Depressed about the situation in the Ukraine? WOOF assumes you are, because you seem to be well informed—after all, you’re reading this— and you seem to be troubled by the prospect of a progressive re-satellitization of the USSR’s former vassal states. We make that assumption also based on the fact that you are here, and manifestly attentive…and we here at WOOF want you to know that we are bothered, too—very bothered. But we also want to share with you our acceptance of things inevitable, no matter how dire. Does that seem defeatist? Well, make no mistake, gentle readers, we of WOOF are in no respect defeatist. Why, we’re still trying to find out who promoted Peress! (But we digress.) Nor are we Browning’s Pippa Passing, skipping innocently past scenes of butchery and mayhem while whistling “don’t worry/be happy.” Not us! Nobody here in the cave is going to put a smiley face on events unfolding in the Crimea—but we nevertheless beg you to consider that with inevitability comes a certain degree of spiritual repose. Shall we elaborate? You knew we would.
Remember Zeno of Citium? Perhaps not, but we do. He more or less invented stoicism and its driving notion that cosmic determinism and human freedom can only coexist contentedly when no conflict erupts between them. This reminds us of a really funny joke about Zeno catching one of his slaves stealing wine, but we don’t have time to tell it. Drop us a comment if you really want to hear it. Our point at the moment, as amplified by subsequent stoics like Seneca and Epictetus is merely that to realistically assess certain occurrences, no matter how distasteful those occurrences may be, is to realize a certain calmness, if not serenity, in observing their manifestation. Nor is this a philosophical stance to be shunned by American conservatives.
Now, we here in the WOOF cave operate beneath what C.S. Lewis would call the fluttering banners of Christendom, (no matter how often we get accused of working for the Mossad) and we are not insensitive to the reaction some may have at the slightest waftage of heathen philosophy. Indeed, this very reaction was first exhibited by the Emperor Justinian who shut down Rome’s pagan academies after he became born again, as it were, around 529 AD. But we believe that Justinian acted precipitately, missing the obvious applications of stoicism to all spiritual existence– probably a bit distracted by Empress Theodora, which seems entirely understandable. Let us examine the current debacle in the Ukraine for signs of—well—inexorableness, and recommend some helpful applications of stoic resignation.
Portents of doom…
The current Ukrainian crisis erupted when several months of protests built to the breaking point, resulting in the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, Putin’s lickspittle in the Crimea, and the dissolution of his government. The first sign that this was an entirely temporary respite from tyranny came through the mellifluous susurrations of those adorably benighted savants at NPR who assured their audience that “pro-Western ministers [are] to replace the pro-Russian leaders who worked for Yanukovych. The interim government is expected to be in charge at least until new elections can be held, perhaps in late May.” Perhaps in late May? To label this an unduly optimistic ejaculation from the national-radio set is merely to note that NPR is invariably helpless when prediction is required beyond its normative expertise—they always do better with subjects like soccer gaining a foothold in America, or “mapping differences in America’s musical taste state by state”…in other words, their sunny prognostications echoed ominously for the Ukraine.
Next came “the White House,” that occasionally outspoken edifice. We were told, “The White House is welcoming the efforts by Ukraine’s parliament to stabilize the country,” and that “President Viktor Yanukovych abdicated his responsibility.” This was followed by press secretary Jay Carney’s disconcertingly ambivalent assertion that Yanukovych’s departure “left a void.” Upon noting the consternated faces among his audience of scribbling Obama apologists (otherwise known as the Washington Press Corp), the boy wonder thought to add, “…that Ukraine’s lawmakers are trying to fill.”
The void, it began to appear, better described the administration’s outlook on responding to circumstances of advantage in the Ukraine—a void remindful of the voids that beset Obama’s (and Mrs. Clinton’s) policy formulations during similar situations of advantage in Iran and, early on, in Syria where authentic populist surges against oppressive despots were met with American insouciance.
Circumstances began to look truly grim on Thursday, February 26, when Vice President Joe Biden (how’d he get a swell name like ‘Joe’?) felt moved to telephone the Ukraine’s freshly appointed prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, assuring him of America’s “full support.” And if that weren’t enough to signal onrushing calamity, Biden’s exercise in political theater was followed on Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry who, in his uniquely pseudo-stentorian baritone, warned Russia against adventurism in the region, assuring an international community rendered blasé by experience, that he had personally met with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and informed him that Russian intervention in the already volatile Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.”
The return of the uncrossable line!
