1984 All Over Again

When the Soviet Union was rearing its ugly head for decades in the Cold War, America took two approaches. Liberals and pacifists wanted to appease the beast and to make ‘détente’,  an appropriately French word for accommodation with an enemy. Others, mostly in the Republican party but also including hawkish Democrats, sought to get tough with the beast and to confront it and defeat it through America’s superior military and economic might.

There were arms-control agreements that sought to limit offensive missiles and even defensive radar installations on each side as an alternative to Mutually Assured Destruction, the doctrine that said that the sheer volume of missiles on each side would make a first nuclear strike so costly in retaliation that nobody would make that first strike. MAD was the deterrent with one fatal flaw – it could end in Armageddon. The Soviets often cheated on arms control, leading Republicans to favor certain strength over suspect negotiation. And while Ronald Reagan famously said “Trust but verify” in order to be tough on Soviet compliance (verify), but not to shut the door on dialogue (trust), he ultimately took the confrontational road to its logical end, seeking to deploy the offensive MX ‘Peacekeeper’ missile and other advanced systems including the ‘Star Wars’ defensive system. The result was the fall of an empire that Reagan openly called “evil” in a 1983 TV address.

Today Russia is seeking to reassert its power after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Humiliated by its powerlessness in the eyes of the world over the last 17 years, Russia invaded Georgia last summer, has rattled sabers over Ukraine and now is confronting the US over the anti-missile shield that we are on the verge of installing in our ally Poland to protect Poland from missiles incoming from anywhere on the globe.

Russia has taken that shield to mean that missiles from Russia could too be blocked, and like good totalitarians, they see their potential powerlessness over Poland as a threat to their self-image and a rerun of their Cold War humiliation.

This is how Soviet tyrants for decades made gullible pacifists worldwide believe that even the West’s defensive systems would lead to arms buildups. This happened with the ‘Star Wars’ outer space Strategic Defense Initiative which the communists said would cause an arms buildup because they (the Soviets) would have to massively build up their offenses to have any chance of overwhelming Star Wars with sheer numbers.

Rather than doing the civilized thing by joining the free world, that is.

Now Russian president Dmitri Medvdev announced to the world the day after the November 4, 2008 election that he intended to install offensive missiles pointed at Poland if the West went forward with its planned deployment of a shield in Poland. Medvdev’s assertion was a direct threat to Poland, a throwing down of the gauntlet to the incoming president Obama, and a replay of 46 years of post-World War II Soviet mind games.

Anyone old enough to remember the year 1984 recalls a somewhat parallel situation. That year, president Reagan began without hesitation to move forward with the deployment of an upgraded version of 380 offensive, mobile, intermediate-range nuclear-tipped Pershing missiles on French and German soil to counter the offensive, intermediate-range nuclear-tipped Soviet SS-20 missiles that already were installed in the Soviet bloc and pointed at Western Europe.

In other words Reagan was seeking to counter an offensive threat with an offensive response in order to show that we meant business with a balancing of forces. This was seen as a terrifying situation by the peaceniks, and they marched against the Pershings by the millions.

They instead offered the nice-sounding Zero Option in which both sides would agree to pull back their offensive missiles, i.e., America would halt any pending deployment, while the Soviets would dismantle their existing missiles. Reagan, however, having worked with communist liars and agitators in the Screen Actors Guild in Hollywood 40 years previous, knew that the Soviets would renege on their half of the deal once America pulled back, so he pushed ahead.

The Pershings were deployed and ultimately, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed under relentless military pressure from the West in the face of a decayed economy within.

Today, Medvdev is threatening to counter a defensive system in Poland with an offensive missile threat from Russia. And since we are not in a major Cold War, the threat certainly is lower than it was in 1984. But still this may be the “test” that Joe Biden said Barack Obama would face in the first 6 months in office.

During his campaign, Obama was appropriately vague on the Polish defensive system. And now, as president-elect, Obama has had a phone conversation with Polish president Lech Kaczynski about it. Kaczynski said on his website that in the call Obama “emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership of Poland and the United States and expressed hope in the continuation of political and military cooperation between our countries. He also said that the missile-defense project would continue.”

But the Obama transition team disagrees and says that “the president-elect had a good conversation with the Polish president and the Polish prime minister about the important US-Poland alliance. President Kaczynski raised missile defense but president-elect Obama made no commitment on it. His position is as it was throughout the campaign – that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable”

First, notice the wording – “when the technology is proved to be workable.”

This is key. Because incrementally over the years, missile defense systems have been improving. But the liberals and media have done everything they can to marginalize them, to make it seem the opposite, highlighting test failures and ignoring test successes. So Obama always can say that the system is not 100% and therefore that he will not deploy. This is how he probably will cave in to Russia and telegraph American weakness from his first day in office.

But not only is this “workable” wording disturbing, but moreso is the fact that Obama just can’t seem to agree on what was exchanged with the Polish president. This might seem like a miscommunication, but it is reminiscent of another incident in the campaign when Obama had a similar disagreement over what he said to a foreign leader.

It leaves us wondering: Is there a pattern here?

The *Washington Times *reported last summer that Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., said that in a June 16 telephone conversation with Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari that Obama “urged Iraq to delay the [memorandum of understanding] (about withdrawals of American troops) between Iraq and the United States until the new administration was in place.”

And like the disagreement over what Obama said to the Polish president, the Obama campaign denied that he made such a request of the Iraqis because among other things it would be a violation of the Logan Act, a federal law from 1799 forbidding unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

So on two separate occasions involving Iraq and Poland, once as a nominee and once as a president-elect, Obama has contradicted statements that foreign leaders claimed he made to them.

What does this say? And who is telling the truth?

It says what conservatives have warned about: That Obama will say whatever is convenient to advance his agenda. This is a dangerous situation because it is an indicator of how he would lead.

Fortunately, we do not face a Cold War situation today. But there are many bad situations in the world. How will Obama deal with them?

His behavior thus far is not encouraging. Since he has expressed a desire to cut back our military substantially, he probably will cave in on the Polish defense shield in the face of a Russian threat as part of his pullback strategy and his plan to make America newly palatable to world opinion – and newly weaker. This will set the template for his four years in office, to lead from weakness and not from the strength that leftists believe has caused American prestige to slip in the world.

That is the issue we should be most concerned about. But similar behavior doomed the last one-term Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. It may do the same to Obama.

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