“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Secretary Rice - Keeping it Real for the Russians

The Yahoo headline is "Rice says missles no threat to Russia" and the question immediately brought to my mind is, "What the hell is going on?" How could things have gone so bad? It's like when, out of the blue, your girlfriend says she doesn't want to see you anymore. Stunned by the news, you say, "But I thought we had such a good thing going, what happened? "

How could things have gone so bad, so quickly? It seems like just yesterday that Vlad and the Missus were coming over for barbecues and brewskies. Now, like the "Sopranos," they put the squeeze on their former satellites, they shakedown on oil company "partners" and they whack more people than Good fellas. Last year, they were breaking into parking meters and all of a sudden, they're flush with energy money. I heard a BBC radio report that Moscow now has 60 billionaires. In the early nineties, they had none. Today they have more billionaires than any city in the world. Fox News reported that 25% of the Russian GDP is held by 36 individuals. Moscow is all about money and energy power.

Fox reported a Putin anti-American rant today. He claims that the US is destabilizing eastern Europe. Secretary Rice says that's ludicrous, we only have ten anti-missile batteries placed along the eastern European borders. Fox says that Putin is intentionally "poisoning" relations with the west.

What happened? Was George W. completely off base in his assessment of Putin? Was Putin secretly harboring resentment over US involvement in Afghanistan? And how did Russia go from 'down and out' to resurgent in such a short period of time? Of course, soaring oil prices helped but did our intelligence agencies miss it when the KGB "old boys club" decided that the "democracy thing" wasn't working out? Did the State Department think the Russians had forgotten about 30,000 dead in Afghanistan? I don't know. Is Putin positioning himself with the Arab oil world? That's all waaay above my pay grade.

I'll let the State Department sort it out. After all, everyone knows that's where the real brains of the country serve. Forget about the Intelligence agencies, those guys barely got their GED's. (If we had only listened to the diplomatic boys prior to the invasion of Iraq.) I am just thankful that that Secretary Rice is on the job. Being a "Russian studies expert" from the old cold-war days, she's the perfect hand to have at the tiller. I feel quite certain that once she turns her mind to it, she'll have the Putins back in Crawford in no time. Just look at the wonderful job she did with the Israelis and Lebanon.


  1. Not in the 6% that favorably compare Mr Bush to Mr Reagan, aye, whit?

  2. hmmmm the steady hand of Russian expert Sec. of State Rice on the tiller steering through tulmutous seas following the glorius leaders course - I'll sleep well tonight!

    damn that tongue in the cheek stuff hurts...

    I'm struck by the...bewilderment? are expressing Whit at the income gap in Russia. Are you upset that they've challenged the US in this regard?

  3. Back in the old days, not only was oil cheaper and more plentiful, but we were just getting warmed up in our great crusade, Putin was thankful W was going to leave parts of their southern borders in intact.

    Weakness is provocative:
    Who would have guessed we'd let Syria, Iran, the Saudis, and the Pakis, among others, pay nothing for their active subversion and harboring, arming, and funding of our enemies in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere?

    How silly and deserving of contempt must be our ROE's that result in unnecessary losses on our side to a man like Putin, who with a wave of his hand can lay waste to a city in retribution for an offense against Mother Russia.
    No worries about paying a price for giving Baby doc state of the art missiles, military trade w/Iran and just about anyone with a Treasury.
    Energy Blackmail,
    the list could go on, all with the same response from the paper tiger:
    The man turned in his bluster and his Cowboy hat, and turned things over to the schoolmarm with a Phd.

  4. Doug: The man turned in his bluster and his Cowboy hat, and turned things over to the schoolmarm with a Phd.

    Don't forget her Xena boots and warrioress stoicism, on display this week when she blew off Waxman's subpoena.

  5. Should Putin be alarmed? Why be worried about a paper tiger?

    Russian military strategist Yevgeny Primakov, a close adviser to Putin, recently noted, NATO was "founded during the Cold War era as a regional organization to ensure the security of US allies in Europe." He adds, "NATO today is acting on the basis of an entirely different philosophy and doctrine, moving outside the European continent and conducting military operations far beyond its bounds. rapidly expanding in contravention to earlier accords. The admission of new members to NATO is leading to the expansion of bases that host the U.S. military, air defense systems, as well as ABM components."

