Friday, March 7, 2014

Geopolitical Chess - And What Obama and the Neocons Still Don't Get

As the Ukraine crisis continues to escalate, see e.g.

There is little indication that either the U.S. neocons who want to  'checkmate Russia( via NATO expansion to its doorstep)', or Obama - one of their seeming 'Bishops' -  gets it. As the preceding Reuters news link shows, Vladimir Putin rebuffed Obama's stern warnings,  and again called to attention what he sees as Russia's interests- specifically in the Crimea. Also, as Col. Lawrence Wilkerson already noted ('All In' four nights ago) this is an expected response and only a fool or liar wouldn't grasp it.  The fact is the Russians have a strategic interest in the Crimea - given their long term Black Sea naval base- and they're not about to put it at risk because of the West's hectoring.

I am not going to belabor again why Obama, the U.S. and the Neoliberal West are all wrong on this. People can read or re-read the previous blog posts examining the deep politics of the issue - including over a dozen links explaining why Russia is correct in defending her interests - just like the U.S. would be if there was an incursion of Russian interests at her doorstep - say constructing a massive Russian  naval base near Havana. The U.S. has always invoked the specious "Monroe Doctrine"  to defend interests in the hemisphere (even going beyond sometimes, as in overthrowing elected democratic governments, i.e. of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1972), hence it's passing foolish to insist Russia has no similar mandates in its hemisphere- or at least at its borders!

You cannot have a unipolar, single empire world - I don't care how much the neocons  and their Neoliberal allies want it!

This lack of insight is partly why the U.S. and Neoliberal West (the 'New World Order') are losing at this game of geopolitical chess. They have been so spoiled and rendered soft by 13 years of fighting bogus 'wars' against a basically  phony enemy in al Qaeda and the "terrorists" (which they've stupidly elevated to another superpower)  and a series of occupations, that they've lived in a fool's paradise. Now, when confronted by a serious, formidable, real superpower - that doesn't use IEDs, but nuclear missiles, they don't know whether to shit or go blind. (Some neocons would argue Russia "isn't a real superpower" - brandishing their Amerikkan exceptionalist memes, but I say any nation that claims 3,000 ICBMs with nuclear warheads certainly is.)

Here is where the next move in geopolitical chess comes in - IF the U.S. and West are to save face and not made to look like impotent idiots - and it was delivered last night by Nina Khrushcheva on Chris Hayes' All In (much to the host's amazement).

First, some background. Very often in playing chess one finds that a limited option is available. Let's use the classic example of a 'fork' attack. In this case, the opponent's knight is 'forking' your queen and a pawn. The experienced chess player understands the queen is much too valuable to allow to be taken so moves her out of harm's way, allowing the pawn to be taken instead. By using this move, you preserve your main force and can still put up a good fight, but are not decimated.

In the case of the current crisis, and as Nina Khrushcheva pointed out to Hayes, Crimea is the 'pawn' and despite all the hair on fire screeching by Obama and the West about the planned referendum  - they must give it up because Putin won't.  It is the jewel of Russia and everyone who's studied Russian history knows that. (Evidently Obama doesn't, so needs to crack more books on it.)  Prof. Khrushcheva  made it clear President Putin doesn't want a full war, but he won't hesitate and there will be "a full blown conflict" if the West pushes its hand too hard.  Thus, as Prof. Khrushcheva put it, Kerry needs to stop his empty threats, so does Obama (including sending more warships to the region which will only inflame tensions) and give up the Crimea as a pawn.

This will be hard for U.S. and Neoliberal imperialists, given that with their phony "world backing" they believe they have Russia and Putin by the proverbial balls, but it is the only practical move available. Putin doesn't want a war but he will deliver a conflict that will make the recent terror "wars'" look like croquet matches,  if the West pushes him on this ( as the CBS Early show news reported out of Moscow this morning.)

Give up the pawn, then move on. Don't worry about perceptions, or 'backing down' out of stupidly held arrogance or the document NSC -68 which foolishly stated (as the basis for the U.S. to go to war or overthrow governments) as described thusly by Morris Berman[1]:

"the importance of perception, arguing that how we were seen was as crucial as how militarily secure we actually were. This rapidly expanded the number of interests deemed relevant to national security”.

The bottom line is that whether this crisis continues escalating will largely depend on whether the U.S. gets its global supremacy meme under control, and has the humility to walk away - giving up the pawn. Let's also bear in mind that all Obama's recent protestations as to the upcoming scheduled referendum are misplaced,, given he said that needs to be decided by the "legitimate Ukraine government" in Kiev. BUT pointed out by many other commentators (e.g. Robert Parry, Normon Solomon, Eric Margolis) as well as yours truly - this isn't so. That Kiev gov't under neocon puppet Arseniy Yatsenuk is illegitimate and seized power in a coup instigated by the Neocons, e.g.
Sadly, the signs are that Obama is being manipulated again toward a bad decision. As the Guardian put it yesterday:

"The escalating crisis in Ukraine has set off reckless missile-rattling in this country. As Harvard’s Stephen Walt tweeted on March 2: “Public discourse on #Ukraine situation hitting new heights in hyperbole. (‘New Cold War, WW III,’ etc.) Rhetorical overkill not helpful.” He may have been thinking of neocon Charles Krauthammer, who in his Washington Post column called for the United States to ante up $15 billion for Ukraine and send a naval flotilla to the Black Sea.
The same paper headlined that the crisis “tests Obama’s focus on diplomacy over military force,” quoting Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies decrying President Obama’s “taking the stick option off the table.”

Let us hope Obama soon wakes up and removes that "stick" from the table for the good of the world. To do so he will need to find the same courage John Fitzgerald Kennedy did back in October, 1962  - to defy his Joint Chiefs-  who demanded he bomb and invade Cuba. His defiance and choice of a less belligerent option  left us an extant world as opposed to a pile of radioactive ash. A similar outcome to the current crisis may hinge on Obama mustering the same level of pluck and self-confidence.

This time, Obama will have to face down the assorted hives and warrens of neocons (e.g. the National Endowment for Democracy, The Center for Strategic and International Studies etc.)  besieging him to act in a "gutsy" but most unwise manner, to show Putin "who's boss". We hope he can summon the same spine as JFK did to resist the generals in 1962.



Disturbingly, US Republicans and the usual media propagandists are heaping blame on President Barack Obama for “losing Crimea,” as if any of them knows where it was before last week. John McCain and his sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham have been demanding that Obama “get tough.”
Sure. Let’s mine Russia’s ports or blockade its oil and gas exports. Nothing like a nuclear war to show how weak the Democrats are. Thank god McCain did not win the presidency. The dolts at Fox TV can’t tell the difference between caution and cowardice.



[1] Morris Berman: 2006, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, W.W. Norton, page 118.

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