Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Garry Kasparov Lambastes West's "Weak" Response to Vladimir Putin's Tyranny

In a December 2014 Reason.com interview, former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov did not mince words when asked to assess the West's policies concerning Russian dictator Vladimir Putin:

We have been facing this problem for quite a while. And so many mistakes have been made. These mistakes created an impression for Putin and his cronies and also his clients like Assad and others in the world. Iranian Ayatollahs. The West is weak. The West is not willing to get engaged. So the West will give them anything they want. Before we talk about the right strategy, what the leaders of the free world must do, let's talk about what they must not do. You cannot project weakness. Yes, I know that America will never consider seriously boots on the ground in Ukraine. Why are you talking about it? Why do you say publicly that you will not do that?

I could give you many examples where they violate the simplest rules of negotiation. The secret letter from Obama to the Ayatollahs, without mentioning the fact that it's an insult for Sunni allies. It's the first time that the United States and the free world had a great chance of creating a Sunni coalition to stop Sunni terror. Then stabbing them in the back by writing a letter to the Ayatollahs. By the way, they never responded. And now, at the time when the nuclear deal is about to be reached or not. He's asking them to help with ISIS. ISIS will probably be destroyed. You need more planes, maybe some soldiers, material resources. ISIS is not a global threat, it's very local. For the sake of Iranian cooperation, this relatively small issue to put at stake the global cooperation of Sunnis and also the non-proliferation policies, that's exactly what you're not supposed to do.

Kasparov's harsh and accurate words are particularly meaningful and timely considering the race to stop Iran's jihadist, expansionist regime from building nuclear weapons; this is vitally important, yet President Obama seems oblivious to the danger and downright hostile when anyone (most recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) points out just how catastrophic it would be if Iran builds nuclear weapons. The Middle East is ablaze with jihadist extremism and Iran is fomenting much of it. A nuclear-armed Iran would be a menace to the entire world. The damage that President Obama has done in abandoning America's allies and failing to stand up to tyrannical dictatorships will not be easy to fix.

This problem predates President Obama, though. Kasparov is equally unimpressed by Bill Clinton's administration:

Many talk about Clinton's presidency as a great success. I wouldn't doubt certain achievements in economy. But geopolitically, it was the greatest disaster among all because it's not about the final position. The game is still on. In 1992, America was all powerful. It could design the world map the way it wanted. In 2000, al-Qaeda was ready to strike. So what happened in these eight years?

Eight years of complacency, of doing nothing. Nobody formulated policies for Russia, for Soviet Union, for Islamic terrorism. It requires a global vision. The same way as Winston Churchill, Harry Truman had these policies designed in 1946, in 1947. The Marshall plan. There were plans. Plans they learned from World War II and they knew that to oppose Stalin and to oppose Communism, they needed to come up with a grand strategy and also leadership.

When I hear about potential dangers of confronting Putin today, my first question is, "Is he more dangerous than Joseph Stalin in 1948?" For 11 months, American and British planes had been supplying West Berlin besieged by Stalin's troops. And Joseph Stalin didn't shoot a single American plane. Why? Because Harry Truman already used nuclear weapons. And Stalin, as every good dictator, had an animal instinct. He knew where he could be repulsed. So he knew that Harry Truman could not play a game. It happened in 1962, when Khrushchev recognized that he pushed JFK to the ropes. And Ronald Reagan. And don't tell me that the Soviet Union in 1981, 82, 83, was less powerful than Putin's Russia today.

Harry Truman was a strong President, as was Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not strong Presidents; they have convinced our enemies that America is weak and it will take a lot of work to disabuse America's enemies of that notion.

After Neville Chamberlain's cowardly appeasement of Adolf Hitler, Chamberlain declared that he had ensured "peace for our time." Chamberlain also said something that is eerily reminiscent of the rhetoric used by those who support President Obama's inaction while the world burns: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing." Instead of challenging Hitler early when Hitler's Nazi Germany was not at full strength, Chamberlain preferred to make broad concessions to Hitler, believing Hitler to be a reasonable man who had legitimate grievances that could be resolved through negotiations. Chamberlain did not think that it was worth it to fight Hitler or even to make preparations to fight Hitler merely to help "people of whom we know nothing." That short-sighted attitude persists today. Why should America intervene in far-away conflicts? Why should America care if Iran gets nuclear weapons? Isn't it true that by "imperialistically" dictating to other countries America creates enemies where none previously existed? That kind of thinking is what led to World War II and what made the Holocaust possible. Even 60 years ago, conflicts involving "people of whom we know nothing" quickly threatened the very survival of an America that felt safe because of being shielded by two big oceans.

Hitler took whatever he could take through negotiation and then sought to conquer the rest through war. Putin's Russia and Iran's jihadist regime are following that same blueprint today. Hitler did not have legitimate grievances nor could he be reasoned with or placated. Hitler had strategic goals and he made those goals very clear in his writings and in his speeches. The world was foolish to ignore his words.

When will the West wake up to the dangers posed by today's tyrants, who also speak quite clearly about their ultimate goals? When will a modern-day Winston Churchill or Harry Truman emerge?

Neville Chamberlain was wrong about Adolf Hitler and Chamberlain's mistakes precipitated World War II. President Obama is wrong now about Putin's Russia and about Iran. We can only hope that the consequences of President Obama's mistakes will not be as severe.

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