Alphen, Netherlands. 28 December. This is getting to be like one of those end of year ‘hits of…’ TV programmes. After my Twelve Failures of Christmas (which Judy Dempsey cites in today’s Washington Post) blog, my old friend and America’s former top man at NATO Ambassador Robert Hunter has emailed me with a few more yuletide failures to add to my own. Robert has kindly given me permission to publish them in this blog:
“13. Failure of the United States to get a sensible set of policies for the Middle East that let Syria get out of control and thus produced so many of these migrants (forget about the gross failure by the US, aided and abetted by Lap Dog Blair, in invading Iraq).
14. Failure of the Obama administration to keep a steady focus on Europe, in its entirety. And ignoring all advice to do something about it.
15. Failure of the Obama administration to do things that might, just might, have prevented Putin’s actions in Ukraine (e.g. trying to mastermind a coup.) As a result, US military leaders call Russia an “existential threat” to the US (nonsense) as opposed to seeing the mess in Europe, partly of America’s causing (and with no American effort to help out), as far more important and “existential,” thus taking the American eye off the ball and failing its European partners, and thus the West as a whole.
16. Putting in senior foreign policy positions in the US, beginning late in Clinton, accelerated in Bush, and continued in Obama, people who were over their heads, with no capacity to fit pieces together, while meanwhile keeping at arms-length people who know what they are doing and have proved it.
17. The failure of the US (and Western) foreign policy establishments to do any serious and original thinking since the late 1990s on the grounds that history has come to an end, Russia is of no account, and we are on top.
That’s enough to be getting on with…..and I haven’t even got to Putin and Trump playing with their nuclear toys.
The Grinch won!
But Happy Christmas, anyway. The world has seen worse”.
Sadly, Robert is to a large extent right. Some years ago another old friend Chris Donnelly tried to establish a think-tank that could ‘think the unthinkable’ at the heart of the British security and defence establishment. It was shot down precisely because it thought the unthinkable and was thus deemed politically unacceptable, even though much of the thinking has since been proven entirely credible. And, because such thinking was rejected much of Britain’s security and defence is today increasingly incredible.
Another old and trusted American friend, Hans Binnendijk, challenged me over Christmas to focus on the positive in 2017. Fair point. The ‘positive’ will (sort of) come from me in January with the publication of my new book Demons and Dragons: The New Geopolitics of Terror, which is of course brilliant, very reasonably-priced, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon! Well, Hans, I will do my best, but in the end all any of us can do is call it as we see it. Right now, Western security and defence is not a pretty picture.
Still there are two bits of good news. First, Sheffield United beat Oldham Athletic 2-0 on Boxing Day to remain second in League One of the English Football League. ‘League One’ is a bit like Britain’s defence policy – the third rate misleadingly described as first rate. Second, there will be much for me to write about in what is going to be a 2017 every bit as bumpy as 2016.
The retreat of the Big West from strategy into process and wishful thinking has accelerated the West’s own decline and bolstered posturing mini-powers such as Putin’s Russia, and micro-powers such as IS, and made them far more dangerous than need be the case.
Happy New Year!