C’mon. What did you expect? Welcome, Sonny? Make yourself at home? Marry my daughter? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know ... morons.
- The Waco Kid to Black Bart, Blazing Saddles, 1974.
That’s the concern.
Prestige. Standing. Reputation. Face.
The conflict in Ukraine teeters dangerously on the razor’s edge of self immolation.
Vladimir Putin regards his neighbors with pale icy blue eyes and toys with the idea of a reborn Russian hegemony.
Stock markets around the world tremble in fear and uncertainty. Oil barons seethe in impotent rage and furiously speed-dial their pet politicians in white-eyed panic and demand that the sweet Russian crude be kept flowing at all costs.
The shade of Tom Clancy grumbles in dire warning from his flag draped tomb as warships circle like angry hornets in the Black Sea and the ring of Russian steel crashes through the chilly gray streets of Sevastopol like ghostly echoes of one of his Cold War thrillers.
The European Union holds its collective breath and cups a trembling hand protectively over its genitals and hopes that sanity and reason will prevail – they won’t, of course, prevail, they never do, not until enough people have died, not until enough blood runs in the streets, not until enough cities have burned and enough rage has been spent … but perhaps this time it will be different. Perhaps.
Meanwhile, in America, it’s all about face.
The old graying warhawks are raucously crowing “I told you so! I told you so!” while grimly polishing their brass campaign buttons and girding on their sword-belts.
This is it! They’ll finally get the glorious war with the Soviet Union they’ve always dreamed of. To arms! To arms! Man the bunkers! Open the silos! Launch the bombers and bring the subs to firing depth! Stand out the fleet to sea! The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming at long last! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Or … maybe not.
Frankly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the creaky old Cold Warriors think America should do.
The ever sneering face of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on CNN yesterday and angrily demanded, “Well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. President Obama needs to do something.”
Oh yes, of course, it’s Obama who invites aggression. Yes indeed.
If only it wasn’t for Obama there wouldn’t have been six hundred years of history between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainians wouldn’t have aligned with Russia prior to WWI and then been violently absorbed into the Soviet Union in a conflict that killed nearly two million Ukrainians and left a smoldering hatred for Moscow that exists to this day and laid the foundations for the current conflict. Why if it wasn’t for Obama, the Ukrainians wouldn’t have split away from Russia after the late lamented USSR went tits up and decided to set up their own sovereign country in the first place. And if it wasn’t for Obama, the newly independent Ukraine wouldn’t have suffered economic hardship and political turmoil all through the 90’s until they grew so sick of it they rewrote their constitution, reformed their political system, ousted their government, and brought Viktor Yanukovych to power. And of course, Obama’s weak indecisiveness is the cause behind Ukrainian disgust at Yanukovych’s corruption and abuse of power and attempt to align Ukraine with Russia once again. And, of course, Obama’s weak indecisiveness resulted in widespread Ukrainian aggression against their government and its eventual collapse which left the country wide open to Russian intervention.
Oh, yes, it’s so clear in hindsight. Gee thanks, Obama!
And now, now Obama needs to do something to clean up his Ukrainian mess.
Lindsey Graham has obviously been reading from the Sarah Palin coloring book. Something! Do something! He needs to do something! I’m not really sure what, but something! Something with warships and guns maybe! We must defend the Crimea! Russians! Ook! Ook! Let charge the Light Brigade! Into the valley of death! Nuke ‘em ‘till they glow, Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out! Something, Goddammit! That’s what we need!
And speaking of assbackward into the unknown, John McCain roused grumpily from the foggy bamboo cage of his raging PTSD and angrily shouted “Pickles!” as he often does when provoked. Then he too demanded that Obama do something. “Every moment that the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in Ukraine!”
Now I’m no expert on senile dementia, but it may be that John McCain is mixing up his invasions. By God, we can’t let Ho Chi Minh and those yellow commies get away with this! Dammit, Man, if Obama won’t do something, by God I will. Ready my plane and let’s take the fight to those slanty-eyed bastards! For Honor and Richard Nixon, follow me!
Both Graham and McCain figuratively smacked their manly fists into their horny palms to the sound of trumpets and rattling sabers and the mournful stirring notes of The Minstrel Boy …
… but then both stopped short of demanding actual military action.
In his usual garrulous old man whine McCain snarled, “There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force.” Dagnabit!
Head of the House Intelligence Committee, Michigan Republican Mike Rogers said, "There is not a lot of options on the table. And candidly, and I'm a fairly hawkish guy, sending more naval forces to operate in the Black Sea is not a good idea."
Senator Marco Rubio said on Meet The Press, "If you're asking me whether the U.S. should be taking military strikes against Russian troops in Ukraine or in Crimea, I would argue to you that I don't think anyone is advocating for that."
