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Joint Russo-Chinese Gloatfest Over America's Own Goals


The gloat factor is high in China these days, where many nationalists believe a Sino-Russian tag team has Uncle Sam flat on the mat. According to the ultra-nationalist Global Times newspaper in Beijing (sometimes called the Fox News of China), the world sees the Kremlin as the “winner” and the White House as the “loser” in the Edward Snowden affair. “This judgement is correct,” the article continues. “In the Snowden case, all the other countries involved have become winners while the US is the sole loser.”

Certainly, few American administrations have been so blindsided and flummoxed as the Obama administration has been over the Snowden mess. The White House foolishly huffed and puffed, then pouted and whined as China and Russia blew America off and did exactly as they pleased.

For evidence of the Beijing-Moscow buddy-buddy relationship just look at Syria, where China and Russia (and Iran) think Obama has put himself in a trap. They are each giving Syria piles and piles of cash and weapons—as one Syrian regime official claimed, $500 million every month—on the assumption that the longer the war goes on, the more America’s Middle East position erodes.

This is not a pretty move, requiring the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians in an ugly civil war, but it has been an effective one. Again, it is Washington’s folly that gave Russia and China the chance. By aligning himself with a revolution he was unwilling to help, President Obama set the United States up for a major foreign policy defeat if Assad crushes his opponents, but the longer the war goes on the less he actually wants the rebels to win. The bitter struggle meanwhile is strengthening and energizing exactly the terrorists Obama is committed to defeating; in Syria, the White House has dithered itself into a corner. Obama is now faced with the only choices a long string of policy mistakes have left him: a humiliating failure of policy in Syria as Assad, the only person capable of crushing the extremists, wins the war with US acquiescence, or watching as Syria turns into the kind of horrible death star where jihadists own pockets of territory. As this article in the NYT makes clear, the worst-case scenarios for Syria are rapidly coming to pass.

In the Kremlin as at the offices of Global Times (and among the unbelieving jihadis who presumably are thanking Allah that their mere threats can close a score of US diplomatic facilities), there is much glee at the moment. The American amateurs have been completely outclassed, and the professionals in Moscow and Beijing have handed their common adversary a gratifying mix of humiliations and setbacks. Expect the Kremlin and its allies in particular to work this for all the propaganda advantage they can. Besides nuclear weapons, one of the major Soviet capabilities that the Kremlin maintains (and that Putin has worked hard to burnish) is the ability to spin the world press.

Those Americans who, like Via Meadia, still root for the home team are reduced to hoping that the President and his advisors will take a deep breath and rethink the assumptions and methods that have left them hip deep in the mud. You can’t talk yourself out of a mess you’ve behaved yourself into, and changing the momentum in global politics will require some policy changes.

But the Russians and Chinese also need to reflect. During the Cold War the Soviets used to score propaganda victories and espionage wins against the United States on a pretty regular basis. The KGB beat the CIA at least two falls out of three, and when it came to propaganda the American amateurs were not in the same league as their Kremlin opponents. Yet for all the efforts of the KGB, the Kremlin got creamed in the Cold War. It couldn’t generate an effective state or a modern economy, and it inexorably fell further behind the bumbling Americans who, even tripping as we so frequently did over our own feet, kept strengthening our technological and economic lead over Moscow.

Nothing about that dynamic has changed. Russia still wins a lot of propaganda and espionage battles, and it is still a master at exploiting America’s many foreign policy mistakes. Yet without the capacity to build an effective, modern state or a world class economy, Russia still falls further behind over time.

These days, as the Kremlin well knows, it is falling behind China as well as the United States. President Putin enjoys high-profile propaganda wins over inept Americans as much as any son of Russia ever could, but he also knows that the last thing Russia wants is to be left alone in Eurasia with a rising China.

President Obama is not the first American president to score some spectacular own goals; fortunately, America’s political class has never been the most important source of our national strength.

[Xi and Putin meeting in China, June 6, 2012, courtesy of Getty Images.]

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  • Corlyss

    An astute analysis. The Russians and Chinese wouldn’t have been so successful without the dithering and incompetence in the Oval office.

    “The KGB beat the CIA at least two falls out of three, and when it came to propaganda the American amateurs were not in the same league as their Kremlin opponents. Yet for all the efforts of the KGB, the Kremlin got creamed in the Cold War.”

    Memo to White House: rhetoric never beats action.

  • bpuharic

    Obama ‘dithered’ himself into a corner?

    Yeah! Let’s send in the MARINES! Show ’em like we did in Iraq! Show ’em American power

    And how’d that work out?

    • Tom

      Or, he could have just kept his mouth shut about Syria.

  • Corlyss

    “The idea that Syria could supplant Pakistan as the primary haven for Al Qaeda someday, should the government fall, is a heavy blow to the Western-backed Syrian opposition and its military arm, the Free Syrian Army.” – NYT

    Gee, just think what it would mean for Europe and Turkey, as well as the US.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Nothing about that dynamic has changed.”