Even in the wake of these grave omens, some clung to hopes that the situation in the Ukraine might resolve itself independent of Russian intervention; but any doubts that a Moscow-orchestrated power play was in the offing were surely eliminated for most perceptive onlookers when America’s Dissembler in Chief, in Mexico on a mission to further frustrate plans by either Canada or Mexico to establish profitable petroleum pipelines, took time away from depressing three economies at once to address the possibility of Russian interference in the Ukrainian crisis. In those especially crisp, yet particularly dry and stilted tones that always show him at his most artificial, President Obama declared “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
Remember how Ted Kennedy could hardly open his mouth without issuing a water metaphor—even naming his dog “Splash” as if he were so energetically suppressing the memories of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death that his guilt popped up as a stream of unbidden allusions to water? Similarly, President Obama unaccountably resurrected his notoriously hollow decree from August of 2012 that Syria’s Bashar Assad would cross “a red line for us” if he used chemical weapons against his opponents. When Assad appeared to have used gas despite Obama’s ultimatum, Obama not only failed to back his words with action, but subsequently pretended he never spoke the phrase, ascribing it, improbably, to “the international community.” This makes it all the more curious that the reference churned up afresh in the president’s rhetoric from Mexico, but there it was. It is easy to imagine Putin and his inner circle convulsed with laughter upon hearing it blurted anew. It certainly served to further reinforce the fact that the Ukraine’s independence would be short-lived.
Next we have the spectacle of Chuck Hagel setting aside his determination to reduce the American military to virtual inutility long enough to seek Putin’s assurance that he would respect the sovereignty of the Ukraine. Secretary Hagel was particularly disturbed by President Putin’s decision to stage massive military exercises on Ukraine’s border. That Hagel’s and Obama’s efforts to reduce American power and authority are proceeding apace is best evidenced by the fact that Putin could not be bothered to speak with Hagel or, at that point, his boss, nor were Hagel’s several calls to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, ever returned. Eventually Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov deigned to take a call from Hagel, denying any intention to intervene, insisting, “We have confirmed our principled position to not interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs and expect all foreign powers to follow a similar logic.” Students of reality and the pursuit of power on our fallen planet could reasonably abandon any hope, given these firm Russian assurances, for Ukrainian autonomy.
“Putin’s reckless gambit”
The infiltration of Russian military into the Crimean region of the Ukraine began as mask-wearing Russian Marines in “sterile” (unidentifiable) uniforms were positioned at airports and government buildings while swarms of Russian helicopters ferried in additional support. By Saturday, March 1, these key sites were sufficiently secure to allow Putin his next move. The Russian strongman turned with a marvelously studied decorum to his Parliament, requesting permission to intervene militarily in order to stabilize the sociopolitical climate in the area he proposed to invade. Luckily for Putin, 100% of the Russian parliament voted to grant him permission to mobilize the country’s military and enter the Ukraine, meaning, WOOF suspects, that 100% of the constituents of Russia’s parliament prefer not to ingest radio active additives in their borscht. Gratified, President Putin proceeded to send 7,000 additional Russian troops and accompanying vehicles over the border, ostensibly to protect the pro-Russian elements in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Russian dominance has long been the preferred method of governance among pro-Moscow Crimeans, particularly in the city of Sevastopol where pro-Russian riots broke out as Putin’s troops and transport aircraft poured into the vicinity. By the way, WOOF cannot confirm that all or many of the alleged attacks carried out by wandering bands of Ukrainian thugs against pro-Russian civilians were actually perpetrated by wandering bands of Spetsnaz infiltrators dressed to appear to be wandering bands of Ukrainian thugs…but WOOF would be disappointed in Mr. Putin were this not the case.
Meanwhile, ousted Putin puppet Yanukovych turned up in Russia (mirabilis dictu!) vowing to retain his office and to “keep fighting for the future of Ukraine.” He thoughtfully dismissed any military action as “unacceptable” even as Russian troops poured into his country and the reality of a Russian invasion swept the Ukraine. And in one of those oddly delusional reformulations of actuality that often overtakes American liberalism because it dasn’t realistically appraise the damage its precepts and policies cause our status and our capabilities, Politico accordingly tagged the Russian adventure with language that might have made sense in 1972 or 1982, calling it “Putin’s reckless Ukraine gambit.” But this is a ridiculous assessment of the Russian incursion. If Putin is reckless, it is only because Obama proves consistently feckless, giving a statement in the wake of Putin’s troop movements that was impressive only in its sheer vapidity. When recklessness is drained of risk, it is merely opportunism, and Putin is a world class opportunist. And where is the quality of a gambit in any of this? Gambit is, of course, a chess term—and it strictly describes a variety of chess moves, usually though not exclusively performed during early board development. In any gambit, a player endeavors to sacrifice one of his own pieces with the hope of achieving an advantageous position as a result. Since the gambit is only as workable as it is attractive to the opposing player, it may be accepted or declined. What sacrifice do we assume Putin to be offering in the present situation? The correct answer, obviously, is “none!” Clearly, too, the Ukrainians do not enjoy the luxury of declining.
