Foreign Policy - So Easy Even Rudy Can Do It
by Canaan, Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 05:23:51 PM EDT
Rudy Giuliani got some press last week with his cheap shot at Barack Obama. "You're not Ronald Reagan, ya know." Not enough attention was paid to Giuliani's ridiculous views on the Cold War:
"He [Reagan] took missiles, intermediate-range missiles ... and he put them in European cities, and he pointed the missiles at Russian cities with names on them. Then he said, in a very nice way, 'Let's negotiate.'"
So Rudy thinks Reagan pointed American missiles at a nuclear superpower and basically told the Soviets to choke on it. Even worse, he believes Gorbachev bowed down in the face of a nuclear threat from the United States!
Is it even necessary to document how wrong Rudy is? The point of Reagan's military build-up was not to back down the Soviets at missilepoint. It was to cripple the communist economy with an arms race they could not afford--leaving peace as the smart option. Reagan's strategy would not have worked if the Soviets thought he was trying to intimidate them with a first strike threat. At the time of the Geneva Summit, the Soviet Union was armed to its eyeteeth--with over 25,000 warheads. Nuclear superpowers don't respond well to threats of annihilation, as a rule.
It was vital for Gorbachev to see Reagan's arms buildup for what it was--economic warfare, not a military threat. These are Gorbachev's words on Reagan: "I felt something and he felt something--that we could talk to each other."(1) According to Samuel Wells of the Woodrow Wilson Center, "Reagan was terribly, deeply opposed to nuclear weapons--he thought they were immoral."(2) It was this belief that Gorbachev may have seen in Reagan's eyes.
Rudy crows that Iran saw "something very different in Reagan's eyes" when they released 52 American diplomatic hostages the day of his inauguration. Excuse me, Iran-Contra? Again, Rudy imagines Iran backed down in fear that Reagan would blow them up.(3)
I'm not a fan of Obama. But the arrogance of Rudy, to chide Obama as 'no Reagan' while brazenly comparing himself to Reagan--again and again--at the same time proving that he is no Reagan--wow!
Rudy is no Reagan. He's not even a Nixon! In 1952, while running for Vice President, Nixon outlined the Cold War in terms broadly similar to the Reagan strategy:
"We have advocated a policy of liberation through means other than force ... Psychological warfare, economic pressure ... The communists have made a lot of gains. They've gained 600 million people. They've done it without losing a single Russian soldier in combat."(4) [My emphasis]
Nixon's plan as far back as 1952 was to reverse the Soviet political victory in China--to take back those 600 million people from the Soviet sphere--"to win this struggle without a war". It's revealing that in 1992 (two years before his death), Nixon reflected that in 1960, he did not yet possess the diplomatic skill to make his opening to China--even after 8 years as Vice President. It took another 8 years of traveling and studying to develop the negotiating skill to break apart the Soviet-Sino coalition.(5)
In doing so, Nixon took the military option 'off the table' for the Soviets. Without their Asian ally, the Soviets could not even wildly imagine any gain from war with the United States--leaving them to compete with Reagan in the economic arena where they were outmatched. The break-up of the Soviet-Sino axis came through a combination of Rudy-style clumsiness on the Russians' part, and quite amazing diplomatic finesse on the part of ol' Tricky Dick. Without Nixon's diplomatic victory, would Reagan have dared provoke the combined forces of the Soviets and China with his arms buildup?
My point is this: in finesse, sophistication and diplomatic skill, Rudy compares poorly to America's most aggressive Cold War Republican Presidents. Both Reagan and Nixon combined their famous 'tough guy' acts with finesse. I wouldn't vote for either one--these were not nice people. They just did not equate American strength with bullheaded, George Bush-like stupidity. This is why they succeeded, in the very least, in breaking the vicious cycle of World Wars.
Throughout his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Rudy revealed a deep-rooted contempt for diplomacy and negotiation. It's out of character for him to even mention Obama. (AP noted that "to date, Giuliani has directed most of his criticism at ... Hillary Rodham Clinton.") It's only to ridicule Obama's pledge to negotiate with rogue leaders without preconditions that he gives Obama a second thought. I agree, Obama is no Reagan. But in the same breath, Rudy ridiculed the profound wisdom of Gorbachev. To Rudy, Gorbachev didn't make peace out of wisdom, sanity, and economic realism. In Rudy's eyes, Gorbachev took it in the tail at missilepoint (despite having 25,000 warheads of his own).
It's not smart to insult an adversary when they do the wise, rational thing and pull back from a confrontation. "Ha, you backed down. You're a punk!" This only discourages rational behavior.
Much of Rudy's speech was directed to Iran. Russian President Putin is key to our problem with Iran. The Russian veto in the U.N. Security Council blocks agressive sanctions on Iran. Russia's business relations with Tehran offset our efforts to isolate Iran economically. Now Putin has even hinted at a Russian security guarantee in the Caspian Sea.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union mutually warned each other off any military action to seize Middle East Oil. The Soviets had their own version of our own Carter Doctrine, which basically said 'Don't Even Think About It.' Imagine if either superpower had invaded not one, but two of the world's largest oil reserves. Kaboom! Did it stick in the Russian craw that they had to stand by in 2003 while the U.S. unilaterally invaded Iraq? And now Iran?
We need Putin's cooperation to avoid war against Iran, if not by the U.S., then by Israel. Is there any sign that Rudy can get anywhere with Putin? Insulting Russian pride with his insane revisionist claim that Gorbachev bowed down to America at missilepoint doesn't inspire confidence.
"Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate," Rudy went on sarcastically, his words dripping with contempt for the very concept. He calls negotiation 'The Great Fallacy'. Now you can be a hawk or a dove, you can disagree on this or that foreign policy. But 'The Great Fallacy?' Why does Rudy feel the need to ridicule diplomacy?
Right now Rudy is courting American voters--we're seeing Rudy Lite. He's like the wife-beater who tries to hide his proclivities as he tries to woo a new bride. And that's exactly how many of us feel in New York--like the first wife of an abuser who was attracted by his machismo, but later discovered his true nature. I'll blog later on how Rudy abused the city of New York before 9/11. For now, I'll just say this: The world today is not analagous to pre-Giuliani New York. Al Queada are not The Crips. I wish it were that simple.
Over the past seventy years of American history, was there any time when Rudy Giuliani would have been the 'right man at the right time'? Maybe during World War II. Certainly not during the Cold War. If Nixon's China trip had failed and we ended up in a Hot War with the Soviets, America might have needed the leadership of a cast iron butthead like Rudy. He'll start the war and then fight it bravely. But he won't prevent it.
America is a superpower, yes. That doesn't mean we can bully the entire human race. "Superpower" does not mean "Omnipotent". Our President must wield our strength with cunning and ruthless finesse. With all the complexities we face in the world -- Iran, Iraq, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan -- Rudy Giuliani is congenitally unqualified to be President of the United States.
Watch this guy closely. You like diplomatic failure? You like butthead bombing campaigns? Global inflammation? You ain't seen nothing yet!
(2) How Reagan Won The Cold War by Fred Kaplan.
(3) In fact, it was the death of the former American puppet Shah Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran, unfreezing of Iranian assets, and America's pledge not to interefere in Iran that led to the hostage release. See the Algiers Accord. It was the internal political cost of appearing to 'back down' to the U.S. that caused Iran to drag the crisis out.
(4) Nixon on Meet The Press, September 14, 1952.
(5) "That's when I was able really to travel the world, to learn what really made the world tick and to develop my thinking." Nixon 1992 interview.
(6) Giuliani Video.