Well, sure, Marco, nobody but retired Admiral James Stavridis, who used to be NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and who said in a Foreign Policy column last weekend that we need to send the fleet to the Black Sea and that NATO needs to dust off its cold war contingency plans and bring its 25,000-member Response Force to full alert. Now, exactly what those forces are supposed to do, if not engage Russian troops in combat, Stavridis didn’t say – I mean, if they’re not there to fight, what are they there for? To ensure Putin doesn’t violate gay people’s human rights? Hello, hello, is this thing on?
Honestly, if these screeching chickenhawks aren’t talking about actual military action, then what are they complaining about?
Without the use of military force what’s left but exactly the economic and political sanctions President Obama immediately proposed and threatened Putin with?
Isn’t that exactly what McCain, Graham, et al are demanding? But what? They just don’t like Obama being the one to do it?
Maybe if Obama donned a flight suit and brandished an AR-15 while declaring “Yer all either with us or against us, damn yer eyes!” from the deck of an American aircraft carrier (The USS Ronald Reagan, of course) steaming up the Turkish Straits toward the Crimea?
And are we to go it alone again, or should we maybe take the time to form a united front with the international community? Or hey, we could just ridicule France and hate on the Dixie Chicks.
Should we maybe send, oh, hell, I don’t know, a high ranking member of the State Department to Ukraine and Russia to seek non-military options and to ascertain truth on the ground – you know, since charging headlong into the fray without proper intelligence and an adequate understanding of the battlespace worked so, so very well for us the last time around … ur, last two times I mean, ur, uh, last three or four times or, well hell, how many times between now and Korea is it? I lose track.
But what about our reputation? What will people think if we don’t do something that at least looks military in nature? And we have to do it right now!
If it’s not the sanctions Obama proposed and it’s not a declaration of war, what then is it conservatives want? A number six?
Oh, you don’t know what a Number Six is?
Think John McCain played by Slim Pickens as Hedley Lamar’s henchman, Taggart, in the great Mel Brooks farce, Blazing Saddles. Taggart explains conservative military geopolitical strategy thusly, “We'll work up a Number Six on 'em! That's where we go a ridin' inta town, a whompin' and a whumpin' every livin' thing that moves within an inch of its life! Except the women folks, of course…”
Note that conservatives agitating for action aren’t particularly concerned with how this crisis will ultimately affect any actual Ukrainians.
The concern here is how this conflict will impact Americans.
After all, most Americans can’t find America on a map let alone the Crimean Peninsula.
The vast, vast majority of Americans couldn’t tell you how the Russia of today differs from the Soviet Union of the long defunct Cold War that they pine so nostalgically for.
Most couldn’t describe with any but the vaguest notion the kind of government Ukraine has as compared to the one they had before, nor could they tell you what actually caused the current crisis – well, other than to grunt and shout “Pickles!” I mean.
Hell, most Americans couldn’t describe the difference between “Ukraine” and “The Ukraine” or why it matters, even if their lives depended on it – the press certainly has no idea.
I’d be willing to bet whatever sum of money you like that you can ask any random group of Americans to describe how a Russian navy base came to be located in Sevastopol, or even what body of water that base is located on or what its strategic importance is to the Russian navy, and not a single one would have any idea whatsoever without checking Wikipedia and its so, so accurate database first.
Most Americans have no idea beyond the ingrained Cold War bogeyman of “Russia Bad! Evil Empire! Boris and Natasha, Moose and Squirrel!” and can’t be troubled to find out any more than that – despite having access to the accumulated knowledge of the entire human race at their fingertips.
For all they really know, the Ukrainians could be a bunch of child murdering pudding sodomizers who wallow naked in the blood of little Christian babies under the light of the full moon.
And the Russians could be avenging heroes of righteousness and good.
Sure they could. I mean, after all, wasn’t it just last month that these same exact American conservatives were vocally praising Vladimir Putin for his stance on homosexuality and Western immorality?
These are the exact same people – the exact same people – who themselves want to solve all of America’s problems with guns and military force and think that they can liberate the Third World by dropping freedom on brown people from the belly of a B-2.
But they’re hollering about Putin?
That’s rich. It really is. It’s like the jokes just write themselves.
Folks, and pay attention here, the politicians and pundits currently complaining the loudest about the White House’s response to the Ukrainian crisis have more in common ideologically with Putin than they do with Obama.
You might want to think about that. Think about it hard, because the irony is mind boggling.
Most Americans don’t know and they don’t care about any actual Ukrainians.
No, the real fear here being not the deaths or oppression of actual people, or the collapse of yet another modern nation’s stability into pillaging and rape and the bloody chaos of civil war, or the possibility of an expanding global economic catastrophe just as we were finally climbing out of the last mess, or even the possibility of a large scale war between nuclear powers and the resulting carnage and bloodshed and insanity.
The real concern here is American Prestige.
That’s the real casualty of a war in the Crimea, right? Prestige. Face. Reputation.
"Everybody says 'no' to the U.S. these days without cost or consequence," laments Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to six secretaries of State and fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – which is just plain goddamned Ironic as all hell given that Woodrow Wilson was the American president who got himself reelected on the slogan “He kept us out of war!” Miller told Fox News that the last "truly effective" foreign policy was under former President George H.W. Bush. "There was a cost for saying 'no' to the United States. Right now, there is no cost."
