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Friday, March 27

The American habit of stepping into conflicts that are 1,000 years old

I well remember Hillary Clinton during her confirmation hearing for Secretary State explaining to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that her era at State would be characterized by the American use of "smart power" in the Middle East:
"We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural -- picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation," Clinton said in her opening remarks. "With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy."
Ah, but one is only as smart as one's knowledge base, which is the perennial problem with choosing advisers.  If you, yourself, don't know as much as they about a particular strategic situation, it's easy to pick a screwdriver from the toolbox when you actually need a wrench.  The only fallback for ignorance is to possess a large store of common sense that can be applied to matters of defense and foreign policy.

If both knowledge and sense are lacking, this is how a government can smartly power its way to the verge of World War Three.  

I was sharply reminded of this last night when I listened to John Batchelor talk with Victor Gaetan of the National Catholic Register about the Christian Church's side in the Ukraine crisis.  There is more than one side, it turns out, there being more than one kind of Christianity in the country.

Gaetan did his best to explain the situation in simple terms, but I'm afraid that after five minutes I started feeling a little seasick trying to keep up.  One really has to enjoy learning about the ins and outs of religious history to even have the will to get one's bearings in the situation.

Well, it's complex, as are all disagreements that have been going on for a thousand years or so,  It's just that the Obama Administration and its foreign office overlooked the religious part of the political aspect in Ukraine. Which it turns out is more important than might seem immediately evident.

And so the Obama Administration fell prey to lobbyists and agendists who want to promote a one-dimensional view of Ukraine's relationship with Russia.

Repeat the sentence with "Arab Muslim countries" instead of Ukraine.

So what is to be done with the American habit of wading into situations in foreign countries it understands not at all?  I venture there are too many Grand Master chess players in America's defense/diplo establishment and not enough ping pong players.


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