    Today NATO includes former Warsaw Pact or Soviet Union states Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. Candidates to join include the Republic of Georgia, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia.
    A new command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), was established in Norfolk, Virginia. ACT is responsible for driving 'transformation' in NATO.
    Naturally Russia doesn't seem to welcome these developments with open arms.

    How about the network of new US military bases? For example, Camp Bondsteel, at the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. Bondsteel put US air power within easy striking distance of the oil-rich Middle East and Caspian Sea, as well as Russia. Are there U.S. bases in Hungary, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia? How about Bezmer in Bulgaria?

    And in Afghanistan? Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, the US' main military logistics center; Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand, the largest US base in Afghanistan, was built some 100 kilometers from the border with Iran. Russia, China, Iran and Arab lands lie fairly close to these bases.

    What about Manas Air Base at Bishkek's international airport. Manas is not only near to Afghanistan; it is also in easy striking distance to Caspian Sea oil and gas, as well as to the borders of both China and Russia.

    Makes you wonder why Putin is so worried about a paper tiger?

    Remember this at Belmont DR?

    1) Iran
    2) Detaching Central Asia and the Caucasus from Russian domination.
    3) Opening up the Caspian as a major supplier of oil and gas, - in order to diversify global energy production and thereby reduce the power of oil states (Sunni Wahhabism).

    The Western Route (via Turkey): favored by Turkey, the United States, Israel, and the EU.

    February 25, 2007 -
    Turkey and Israel are acknowledging that they are once again discussing the possibility of constructing underwater pipelines from the Turkish port of Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. Ceyhan is now the Mediterranean hub of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. That pipeline connects Ceyhan to Caspian Sea basin oil sources. Interestingly enough, Israel could ship the oil through pipelines to its Red Sea port of Eilat, and then load the oil back on tankers for shipment to East Africa, India, or East Asia (Japan and China). This is an interesting option for Caspian Sea oil exporters, like Azerbaijan, because it bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran often threatens to close. The pipelines don't yet exist, but the Israelis are supposed to be willing to put up the capital. Two other undersea pipelines could be constructed, one to carry natural gas and another to ship electricity. Turkey's new hydro-electric power stations are coming on line and Turkey has electricity to sell.

    As far as the USA is concerned -

    1) A step toward export of hydrocarbons from the Caspian resources to the Western markets in order to decrease the degree of dependence on the Persian Gulf oil (Sunni Wahhabism).
    2) Denies Iran oil and gas pipelines of the Caspian region in order to block the expansion of Iran's influence and any financial gains
    3) Reduction of the degree of Russian influence on Caspian countries

    A new dividing line in Europe

  6. That one does raise one's ire, Ms T.

    The fact that we would still be fighting the yellowcake wars all these years on.

    Something about submission in courtyard warfare as well as on the battleground.

    Offering up sacrificial Libby Lambs as PantsBerglers and WMD Truthtellers go free.


    Within the ranks of the people, democracy is correlative with centralism and freedom with discipline. They are the two opposites of a single entity, contradictory as well as united, and we should not one-sidedly emphasize one to the denial of the other. Within the ranks of the people, we cannot do without freedom, nor can we do without discipline; we cannot do without democracy, nor can we do without centralism. This unity of democracy and centralism, of freedom and discipline, constitutes our democratic centralism. Under this system, the people enjoy extensive democracy and freedom, but at the same time they have to keep within the bounds of socialist discipline.

  8. You can get more with a nice word and a gun than you can with a nice word.
    Al Capone

  9. From Master Habu

    We often hear that Americans know little about other nations; a bigger problem is that we know too little about ourselves, our history and our national character. When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, in particular, we were all born yesterday, unaware of how present policies and attitudes fit into persistent historical patterns. So when a brilliant, lucid historian such as Michael B. Oren does bring the past back to life for us, revealing both what has changed and what has stayed the same, it is a shaft of light in a dark sky.


    I rent a duplex. The year of the battle I rented to a CdA and Perce, upstairs and down. They had kids.

    Summertime. Had to buy a screw to fix a fixture. Camille was bbqueing and the kids had squirt guns.

    Get the screw at Wal-Mart. Pass the squirt gun display. There's a good one, looks like an assault rifle, has a 1/2 gallon water tank.

    Buy it, fill it up. Park in front. There is a retaining wall, maybe four feet high.

    Am crouching now, behind the retaining wall, taking aim, breathing slow, trying to relax, aim, fair! as Buddy Larsen might say.