    I disagree, and think you are deluding yourself if you think either the US, Russia, or China are the same as they were during the Cold War. Both Russia and China have stepped strongly in the direction of Capitalism, and the US has moved significantly away from Capitalism towards Socialism. Putin has given Russia a 13% flat tax and made starting a business much easier, China is so different from Maoist China that there is no comparison, and the US is now socializing 17% of its economy on top of $16+ Trillion in Treasury Debt. The US has some momentum, but Russia and China are no longer shooting themselves in the foot with Socialist BS, and the US is, the dynamic is much more equal.

    • bpuharic

      “socialism” is to the right what ‘nazism’ is to the left. Both are evidence of a brain dead view of reality and not worth analyzing.

      Which pretty much explain all of American conservatism

      • Tate Metlen

        Nazism was born from socialism which was of the left. Once that is established, I agree with the rest of your statement.

        • bpuharic

          Incorrect. Nazism was right wing fascism since Hitler killed every socialist and communist (they were sent to concentration camps), and allied himself with Franco…who was hardly a socialist.

          • Tate Metlen

            Just because Hitler and the NAZI’s (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) killed the useful idiots after he came to power on their platform doesn’t mean he was right wing. Also, not being communist does not constitute “right wing”, the NAZI’s ran on an anti-capitalism platform.

          • Fred

            True, but before WWII, anti-capitalist didn’t necessarily mean left. Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, the British Distributists, and the American Southern Agrarians were all right anti-capitalists. Now not all the right anti-capitalists were fascists or Nazis. Alan Tate, a Southern Agrarian, said if the only choices were communism and fascism, he would choose communism (He did not believe those were the only choices.) Calling the Nazis left wing because they included “Socialism” in their name is a mistake. As is calling them left wing because they nationalized industries. They did have much in common with the far left, but in the final analysis, they were far right nationalists, not far left socialists. Of course, the whole debate is rather tricky in America because we’ve never had a totalitarian far right movement. The definitions here are European and rather alien to American politics.

          • Tate Metlen

            Socialism and fascism are both statism, or forms of government in which the government is given complete or extensive control over the lives of its citizens. In America we haven’t had a totalitarian far right movement because it is the antithesis of capitalism. In the German election of 1933, the Communist Part was ordered by its leaders to vote for the Nazis; with the explanation that they could later fight the Nazis for power, but first they had to help destroy their common enemy: Capitalism.

          • bpuharic

            The nazis ran on a platform of traditional, nationalist values. They were bankrolled by IG Farben, Krupp and other industrialists. And you failed to address the issue of his alliances with right win fascists such as Franco who put the Catholic church in charge of Spanish education. Communists aren’t noted for their support for the church.

            You have a bit of ‘splainin’ to do.

          • Tate Metlen

            What do I have to explain? That the Nazis were opportunist and would take advantage of any useful idiot? That evil always mixes truth and half-truths with lies? Read the Nazis platform, otherwise known as the National Socialist Program or 25-point plan. There is no arguing based on the content (not just the name) that it is a socialist platform.

          • bpuharic

            Any useful idiot…except communists and socialists.

            I’ve rad the platform. The ACTIVITIES of the nazis was conservative and traditionalist. It’s hard to argue they were socialists when Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” expresses hatred for the communist view of humanity and when nazis killed communists and allied themselves with fascists, while being bankrolled by industralists

            You ignore the fact hitler invaded the USSR and sought to destroy communism while nazism in its early stages was supported by many Christians precisely BECAUSE it WAS anti-socialist

          • Tate Metlen

            LOL, ok. He also attacked the UK and fought the US. If you are assuming the politics of the Nazis were the opposite of their enemies… that doesn’t get you anywhere. The Nazis had fought against every ideology by the end. Hitler’s actions were those of a madman, but he came to power on a socialist platform. Just because you don’t like an activity doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily call it “right wing”.

          • bpuharic

            LOL indeed. You ignored the fact that, in “Mein Kampf” he expressed hostility to communism for the reason I said.

            Certainly you can make an argument…if you ignore the evidence.

            After all, that’s the core concept BEHIND conservatism.

          • Tate Metlen

            You continue to confuse anti-communism with anti-socialism. Hostility to communism (or more accurately anti-Marxist) does not mean conservatism. He was equally critical of capitalism in “Mein Kampf”. The communist and socialist he killed was done to remove political rivals of the same general camp. Nationalism doesn’t mean conservative either, unless you are willing to make the argument FDR was conservative. I continue to address your central arguments. Thus far you have not addressed mine.

          • bpuharic

            Hilter was a strong believer in ‘traditional’ values…’kinder,kirche, kuche’. It’s nonsense to pretend he’d kill his allies. If that was the case why did n’t he attack Spain rather than aiding Franco in his war against the “Republicans”?

