Thursday, February 05, 2015

Inside the Indecision Loop

Ukraine is getting hammered by Russia's invasion; a non-governmental group floats the idea of providing arms to Ukraine to resist that aggression; the Ukrainian government asks for weapons; and the Obama administration affirms its decision not to send arms to Ukraine.

Wow! Indecision at the speed of light. Who says this administration dithers?

But you see, that very first article shows the problem with the administration's decision-making loop:

Eastern Ukraine is in a "dire" security situation, and Russia is failing "miserably" in its seriousness to negotiate an end to the crisis, a senior U.S. State Department official said Thursday.

The official, who spoke to reporters on board U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's plane en route to Kiev, also warned of a "grave acceleration of the fighting on the ground" in Ukraine.

I'm sorry, but I missed the part of the last year that provided even a hint that Russia had any seriousness about negotiating an end to the "crisis" that preserves Ukraine's territorial integrity and independence.

Was there a Marie Harf State Department press conference on that?

Russia has invaded Ukraine. This is a war. Only Russia's military weakness has prevented them from rapidly taking eastern Ukraine. But it is a war of conquest, even though Putin is using hand puppets to thinly disguise his aggression.

Perhaps if we had started out this whole decision loop with the right premise, the end decision would have been very different.

Or maybe not. They do seem highly resistant to reality in their bubble of hope, change, and "smart" diplomacy.

UPDATE: Oh, this is special. This indecision is being elevated to a doctrine:

A person who has seen the document, and described it to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity, said the strategy document is meant to explain and defend Obama’s reluctance to use military might for crises that are unlikely to be solved quickly or easily. In the document, the administration summarizes its worldview as one of “strategic patience,” this person said.

By this doctrine, the failure to act in Syria and Ukraine is meant to avoid making things worse.

Already, we've seen Russia continue to attack Ukraine despite our decision to withhold lethal aid to Ukraine.

And in Syria, we've seen the rise of ISIL, chemical weapons use against civilians, the survival of Assad, spillover into Iraq, and 200,000 dead.

And this was on purpose, they say. A result of strategic patience rather than dithering or failing to make the right choice.

Remember, the White House defended not providing lethal aid to Syrian rebels because they didn't want to "militarize" the conflict (I believe that was Secretary of State Clinton's turn of phrase). So I sure hope that the administration isn't now arguing that the current situation in Syria is what they had in mind with their "strategic patience."

No doubt, sometimes doing nothing and waiting to see how things develop is the right course of action. We didn't jump into World War I or World War II right away.

But we did help our allies who were fighting. The Obama administration is conflating doing something--like arming those willing to fight--with direct American intervention,

Elevating this to our general policy is ridiculous. This administration doesn't seem to realize that deciding not to act is a decision with consequences as significant as any decision to do something.

After six years, we can't excuse nonsense as the result of being new to the job. This administration simply sucks. And they're quite experienced at it.

"Strategic patience," indeed.