The Compass

« How Ukraine's New Government Could Destroy the Country | Blog Home Page | How Should the West Respond to Russia? »

Foreign Policy According to MSNBC's Chris Hayes

The temptation to weigh in on every single current event -- usually with the intention of smearing political opponents -- is just too great for some commentators. Take MSNBC's Chris Hayes, for instance. In a recent segment (which you can watch here), Mr. Hayes criticizes John McCain for criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy and for having a simplistic, black-or-white view of world affairs.

Fair enough. But in criticizing Mr. McCain's naiveté, Mr. Hayes reveals his own:

As someone who follows the news and who doesn't know a ton about Ukraine, I'll admit, I'm confused about what I think should happen, even which side I'm on... And I think that's a natural, and in many cases even laudable, instinct.

Indecisiveness (or a "wait-and-see" approach) is a laudable instinct only if the situation is unclear. The situation in Ukraine isn't unclear. A corrupt, Russia-aligned government run by former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by a pro-EU, Western-aligned opposition. Is the opposition perfect? No, of course not. Yulia Tymoshenko, who was once the champion of the pro-EU faction, is widely perceived as being just as corrupt as Mr. Yanukovych. Corruption is entrenched in Ukraine's politics, as it is throughout much of eastern Europe. Also, a few members of the opposition are anti-Semitic.

But, the choice is smack-you-in-the-face obvious: The U.S. and EU should (and likely will) try to pull Ukraine into the EU's orbit, paving a pathway for its entry into the European Union. Feckless though it may be, the EU offers Ukraine a safer future than its current status of dependence on Russia's ultimately self-serving largesse.

Mr. Hayes then goes on to criticize Mr. McCain for choosing sides in Syria and Libya. He is correct that Mr. McCain prematurely chose sides in complex conflicts. But, these countries aren't comparable to Ukraine. Ukraine isn't suffering from an influx of al-Qaeda linked terrorists. In Syria and Libya, it really wasn't clear who the opposition was; in Ukraine, we know who the opposition is.

Mr. Hayes then brings on a guest, Mark Quarterman, who seems to be as clueless about European affairs as he is:

It's not even clear that Mr. Putin views it [Ukraine] in Cold War terms.

Huh? Mr. Quarterman is unsure if Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, has a Cold War worldview? Of course he does. His entire strategy to maintain countries like Ukraine and Belarus firmly in Russia's orbit is a relic of Cold War thinking (as is the West's obsession with keeping Ukraine in Europe's orbit). President Obama has flatly stated that this is true. In an interview with Jay Leno, Mr. Obama said, "But there have been times where they [Russia] slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality."

Or, we could go straight to the horse's mouth, so to speak. In 2005, Mr. Putin said "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th Century was the fall of the Soviet Union. He couldn't make his opinion much clearer than that. And many Russians believe, very likely including Mr. Putin himself, that Ukraine isn't a real country.

Until last week, the average American journalist probably couldn't find Ukraine on an unlabeled (or perhaps even labeled) map. Today, these same journalists are lecturing us on foreign policy.

Sponsored Links
Related Articles
June 12, 2014
The Power of Crowds - Robert Kaplan
Alex B. Berezow
Author Archive