Open Thread

I’m getting some feedback on “Mirrors” and I have to say I’m pleased – people are liking it. Wish it would sell more, of course! But, the main thing is that I’ve written a story that people like. And I’m very grateful for that.

So, the Ukraine thing – looks more and more like it is another self-own by the Democrats: it is the Bidens who might be in jeopardy, not Trump. My view: in any controversy regarding Trump, always work on the assumption that he’s the guy who didn’t break the law. We’ve long heard about Biden’s son getting sweet heart deals in Ukraine…and my bet is that this NSA “whistleblower” was a desperate rear-guard to try and keep it from coming out. RSM has thoughts.

Patriots ditch Antonio Brown after a mere 11 days with rising allegations of bad behavior. I don’t know what is true in this – it’ll come out over time, I’m sure.

We’re close to flipping the 9th Circuit – this is why we elected Trump and why we have to re-elect him. Once the Courts are firmly in the hands of judges who will enforce the law not only will the left no longer be able to impose their policies via judicial fiat, but we’ll be able to start rolling back the previous, unconstitutional rulings liberal judges made. All those years the Tru-Cons told us they’d do this…and they never, ever did: Trump has nearly done it in three years. All that was lacking was the will.

“Ad Astra” has a good review. I might have to go see it – and as the Progs are simply hating Sallone’s latest “First Blood” installment, I’ll probably have to check it out, too.

Trump’s approval rating is better than Obama’s at this point in his term. And this with, I’m very certain, polls cooked to make Trump look worse than he is.

What is Diplomacy?

There have been several attempts at defining this.  Webster has it as “the work of maintaining good relations between the governments of different countries”, but that is a lot of nonsense.  You don’t need good relations between governments – in fact, good relations can some times hamper diplomacy (ties of sentiment are deadly when dealing with intra-governmental issues).  Will Rogers came closer when he said, “diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggy’ until you can find a rock”.  But that isn’t quite right, either – because the purpose of diplomacy is to not have to use the rock.  But, make no mistake about it, the rock must be part of the equation.

I’ll say that diplomacy is the art of adjusting competing claims between actors of relatively equal power with war as the punishment for diplomatic failure.

It has to be between entities of roughly equal power or it isn’t diplomacy – it is either the stronger imposing its will on the weaker, or the stronger being generous to the weaker for whatever reason.  Only between equals can there be diplomacy – two equals (or two groups who are roughly equal) can sit down at the table and try to adjust their differences, all the while with the knowledge that failure to come to agreement means war – and being as it would be a war between roughly equal powers, no one on either side could be entirely sure of the result, and so the incentive is strongly in favor of coming to a deal.  Unless, that is, one side is determined upon war no matter what.  In such a case, diplomacy also cannot happen – because if one side is determined upon war no matter what and the other side is determined on peace no matter what, then the aggressive side is the stronger and will impose its will on the weaker…and, once again, you don’t have diplomacy.  Let’s look at some examples to illustrate my definition:

1.  It is said that we negotiated a treaty with Panama in 1903 in order to build the canal.  We did nothing of the kind.  We told Panama what we wanted and bade them sign on the dotted line or we wouldn’t build the canal, which is the only reason for Panama to exist.  This was the stronger imposing its will on the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

2.  It is said we negotiated a security treaty with Japan in 1951.  We did nothing of the kind.  Because Japan occupies a strategically vital area in the Asia-Pacific, we promised to protect Japan in return for obtaining certain privileges for our military forces in Japan.  It was a good move by us because Japan is a useful ally to have – but the security of the United States does not in any way depend upon the existence of Japan, and its not like a Japanese army would ever arrive in the United States to help defend us against foreign aggression. This was the stronger being generous to the weaker. Not diplomacy.

3.  When Chamberlain, Hitler, Daladier and Mussolini gathered in Munich in 1938, three of the four were determined to have peace at any price, one of them was determined upon war no matter what.  That it wound up with an agreement rather than war was because of the rather startling amount of surrender that Chamberlain and Daladier agreed to – they eventually decided that Hitler should get the spoils of war without war (keep in mind, that if they hadn’t agreed, Hitler would have gone to war in 1938 rather than waiting until 1939).  This was rather unique in human history (to that point, at least) but it still illustrates the point:  with one side willing war no matter what and the other willing peace no matter what, the warlike side becomes immediately the stronger and imposes its will upon the weaker.  Not diplomacy.

4.  When the USSR challenged the United States by putting nuclear missiles in Cuba, both affected parties were roughly equal in power and both sides were equally determined to avoid war.  Negotiations were tense and many fears were raised, but the fact of the matter is that as both were equally strong and no one was willing war, a deal was bound to happen unless some horrific accident took place.  The basics of the deal eventually agreed to were Russian nukes out of Cuba, American nukes out of Turkey.  That is diplomacy.

