Washingtonian Brigham A. McCown Sees a Crisis with Russia

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People in positions of power and influence in Washington have a pronounced tendency to go off the deep end. They overreact. Exaggerated fear and imagining over Ukraine (and ISIS) are the order of the day. One such person is Brigham A. McCown who writes for Forbes. Although America is not threatened in any serious or even trivial way by anything that Russia has done regarding Ukraine, McCown like many Washingtonians thinks the U.S. MUST take action or else face the kind of aggression from Russia that Europe faced from Hitler after 1938. Putin is no Hitler. Russia is no Nazi Germany. Russia has no intention of starting World War III by aggressions against the Baltic States or countries in Eastern Europe that broke out of the USSR’s domination 25 years ago. Russia has been there and done all that. That came about partly and importantly because of World War II. The situation differs vastly today. For years now, Russia has been seeking greater integration with Europe. But if NATO continues to expand its scope of belligerence and if the West exacerbates its confrontations with Russia, then they will cause Russia to reassess and shift its strategies. The West will create and motivate the monster it now imagines exists, just as the US played a signal role in creating al-Qaeda and the IS.

McCown’s recommendations are motivated by his highly emotional opinion that Putin is a despot who aims to destabilize one state after another in Europe. This has absolutely no factual basis. The events in Ukraine have been triggered by the U.S. Putin has held back from direct intervention even when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine were displaced by the attacks of Kiev and even when the forces resisting those attacks appeared about to be overwhelmed. Putin did nothing about Ukraine for many years on end. There was no evidence that he wanted to destabilize it.

What sort of recommendations do we get when someone like McCown abandons reason, stops looking at facts, relies on inapplicable historical analogies, absorbs government propaganda and embraces a near-hysterical view? We basically get calls for war. We get irrational demands for surrender. Look at his first point:

“First, the West must demand the immediate cessation of hostilities by Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists, along with the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine within 72 Hours.”

Why would separatists stop defending against attacks from Kiev levied on their cities? Why would they do this without the Kiev side doing likewise? Why doesn’t McCown call for a general cease fire? If he did, he’d sound just like Lavrov and Putin. It’s senseless to demand that one side lay down its arms and surrender.

Second, he insists upon isolating Russia’s economy by multilateral and complete sanctions. If the West should ever do this, it is an act of economic warfare that Russia would have to respond to. Such a course is extremely foolhardy, raising the stakes and causing the opposite of what its aim is supposed to be.

He wants NATO to bolster its strength even further among its newer members that border Russia. There is no need for this antagonistic and counterproductive move. He even mentions “nuclear members” increasing their patrols. The presence of missile batteries is already a bone of contention with Russia. The U.S. could not stand having missiles in Cuba. Why should the Russians not object to having nuclear-armed missiles on its borders? If NATO arms itself further in these countries, Russia is going to respond and the West will not like what it does. Confrontation can only heighten, and nothing will be accomplished.

Hysteria like that of McCown should not be a basis for U.S. policy.

2:28 pm on September 2, 2014
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