Last week's news that the Obama administration is ditching the Bush plan to build long-range missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is a much-needed breath of fresh air, and a step toward sanity, for America's foreign policy. With more fresh air and sanity going around, before you know it, D.C. politicians may even begin to admit that the Bush plan wasn't what it seemed.
Since the Bush plan was supposedly aimed at keeping Iran from launching long-range nukes at Europe (even though Iran has neither nukes nor long-range missiles), Obama tried to mollify Iran-phobes by announcing that the Pentagon would deploy a system of sensors and interceptors on ships and on land to detect future Iranian missile activity. An advantage of the new system -- and here's where sanity comes into play -- is that some of the sensors and interceptors actually exist now, as opposed to Bush's fantasy missiles, to be delivered God knows when. Obama's decision will be a blow to whatever defense industry behemoth would have built the long-range system, but that should be the least of our worries.
Obama said he changed U.S. plans after he received an assessment of the Bush strategy, and unanimous recommendations, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. That hasn't stopped the fearmongers in the GOP, however, from doing their dreary thing.
The Drudge Report let the news out early with an "Obama abandoning Europe" headline, even though Europeans opposed the Bush plan from the get-go. Even vast majorities in Poland and the Czech Republic were against Bush's plan. But as soon as Drudge broke the news, neoconservatives in the GOP started yelling about it, accusing Obama of "endangering our national security" (how?!), or "caving to the Russians," who had strenuously opposed the plan. Obama is meeting this week with Russian President Medvedev in New York.
Leave it to the neocons to get all riled up about the threat from the evil Russian "Bear," now that the Russian economy is in such tatters that they couldn't be a serious threat even if they wanted to. They didn't plan it this way, but the right-wingers' complaints about Russia conveniently lift the veil of nonsense that has hung over the Bush plan from the beginning, namely that the missiles were meant to scare Iran. The goal was always to intimidate Russia. The Poles and Czechs know it and speak of it openly. Ditto Western Europe. The Russians sure knew it. As always, the only ones who hadn't been told the truth, although many of us had figured it out, were the American people, who would pick up the tab for the whole thing.
There was simply never any need for Bush's arrogant plan, but he and his neocon advisers could never seem to come to grips with the facts that the Cold War is over and Russia is a much weaker power than before.
It's an odd feeling, agreeing with Pat Buchanan so often about foreign policy, but much of the time, his anti-imperial stance makes sense. At the time of the Georgia/Russia dust-up, Buchanan wrote that the current Russian leaders have every reason to dislike the U.S. government. When the Soviet Union collapsed, to summarize Buchanan, Russia sought real alliances with the United States. Instead, we broke our pledge to Gorbachev and moved our military into Eastern Europe and beyond, the result being that six former Soviet allies, as well as three former Soviet republics, are now NATO members, in effect surrounding Russia. Bush's plans for anti-missile defenses in Eastern Europe only added to Russia's mistrust of U.S. motives. In case those moves weren't enough to bait The Bear, we also built a crucial oil pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to cut Russia out of the deal, as Buchanan noted correctly.
Imagine for a minute, Buchanan said, that after the end of the Cold War, Moscow had established military bases in Mexico and Latin America, installed missile defense systems in Cuba and Canada, sent military advisers to train Latin American armies, and constructed a pipeline to send Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports, and cut us out of the deal. Do you think we would have put up with it for a minute? Russia doesn't have our military might, though, and all they could do was howl with anger. Now there's a chance to re-establish some semblance of civilized discourse with Putin, Medvedev and company, and it's high time.
One of the most disheartening things in the world is how quickly Americans -- supposedly a free, independent people -- have eagerly swallowed scare stories about one supposed deadly enemy after another. From local boy James K. Polk lying to "justify" the Mexican War, to Dubya's manufactured B.S. about Saddam Hussein, it's been a parade of craziness. Obama's small move last week was a small, but very welcome, step in bringing some sanity -- heck, some simple reality -- to a dangerous world.
Deliver Us From Weasels, a collection of 50 of John Grooms' best columns and articles, will be published in November by Main Street Rag Press. The book will cost $14.95, but can be purchased in advance through Oct. 26 for $10 including shipping at www.mainstreetrag.com/store/ComingSoon.php.