demonstrates a lack of will.
Deterrence if failing because he wishes it so.
Again, I think a modern reading of history supplies a counter-lesson.
Chamberlain failed to deter Hitler, but once war started Chamberlain was replaced by Churchill.
Putin’s actions suggest to me that he’s trying to stay on the Chamberlain side of the equation. He’s wagering that as long as he sticks to Russia’s metaphorical “Sudetenland” and doesn’t cross the line to Russia’s metaphorical “Poland”, he doesn’t risk awakening the metaphorical “modern Churchill”.
Or, to put it another way, all he has to do is avoid attacking Pearl Harbour, and he has a big advantage over 1930s Japan since he already controls the oil.