written by daniel mcadams - saturday march 29, 2014
President Obama's speech in Brussels this week was a shocking mélange of ignorance and arrogance masquerading as foreign policy.
Attempting to justify placing the US on war footing with Russia over the recent referendum in Crimea, the president stated:
Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.
Of course anyone who followed the Kosovo fiasco knows that never happened. There was no such thing. Made up. The Kosovo parliament declared independence unilaterally backed up by US/NATO military power to ensure the change of borders.
The US press? Silent on this monumental display of ignorance by the US commander in chief.
Speaking of changing borders, Obama said:
...in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future.But that is just what the United States did 15 years ago this week via the 78 day bombing of Serbia to change the borders and extract Kosovo as an independent (though profoundly dysfunctional) state. The US bombing of Serbia was of course outside international law, as was US invasion and occupation of Iraq, attack and invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Libya, bombing of Pakistan, Yemen, etc.
The president celebrated...
...the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose, the belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.
But in the modern world he champions — as opposed to his bad old system of using force to establish legitimacy — that consent of the governed is determined at the ballot box, rather than in burned-out buildings occupied by gangs of molotov cocktail throwing "activists."
Indeed, as David Hendrickson recently wrote in the National Interest:
Americans have previously acknowledged a right of revolution in a circumstance where there has been no previous instance of an election and no possibility of one. But in a regime that has a constitution and that has prescribed rules for the transfer of power? Revolution in those circumstances has been generally seen as deeply illegitimate, and for the simple reason that once you depart from that rule you are in no man’s land.So where Obama may see...
...the young people of Ukraine, who were determined to take back their future from a government rotted by corruption...
...the modern world he touts — free of the oppression where "order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign" — can only be brought about by his own terms through the rule of law and respect of the sovereignty of all the people through a free and fair vote. Otherwise, logic is clear, we are precisely back in those bad old days where might makes right.
How can two contradictory concepts both be true at the same time?
The president claims to...
...believe in democracy, with elections that are free and fair, and independent judiciaries and opposition parties, civil society and uncensored information so that individuals can make their own choices.
All the while he champions a regime that came to power in Ukraine in the opposite manner from that which he recognizes as legitimate. Recognizing this fact depends not on whether one agrees with the political persuasion of the ancien or nouveau régime in Kiev.
The president displays another astonishing disconnect with historical reality when he claims that "even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system."
It is not apocryphal that the United States precisely violated international law in its attack on Iraq, as it ignored the United Nations Security Council and instead made its own ad hoc "coalition of the willing" which through sheer will of the US was supposedly granted some manner of legitimacy. As if from some magic fairy dust.
Or could it have been through the very notion condemned in Obama's speech "that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way - that recycled maxim that might makes right."
What is perhaps most troubling is the president (and his advisors) have demonstrated that the policies that may well determine whether we all will perish in a World War III are being made by people without even a passing familiarity with recent history. Those who would rather Tweet "selfies" like self-obsessed adolescents rather than open a history book.
Or, sadly perhaps, it is cynicism in the extreme: perhaps they do know better but count on the ignorance of the rest of us. Is that a safe bet?