Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Would Ronnie Do?

As part of the relentless conservative push to canonize Ronnie (or a least bump the eminently worthy Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill), Reagan acolyte Henry R. Nau is not content with revisionist history. In his LA Times op-ed today, How Reagan would've dealt with Georgia, Nau opts for revisionist historical speculation.TM

I'll give Nau credit. He's quite crafty about it:

The question of whether diplomacy or the use of force is best to meet such foreign challenges and promote freedom is hardly new in American foreign policy. Two long-standing traditions offer some answers.

Liberal internationalism, which is identified with Woodrow Wilson, seeks to reduce the role of force by promoting peaceful diplomacy through multilateral institutions. It expects expanded trade and modernization to slowly defuse global tensions and advance freedom.

In contrast, the classical realist tradition, practiced most notably by Teddy Roosevelt, carries a big military stick, defends free countries by balancing foreign powers against each other and worries that modernization may not lessen tensions but rather strengthen adversaries that continue to oppose freedom.

The problem with both traditions is that they fail to integrate force and diplomacy.
Sorta like George Bush. But I digress...
There's a third tradition that pays more attention to combining force and diplomacy. Call it conservative internationalism. It's conservative because, like classical realism, it assigns a significant role to the use of force. It's internationalist because it seeks to spread freedom, a principal goal of liberal internationalism. Four U.S. presidents have successfully practiced conservative internationalism: Thomas Jefferson, James K. Polk, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan.
Oh Please. Fuck that shit in the neck. Now.

While I do find interesting that Nau compares Reagan to the iconic Jefferson as well as Democrats Polk & Truman, it's thru these comparisons that Nau that perpetuates the Reagan-worshipers favorite whopper:
Reagan waged an arms race primarily to bring freedom to nearby Eastern Europe.
I don't think so. I've previously railed about how this hagiographic view of Ronald Reagan's "legacy" is an absolute fraud.

waged his arm race because he was an uber-hawk. His friends were hawks. His campaign contributors were hawks (and/or key cogs in the military-industrial machine). His cabinet and administration was populated with hawks including one young Henry R. Nau. Secretary of State Alexander Haig was a retired four-star general and a vet of both Korea and Vietnam -- wars that resulted in a "tie" and a "loss" to Communism respectively. No small point there. (Not coincidentally, many of Nau's mentors and peers make up the delusional "We cannot afford to lose in Iraq" contingent).

Then as now these "conservatives" were desperate to put up a "W." So when he hit the lottery with the Berlin Wall coming down on his watch, these folks gave (and still are giving) all the credit to Ronnie's diplomatic genius. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the Russkies' Afghanistan adventure not Regean's ingenious "conservative internationalism" posture that stretched the Soviet Union to its breaking point.

The Soviet-Afghan War lasted the entirety of Reagan's two terms. Official Soviet reports place the total war dead near 15,000. Actual dead were easily triple that and possibly more. The numbers of sick or wounded were in the hundreds of thousands. There were other important far-reaching casualties:
  1. The previously "invincible" Soviet military was thoroughly. It created an irreparable rift between political leadership & the military.
  2. It caused Soviet leadership to become increasingly insecure in their ability to maintain their empire through military might.
  3. It bankrupted the Soviet economy. This war cost the Soviets an estimated $9 billion per year (not adjusted for inflation). The USSR found itself without the necessary resources to keep its satellites in line and eventually to keep itself together.
  4. It was a long, extremely unpopular war. The hardships suffered caused a completely new generation of Soviet citizenry to question the efficacy, legitimacy and very purpose of communism.
Furthermore, it's patently absurd for Nau to assume that Reagan would have handled Russia's invasion of Georgia with the same "effective" integration of "force and diplomacy" as Nau contends he did while "saving" Eastern Europe from the Commies. Ronnie could have easily chosen a route completely devoid of diplomacy or force as he did the in-the-shadows-passive-aggressive-fund-and-arm-somebody-else (i.e. the Afghan Mujahadeen) to do the dirty work route. (Brzezinski's baby to be sure but Ronnie & co. fed it, raised it and quite literally sent it off to college).

Where's the balls in that? How the fuck is that conservative internationalism, huh Hank? Tell me 'cuz I really wanna know. That tack eventually spent over $40 billion (split largely betwixt the US & the Saudis) and took a decade to end the Soviet-Afghan War. Oh, and it set the stage for 9/11 too. This fails every conceivable litmus test for conservatism.

This is not the first time Hank Nau has serve up such nonsense. For more laffs check out Nau's March 2005 defense of "Bush's classic conservatism." It mines some serious comedy gold:
Do Europeans understand President George W. Bush any better after his recent trip to Europe? They may. But they would be wrong to dismiss Bush's previous diplomacy as aberrant.

Bush is unusual. He is a conservative internationalist. Europeans have heard of liberal internationalists, such as Bill Clinton. And they know about conservative nationalists such as Pat Buchanan or Ross Perot.

But they have probably never heard of conservative internationalists. Indeed they might think, as many liberal Americans do, that the term is an oxymoron.

Well, it's not. Conservative internationalists exist in the American diplomatic tradition, and Europeans - as well as liberal Americans - should recognize this school of diplomacy even if they disagree with it.

Further on in this International Herald Tribune/NY Times parody satire op-ed, Nau alternately compares Bush to Jefferson, Jackson and Reagan.

I dare you to read this without laughing so hard you lose your vittles. I double dare you.


Note: I find it absolutely unconscionable for the LA Times to print such crap from Henry R. Nau without any indication whatsover that this guy served on Reagan's National Security Council from 1981-1983. Par for the course yes, but shame on them.