When it came to acting on behalf of peace in the 21st century, the Obama administration weighed "sphere of influence" against "sphere of security" and came down solidly on the side of the Russian czars.
I am referring to the administration's refusal to deploy long-range defensive ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles in Poland. For an administration that insistently congratulates itself on "smart diplomacy," this is a shortsighted decision that sets back 21st century collective defense (sphere of security) at least five critical years and likely longer.
Moreover, President Barack Obama's personal announcement of the policy decision was disastrously timed, an utter tin ear to grand history. Just three weeks ago, on Sept. 1, Poland's president Lech Kaczynski demanded an apology from Russia for the "stab in the back" that occurred Sept. 17, 1939, when Russian tanks invaded eastern Poland and began linking up with Nazi panzers attacking from the west.
On Sept. 17, 2009, free Poland (liberated 20 years ago from the dungeon of Kremlin tyranny) took another knife, as the Obama administration dumped the GBI deployment in favor of pursuing its befogged "reset" of relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia. Little wonder Poles have dissed the decision. The White House decision also damaged relations with the Czech Republic, which had agreed to host an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) radar as part of the defensive system. Recall in 1938 in Munich, the West sold out Czechoslovakia in an attempt to "reset" diplomacy with Adolf Hitler.
If you think the Poles and Czechs are overreacting, then you might brush up on World War II's effects on their nations and their extended prison term in the Kremlin's "sphere of influence" that followed it known as the Cold War.
Smart diplomacy? History will judge the level of intellect involved in this decision, as well as the level of strategic awareness and diplomatic deftness. But the odds are the descriptive phrase will not contain an adjective associated with brilliance or courage. A "YouTube Era" Neville Chamberlain seems more apt.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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