The international community looked into Putin’s eyes and blinked. Multilateralism has failed as badly as it did in the days of the League of Nations, but then again it never actually worked.
The international order that everyone pretends is a real force in world affairs is really the United States and a few partners doing all the work and letting the diplomats and bureaucrats of the world pretend that they matter. Without America, the United Nations would be just as useless as the League of Nations. With America, the United Nations is only a deterrent when the United States puts its foot down and the rest of the world doesn’t get in the way.
It has become fashionable to denounce the United States as a rogue state. A military intervention, even with the backing of its Western allies, but outside the framework of the organizations of the international order, was deemed unilateralism and cowboy diplomacy.
And then Obama rode in on a three-speed bike and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to doing nothing.
The multilateral system is helpless in the face of aggression. That is as true today as it was eighty years ago. International agreements are worthless without steel and lead behind them. The United Nations is incapable of acting when one of its more powerful members is the aggressor or the aggressor’s patron, the foreign policy experts of the left crank out editorials explaining why we can’t do anything about Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria or Ukraine and the Secretary of State explains that strength is weakness and weakness is strength.
International law couldn’t stop Hitler. It couldn’t stop Japan. It took the United States to do all that. The foreign policy experts will deny it, the editorials will decry it and the Common Core textbooks will refuse to print it; but it takes a rogue nation to stop a rogue state.
England and France’s diplomatic outreach to Nazi Germany led to the seizure of the Rhineland, the annexations of Austria and a portion of Czechoslovakia, followed by the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland. American diplomacy and sanctions on Japan led to Pearl Harbor. The only time that the United Nations proved to be of any use was during the Korean War and that was before its doors were thrown open to an army of Third World dictatorships for sale to the highest bidder.
The issue isn’t whether the United States should intervene in Ukraine, but whether it should have the option to do something more meaningful than draw faint red lines and threaten worthless sanctions. Every mob throwing things at soldiers and police isn’t necessarily composed of the good guys just because they have photogenic protesters and colorful flags.
Our instinct to automatically support the underdog is just another dangerous figment of the multilateral mindset.
The United States has unselectively adopted the human rights agenda of the internationalists and allowed our foreign affairs priorities to be curated by the diplomats of the left who know exactly whom to denounce and what not to do about it. UN Ambassador Samantha Power, wearing a bitter frown, agonizing over the woes of the world, is the face of our senseless and useless diplomacy that forces us to play the moral scold without being able to back it up.
American foreign policy has become indistinguishable from the United Nations agenda and just as impotent, fixated on the recommendations of human rights committees instead of national interests, incapable of addressing historical alliances, and unable to build its responses around anything except the same Powerian empty shriek of self-righteous human rights outrage.
Obama’s America has turned a cold impartial face to its allies, aspiring instead to become the vessel of international organizations while assigning its morality to an international committee. American foreign policy is under international management and that transfers its decision process from D.C. to an international network of committees incapable of doing anything except generating worthless reports and denouncing Israel
The United States was the ghost in the machine of the United Nations, but now that the United States is the United Nations, the United States has become the puppet of a puppet.
The weakness of multilateral diplomacy is that it strives to negotiate accommodations to the clashes of the moment without reference to past history or the trajectory of future conquests. This was a weakness that Hitler understood and exploited, reducing the issue to the current status of the Sudetenland or the Rhineland, rather than to past and future war aims. It was only when the Allies broke out of the diplomatic mindset of considering every Hitlerian conquest individually and debating the merits of defending Czechoslovakia, rather than anticipating the conquest of Poland, that real resistance to the Nazi war machine finally began.
Unfortunately the Allies failed to learn from history and accepted Stalin’s piecemeal takeovers at face value only waking up after much of the world had fallen under the Red Flag. It was President Eisenhower’s “Domino Theory” that assigned a value to each conquest not based on its own status, but its place in a chain of conquests in a struggle for regional dominance.
Sarah Palin understood in 2008 what the school of foreign policy “realists” did not, that Georgia was not significant in isolation but as a prerequisite to the invasion of Ukraine and likewise Ukraine should be understood in the context of an imperial territorial ambition that stretches far beyond its borders.
Whether or not we choose to oppose that ambition we should understand it on its own terms, rather than the media’s obsession with photogenic revolutions, the agenda of foreign policy experts seeking to turn America into a powerless multilateral shell and a liberal establishment that treats every international event as an opportunity to plump the praises of the inexperienced and incompetent leader that they foisted on the country with the equivalent of an American Idol audition.
The media gets behind anyone throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails in front of a camera lens as long as his target isn’t an authoritarian government of the left. Foreign policy experts who insisted that Putin wouldn’t go this far, now insist that he won’t go any farther. And the liberal establishment would cheer Obama’s leadership while an asteroid was colliding with the planet.
The United States should have a strong military, not so that it can use it, but so that it won’t need to use it. Military budget cuts send the message that we won’t intervene in international conflicts which makes it more likely that our enemies will start international conflicts and that some of those conflicts will drag us in anyway no matter how much of the fleet we mothball and how many transsexual dance troupes and gay weddings we host on what used to be the army bases of a world power.
Military weakness invites war, whether it was the British trying to face down Hitler with no bullets or Obama announcing another round of drastic defense cuts just before Putin rolled into Ukraine.
Diplomacy is only the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you find the stick if you were stupid enough to throw away the big stick in the first place. And then you had better hope that you are dealing with a very stupid dog that won’t gnaw your arm off before you can get at that stick.
The multilateralists believe that cutting the military will keep America from acting unilaterally and then their spokesmen are left with nothing to do except issue condemnations and draw red lines in the name of what used to be a world power. Human rights committee nuts like Samantha Power and anti-war boomers who never grew up like John Kerry end up causing more wars by combining empty rhetoric and inaction than they would if they either shut up or actually did something about it.
The United States should have clear commitments and agreements that it keeps, rather than randomly butting into every single conflict and human rights violation on the planet. Its leaders should decide whether they really are serious about Syria or Ukraine or any other place on earth that they issue press releases about and keep quiet about them if they are not.
And if they are serious, they should be ready to act with the same decisiveness that Vladimir Putin showed.
Despite all the accumulated multilateral rubbish in the corner, history isn’t made by nations defending international law, but acting on their own imperatives. Only a rogue nation that isn’t bound by the chains of multilateralism can take the unilateral action necessary to stop a rogue state.
The world isn’t a single state, there is no law that applies to every country, no independent government and no world police. There is only a wild frontier and a cowboy who rides into town now and then with a gun at his side and a law made up of his own moral codes in his heart. The entire structure of international law looks neat when written on a page, but isn’t worth a single bullet in his gun.
We’ve seen how it works when the cowboy puts on a three piece suit, locks up his gun in a safe controlled by a committee and spends all his time attending committee meetings. The committee gives him awards, but outside the committee hall there are the screams of men and women being killed and when a man with a gun comes for him, throwing the award at his head doesn’t help.
American cowboy diplomacy is the only defense that the civilized world has against commissar diplomacy, cossack diplomacy and caliphate diplomacy and that is something that more of the three piece suit diplomats who claim to care about human rights and weak nations ought to understand and respect that.
The United States can’t protect anyone when it’s functioning as a cog in the multilateral system. To do something meaningful, it has to go rogue.