Putin has had a good year and more playing Barack Obama for an idiot. He’s grabbed hold of Edward Snowden and shrugged off the administration’s shrill demands and admonishments in that regard; he’s blunted the president’s efforts to stage a wag-the-dog operation in Syria and sent Obama scurrying for cover while he, Putin, emerged as the peace maker who persuaded Assad to surrender his chemical weapons (as if) while taking a commanding stance in Egypt where the president’s determination to keep the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and it’s First Thug, Mohammed Morsi in power failed miserably (thanks be to a merciful Providence) and left the current leadership eager to look elsewhere for support. His country’s natural gas supply is filling his coffers while keeping Europe toasty and dependent, and his warship is riding at anchor in Havana. Most embarrassing to Obama, perhaps, is the fact that before any of this happened he was already on video tape obsequiously assuring Putin’s man Medvedev that as soon as he managed to get himself re-elected he’d have more flexibility to do whatever Putin wanted. Not a good basis from which to launch a showdown in the Crimea or anywhere else. What all of this proves more persuasively than anything else is that when you put a collegian, faculty lounge Marxist up against an old-school KGB Russian communist, the Russian wins every time. Community organizer? Don’t make Colonel Putin laugh.
So the Bamster is dragged kicking and screaming to the “red phone” (they probably don’t dare call it that anymore, right?) and spends a pathetic 90 minutes trying to sound presidential, telling Vladimir Putin that he has to do something both men know he isn’t going to do—back out of the Ukraine. No transcript of the conversation is available , but it obviously didn’t go well for our side. While the president’s lapdog news media have busily persuaded one another that his “lead from behind” policy is a masterstroke of ingenious subtlety, the subtle genius has thrown two wars to the enemy thus ceding Iraq and Afghanistan back to the terrorists, double crossed Poland and the Czechs by jerking the rug out from under their support for the missile-shield (which Putin clearly insisted he back out of early in his first term), got caught spying on the French and the Germans in some particularly embarrassing and essentially pointless ways, sold out Israel to Iran by pretending to negotiate an arms treaty with the mad mullahs that is transparently a surrender (as indeed the chief mad mullah, Hassan Rouhani, publicly characterized it), and thus permitted Iran to develop an atomic bomb as they shortly shall unless Israel acts unilaterally. It is perfectly reasonable to declare at this juncture in his presidency that Barack Obama is feared nowhere in the world except by Americans who perceive his efforts to subvert our political, medical, educational and legal systems as all too successful, together with his efforts to emasculate and drastically reduce our military. Any suspicion that this is a man who can confront Putin in the Ukraine with any degree of plausibility may be safely set aside. The Bamster cannot arouse himself to pay attention to the two wars he is currently withdrawing from, and it is a matter of stark certitude that he will not risk a third war in the Ukraine—particularly one that could go nuclear and end all the Kobe beef feasts, jet rides, fawning interviews and golf dates. And besides, Vladimir Putin just told him to jump in the lake.
Could anyone have foreseen this shocker in the Ukraine? Might some sage State Department official have turned the administration’s attention to the possibility of such events before they occurred, thus preparing our Commander in Chief in time to at least have something gritty and focus-group tested ready for the First Teleprompter? How is it that two geniuses of the caliber of Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Forbes Kerry uttered not of word of speculation at any time during their respective tenures at State reflecting any concern whatever that a Russian salient into the Ukraine seemed possible and might at some point reify as a fact to be dealt with?
The international community, as we so decorously describe it, seemed equally incapable of imagining such an event. The headlines of Britain’s The Independent declared “Moscow catches the world off guard!” as though Russia’s plunge across the border into the old breadbasket of the Soviet Union was tantamount to launching sputnik, or sticking nukes in Cuba. Apparently the entire idea was so far outside the bounds of credible speculation that to even contemplate such a departure from decorum invited criticism.
Criticism? Yes indeed, and we can prove it! We offer below the example of two well known political lightweights, one a heartless plutocratic religiomaniac, the other a ditzy, hormonal woman, both of whom, despite being widely regarded as morons by the Liberal Establishment Media, got lucky with predictions along these lines. The female to whom we refer is Sarah Palin. While running for the vice presidency under the lackluster leadership of John McCain, Palin submitted to the infamously-problematic Katie Couric interview. She is best known, of course, for telling Couric that she could see Russia from her house, despite the fact that she never said it. One thing she did say to a non-plussed Couric was this: “After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.” What a whack job! The comment met with a general wave of derision and dismissal typified by the prestigious journal Foreign Policy which commented that Palin’s prediction was “strange,” adding that “this is an extremely far-fetched scenario.”