Now, why bring all this up?  Because as we have gone through the Ukraine crisis, no one is understanding that among all the varied things going on, diplomacy isn’t one of them.  Diplomacy will never be one of them – it can’t be as there aren’t two equal sides involved her.  Oh, to be sure, the power of the United States, alone, is enough to fight and defeat Russia…and the combined power of just Germany and France could probably make short work of Putin’s burgeoning empire.  But no one who dislikes Putin’s actions is putting on the table anything like the force necessary to give Putin pause and make him want to turn to diplomacy…which would, once again, be an adjustment of interests between equal powers and war as the price of failure.  It is my belief that Putin does not desire war – not with us, not with the European Union, not with anyone.  If there were power to match his power, he would climb down and negotiate a diplomatic settlement.  Such a settlement would, of course, have to grant Russia some of her desires – that is the thing about diplomacy: it is never a matter of anyone getting all they want.  It is a deal between equals and each gives a bit, because they don’t want a war which would be more costly than whatever it is they have to surrender to reach a deal.  But with a complete vacuum of power opposite Russia, there is no need for Russia to fear war, and thus no reason to use diplomacy.  Might as well grab all you can while the getting is good.

All the huffing and puffing of Obama, Kerry and the collective world won’t do anything.  To be sure, Putin might graciously agree to eventually sign something which will be hailed as a diplomatic settlement, but you can rest assured – unless there comes along a credible threat of war against Russia – that whatever settlement is agreed to will be entirely in accordance with Putin’s view of Russia’s interests.  In other words, he’ll merely take what he wants at the moment, leave an option to grab what he hasn’t got and attend an international conference to ratify what he’s done.  It’ll be a nice meal and pictures taken and his own press back home will laud him (or else!) as the greatest Russian in a century, etc.

Now that I’ve said all that, what do I think we should do?  Normally, I would advocate a vigorous American response to this but given our current condition and our current President, I’m saying that surrender isn’t so bad.  To be sure, its bad for the people who will come under Putin’s embrace, but I’m not so sure how a half-hearted and incompetently conducted military campaign leading to eventual American failure would help – and, of course, such a thing would actually harm.  As under Obama we are bound to have nothing but the aforementioned half-hearted, etc, I figure we just cut to the chase and make the best of a bad situation.  We can start to repair this in 2017 – hopefully under leadership which isn’t quite as bad as Obama’s.  It is a sad and distressing position for America to be in, but we have no one to blame but ourselves – we might be able to assign our 2008 vote to well-intentioned folly, but our 2012 vote was a gigantic mistake with sufficient facts clearly known.  Now we just have to pay the price for it.

Why Did Putin Do It? Because He Thinks He’ll Win

Later this year, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I’m going to be writing an article about how I view that war – but I’ll give one spoiler right now:  the reason the war started, ultimately, was because the Germans thought they could win it.  That is why all wars start – one sides thinks they’ll win.  And not only thinks they’ll win, but thinks they’ll win in a walk over.  Wars aren’t started by people who are resigned to a difficult task with a doubtful outcome – wars are started by people who think they’ve got it sewn.

And Putin has sent troops in to Ukraine because he thinks he’ll win – and win rather easily.  Whether or not he’ll try to take over the whole country instead of the heavily-Russian eastern part remains to be seen.  But if Putin thinks he can grab the whole of Ukraine in an easy war, he’ll do it.  Now, why should Putin think that?

Well, first off, Ukraine is militarily not all that strong – a lot of their equipment is antiquated Soviet equipment (though upgraded a bit over the years), their armed forces are relatively small compared to Russia’s and, of course, a large minority of Ukrainians are Russians – not inclined to fight against the Russian army, even if not entirely favorable to coming under Russian rule. Furthermore, and probably decisively, Putin does not fear any serious response from anyone.  NATO?  Toothless.  EU?  Blind and toothless.  United States?  Distant and ruled over by fools who don’t understand how the world works.  The harshest thing on the table so far is that we’ll kick them out of the G-8.  Big whoop.  Like Putin will care too much about that – and like he won’t be invited back in a few years from now when tempers have cooled.

The only thing which would have stopped Putin is either a militarily powerful Ukraine or a United States not only powerful, but clearly willing to make Putin’s life miserable for years over the matter.  Neither being forthcoming, Putin moved.  Whether or not there will be some “deal” to smooth things over or whether it will go all the way to annexation by Russia remains to be seen – but Putin has just shown that he is in charge in that area of the world.  Ukraine knows that they can only go so far in offending Russia while other nations on Russia’s borders (especially the Baltic States) have been clearly warned that being tight with the west only offends Putin, while the west will do nothing concrete to oppose an offended Russia.

The worse problem is that the cat is really out of the bag, now.  Every two-bit tyrant out there who wants to grab himself a bit of geo-political territory knows that now is the time to start grabbing – with the United States effectively out of the picture as long as Democrats are in charge, the sky is the limit.