Between Nagorno-Karabakh and a Hard Place

Issac Faulk

Issac Faulk is the pseudonym of a published and experienced foreign policy writer, currently in exile.

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26 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    Oh yes, let’s get involved in this again! Are there issues of refuges coming to America? No? Then let the Europeans handle their own back yard. If they can’t, well, time to learn.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    The best thing about Biden being president is that we can go back to bombing new countries instead of the old crappy countries we’ve been bombing.Report

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    Jaybird and Damon’s comments represent a broad swath of American opinion from all corners of the political sphere. Which is that there are no good choices here and this is none of our business.

    The first part may be true, but the second demonstrates a remarkable change of the American self-image since my childhood.
    It represents equal parts cynicism, that the only thing that America has to offer the world is senseless warmongering, conjoined with a helplessness, that America is simply incapable of providing anything constructive.

    It’s not necessarily wrong. In this political moment, with our current leadership, it is probably the most correct view.

    But it is stunning, this utter collapse of the American global leadership into irrelevancy and incompetence. Even more astounding, is how this occurred immediately after the “unipolar moment” after the fall of Communism when America seemed to be the world’s most indispensable nation.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Chip, I submit: Bombing countries was bad when it was Nobel Peace Prize Laureates doing it.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

        Obama never claimed to be a pacifist and his acceptance speech was on the when you can justly use force. The amount of people defending letting Qaddalfi crack down on his people and continue ruling as an unhinged dictator is maddening. The support bombing had little cost and a great outcome.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yeah, yeah. I remember when that was the argument for deposing Saddam. “But he’s cracking down on his people!”

          Remember this one: “And Uday and Qusay are *WORSE*!!!”?

          Anyway, we made Iraq worse. And saying “we shouldn’t have invaded” being read as “we’re defending letting Saddam stay in power!” is dishonest. See it as “we shouldn’t make things worse.”

          The comparison is always between the status quo and some imagined utopia when, really, the comparison should be between the status quo and the average of what happened the last 15 times we tried it.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

            There were some people who wanted Saddam taken out because he was a Bad Guy — and he was — but that wouldn’t have done the job. We’re very selective about when we kick Bad Guys around just for being Bad Guys. What got us into wars with him was: (Iraq I) invading another country; and (Iraq II) NUKES! (and those nasty Saudis from 9/11). The reasons for Iraq II were bogus, and many of us thought so at the time. Whether the Iraqi people (at least those who survived the war) are worse off than they were under Saddam is far from clear, but probably not our business — unless we make it our business, which would be a mistake.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

              Would you say that your position amounts to “defending letting Saddam crack down on his people”?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, because I don’t “defend” it. I just don’t — usually — want to go to war about it. (There are other things that can be done, but they may not work.) No country has either the power or the moral standing to base its foreign policy on the general redress of wrongs.Report

    • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I don’t think it’s astounding at all. We had our fun from Mogadishu to Baghdad, and even one last little layover in Tripoli. We tried and we failed. The irony of referring to America as a ‘global stabilizer’ is palpable.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

        John McCain never met a destabilizing ‘freedom fighter’ that he wouldn’t back. Unfortunately we have no way to vette ‘freedom fighters’ so we’re mostly just subsidizing instability. Sometimes we subsidize anti-state actors (like in Libya and Syria), sometimes we support state actors (like Saudi Arabia and Israel). And bonus points if we can articulate anything we’re doing in Africa… and by the way, is anyone following what we’re doing in Africa? In the end, the only thing we can’t support is a clear articulation of how these actions tie together into furthering American interests in either peace, stability, or Global Imperial domination.

        For me, it’s the clear inability to articulate, evaluate and execute against the win conditions on our Local, Regional and Global objectives.

        I’d have to dig in to this more to write up with greater precision… but increasingly my suspicion is that the Pentagon is driving Diplomacy as a form of Proving Grounds for tech, troops and leadership.Report

    • I agree with Chip. There is (meaning broadly, not just our commentating friends here) this automatic, knee-jerk “oh so you want to get us involved in another war” to every single issue of foreign policy that comes up. No, of course we don’t want to jump into every single conflict. However, this new strand of hyper-isolationism that has become more prevalent, and is frankly a central tenant of faith to many of our libertarian friends. This situation, like many others, will not be resolved by American military force. What it is, however, is another example of something that while having no good solution to fix now, could have been alleviated if not prevented with a coherent and consistent foreign policy.

      The president, by his own admission, has no care and less concern of any global matter that does not present a clear and immediate win for himself. His approach feeds this anathema towards American global influence, and will be an inflection point in global affairs for years to come.Report

      • It’s not isolationism! I think we should engage in commerce with these fine people!

        But Iraq was made worse off for our meddling, Egypt was made worse off for our meddling, Libya was made worse off for our meddling, we created countless refugees from our meddling, and I have no reason to believe that Syria would be in a better place today if we had continued bombing them than where it is now.

        Remember when ISIS was scary? Well, it was a lot scarier when we were bombing it than when we up’n left.

