Making a Mess of Things

Ever since Turkey’s downing of a Russian military plane in November, a number of Republican presidential hopefuls have been trying to outdo each other with who would shoot down more of Putin’s jets if elected president.

The latest GOP debate is a case in point.

When asked whether he would target a Russian plane if it flew into a no-fly zone, Chris Christie responded, "I’d say to him [Putin], ‘Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.’ And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now."

The moderator did not ask Christie why he thought we had the right to arbitrarily install no-fly zones over sovereign countries.

Not to be outdone, John Kasich said, "And for the Russians, frankly, it’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose."

Vladimir Putin is no angel to be sure, but he is the aggrieved party in the plane shooting incident. The Russian pilot hardly did anything that would justify such a drastic action on Turkey’s part.

And yet being the strongman that he is, Putin has shown a remarkable degree of self-restraint. It goes without saying that with Turkey in NATO a conflict with Russia could quickly escalate into a major conflagration had Putin responded in kind.

If anything Vladimir Putin should be commended for his forbearance and cool-headedness in this unfortunate episode.

Why, then, are some Republicans so eager to pick a fight with someone who has not only caused us no harm, but who himself has been harmed? What exactly is our grievance against Putin?

Do we begrudge him the right to be involved in that part of the world? The region is in his backyard. Syria is less than 400 miles away from his country’s border. In contrast, Syria is nearly 6,000 miles distant from American shores.

Why do we think that it is only us and our allies who have the right to conduct military operations over there? Is it because we are so much better or smarter than everyone else?

Next year it will be fifteen years since we started fighting our wars in the region. And what is the result?

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya are largely failed states. They serve as breeding grounds and safe havens for head-chopping extremists, radicals and criminals. A number of other countries in the region are either on fire or very close to being set on fire.

We promised the people of the Middle East democracy, freedom and prosperity but instead they got death, destruction and extremism.

Donald Trump summed it up rather pointedly:

"[W]e’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems… We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory. It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess."

The results of our actions in the Middle East are the opposite of what we desired and intended. Widespread destruction has taken place, hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions have been turned into refugees. To say we have made a mess of things is a relatively mild way of putting it.

Rather than lashing out at others we should accept responsibility for the calamitous consequences of our actions. When will we finally acknowledge the costs that our ineptness exacted on ourselves and others?

It is not wise to threaten and provoke Vladimir Putin after he just suffered the loss of a military jet. Instead we should acknowledge his temperance and wish him well. After all, he is trying to fight ISIS, the same enemy we are fighting. Perhaps he can help to clean up the mess we have made.

Why are some Republicans itching to get into a conflict with a powerful nuclear nation for no good reason? Why do they want to risk World War III?

This brings up an even larger point: Why are we so eager to make ever more enemies?

Half of the world already hates us. Many Americans seem to be continually surprised by this and naively conclude that it is because we are too good. We want to believe they dislike us for our freedom, democracy and technological advancement. But this is only self-deception.

If they hated us for this they would hate Switzerland all the more. Switzerland has more freedom, a better democracy and is at least as advanced as we are. Yet they do not hate or target Switzerland.

What may be the reason for that? In Switzerland they mind their own business. The Swiss do not meddle in other people’s affairs. They do not invade other countries or set other lands on fire.

On the whole Americans have good intentions. The problem is our hubris. We have an inflated view of our capabilities and we also think that we are wiser and better than we really are.

The fruit of this error is on display for the whole world to see.

When will we notice it ourselves? When will we finally wise up?

Vasko Kohlmayer is a reformed neocon. His articles have appeared in a number of newspapers, journals and internet outlets. They include the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Times, the New York Sun,, Human Events, Frontpage Magazine, American Thinker, the Jewish Press, the Austin American-Statesman, Canada Free Press, RealClearPolitics, and Intellectual Conservative among others. You can email Vasko.