I honestly have to wonder if Miller can actually hear what the words coming out of his mouth sound like. Particularly what those words sound like to the rest of the world.
If you’re hearing the tromp tromp tomp of goose-stepping, you’re not the only one.
With a straight face, Conservative blog American Thinker (an oxymoron if ever there was one) hails Sarah Palin as “astute,” and worries based on her vague 2008 comments regarding the Russia/Georgia conflict (which somehow proves her word salad gibberish to be as accurate and reliable as Nostradamus), that Putin will next invade America and take back Alaska in a fit of seller’s remorse.
Hey, it could happen.
And, of course, Russia will dare this because, as the big-haired big-breasted foreign policy “experts” at Fox News pointed out today, the world just doesn’t fear us the way it used to.
Face, prestige, that’s what this is all about.
That’s what these people are really afraid of, that unless we attack, unless we unleash yet another ill-conceived war, unless we charge pell-mell into yet another conflict and leave several thousands more of our best and brightest dead on the battlefield, unless the world fears us, either our military might or our insanity, why, men like John McCain and Lindsey Graham will have to hang their heads in shame.
But you know, here’s the thing: Pearl Harbor, Korea, Israel and the Arab states, Tibet, Mau Mau, Cuba, Cambodia, Algeria, Suez, Vietnam, Tibet again, the Congo, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Angola, Yemen, Sino-Indian, Rhodesia, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Chad, Libya, The Six Day War, Nigeria again, Tibet again, The Troubles in Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Bangladesh, Black September, The Yom Kippur War, USS Liberty, USS Pueblo, Cyprus, Iraq and the Kurds, Iraq and Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, Iraq and America, The Dirty War, Libya and Egypt, Uganda, The Munich Massacre, Libya and Chad, The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, The Falklands, Lebanon, Grenada, Sri Lanka, Laos and Thailand, The Lord’s Resistance Army, Panama, Liberia, Somalia, Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, Korea again, The first WTC bombing, The Kobar Towers, Iran, Korea again, The Line of Death, the Berlin Disco Bombing, Pan Am Fight 103, Korea again, The Kenya Embassies, TWA 841, Mumbai, Oklahoma City, Syria, USS Cole, and on and on and on, I mean, fuck, when exactly was this idyll time of peace and tranquility imposed by the fear of American might?
No really, please tell me. When exactly was this magical time when America’s military power and brilliant foreign policy so intimidated the world that all the other nations toed the Red, White, and Blue line like good little vassal states?
Because I spent more than twenty of those years in the United States military, engaged time after time around the globe from Libya to Iraq, from one crisis to the next, and frankly I just must have missed this peaceful golden age.
But, Obama, he came along and screwed it all up, eh?
It’s Obama’s fault, not Putin’s, not Yanukovych, Obama.
It’s Obama who makes America appear weak, who has tarnished the nation’s credibility and reputation.
Of course it is. Why, certainly it’s not senators and congressmen and former has-been politicians and pundits and media personalities who publicly entertain outrageous debunked conspiracy theories and fight the president at every turn and who stand like strange bedfellows with our adversaries against the Commander In Chief.
Oh yes, of course, calling their own president and their own neighbors unAmerican and communists and socialists and fascists and Nazis and the Anti-Christ and the enemies of America and the enemies of humanity and gangsters and of palling around with terrorists and just plain evil, no it’s not those people who damage America’s reputation with their raging insanity. No, certainly not. And, of course, it couldn’t possibly be that these same people routinely weaken their own country with government shutdowns, threats of open rebellion and secession and outright civil war. No, it couldn’t be that.
Hell, when Obama gave in to Republican objections and openly sought permission from conservatives before using military force in Syria, they publicly denigrated him as weak – and they did so specifically because Obama actually listened to them and didn’t defy congress and attack Syria anyway. That’s what a strong Republican patriot would have done, you know, attacked against the specific vote of congress. When Reagan thumbed his nose at congress and sent the military covertly into Afghanistan, why that wasn’t unconstitutional, well, alright, it was, but by God it showed balls – and it intimidated the hell out of our enemies like the Taliban … okay, that’s a bad example but I think I’ve made my point here.
Certainly the current administration’s foreign policy could stand some significant improvement, notably an aggressive campaign to repair the last 50 years of bluster and chest beating, but to blame Obama for Putin’s aggression now is more than a stretch, it’s outright lunacy.
Ah, hell, I guess at this point, after five years of this nonsense – did I say just five years? Oh never mind – I shouldn’t expect anything else.
If these people are really concerned with reputation, maybe they should spend just a little less time worrying about Obama’s and a little more time improving their own.
WE THE WHITE, GODFEARING CITIZENS OF ROCK RIDGE wish to express our extreme displeasure with your choice of sheriff. Please remove him immediately! The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading asshole in the state!
- Harriet Johnson, letter to Governor William J. LePetomaine, Blazing Saddles