        It’s not isolationism to not bomb them. It’s just not bombing them.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

          How did we make Libya worse off? Would they really be better of Qaddalfi was allowed to crack down and maintain his grip on power? Same with Egypt? It was the Egyptian educated classes who teamed up with the military to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, not the United States.Likewise, American participation in the Syrian Civil War has been minimum. We didn’t support the uprising and we didn’t side with Assad. There isn’t any evidence that our non-intervention is any better than our intervention.

          And many of these non-interventionalists are hyper isolationists. Very against taking in refugees or immigrants of any sort because they believe they will just bring their problems with them. In Right Libertarianism, there is a big anti-immigrant stance that has been expressed on this blog at times.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

            How did we make Libya worse off?

            Well, here are three different articles that came up when I googled nothing more than “Libya today”.

            Wanna go through the headlines with me?

            “Why is Libya so lawless?”
            “Moamar Gaddafi has been dead eight years yet Libya is still at war with itself. What went wrong?”
            “Libya Today: Still Lacking Stability, Still Lacking Security”

            The first is from January. The second is from last year. The third is from September.

            It’s not defending the previous regime to say that it wasn’t as bad as what was left behind after we got in there and started a kinetic egg breaking in order to make a peace omelet.

            “What, are you saying you weren’t hungry?”


            • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

              And that’s not even accounting for the fact that Libya was a success story for diplomatically changing incentives/behaviors of authoritarian regimes from engaging in state sponsored terrorism.

              And, that’s not accounting for the fact that Libya is a *real* credibility hit to our negotiating power and our ability to act as a balancing power that we’re still dealing with today.

              Which, as noted above, pre-dates the immigration question and is, in-fact, a driver of the destabilization of an entire region that ‘forces’ people into desperate migration patterns.

              This also bears fruit in Syria where Assad knew that the US is not a reliable broker…

              Brining up Immigration is exactly backwards… Libya did more tangible harm to American diplomacy and interests in the last 20-years than anything other than Iraq.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to LeeEsq says:

            The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked the World. Here’s What You Should Know
            Time magazine, 12/1/2017

            Remember when Hilary said, “We Came, We Saw, He Died?” Good times, good times.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          As we see with China, it isn’t possible to engage in commerce, without also engaging in security affairs.

          As a leftist in good standing, I don’t need convincing of the long long list of malign American actions.

          But there is an assumption lurking here which equates “engagement” with “bombing”. It’s what I referred to as the mix of cynicism and helplessness, where our choices become absurdly narrowed to “Senseless warmongering” or “Do absolutely nothing”.

          As we see again with China and Russia, they combine a strategic mix of trade, security assistance, cultural engagement to exert influence and obtain outcomes favorable to their interests.

          America doesn’t seem to have that same level of strategic thinking. We used to. There was a time when we used all these tools but over the years we seem to have lost the ability to have some overarching vision of our place in the world.Report

      • InMD in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        Andrew, I would find this more persuasive if there was an accounting for the times we’ve gotten it oh so wrong and (to March’s point) some kind of clearly articulated strategy. I’m no libertarian and I think the more dangerous knee-jerk reaction is the one that says America must always be involved no matter the cost. That’s the position that still haunts our halls of power and the media, and shows no signs of developing an ounce of humility.Report

    • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Well, first off, I don’t view it as cynicism. I view it as practicality. I was never a supporter when we were there the last time. Wasn’t that during Clinton’s term? Yeah, we made the area better then huh? It’s still a troubled region. My point is that it’s not the US’s responsibility to be the global cop.

      Now, you want to have a discussion about the US’s global empire and that we need to be active almost everywhere to shape the world in our vision? Let’s have that convo. And let’s talk about what that vision actually is, what we’re prepared to do to achieve that, how “winnable” is that goal, and how much is it going to cost the taxpayers and in the lives of Americans. Cause we ain’t had that convo in a long long time, if ever.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    Well, we’re going to have a center-rightist Democratic administration with a significant role given to a woman with a notable law-and-order streak, so of course we need a Macedonian-peninsula crapstorm to get involved with; that was another key element of the Nineties, and apparently we are bound and determined to repeat that decade…Report

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    Notice how we (meaning the American public and media outlets broadly) seem to react to triggering events, but not to the larger forces that drive them.
    For example every so often there is an alarming headline about China- maybe the rising level of repression of college discussion, or the possibility of the pandemic being somehow their fault, or a flareup like Hong Kong, or maybe a saber-rattling in the South China Sea.

    Clearly the American citizens see China as a rising threat but there isn’t any matching theory forming in our political institutions. That is, our think tanks, political parties, and various pundit class don’t seem to have any overarching concept of how to meet this threat, or even if it exists at all.

    China and Russia are perfect examples of challenges to which we can’t bomb out way out of, and lacking that single tool, the American establishment seems befuddled.Report

  6. Pinky says:

    Anyone, name three things that don’t destabilize relations between Greece and Turkey.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

      At least this isn’t as bad as Syria where these are no good solutions, including the status quo. Here, there’s the obvious “Stop fighting and go back to negotiation over the status of the disputed territory,” If there are diplomatic and economic carrots and sticks the US could apply towards that, doing that should be a no-brainer.

      It’s really only since the neocon takeover of 2001 that the US has considered military force its only lever. That could change.Report