- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

According to the consensus of Western media, the Russian government seeks to weaken the West, desires to resurrect a new version of the Soviet Union, and tramples on the freedoms of its own people. By contrast, the United States stands for freedom, peace and prosperity for all nations. Regarding the situation in Georgia, the Russians are the aggressors — much like Hitler when he took Czechoslovakia in 1938 — and we simply seek to defend the weak. The only problem with this view of things is that it grossly misrepresents the complicated truth. If this distortion is not quickly rectified, our own actions could unwittingly contribute to a grave crisis — if not war — between the United States and Russia.

By perpetuating the myth that every action taken by the Russian Federation is driven by an irrational lust for power and antagonism toward the United States, while all our actions are right, just, and reasonable, we work against our own self interest. The unpleasant fact of the matter is that American foreign policy and diplomacy over the past two decades has contributed to the trouble we find ourselves in today, and if not reversed quickly — and I mean reversed, not simply altered — the United States may one day find itself facing the possibility of being involved in a major war; a war that should never be fought.

Since the West’s condemnation of Russian actions in Georgia, Moscow has threatened Poland over the latter’s decision to host missile interceptors on their soil, has threatened Ukraine against joining NATO, has promised to give sophisticated anti-air missile defense capabilities to Iran, has agreed to military cooperation and sales to Venezuela, and openly discussed the possibility of using Cuba as a refueling stop for its long range bombers. No American would dispute that these things run counter to American national interests. But when we protest to Moscow our complaints fall on deaf ears. We have lost the ability to influence Russian policies, partially as a result of our own double standards.

We argue that Russia ought not sell weapons abroad, but we are the world’s leader of such sales; we tell Russia they should not do business with Iran while we provide military advisors to Georgia; we tell Russia under no circumstances can they have any military presence in Cuba, but we dismissively tell Russia they have nothing to say about our expanding a military alliance to their very borders. Any rational person, who was neither Russian nor American, would view this situation as a farcical double standard. And yet the bulk of American foreign affairs pundits and former governmental officials defend these positions as being perfectly reasonable.

The tragedy of the situation is that such actions are viewed as imperialistic by much of the rest of the world, and after decades of this behavior, has resulted in the loss of American influence abroad, even among our friends and allies, as our word is no longer trusted. It is of critical importance to the future health and benefit of the United States that we reverse this situation immediately.

Had we not diplomatically bludgeoned Russia into submission on virtually every important issue over the nearly two decades since the dissolution of the USSR, Russia would almost certainly now be more willing to work with us internationally on matters of mutual national interest. If carried too far, this deteriorating relationship - where politicians from both countries condemn the actions of the other as immoral and unjust - could one day result in a miscalculation involving a red line; such miscalculations have resulted in unintended war many times throughout history. I can say without reservation that a war between the United States and Russia would have no winners; all would lose and potentially hundreds of thousands (or more) could be killed.

For the benefit of the United States, for our ability to influence the actions of our friends and competitors throughout the world on matters of real significance, and to give our people the best chance of living in a world of peace, American foreign policy and diplomacy must immediately change course and begin to treat others with genuine respect, recognize others have legitimate security interests and cease this counter productive penchant for double standards. Our children will forever condemn us if our hubris were to result in a war that should never have been fought, requiring them to spend the rest of their lives trying to rebuild what our foolish pride destroyed.

Army Maj. Daniel L. Davis, a cavalry officer, fought in Desert Storm and served in Afghanistan.

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