Alex Massie

The Limits of A Munichean Worldview

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Well that didn't take long. No sooner had I decried the notion that President Barack Obama's decision to move (but not cancel) the US's proposed missile defence shield from eastern europe than, sure enough, up more folk arrive to suggest that OMG! It's Munich All Over Again! This time it's Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, who, in a fit of blinding orginality, argues:

With just one announcement, the Obama administration undercut two loyal allies, rewarded Russian bullying, and diminished our ability to counter an emerging Iranian threat. If there were awards for self-defeating weakness, this move would deserve a Neville for Appeasement in a Perpetually Threatened Region.

Munichean Worldview



Lowry's logic - which, remember, demands that Russia wants to invade Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe - loses whatever grip on reality it ever had, however, when he adds:

The Russians loathe the very idea of the missile-defense sites, claiming they threaten its nuclear deterrent. They never explain how ten interceptors can counteract a Russian arsenal totaling 4,100 warheads. Vladimir Putin can’t be that bad at math.

In other words, according to Lowry, the ten interceptors posed no meaningful deterrant yet moving them represents a craven capitulation to Russian militarism and demonstrates that Washington no longer believes in deterrane even - make that espcially! - when, by your own admission, that deterrance is as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

Lowry continues:

When the primary tools in your arsenal are talk and soothing gestures, everything looks like an occasion for a negotiation or concession.

Neat stuff, eh? Of course, since Lowry decries talking to, inter alia, North Korea, Iran and Russia you could almost be forgiven for thinking that he thinks the might of the US military should be the primary tool used to "solve" every difficult foreign policy problem. It's startling how many wars some people think should be "on the table".

Look, I dare say it is possible to make a sensible criticism of this decision (though I also think this Fred Kaplan piece is probably right) but though, as Tom Ricks says, Obama may not be a Russia expert the President is:

backed by people who know this subject intimately from a variety of angles -- James Jones (national security advisor, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe),  Gen. Cartwright (vice chairman of Joint Chiefs, former head of U.S. Strategic Command) and Robert Gates (defense secretary, and lifetime Russia expert).

I dare say that the people fondest of the Munichean Worldview believe that even if each of these men had recommended sticking with the Bush plan, Obama would still have over-ruled them. Myself, I think it probable that they're pretty comfortable with the revised plans and that, dash it, they probably know something about this kind of thing. More, I hazard, than I do or, for that matter, than Rich Lowry does.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternationalforeign policyrussia