    Damn, missed, hit the window. Stirred up an immediate response.

    aieee...firing back at me...then a human wave attack, four of them...blindly firing back with all I've got..they retreat

    I head for some high ground behind a pine tree, thinking, good field of fire...but they split in group circling around the duplex coming down from above, the other storming straight at me...panic...despair...firing like mad...I'm wet all over...

    I break out, making a last stand in the middle of the lawn, now surrounded on four sides, really getting clobbered...but giving almost as good as I'm getting..

    we end up in a heap of wet laughing bodies, the yellow sun, blue sky, green grass...

    good times.

  11. That's your excuse for the bald scalp?

  12. Bobal,
    You'd probably be interested in learning some more about VDH and his family.
    He wrote a moving piece about the uncle he was named for that fought in the Pacific.

    I think in his book "Mexifornia" he refers to his background, at least he did while addressing that subject at NRO.

    There was a little town named "Kingsburg" CA that was largely Swedish.

    My folks best friends were from there, and had friends and family galore, quite a tight-knit community, and he was one of the founding fathers of our little community, along w/my dad.

    We'd go on summer camping trips and such w/them, and they'd travel to Mexico with my folks, leaving us to tear up the place.

  13. Doug, I am going 'just a little' bald on top and I hate it. I saw at Costco a bottle of that stuff you used to have to get a presciption for, can't remember it's name. Almost bought it, but my wife said, 'Bob don't be a fool'. I remember my dad, and my mom, rinsing his hair with color, I'm not going to do it. Dad was a nice feller, but kind of vain...I think, you get older you get older...and that's that.

    That's interesting about VDH I will try to check that out.

    take care--bobal

  14. Older and older.
    I'm not a fan at all of all the gratuitous plastic surgery these days.
    Figure a mature man appreciates mature women, not teenybopper wannabes like grandma Nan, and the rather sad Hillary creature.

    My dad was known for his shiny pate:
    Rubbed witchazel on it, I think.
    Guys would give him a bad time about it being the first thing they'd see walking into his store, even tho he'd be clear at the back behind the prescription counter.
    I gotta get my scanner hooked up some day - got a real classic B/W photo of his dad's store in Toledo, Ohio.

  15. witchazel--I've heard of that--but can't think really what it is--I think there can be some real grace with growing older with dignity--you know, help out, advise the young, even though they ain't listening, take a shower, do the crossword, hunt some upland game birds to your last breath, or, if you are in Hawaii, surf.Make good jokes that are meaningful, smile, and chuck out all the bad and depressing philosophies. Vote.

  16. I'd like to see a pic of your dad. Post it , if you can figure out how. One of the things I remember about my ancestors, they always wore suits for a photo, even if they were dead broke, which many were.

  17. I just started using witchazel after I shave!
    It's slightly astringent, in a 20% alcohol solution.
    Dad's smelled like crazy, think they deodorized this stuff.
    Extract from some tree, I believe.

  18. It sounds kinda scary to me, Doug. Have you checked with the Food and Drug Administration, or the other gov't agencies?

  19. Get it legally at longs for a buck and a quarter!
    Haven't seen any little green men yet, so I guess it may be impairing my developement!
    Victor Davis Hanson on War on National Review Online
    Victor Hason, Sugar Loaf Hill, RIP.
    This is the first of a four-part series excerpted from the introduction of Victor Davis Hanson's latest book Ripples of Battle: How Wars of ...

    Hanson's Uncle, and etc.

  20. Is this the Stuff?

    Goodnite, got to get some 'beauty' sleep.

  21. The 'limited' war for 'hearts and minds'
    By Diana West

    Someday, when the war in Iraq has become a historical episode, we will tally up the lessons learned -- if, that is, we ever learn any. Here are two worth mastering because failing to do so probably means we will no longer exist.

    1. Nation-building in a war zone is nuts. Nation-building in an Islamic war zone is suicide.

    According to, more than half of those polled in Indonesia, and three-quarters of those polled in Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan believe in the strict application of Sharia, or Islamic law. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents expressed their desire to see the Islamic world united in a caliphate.

    Which brings me to Lesson 2.

    With numbers like these, portraying jihadist war goals (Sharia, caliphate) as belonging to a "tiny band of extremists" is nuts.
    Persisting in this PC fantasy as part of the narrative and strategy of the "war on terror" is suicidal.

  22. There's your moderate muslim majority Ash.