There isn’t going to be a war over Ukraine. There isn’t even going to be a crisis over Ukraine. We will perform our ritual war-dance and excoriate the Evil Emperor, and the result would be the same if we had sung “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” on a road trip to Kalamazoo. Worry about something really scary, like Iran.
Ukraine isn’t a country: it’s a Frankenstein monster composed of pieces of dead empires, stitched together by Stalin. It has never had a government in the Western sense of the term after the collapse of the Soviet Union gave it independence, just the equivalent of the family offices for one predatory oligarch after another–including the “Gas Princess,” Yulia Tymoshenko. It has a per capital income of $3,300 per year, about the same as Egypt and Syria, and less than a tenth of the European average. The whole market capitalization of its stock exchange is worth less than the Disney Company. It’s a basket case that claims to need $35 billion to survive the next two years. Money talks and bullshit walks. Who wants to ask the American taxpayer for $35 billion for Ukraine, one of the most corrupt economies on earth? How about $5 billion? Secretary of State Kerry is talking about $1 billion in loan guarantees, and the Europeans are talking a similar amount. That’s not diplomacy. It’s a clown show.
Yes, likely so. But the usually redoubtable Goldman touches the crucial aspect of the clown show when he says: Worry about something really scary, like Iran.
So what is Iran to make of this latest example of American fecklessness abroad, the most recent in a long string of such, from Carter and the Shah (which gave birth to the phenomenon of regime-sponsored Muslim terrorism), through Reagan in Lebanon (though not in Libya), Bush in Kuwait, Clinton in, well, everywhere we were pushed with no response other than a cruise missile up a camel’s butt, to George W. Bush’s monumental failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, (and a lesser one in Georgia) to the dancing buffonery of the Obama administration itself?
In other words, the true significance of many of these confrontations (and their outcomes) has been to cement in the perceptions of America’s enemies (yes, we do have very real, and quite frightening, enemies), that America is a paper tiger helmed by a series of weak horses unable, or unwilling, to advance or defend what were once the interests of a Great Power.
And that is why these clownshows are such a problem – they inevitably lead toward much greater and more “scary” clownshows.