The other lightweight to whom we referred is Mitt Romney, who cautioned while debating Barack Obama (the smartest president ever) that Russia remained “without question our number one geopolitical foe.” The reaction from Obama was what one might expect from the sophisticated internationalist in the room: He explained to Romney that the Cold War had been over for 20 years, adding that the governor was “trying to drag America back to the Cold War.” Perish the thought. By the way, Col. Oliver North is also on record saying that Putin would go into the Ukraine as soon as the Olympics ended, but since he is not perceived to pose a current political threat to the leftist establishment, nobody bothered calling him stupid, out of touch, or crazy. Sorry, Colonel!
Defense through unpreparedness…the hippy legacy
It is a bizarre legacy of the hippy era (which gave us large segments of the American voting public and political Left of today), that aggression is viewed as best deterred by a complete, even a studied, inability to react to it. Sadly, the idea of sticking flowers in gun barrels when troops show up is workable only in civilized democracies, and the fact that Gandhi stopped military columns by lying passively in front of them proves only that the columns weren’t Hitler’s or Stalin’s (or Putin’s). Ronald Reagan once remarked that the American liberal’s desire to cut the military to ensure peace was like getting rid of the fire department because one objected to fires. But this “hippy” vision of world peace so infected the radical left (for all its desire to “off the pigs” and “kick out the jams,”) that post-hippy presidents like Carter, Clinton and Obama often find themselves in desperate need of the very military they have scornfully eroded. It is probably correct to say that even were President Obama to transform himself overnight from the confrontation-averse absenteeism that defines him, (except when he is speechifying about Fox News or Rush Limbaugh), into a man with the determination to stand up to Putin in the Ukraine, he lacks the military wherewithal to make it happen.
One problem with working overtime to reduce your country to a paper tiger is the tendency of international adversaries to treat it like one—witness China’s new-found boldness in the East China Sea. John Kerry, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” used a peculiar turn of phrase. “The last thing anybody wants is a military option,” he said. He might be reasonably interpreted as having meant that the least desirable response in this particular arena is the military option—but what he said may have Freudian undertones. The majority of liberal democrats nowadays not only sneer at the possibility of using the military option, they quite honestly don’t want to have one to begin with. In post-hippy Neverland, you never really need one if you’re Kerry, or Obama. Somehow, the limos will always be curbside, the cocktails will always be poolside, and the festivities will always be full steam ahead. Both men have practiced mendacity to the point of regal self deception and worked at the grassroots level to undermine their country’s power and prestige—but playtime anti-Americanism, no matter how dangerously magnified by power, is different from Russian or Chinese or Arab anti-Americanism…just like the real world is different from the liberal imagination. In the real world, when you get rid of the fire department, your house burns down.
Congressman Mike Rogers, (R-MI) observed on Sunday that Obama has made a habit of getting out-maneuvered geopolitically by Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, “Putin is playing chess, and I think we’re playing marbles.” That’s a fair assessment, and it is surely Putin’s. All the predictable stuff will now happen. Obama will be urged to withdraw from scheduled diplomatic and geo-fiscal conferences with the Russians. Obviously, he will have to do so, at least in many cases. The G-8 may return to being the G-7, absent a dis-invited Russia. The United Nations, which would do nothing but leave if they were shot at anyway, cannot go into the Ukraine because Russia is on the Security Council and would veto any such idea. NATO is going to meet and discuss options, but they will issue statements and do little else. The Ukraine wanted to be included in NATO, but was not granted full membership mainly because nobody wanted to provoke Putin. Consequently, NATO has no authentic role in the defense of the Ukraine. Europe, which Obama is counting on to back whatever feeble sanctions and social snubs he has in store for Putin, knows perfectly well that seven out of eleven pipelines supplying its gas and oil are under Putin’s direct control. He can make it a very cold winter indeed for any European power that gets uppity. And Putin knows this—knows it far better than the empty suit in the oval office and all his minions whose only flashes of creativity or tactical brilliance are manifested in undermining their own country’s Constitution, infiltrating its educational system and media, and dividing Americans racially and by class. None of these skills will prove particularly helpful against Russian armor or Spetznaz.
