Dow down 67. Gold flat. We turn to other things.
You know our position on foreign affairs; we think there shouldn’t be any.
But sometimes the news takes our breath away. Herewith a brief summary of the situation in Crimea, as we have been able to understand it after reading about it for three minutes.
Crimea was given to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev, who was half-Ukrainian. But its population is mostly Russian-speaking and has had a strong Russian presence for more than 200 years, including an important Russian naval base.
Threatened by events in Ukraine, where the government is variously reported to be either “thuggish” or “incompetent”, the local Crimean authorities apparently asked Russia to intervene. Vladimir Putin sent troops, thus securing an important Black Sea port – Sevastopol – on his southern flank.
Now, the idea is to have a vote – a referendum – that will decide how the people of Crimea wish to be misgoverned – by Ukrainians or by Russians. Odds are, they will choose Russia.
Western powers are said to be outraged, which is when our eyes begin to mist.
“You just don’t invade a country under a phoney pretext!” said US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Mr Kerry’s indignation sounds like the sincere homage vice pays to virtue. He surely knows that a pretext is just what you need. A veteran of Vietnam, the Secretary of State is not only aware of America’s hapless invasions of the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Libya. He participated personally in one of them, after the phoney Gulf of Tonkin “incident”.
An empire must have its enemies and its pretexts, its pet intellectuals and its war-mongering pit bulls. Vlad ‘the Bad’ Putin is a problem, they tell us. We turn to Tom Friedman for a reliably idiotic solution. He doesn’t disappoint us. Here’s how to fix his little red wagon, he explains:
… by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30% of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead.
I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).
You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps.
We don’t know why we would want to frighten Putin. But foreign policy experts like Friedman begin to talk this way when they’ve had too much to drink or too little to eat. They get a little light-headed.
How would forcing Americans to pay for their gasoline hurt Putin? According to Friedman, it would lower demand for energy, thereby cutting into Russia’s export profits. This would surely hurt Americans. Would it hurt Putin? Who knows? But what the heck. Give it a try. See how it works out.
Friedman imagines he can know all the billions of facts on the ground in places he’s never once been and improve the outcome in situations he can never understand. From the safety of his column at the New York Times, he led the charge into Iraq, and now into Crimea!
What a thrill for these Roosevelt wannabes and Wilson manqués. Their own children may ignore them. Their own wives may think them foolish, pompous, and ineffectual. But, vicariously, foreign policies allow them to boss around whole nations. They are no longer victims of history, but its masters.
But thank God for them all. They are history’s biggest fools. Without them, we wouldn’t have so many exciting wars, so much sturm und drang, so many entertaining stories in the newspaper. What would the Cossacks have done without the Grande Armée? What use was the atom bomb without Hiroshima? And what would the fodder do without the cannons?