Streetwise Professor

March 21, 2009

I Keep Pressin’ This Damn Button, But Nothin’ Happens

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:40 pm

Another reset button malfunction (H/T R):

Two Russian planes flew within 500 feet of U.S. Navy ships participating in military drills with  South  Korea, military officials said.

After trying unsuccessfully to contact the pilots, U.S. fighter jets met up with the Russian planes and flew with them until they left the area, CNN reported.

One incident occurred Monday, when Russian Ilyushin IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft flew over the aircraft carrier USS  John C. Stennis  while it was in international waters in the Sea of Japan. The Russian aircraft flew within 500 feet of the carrier, which was lower than other Russian flyovers in the past year, military officials said.

On Tuesday, two Russian long-range bombers overflew the Stennis and the USS Blue Ridge several times at about 2,000 feet, U.S. military officials told CNN.

Military officials said U.S. aircraft tried contacting the Russian planes on  international  air  frequency radio channels on both days but the Russian pilots didn’t respond.

Now, there is nothing illegal per se about the overflights.  However, they are–and were during the Cold War–in your face provocations.  Sort of the military equivalent of trash talking.  They send a signal, and the signal ain’t Kumbaya.  This, and other Russian statements and actions in recent days, indicate that reciprocity to Obama’s earnest efforts is not the order of the day.  The Russian idea of “reset” is to get the US to concede its predominance in the former Soviet space, and to stick it to the US wherever and whenever possible.

But don’t worry!  Surely another earnest gesture to an even more implacable foe, Iran, in the form of a Happy Persian New Year! message is enough to overcome thirty plus years of hostility.  (Thirty years marked by kidnappings, hostage taking, support for terrorism, terrorist acts, nostalgia for the Holocaust and an expressed desire to finish the job, and most recently, direct support for attacks on US troops in Iraq.)

Uhm, no:

 Iran‘s supreme leader, Ayatollah  Ali Khamenei, rebuffed  President Obama‘s latest outreach, saying Tehran was still waiting to see concrete changes in American foreign policy.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who holds the ultimate responsibility for Iranian policy decisions, was responding Saturday to a video message Mr. Obama released Friday in which he reached out to Iran on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations.

In his most direct public assessment of Mr. Obama and prospects for better ties, Ayatollah Khamenei said there could be no change between the countries unless the Obama administration put an end to hostility toward Iran and brings “real changes” in foreign policy.

“They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

Still, he left the door open to better ties with America, saying “should you change, our behavior will change, too.”

Like the Russians’, the Iranians’ idea of reset is all take, no give.  And since Obama and a good chunk of the American foreign policy establishment see rejection of offers as an invitation to offer even more, this is a very wise bargaining position.

In the rougher precincts of the world, the earnest are scorned as easy marks.  This is especially true when it is readily seen that an eagerness to bargain is motivated by a weird combination of a need to be liked, and a self-indulgent tendency to assume the blame for breakdowns in relations.

Even Jimmy Carter eventually wised up (for a while, anyways).  Why does Obama need to re-learn the same lessons?  And perhaps more importantly, will he?

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  1. My view is that their “idea of reset” is, as they themselves say, concrete actions instead of mere words from the US. Like stopping sanctions and ceasing fomenting ethnic separatism in Iran aimed at breaking it up, for instance – they haven’t worked and have only served to reinforce authoritarian and anti-US tendencies in that country.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — March 21, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

  2. Sanctions–no problem. Terms for easing those have been on the table a long time: (a) cease illicit nuclear program, and (b) cease support of terrorism. Or would you prefer either (c) a military attack to achieve these objectives, or (d) allowing Iran to continue these actions without constraint. I’m sure Iran’s neighbors–and I am not speaking solely about the Israelis here–would be thrilled at either possibility.

    Ethnic separatism–are you a supporter of Persian imperialism? (If I recall, less than half, and certainly no more than a half, of Iranian citizens are Persians, many of whom chafe under Persian hegemony.)

    Re authoritarian and anti-US tendencies. I’m glad you admit that Iran is authoritarian, though that seems a very mild word indeed to describe that country’s system. And, to attribute that tendency to the US is ludicrous. The mullahs would be as dictatorial, or more dictatorial, if the US went away tomorrow. Indeed, they would gladly spread their tender love to the other side of the Gulf in no time flat. Re anti-US tendencies, it is well known that those tendencies are found primarily among the mullahs and their creatures, not among the Iranian populace.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 22, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  3. “Like stopping sanctions and ceasing fomenting ethnic separatism in Iran aimed at breaking it up”

    Hey, ethnic strife in Iran is hardly America’s doing, get real, granted the article is 3 years old, but, not much has changed in Iran:

    So, when the mad mullahs in Iran get their Islamic nuclear bomb just what is it that you think they’ll do with it?

    Oh, and, perhaps you haven’t noticed that Iran foments ethnic strife in Iraq by funding and shipping arms to Shia factions in the south, their Islamic denomination, against Sunnis and Kurds. Their funding/arms tenacles also are in Lebanon fomenting civil unrest there. I know, you are laboring on your masterpiece “Green Communism” and just haven’t had the time to catch a few of the political realities in the area.

    Comment by penny — March 22, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  4. Follow up–per CIA Factbook, Iran is 51 percent Persian, 49 percent various minorities, the largest of which is Azeri.

    Penny–“She shoots! She Scores!”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 22, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  5. SWP,

    The point stands that sanctions and fomenting ethnic unrest have done nothing whatsoever to modulate Iran’s nuclear ambitions or support for Hezbollah, and have instead empowered the hardliners there.

    Although I agree Iran is authoritarian, it is quite a bit more democratic than most other Middle Eastern countries ( – that is, according to political scientists instead of ideologues) and more liberal in regards to issues like women’s rights than some of our friends in the region like Saudi Arabia. As such singling it out for being authoritarian and illiberal just reinforces the perception of the US as hypocrite imperialists and hurts its national interests.

    I really don’t care much about “Persian imperialism”. That said, it has traditionally been a fairly benign and autonomy-granting kind of imperialism from its days, and my perception is that halting pressure on it will help their minorities much more than trying to use them as vectors to topple the regime.

    Re-your point how Iranians are more favorable to the US than the regime. By stripping them of the free cover of a war mentality, the regime will either evolve or be replaced. As it stands it appears that most Iranians rally to the regime when it is confronted, even if they should otherwise disagree with it.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — March 22, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  6. It’s so hilarious to hear Russophile cretins like “Sublime Oblivion” pontificate about “concrete actions” when, if Russian ships were buzzed in this manner by U.S. warplanes, the whole nation would be in a permanent state of rabid frenzy and massive assaults would be made on the U.S. Embassy. There’s really not too much that’s more “concrete” than an armed warplane 500 feet from your noggin at Mach 2.

    Apparently it’s just fine for Russia, though. Sick, sick stuff. As always, those who pretend to be Russia’s friends are in fact her very worst and most dangerous foes, who time and time again have laid the nation low.

    Comment by La Russophobe — March 25, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

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