I was watching CNN's The Situation Room this afternoon. Jack Cafferty, a regular commentator, proposes a political question each hour of the show and invites viewers to respond by email. Jack's question for the 5 p.m. hour was: "Is President Bush reigniting the Cold War with Russia?" You can view the list of responses at the link in the title.
I sent a quick response, but the question got my mind working. Why would Bush risk reigniting the Cold War right now? He's had years in which to confront Russia on numerous real global issues and has, instead, called Putin his friend. Why now?
Personally, I don't think Bush is trying to reignite the Cold War, but his administration's record for unintended consequences is alarming and he might easily do so by accident.
It turns out there are several good reasons why he would provoke a minor crisis right now:
International terrorism, even the Administration's recent revelations about home-grown terrorist plots are not generating the kind of generalized fear domestically that he needs to keep up his Iraq war strategy, keep his conservative base loyal, and to keep a pack of Congressional investigators at bay with claims of secrecy based on national security.
When I was a child, American diplomats described the then Soviet Union as "a midget with a huge right arm." This phrase may be politically incorrect today, but it meant that as a nation, the USSR had a massive inferiority complex that made them easy to provoke, and when provoked they had an enormous military and nuclear weapons with which to respond. Though the USSR is no more, Russia, which led that Union, continues to maintain nuclear weapons and a large military, following its historical political tendencies.
The whole diplomatic world knows this. So, why would President Bush start pushing for this missile defense system in Russia's back yard now, since he must surely know it would provoke a strong negative reaction from Vladimir Putin, a direct inheritor of the Soviet mindset?
As a strategic matter, Russia's expected paranoid response suggests to our allies in the EEU that, considering Russia's aggressiveness about a what is basically still a theoretical system, they might actually need the missile shield America wants and that Russia fears.
I believe his immediate goal was to provoke a truculent response from Russia that will make any real progress at the G-8 Conference impossible. Although Bush has started talking about climate change recently, it's all hot air. Today, at the G-8, he obviously is working to prevent the G-8 from re-introducing Kyoto-like goals for reducing greenhouse gasses. And yet, the BBC's coverage this evening indicates that criticism of the American position by other world leaders has been muted.
So Bush is achieving several important policy goals by provoking a crisis right now. However, he's doing so at a terrible risk to international peace and to peaceful cooperation and development. Considering the enormous risk of reigniting the Cold War, why would he do so?
Simple. To feed the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about over 50 years ago! As long as there are major international tensions, we will have to keep feeding this hungry beast. This is what Bush and the Corpublicans (Corporate Republican supporters) want.
Bush's associations with the oil industry are well publicized, but most Americans don't seem to realize how close he and his supporters are to the weapons industry. But that's an issue for another post.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007