What’s next in Eastern Ukraine?

Leon Aron of AEI takes a sober look at what’s likely to happen next in Eastern Ukraine. He begins by noting that, although new sanctions are likely to be imposed against Russia and are likely to be painful, they are not likely to cause Putin to permit the pro-Russian separatists to suffer defeat:

After half a year of deafening war-mongering propaganda, the rebel’s defeat would be an enormous blow to the regime. Facing very bleak economic prospects and until recently widely despised and mistrusted by the population, the Kremlin has boosted its legitimacy by a foreign policy that taps into the longing for the lost superpower imperial glory of the Soviet Union. Therefore, retreat is not an option.

This mindset leaves Putin with two options. First:

After new sanctions are imposed, Putin may very well decide that having paid the price he might as well double down by sending regular troops to save his proxies and help them hold Luhansk and Donetsk.

Second, and more likely in Aron’s view:

[He may] try to have his cake and eat it too: by saving face inside Russia and also avoiding further isolation abroad by “freezing” the conflict.

In this scenario, Moscow would call for immediate cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire, and an international “peace conference” that would include the EU, US, Russia, the “self-defense forces” and Ukraine. In the meantime – and it could be a very, very long time – the rebels will remain in control of the territories they hold today.

I assume that, if he follows this strategy, Putin will find eager partners in President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. “Cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire and an international ‘peace conference’”? That’s like winning the lottery for this pair.

But notice that in both scenarios described by Aron, the pro-Russian Ukrainian murderers, who were on the run before they shot down the Malaysian airliner, improve their position as a result of their criminality.

Nothing Happens for No Good Reason

My great teacher of foreign policy and strategic studies, the late Harold Rood, had a simple maxim at the heart of his analytical technique: “Nothing happens for no good reason.”  This maxim has come back to me watching the saga of the flood of “unaccompanied alien children” (as the government officially calls them) on our southern border.  Everyone seems to be treating this as though it was a random or unpredictable event, like a hurricane or winter snowstorm, seemingly spontaneous, and building a momentum of its own.

It is extremely unlikely that this is a spontaneous phenomenon.  Jack Kelly writes today that the surge of children on our borders stems from Obama’s decision to scale back deportations, but this explanation seems insufficient.

Prof. Rood would have challenged the class with a number of basic questions:

• The level of violence and misery in central American nations has been severe for many years.  Why are current conditions thought to be a catalyst for a surge in refugees now?  Something has changed.  What?

• The passage of a child trafficking law in 2008—The Wilberforce Act—is insufficient to explain what has taken place.  Someone has put the word out widely in the region.  Who?  By what means?  Purely word of mouth, or has someone organized a publicity effort to spread the word?  Persuading mothers to surrender their children to be transported a thousand miles away is not an automatic sell, even with the vague promise that Obama will take care of them.  What are families specifically being told?  Where is the CIA in all this?  Do we have agents on the ground in central America figuring out who is publicizing and organizing this massive movement?

• It is not a simple matter for children to travel a thousand miles to get to the U.S.  How are the logistics being organized for transporting thousands of children thousands of miles?  Who is hiring the buses?  Someone is paying for this.  Who?—Drug cartels?  How much is this costing?

• The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Obama administration was warned a year ago that a flood of refugee children might be on its way.  The story points to a bland and tautological Dept. of Homeland Security report that attributes the rising number of UACs to its inability to process the numbers now appearing, thereby creating a backlog.  It offers no insight—in fact doesn’t even raise the question—as to why the numbers are surging.  It must have been written by the same people who run VA hospitals.

• It is a curious thing that the Obama administration apparently put out for bid a contract to process 65,000 children some months before they started showing up in large numbers.  Why was this done?  What was the information that led the administration to take this step?  It’s almost as though someone knew what was coming.

If we had real journalists any more, some of them might be reporting on these questions.  Remember: Nothing happens for no good reason.

Hell of a Pinhead SecState [Updated With Video]

I’ll add the video when it is available, but for the moment I want to post this without further comment, as reported by the Washington Post’s Philip Bump regarding John Kerry’s interview by Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday this morning. Bump omits Wallace’s reference to the loss of 14 lives as a result of Israel’s operation in Gaza, as I recall the set-up, but gives us Kerry’s live reaction to the report transmitted at the other end of a cell phone conversation preceding the interview:

In an unusual moment during Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace presented Secretary of State John Kerry with video recorded before he came on air.

Wallace presented the segment as being in reference to civilians killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip. “While you were on camera and while on microphone,” Wallace said, “you spoke to one of your top aides between the interviews about the situation in Israel.” He then played what the network had recorded. In the clip, Kerry is holding a cellphone conversation with someone. The person on the other end of the call isn’t identified, and the audio from the other participant is staticky. But Kerry’s comments are clear.

“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” he says, then repeats it. “Hell of a pinpoint operation.” It’s an apparent reference to Israel’s insistence that its incursion into the region would be limited. The conversation continues, and Kerry then says, “We’ve got to get over there. I think we ought to go tonight.” He then calls it “crazy” to be “sitting around.”

“When you said it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Wallace asked, are you “upset that the Israelis are going too far?”

“It’s very difficult in these situations,” Kerry said, repeating that the United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself. He then explained his comments by saying, “I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does in respect to young children and civilians.”

