Prague Twin

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Eagle has Landed

George Bush is in the country becoming the first American president to twice visit the Czech Republic in his official capacity.

Pictured with him is president Vaclav Klaus and his wife, and of course that is Laura Bush hiding behind the president.

While most people think the cold war ended in 1989, and that recent developments mark the start of a new chilling of U.S./Russia relations, George Bush declared just today that the cold war is over. What a relief! Who knew?

This weekend I spent some time talking to some older Czech folks regarding their feelings about the missile defense system. The conclusion I kept hearing is that although they don't particularly like Russia, they understand Putin's concern. "Why wasn't Putin consulted first? Why not put the defense system IN Russia?"

I think Klaus may have brought these points to president Bush's attention. Today, president Bush said...

My message will be Vladimir — I call him Vladimir — you shouldn't fear a missile defense system. As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defense system.

That message would have carried a lot more weight about six months ago. Yet another foreign policy blunder that president Bush has committed. This one, however, is at the direct expense of my resident nation.

Let's just hope Vladimir is in a forgiving mood.

UPDATE: Two good articles on the subject (1, 2) Thanks to Abi for the first one and my friend Matthew (who doesn't blog) for the second.

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18 Comments:

  • In fact was Czech republic was officaly visited in 1990 Gorge Bush who even give a public speech to some 100000 gathering at Wenceslaus sqare. Later there was Clinton, and even younger Bush, on offical just before NATO summit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 PM  

  • Whoops! What a difference a word makes. I had meant to say "twice" but left it out.

    I've fixed it now.

    Thank you for helping me catch my mistake.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 2:39 PM  

  • Who knew?

    Don't be too hard on the idiot president -- I call him the idiot president -- it takes him a little longer than most to grasp things.

    James Carroll has a good op-ed piece on the danger of defensive weapons: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/06/05/the_paradox_of_missile_defense/

    By Anonymous abi, at 2:49 AM  

  • PT,

    Offense is a two-way street. Putin can choose to be offended on behalf of his people; or he can choose not to be. It's not Bush's fault if Putin chooses to be offended/concerned/ect.

    Bush is clumsy when it comes to foreign policy. This is no surprise. He's a wealthy, priveledged, wanna-be cowboy. Whoever elected him on behalf of his diplomatic abilities deserves the shock.

    However, if there's another arms race over this it is NOT Bush's fault. It simply means that Bush gave Putin the excuse he was looking for.

    As far as the questions:
    "Why wasn't Putin consulted first?"

    That's the whole Bush being diplomatically clumsy thing. His bad, 'nuff said.

    "Why not put the defense system IN Russia?"

    Obviously our relations with Russia aren't that secure/friendly. If Putin will use this as an excuse for military escalation, then funding weapons for his country wouldn't exactly be smart on our part. If Russia can't trust us to give weapons to a some-what friendly, luke-warm nation; then why the hell are we supposed to trust them enough to give the weapons to them.

    Again, this is a two-way deal. Bush had the choice of negotiating the matter out with a larger body of nations; he didn't. Naughty, naughty Bush. Putin had the choice of how he'd react; he chose to puff out his chest and (claim to) move his chess pieces about the board in a semi-hostile/semi-defensive manner. Naughty, naughty Putin.

    Bush is certainly not the hero of the piece. But Putin's not some innocent victim either. Unfortunately, while they're measuring their paraphernalia, your resident nation is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 8:00 AM  

  • Abi,

    Thanks for the piece it is very, very good.

    Stephanie,

    Please read the Carroll piece and perhaps rethink your position on this one.

    I'm not trying to defend Putin. I'm not saying he is a great guy. But to say that this escalation is not GWB's fault I think is misguided.

    Sure, Putin could be a weak man and sit back and smile as new weapon systems are deployed at his doorstep, but we know he is not.

    His reaction is all too predictable. As Americans, we should be looking to our leaders to lead us into the light, and not back into the dark of the cold war.

    I reject the notion that since Bush is a poor foreign policy maker, Putin is responsible for making up the difference.

    Sure, it takes two to tango, but one has to stand up, walk across the room, and ask for the dance.

    Let's be clear who did that.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:47 AM  

  • PT,

    First, I'm on-board with the whole "no missles" thing. To me, the question being not where to put them, but why to put them anywhere.

    That being said, a quote from the above cited op-ed piece: "The actual deployment of US missile defense is well underway -- a first shoe dropping. But the Bush system involves the added provocation that Poland and the Czech Republic are sites of some key components, confirming Moscow's fears that the United States, putatively targeting a "rogue" state like Iran, is actually aiming at Russia," (emphasis added).

    That's not confirmation, but speculation. Putin's reaction may be predictable, but that doesn't mean it's reasonable. Russia testing the shield is more provocative than the shield being in place. Putin is making this offensive defense about Russia; not Bush.

