It’s a dangerous world, as former Vice President Dick Cheney is wont to say, and it is made even more dangerous by pervasive ignorance among American politicians. I don’t think Cheney is ignorant; I think he is evil and his persistent denial of facts is a ploy to achieve his diabolical ends. But what am I to think of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured bleow, top)? Or the number-two Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl (pictured below, middle)? Or House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (pictured below, bottom left)? Or the number-two House Republican, Eric Cantor (pictured below bottom right)?
To hear them talk, these American politicians obviously have a weak grasp on the reality of today’s global situation. They are stuck in a time warp, still fighting a Cold War that ended 20 years ago.
This rear-view-mirror approach to world affairs was dramatically illustrated yesterday when President Obama announced plans to scrap the Bush “missile defense shield” in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of a much less costly mobile network that would focus on Iran’s actual capabilities. The Bush plan was based on the threat of long-range missiles, which updated intelligence shows Iran is not developing. Obama’s version is based on the need to guard against short- and mid-range missiles, which Iran is known to possess.
Leaving aside my personal conviction that the development of any effective “missile defense shield” still belongs in the realm of science fiction, the way top Republicans reacted was mind boggling. McConnell called the President’s decision “shortsighted and harmful to our long-term security interests.” Kyl said the decision sent a chilling message to former Soviet satellite states that had braved Moscow’s anger to host the system. Boehner said the change in plans “empowers Russia and Iran at the expense of our allies in Europe.” And Cantor warned that it “will cause our eastern European allies to question our commitment to their people and security, while heightening concerns in Israel.”
To call these politicians ignorant is to give them the benefit of the doubt.
But I cannot use ignorance to excuse Senator John McCain. He has been a covert meddler in foreign affairs throughout his career, promoting subversive activities to advance the cause of “capitalism.” As a case in point, he was instrumental in causing the recent conflict between Russia and former Soviet satellite Georgia. So he should know something about world affairs. Yet the defeated Republican presidential candidate also came out against the change in missile defense plans. He warned it could undermine U.S. standing in Eastern Europe and embolden a resurgent Russia.
He couldn’t be more wrongheaded. President Obama’s decision to abandon the Bush-era plan for a missile defense system in Europe and establish a partly ship-based shield against Iranian rockets will tighten U.S. pressure on the Islamic republic, provide more effective protection for Israel and ease a simmering rift with Russia. And no, easing tensions between the U.S. and Russia is not a Bad Thing. Not in the year 2009. Ironically, on the same day that Republican leaders were complaining about Obama’s betrayal of European allies, the head of NATO called for the U.S., Russia and NATO to link their missile defense systems against potential new nuclear threats from Asia and the Middle East. He said that the old foes must forget their lingering Cold War animosity.
“We should explore the potential for linking the US, NATO and Russia missile defense systems at an appropriate time,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “Both NATO and Russia have a wealth of experience in missile defense. We should now work to combine this experience to our mutual benefit.”
I hope the low-information politicians in America were listening. But I doubt it.