As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Take A Hint From Vlad Putin, Democrats

On foreign policy issues, you just divide and conquer:

President Bush said yesterday that a missile defense system is urgently needed in Europe to guard against a possible attack on U.S. allies by Iran, while Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested that the United States could delay activating such a system until there is "definitive proof" of such a threat.

The seemingly contrasting messages came as the Bush administration grappled with continuing Russian protests over Washington's plan to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. The Kremlin considers the program a potential threat to its own nuclear deterrent and has sought to play down any threat from Iran.

From the moment that the White House announced this European missile defense system, Putin went to work. He would not be persuaded in a series of meetings. He gave the option of placing the missiles in a country he controls, Azerbaijan. He showed up in Tehran talking with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. And generally he threatened a return to the Cold War if Bush moved forward. Now he's got the Defense Secretary wobbling and the White House in disarray.

Obviously Putin is impervious to the type of demagoguing Bush routinely does to the Democrats, claiming that they are invting terror or would rather see attacks on America or so forth. But those simply don't have the force that they did in, say, 2002. Russia has plenty to fear from a hostile United States. None of the leverage points worked. And they shouldn't work with the Democrats, either. In fact, they have some allies inside the inner circle.

The new chairman (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Adm. Mike Mullen, expressed deep concerns that the long counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have so consumed the military that the Army and Marine Corps may be unprepared for a high-intensity war against a major adversary.

He rejected the counsel of those who might urge immediate attacks inside Iran to destroy nuclear installations or to stop the flow of explosives that end up as powerful roadside bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan, killing American troops.

With America at war in two Muslim countries, he said, attacking a third Islamic nation in the region “has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it.” The military option, he said, should be a last resort.

Now, Mullen's going to be asking for large military spending to offset the cost of equipment replacement and restoring the armed forces after two long wars. There's an opportunity there to make some agreements.

My point is that you stand firm. Putin's obviously a shady character, and emulating his kind of anti-democratic style is not advisable. But he absolutely played the Bushies on this missile defense thing. For want of a backbone, the Democrats could do the same thing.

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