Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Obvious

With Russia proclaiming rearmament (but can they afford it?), rattling nukes, seizing territory, and loudly proclaiming they are resisting a (non-existent) NATO threat, is this a pre-World War II moment all over again?

History can only guide us on the things we think are important now, rather than being a plot that simply rewinds and plays again. But with economic problems--lesser, to be sure, but with people less used to such a life--and aggressive states (Russia and China), plus general mayhem from Islamists, could somebody, somewhere start a localized war that spirals out of control and becomes a large-scale war? People and motivations certainly don't change over time and allow for similar reactions to similar problems.

Sure, Russia under Putin seems like the obvious candidate for such a repeat if this is a 1930s moment. He's loud. He lies. He takes land and isn't embarrassed.

But he is weak. His power comes from the greater weakness on his western border and from the unwillingness of those with the power to stop him to take steps to resist him.

Yes, we are opposing Putin with maneuvers, new deployments, and generally non-lethal aid to the prime victim of the moment--Ukraine--but we don't know whether these efforts will fail or just haven't worked yet.

I suspect we need more dead Russian soldiers to stop Putin, and I worry that if Ukraine stops resisting Russia because we won't offer needed weapons to Ukraine, that the main point of resistance to Putin simply collapses. Leading from behind requires somebody in front of us, no?

The basic weakness of Russia leads many to dismiss the notion that Putin represents a non-genocidal version of Hitler and the template of the 1930s.

But this might be a Europe-centric mistake. What if, as I've mentioned before, Putin is the supporting character in this template--the loud but weak Mussolini who picks on weak victims and counts on the powerful powers to back down rather than confront him?

What if China is the main power--the new Germany--in this template? And their efforts to control the vital trade corridor of the South Sea and militarize their existing and newly built islands provoke a conflict.

Maybe we should think of the theft of extremely sensitive federal employee data not as a cyber-9/11 but as China cyber-occupying the OPMland.

Or could Japan be the Poland of this template?

The bright spot is that the China-Russia axis is not forged in steel, if we can engineer a breach before Putin sets Europe aflame and China decides to exploit our "distraction" in Europe to make gains in Asia while they can (or the reverse, of course)--regardless of whether they are working together.

With all the uncertainties, we at least know who gets the Chamberlain role, promising to responsibly end wars peace for our time even as he retreats while proclaiming mission accomplished.