Look. Missile defense has never been anything more than an arms race-era wet dream. It doesn’t fucking work, has been at best a qualified success in highly controlled tests, and will never be any better. Also, nobody is going to launch a nuclear missile at us. (Unless we really misplay our hand against Iran and North Korea, by a) allowing them to develop nuclear missiles and b) seriously fucking up diplomacy with them thereafter.) The fact that this administration has spent enough money to drown Scrooge McDuck on developing this unworkable and tactically idiotic system can be attributable to the hidebound Cold Warriors still in place in the Pentagon brass and in the Senate, and also the defense industry lobby.
And even I know this. And I, unlike Vladdy Putin, do not have people in Washington who go out to dinner with other people in Washington.
The Bush administration’s strategy with the Russia-Georgia crisis has been “let Bush bluster at press conferences so we don’t lose face at home, and send Condi over there to grovel.” We don’t really have very many chips to play here, obviously, and every time we do make a bluff like this it gives Putin more ammo to behave aggressively as if Russia is acting in defense of its interests. So why, why, why, when we actually play a card that isn’t merely rhetorical, do we play the fucking missile defense card, which everybody knows is useless, and yet gives Russia justification to behave even more standoffishly — they can behave as if we’ve just threatened them, but secure in the knowledge that the threat is any empty one.
This “ooh we’ve just neutralized your retaliatory capacity” move is a bluff, and a transparent one. This is why you don’t ask a bunch of Cold Warriors to engage in diplomacy or tactical maneuvers with Russia in the 21st century.
And yet somehow the very fact of Russian aggression actually “helps McCain” in the polls, because the majority of Americans, like him, still think Khrushchev is running the country. Or possibly Dolph Lundgren.
All that said, I’m not really sure if there’s anything American can really do here, it’s not like we or the E.U. have any leverage with Russia at the moment. (And I don’t really even know how much of that is a result of the blinkered foreign policy commitments of the current administration, and how much of it is economic.
Erm, tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, all “ha ha there goes the demand for the market you were trying to corner supply of, and soon we shall harness the power of The Wind!” or something. Then everybody in Congress gets to go back to their district claiming to have Done Something About the Energy Crisis, too, everybody’s happy.
Ok, I’m woefully out of my depth here. Any readers of this blog with more than a skimming familiarity with geopolitics are welcome to contribute.