It is possible, in fact, for Obama to put a level of hurt on the Putin presidency that would give Vladimir pause to consider the wisdom of slicing up Ukrainian territories, but Obama will not do it. The first action he should take, of course, is to fire Chuck Hagel and sign up a firebrand Def Sec who will carry out his order to reverse the budget tightening at the Pentagon and hugely increase the size of our dwindling forces. Next he can revive the agreement to build missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic, and hope those countries are still speaking to him. He could next knock the props from under Russian oil prices by allowing the Keystone Pipeline and incentivizing domestic fracking rather than criticizing it. If he can tell “Big Oil” not to drill off our coast, he can tell it to refuse all technological assistance when it comes to helping further develop Russia’s oil fields. Major American petroleum concerns can throw their support, instead, to developing oil and gas assets in Europe and Asia—but President Obama will not do these things. He will play marbles.
The Ukraine is well armed, and its military is well trained. It is possible that a considerable amount of armed resistance may be offered as Putin’s forces drive beyond the pretense of protecting pro-Russian citizens in the Crimea, but the outcome of a protracted struggle is a Russian victory. Rallied by such leading lights as former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (in a wheel chair as a result of her political imprisonment by the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime, but still feisty and proudly bedecked with her famous peasant braids), Ukrainians could make a tremendous stand, but the numbers are all on the side of the vastly superior Russian forces. The best thing about Yulia Tymoshenko right now is that Pravda is having conniptions about the fact that the new (“illegal!”) government freed her and cleared her of charges, enabling her to run in presidential elections. It is possible that Putin, confronted with a Ukrainian military and leadership that will fight despite the odds, may reconsider plunging deeper into the Ukraine and content himself for the time being with holding onto the Crimea. But no matter how valiant the opposition, its survival depends to a tragic extent on how violent and ruthless Putin is willing to be—and the record indicates he is without limits in these categories.
As we said at the outset, a bit of stoic acceptance is probably the best means of watching this hideous spectacle unfold day by day—because Putin holds all the cards in this game. Even if Obama could scrounge some cards, we have already noted he would never play them. We must accept that he will not consider confronting Russian aggression militarily and will do practically nothing to confront it diplomatically or financially. Sanctions will be trotted around. Sanctions never work but always appeal to the Left, and the Ukraine will suffer. John Forbes Kerry announced Sunday that he’s traveling to Kiev for diplomatic talks. Diplomatic talks won’t help, but Kerry will be able to hold a press conference and sound commanding, and he likes doing that.
The American Yanukovych
Do we at WOOF even sound shrill at this point when we insist that, in a very real sense, Barack Obama has always been Putin’s American version of Viktor Yanukovych? Obama made this clear enough on March 26, 2012, when he was caught by a live microphone telling outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after his “last election,” to take care of Vladimir’s shopping list. “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” Medvedev said, referring to incoming President Vladimir Putin. That said, and overheard, and diligently underreported, of course, the American people went on, however unaccountably, to grant Obama the flexibility he and Putin desired by retaining the Bamster in the White House. Elections, as it is nowadays comme il faut to observe, have consequences. This one paid off for terrorists in the Middle East, it paid off for Iran’s nuclear program, it paid off for China’s communist militarists, and now it’s paying off for Moscow.
And now comes late word that the president could not be bothered to attend his first national security briefing since the Russian takeover began last weekend. In fairness, it must be recalled that the president had already received a 90-minute instructional over the phone from Vladimir, and that Valerie Jarrett was almost certainly present to tie up any loose ends. And while the nation that made all this possible by twice electing Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency may be fairly said to be gradually and increasingly cognizant of its error, polls indicate that the same nation is now determined to resolve the Obama problem by handing the presidency over to Hillary Clinton. So you can see, can you not, gentle readers, why we are encouraging a bit of stoicism at the moment? Just recommending a calming alignment with the Hellenistic Philosophers—a refusal to squander our energies on outrage or frustration– as we compose ourselves for the protracted struggle.
Anyone who has read Sun Tzu knows better than to contemplate confronting Putin militarily in the Crimea—especially without a military! But the Ukraine is not unsalvageable. No more unsalvageable, at least, than the United States of America, which must clean its own house before it can prove effective at fumigating houses abroad. Until we rid our ourselves of the pro-Moscow, pro-Beijing, pro Muslim extremists our government currently comprises, our decline will continue and the world will be ransacked by those malefactors we formerly opposed. As for right now—Vladimir Putin is preparing to slide another bishop across the chess board, and the leader of the free west is deciding whether to roll a “Purie” or an “Aggie” in its general direction. Is this treachery or mere ineptitude? For the Ukraine, the answer is sadly irrelevant. For Americans it is both crucial and overdue.