            So far you haven’t demonstrated a single case where hitler was a socialist. He was a conservative nationalist. The dead prove that.

          • Tate Metlen

            Hitler was a depraved maniac and a dictator. Once he had taken absolute power, it was no longer about ideologies, but about a cult of personality. You are changing the confines of the discussion which was about the Nazi party. The Nazi party was socialist and nationalist. Similar to FDR. You are attempting to project the actions of Hitler during WWII onto the political party he rode to power.

          • bpuharic

            FDR wasn’t a socialist. The right uses the term ‘socialist’ like the left uses the term ‘nazi’. It’s meaningless.

            It’s your assertion ideology was meaningless. There’s no proof of that, since the shoah was a direct outcome of nazi ideology.

          • Tate Metlen

            The left has a long and bloody history of “purification”. Finally we agree about something; the holocaust had its roots in Nazi ideology from the very beginning as part of its 25 point National Socialist Program. One thing that leftist like to gloss over is the mutual public praise shared by FDR, Hitler, and Mussolini prior to WWII. Luckily, the New Deal was as far as FDR got in the US towards statism.

          • bpuharic

            News flash: Hitler was a conservative. Which is why the US right and conservatives in Europe loved him. The American right idolized him.

            And anyone who thinks Franco and Mussolini were leftists needs an education in history.

          • Tate Metlen

            Is why Winston Churchill was always such a big backer of Hitler and the Nazis? I am truly curious. What educational system brought you to these conclusions?

          • bpuharic

            one that taught history, unlike your David Barton view of history which doesn’t even know American communists opposed hitler until ordered to silence their opposition after the non aggression pact

            You have a problem. you’re arguing against history. Which is, by definition, conservative

            As the Wiki article on nazism points out, the nazis were social darwinists. Social darwinism is, by definition, not communist but was very much a part of 19th century US capitalism and is part of contemporary Ayn Rand Tea Party dogma

          • Tate Metlen

            Why are you so insistent that I don’t indicate that the Communist supported Hitler and the Nazi Party? (Which they initially did in 1933.) Communism has been a such a scourge on this world it hardly needs Hitler’s help to be condemned. Furthermore, I have never tried to make the argument that Hitler or the Nazi party were communist, though communist, socialist, and fascist are all cut from the same statist cloth.

    • cubanbob

      Russia is too corrupt and lawless to really develop and China is to corrupt and bureaucratic too really develop as well. For all of the damage Obama and the democrats are doing this to shall pass. And when it does we will regain our place. It happened before and it will happen again.

  • Pete

    So Putin is besting the ‘community organizer,’ the man-child in the Oval Office.

    What other outcome could there be?

  • Atanu Maulik

    With the wheels coming off the Chinese and Russian economies and also from those of other uppity nations from Brazil to Turkey to India, it will be the Americans who will soon do all the gloating. US always has the last laugh. Because the real strength of the US lies in her vibrant, dynamic society and political institutions and is not dependent on individual leaders. This ensures that even if there is a joker in the WH, US chugs along just fine.

  • lehnne

    really you found it necessary to insert that the ultra-nationalist global times is sometimes called the fox news of china. This sort of editorial comment always detracts from your serviceable commentary

  • Boritz

    ***America’s political class has never been the most important source of our national strength.***

    Say a hail Mary or draw a pentagram, as your faith dictates, when you hear blasphemy like this.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    While I will concede that America has enjoyed a “Special Providence”, I would dispute the idea that America can never lose fate’s favor. In fact, I believe that America is in danger of losing fate’s favor, and I blame the steady unconstitutional drift of power to the Central Government over the past century or so.
    I blame this drift, on a flaw in the Constitution. In an effort to separate power into 3 branches of Government, the founding fathers failed with the Supreme Court. By making the Judges beholden for their jobs to the Executive and Legislative branches, they made the Supreme Court, which should have been concerned with fighting for State and Individual Rights, into a rubber stamp for the other two branches.
    I believe to rectify this flaw, the judges need to be nominated by the Governors of the States, and then elected by the people, with lower court judges nominated and elected by the regions those courts cover. This would make the judges beholden to the States and People for their jobs, and so protective of State and Individual rights over the power hungry Federal Government.
    (A strict reading of the Constitution shows that there is no authority for entire Departments, Agencies, and thousands of laws and regulations.)
    America’s “Special Providence” was built on the diffusion of power, which acted like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” does in markets, to arrive at the most informed price or in this case policy. The consolidation of power into the relatively few hands of the Federal Government, has effectively amputated America’s “invisible hand”, and made policy decisions poorly informed and frequently blind and stupid.

  • stevewfromford

    When has Obama even admitted a mistake or, much less, seen the error of of a major policy and shifted course?
    You are deluded if you think he is going to start now.

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