On CBS, Kerry told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer that he is “planning to go” to Israel, “and probably very shortly.”

UPDATE: Wallace’s lead-in refers to 14 Israelis having been killed, but I think Kerry was responding to reports of Gazan deaths. Here is the video of Kerry on FOX News Sunday:

Borderline personalities

The 1969 movie Z by Costa-Gavras depicts the assassination of a popular Greek politician at a campaign rally and the investigation that followed it. The investigating magistrate serially interrogates buffoonish military officers who describe the assassin jumping out of the crowd, “lithe and fierce, like a tiger.” The identical description provided by each of the officers is a key to the unravelling of the assassination conspiracy in which they were participants.

At the Free Beacon, David Rutz rounds up leading Democrats and collects their testimony on our southern border (video below). They assure us in unison: “The border is secure. It’s more secure than ever. It’s so, so secure.”

The border, of course, is not secure. Today’s reportage on the border crisis includes the Washington Post article “Obama aides were warned of brewing border crisis” and the Jack Kelly column “Why they kids are coming to the border,” neither of which offers any hint of border security.

From a Connecticut bookstore

Without a $300,000 speaking engagement to make on some public campus, Hillary Clinton resumed her book tour yesterday. She pulled in to R.J. Julia Booksellers, a small bookstore in Madison, Connecticut, where it is reported that “a mix of Hillary Clinton fanatics and local press crammed into a tiny room for a chance at catching a glimpse of the former First Lady, Senator, and most recently, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.”

The patented Clinton sincerity was in evidence. “I’m so happy to be here,” she exclaimed upon entering the room. She was there to sign copies of Hard Choices and to take time to shake hands with those who have long been fans of her work in public life, so long as they had purchased a copy of the book.

Karen Lepak of Manchester, Connecticut, was one such supporter swept up in the wave of good feelings. “It was like a miracle,” she said after she touched the hem of Clinton’s garment and, of course, picked up her copy of the book. “The adrenaline is just flowing and it’s just something that you can’t explain until you do it.” Hey, Karen, no explanation necessary.

Not everyone who turned out at the bookstore in Madison was a Clinton supporter. WTNH’s Josh Scheinblum reports that a crowd of protesters had assembled across the street from the bookstore and that loud chants regarding Benghazi could be heard for blocks around. Scheinblum’s linked report includes a photograph of the protesters with scraggly signs, but I like this one passed along by a friend, exclusive to Power Line.

Madison-20140719-02348

The Russian reset: Hillary’s “brilliant stroke”

The worse Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian separatists he sponsors behave, the worse it is for Hillary Clinton. After all, her most publicized and most significant action as Secretary of State was the infamous “Russian reset.”

So how does Hillary Clinton handle questions about the reset? The same way she handles most tough questions — badly and with plenty of false claims.

Here, via Mario Loyola, is Clinton’s answer last month to the question, posed by a BBC interviewer, of whether she is embarrassed about the Russia reset:

No I think it was a brilliant stroke which in retrospect appears even more so, because look at what we accomplished.

Between the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, which of course torpedoed relations between United States and Russia for good reason, we come into office, and for that period of time, the interregnum if you will, Medvedev is president, Putin is prime minister, and there were jobs that we wanted to get done.

We wanted to get Russia on board with tough sanctions against Iran. We wanted to have a new START Treaty to limit nuclear weapons. We wanted to get their help in transiting across their huge country to get things we needed into Afghanistan. We got all that done.

Normally, would-be leaders leave it to others to describe their work as “a brilliant stroke.” But Clinton probably realizes that if she doesn’t say so herself, no one — except possibly her discredited ex-boss and her ambitious husband — will.

As for the claim that the reset enabled the U.S. to accomplish the various strategic objectives Clinton cites, Loyola demolishes it:

[E]verything Clinton describes as an Obama administration accomplishment made possible by the reset was already happening under Bush. Actually, in the last two years of the Bush administration, Russia voted in favor of no less than five U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran. The Obama administration has managed only one such resolution in the five years since.

The new START Treaty was going to happen under any administration that wanted it because START I was about to expire, and the Russians have an overwhelming interest in limiting U.S. nuclear weapons since they can’t afford an arms race; and even under those circumstances, we didn’t get a very good deal, certainly not nearly as good as the Moscow Treaty that was signed in 2002 under Bush.

And of course we had been transiting across Russia to get stuff into Afghanistan during the entire Bush administration.

Clinton isn’t even telling the truth when she claims that U.S. relations with Russia tanked because of the Russian invasion of Georgia, though they probably should have. Loyola reminds us that “for better or worse, the Bush administration made it clear from the start that the invasion would not affect broader matters of strategic common concern.”

In other words, Clinton’s response to the BBC is entirely wrong.

But if Clinton wants to persuade the American people that the Russia reset was a brilliant stroke, I’ll be happy to watch her try. The task is too big even for her husband, an infinitely superior snake oil salesman.

Bring Back McKinney

So why doesn’t former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have her own show on MSNBC?  She’d fit right in with Al Sharpton.  I miss her, especially things like her tweet Thursday about MH17:

McKinneyt Tweet copy

Beyond the mind-numbing stupidity of thinking airliner can be hacked, it’s worth clicking through the link she included as her hint of who might be behind the hacking: Israel.  Naturally.