Saturday, May 10, 2014

Parry and thrust

Update 3/2023: A little discouraged to see how much Russian propaganda I could take seriously at this point almost nine years ago... I still think Obama would have been right to try negotiating if that's what he was doing.

FDR found it helpful to negotiate with the lunatic Great Helmsman too. Image by Reuters via LatitudeNews.

I've been reading and rereading a remarkable piece by Robert Parry, who I think of as a kind of Seymour Hersh [update: LOL] of the blogosphere, and I mean that in a good way, for his extraordinary stories of October surprises in the 1968 and 1980 elections suggesting that your worst fantasies of Nixon's and Reagan's dirty tricks are probably true—this post, though, is about Ukraine, and President Obama's behind-the-scenes struggles with his most implacable enemies, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Well, maybe not exactly, but close: it really is about power issues inside the US foreign policy establishment and limits on presidential power, especially as applied in the [jump]
interests of peace when the establishment is dominated by neoconservatives of the Kagan persuasion and run by neoliberals anxious to display their hawkery to a disbelieving Village:
In summer 2009, Obama was mouse-trapped into the neocon-favored “surge” in Afghanistan. The policy was devised by neocon theorist Frederick Kagan, pushed by Defense Secretary Gates and supported by Clinton and Petraeus, according to Gates’s memoir, Duty.

Obama was thoroughly outmaneuvered and ended up acquiescing to the plan although he reportedly regretted the decision almost immediately. (Kagan’s “surge” accomplished little beyond getting about 1,000 more Americans and many Afghans killed, without changing the trajectory of the failed war.)

But the Afghan “surge” experience apparently convinced Obama that he needed to beef up his own team, which he assembled in part from the ranks of CIA analysts who were working in the early days for one Obama loyalist, CIA Director Leon Panetta. Obama shied away from the other alternative of firing the “team of rivals” fearing political repercussions.
(The "ranks of CIA analysts were were working... for... Panetta" not to be confused with the unspeakable Agency as a whole over which Panetta failed and I suppose Father Brennan is now failing to take control.)

Now, according to Parry, Obama is working behind Kerry's back with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to help Putin climb down from the eastern Ukraine adventure and construct some kind of solution to the situation along lines not so unlike the ones I was suggesting in March and April.

Parry treats Vladimir Vladimirovich (Samoderzhok of All the Russias) with more respect than I would wish to do, but then I'm probably more respectful than is entirely warranted to Kerry and Clinton before him. He reminds us usefully claims that you don't have to be a Russia Today dittohead to see that a majority pretty large number of Crimeans really don't want to live in Ukraine (my Tatars are a tiny minority, alas) and that the fascists in Kiev are not just decoration but dangerous  some of the fascists on the fringe of Kiyiv politics could be dangerous [updated March 2023—ed.].

Anyway, Obama has in this view succeeded against our government in one very big thing, continuing the process of engagement with Iran, and may succeed in another in Eastern Europe:
Putin’s initiative on Wednesday, urging the eastern Ukrainians to forego a May 11 referendum on possible secession and his announced pullback of troops from the border, fits with his interests. Whichever way the referendum were to go it would have meant trouble for Putin, since a strong vote for joining Russia would have raised expectations to a dangerous level and a strong vote for staying in Ukraine would be a potential embarrassment...
But Putin’s conciliatory words appear to have another audience, as a signal to Obama that – despite all the acrimony over Ukraine – Russia is willing again to play its helpful role in reducing tensions in the Middle East and possibly elsewhere. If so, it is now up to Obama to decide what to do about his fractured foreign policy apparatus, now that he has seen additional evidence about the risk of having a State Department operating outside presidential control.
Since it looks as if the referendum is going to take place anyway we are far from out of the woods yet, but this piece is still immensely clarifying.
What does it mean? I mean, I think I get why Gorbachev has the Mets jersey, but Andropov for San Diego? Brezhnev with the Rangers? Via eBay.

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