O's Russia "RESET" Fantasy

by JOHN C. WOHLSTETTER March 25, 2014

Why "reset" is a superficial, even puerile, idea....

Team Obama has viewed Russia through the faux lens of "reset":

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva Friday before sitting down to their working dinner, she was all smiles when she presented him a small green box with a ribbon.

Lavrov opened it and, inside, there was a red button with the Russian word "peregruzka" printed on it.

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship, and so we will do it together.' .

"We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?" she asked Lavrov, laughing.

"You got it wrong," said Lavrov, as both diplomats laughed.

"It should be "perezagruzka" [the Russian word for reset]," said Lavrov."This says ‘peregruzka,' which means ‘overcharged.'"

A quick comeback - and recovery - from Clinton: "We won't let you do that to us, I promise. We mean it and we look forward to it."

Team Obama's idea of "reset" was, of course, silly, in that the Bush administration courted Vladimir Putin ardently.  And as to China, both Bush & Obama pursued engagement even as China's behavior grew more thuggish.

In my LFTC post "Why the World Cannot Be Reset" (6/29/2010) I wrote:

Ex-Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar says the world cannot be "reset."  How true indeed....

Aznar's article is drawn from his April 28 speech, "Resetting the World" (15 p.), given at Johns Hopkins.  Aznar identifies three problems that call for closer cooperation between the US & its allies, plus a revitalized US commitment to prevail against its adversaries: (1) populist opposition to market economies; (2) resentful Third World countries seeking a redistribution of global power; (3) revolutionary forces using terror to try to upset the existing world order.

His best line: "The world isn't a P.C.":


But the technological metaphors miss their mark. The world isn't a PC, much less a sleek and trendy iPad. America's search for a simple restart is destined to fail. The legacy of history resists being abandoned as easily as a software application is "exited." Only the naive can manage to think otherwise for very long.

And here is Aznar's prophetic warning of how the world would look with America in retreat:

[T]he outlook of a World without America.

If the US were exhausted from fighting too long in too many places; if the US were tired of fighting irregular wars or irregular enemies where victory is an elusive concept to the metrics of wining; If the US were moving to an increasingly less engaged or exposed posture in the World, rediscovering containment and strategic isolationism, then it would be understandable. But it would be a mistake.

Nobody yet is able to take over America's place, and probably nobody will in a long time. Those who defend the virtues of a multi-polar world where the US is just another regular country will soon find themselves in a non-polar universe, spinning out of control.

Think about it: Russia happily reestablishing its cherished sphere of influence over major parts of Eastern Europe; Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and positioning itself as hegemonic in the Gulf; or the

11

jihadist seeing in the withdrawal from Afghanistan the paper tiger they saw in the Soviet Union back in 1989.

Besides, a more economically protectionist America will put in danger any short-term recovery of the World economy. Actually it will give new impetus to the anti-capitalist axis that goes from Beijing to Teheran and through Caracas.

Aznar went on to explain that nations cannot escape their history: "We cannot delete history.  We cannot start from afresh.  We cannot 'exit' the world as we exit a software application."  It is, he added, a "dangerous proposition" to believe that we can escape "strategic imperatives" derived from history.  The One at 1600 Penn would do well to read Aznar's full text with care.  It is a masterwork: solid substance married to gracious style, qualities typically absent from The One's orations (as well as from many Presidents who preceded our 44th).

Contrast Obama/Kerry with a true prudent hawk of the Cold War era, the late, great Sen. Henry M. Jackson, who summed up the Russians (then, the Soviets) perfectly, in a phrase that captures ex-KBG thug Vladimir Putin as well: "the Russians are like a burglar going down a hotel corridor, trying all the doors. When they find one that's unlocked, they go in."

Bottom Line. The notion of "reset" is rooted in idealist fantasy, that the behavior of nations/leaders can be manipulated in accordance with one's own norms.  Such dreams, it seems, never die.  But that does not make them any less delusional.  They are simply dreams--sadly, dangerous delusions--whose appeal to the human heart makes them immortal.  Of such immortal fluff, someday we may well perish.

Mr. Wohlstetter is the author of "Sleepwalking With the Bomb" (Discovery Institute Press, 2012). Follow John on twitter at @JohnWohlstetter 


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