When all you have is a hammer ...

... all problems look like nails to you.

I'm not impressed by Gates' display of intellect  a.k.a. his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Him about Putin:
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law.
How stupid or dishonest is a man who was secretary of defence during the occupation of Iraq and still writes this? "reverence for international law"?
Right now I want an arena, Gladiator-style, full of Iraqi women who lost their sons in the war of aggression against Iraq in 2002, and Mr. Gates in the centre. I'd donate the shoes. Heavy, steel-capped work shoes.

Quite to the contrary; what Mr. Gates bemoans is not that Putin is unlike Western politicians; he bemoans that Putin has become like Gates' own ilk.

Do a thought experiment: Think of U.S. foreign politicians, White House folks under GWB and foreign policy commentators. Now imagine what policies they would advocate if they were Russians.

There are somewhat more sensible accounts of why and how Putin came to behave like this, and they don't dismiss the legitimacy of Russian grievances as easily as Gates. They rather paint a picture in which Western hypocrisy and "containment" policy (if not encroachment) have provoked Russia to behave as it does now. The high energy commodity prices of the last decade have helped Russia economically and made it more stable, more powerful. Now it asserts the right to be just as aggressive and hypocritical as some Western powers.

We've got many people who think they're brilliant enough to do foreign policy or to give advice on it. And too many of them aren't that brilliant, but rather fool themselves. They aren't even smart enough to comprehend backlash. Too many of them are one-trick ponies, capable of thinking in but one direction: Confrontation.

- - - - -

For sure, the majority of countries and people want a rules-based foreign policy world if they made up their mind about foreign policy at all. Others - with much military potential on call - think that rules are for the weak. The weak shall obey the rules, while the powerful do what they want.
And amidst all the nonsense talk about an "unipolar" world with but one "superpower" [blatherblather] these people fooled themselves into believing that their own party is the only one which can break the rules and get away with it (officially). Too bad Russia proves that others - shielded by the very same nuclear arms threat and the very same UNSC veto power - can break the rules as well and get away with it (officially). Now they're crying foul and rally to reduce this other power to a weak power which has to obey the rules.

The NATO members had a unique opportunity to shape the world from a position of strength, to have the self-discipline and foresight to submit to rules as do the supposed weak powers. Instead, the steering wheel was given to warmongers in exactly the wrong countries and now we've got this mess with a hypocritical mixture of great and small powers, rule of force and rule of law.

We all pay the price by living in a world with unnecessary rivalries, hostilities, waste of resources and instability. At the very least we should punish the warmongers and make sure they won't be able to act as if they were wise experts on foreign policy any more.


*: Which seemingly are still able to inflict damage of a couple dozen times equal their pre-war GDP on great power aggressors.


  1. “The NATO members had a unique opportunity to shape the world from a position of strength…”


    What strength would that be - only 3 out of 27 European members of NATO live up to the alliance entry requirement to spend at least 2% of GDP for membership?

    Secretary Gates came to serve at about three–quarters of the way through the Bush administration: it is unjust to claim that he was an architect of the policies that led to Iraq. Nor can the democrats in the US Congress walk away from their votes to fund the on-going misadventure that was Iraq. Even so, it remains a patent lie that the USA ever intended to turn Iraq into a colony or some nonsense like that.

    What Russia has done is to use military force to redraw its own territorial boundaries. That is something very, very different. And I do not think that the Russians are done either.

    On this side of the Atlantic, the debate about US membership in NATO is starting to smolder. The USA no longer has national security interests that require membership in NATO, let alone justify committing U.S. lives to an alliance that disproportionately favors Europeans. The USA is truly shackled to a corpse…


    1. There is and never was such an "alliance entry requirement". It's BS made up out of thin air. I've heard this long-debunked talking point too often already.
      It invents a moral high ground for hawks who want more military spending, but there's no such requirement in the North Atlantic Treaty.
      Hint: Founding member Iceland hasn't even an army, and Luxembourg has but one battalion.

      "to claim that he was an architect of the policies that led to Iraq"

      That's a clear straw man; I didn't do this claim.

      "it remains a patent lie that the USA ever intended to turn Iraq into a colony"

      Another obvious straw man; please refrain from commenting such nonsense.
      A war of aggression is bad enough; I don't need to invent anything to make it look bad.

      "The USA is truly shackled to a corpse…"

      Or rather Germany is. I don't see how we could have become a terror target for AQ without our association with the US.
      More importantly, you seem to be completely oblivious to which degree the military and political power of the US depends on harnessing its alliance relationship with Europeans. They wouldn't have a single European or Indian Ocean base without us.

      And finally to the only halfway useful part:
      "What strength would that be"
      The freedom of action, availability of resources, prestige and relationships which we had during the 1990's. You seem to think one dimensionally in terms of military spending (or power), though.