    Carroll's off-handed, "...putatively targeting a "rogue" state like Iran..." ignores the fact that Bush has had his eye on Iran from the beginning. "Axis of Evil" ring a bell? Putin's assumption that "Iran" is gas, and that Russia is the real target seems like compulsive paranoia to me.

    Again I say that Putin is using this as an excuse for military escalation. Missile defense is a paradox. Yeah, I'll buy that. Tell it to Iran. Oops. Too late! They already know, that's why they're stuck on goin' after the nukes!

    I'm not saying that it's Putin fault for not making up the difference for Bush's clumsy diplomacy. I'm accusing Putin of something much worse. Bush has been building up weapons for his pet-project: The War on Terror. If that was all a ruse for going after Russia, then the guy's a lot smarter than all y'all want to believe. Personally, I think Bush is being blatantly honest about Iran.

    That puts Russia's irrational if predictable reaction back on Putin.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 9:18 AM  

  • Ok, tell me this.

    How do missiles in Poland protect Spain from Iran?

    Seriously, pull the map out and have a look.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:18 AM  

  • praguetwin, Czechs have arrived in Brooklyn.


    Dumbo: Book Party at Prague Kolektiv

    Stop by modern Czech design mecca Prague Koleltiv tonight to celebrate the release of the new book Life Happiness Surprise by the Czech Republic's leading graphic design group, Studio Najbrt.

    In conjunction with the book launch, there will be a presentation by the Czech designer Alan Zaruba and a showing of designs by Studio Qubus and Jerry Koza.

    NYC-based graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, known for his design of the Talking Heads' album Once in a Lifetime, will also be on hand.

    Wednesday, 6 to 8 p.m, Prague Kolektiv, 143 Front Street.

    By Anonymous no_slappz, at 7:19 PM  

  • I agree with much of what is being said here and can see both Stephanie's and Praguetwin's positions. If I can inject my two cents; once upon a time missles were placed by Russia - excuse me - the Soviet Union in Cuba. Some of you may be too young to remember the Cuban Missle Crisis as it has come to be known, but then Prez Kennedy put it to Kruschev. Get the missles out or go to war. It was a VERY tense time. Now we are putting missles in Russia's back yard. As much as I hate Putin and all he stands for, I can see why he would take the stance he has. As for Monkey Boy - I call him Monkey boy, his clumsiness on foreign policy issues is going to get us into another crisis if he's allowed to continue unchecked. Let's just hope the incoming president can undo most of the damage.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 7:46 PM  

  • no_slappz,

    Cool. I hope you will make it down there.

    Rockync,

    Just to be clear, I agree with a lot of what Stephanie says. However, saying that this is NOT GWB's fault is ignoring the obvious as far as I'm concerned. The last thing president Bush needs right now is an apologist.

    It should be noted that in 2002 the U.S. backed out of an arms reduction treaty and by placing this system in eastern Europe, the spirit of that treaty has been crushed.

    Who's fault is that?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:55 PM  

  • PT,

    "How do missiles in Poland protect Spain from Iran?"

    Okay, first, we've covered the whole "missiles" don't protect thing. Whether it's protecting the Czech Republic from Russia or protecting Spain from Iran, missiles aren't going to do the trick.

    Second, I've never really considered Spain to be part of "Eastern Europe," which I believe was the claim that was made. So, what does Spain have to do with it?

    Third, I'm not saying that the move is logical or strategically sound. I'm saying that assuming we are putting the missiles there because of Russia is an assumption that is, in and of itself, a throw-back to the Cold War. It's a knee-jerk reaction from living with that particular "almost-war" tension for decades.

    Just because the knee-jerk reaction is predictable doesn't mean it's accurate. Bush's fear, contempt, and disgust for Iran is contemporary and a realistic, if irrational, motive for our President.

    As per rogue states, just because the fear stems from Iran doesn't mean the attack can't come from closer to home. Attacking Eastern Europe from Spain or France wouldn't be completely implausible, though I don't know the logistics well enough to say whether or not it's readily possible. However, Bush has disappointed me far too many times when I expected him to understand the logistics of a situation better than myself for me to be too concerned with whether the logistics actually factored into the decision-making process.

    (This, btw, is not assuming the cooperation of either France or Spain, or that they'd have to fall to terrorists first.)

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 3:56 AM  

  • RockyNC,

    I was too young for the Cuban Missle Crisis, but have read about it. And, yes, I understand Putin's position, but I still think it's a knee-jerk reaction. The point is, if Putin's that ready to jump at an excuse to hostility, then the Cold War is not over. The Cold War was, primarily, about acting subtly (and with supposed-justification) on underlying hostilities. If those hostilities are not abated, then the Cold War was in remission, like cancer, and can still come back and kill us all, like cancer.

    PT,

    "However, saying that this is NOT GWB's fault is ignoring the obvious as far as I'm concerned."

    I'm not saying it's not GWB's fault. I'm saying the assumption that it was his intention doesn't fit the evidence. Do you want to credit him with the War on Terror as a subtle means of getting the jump on Russia? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying. Or, are you suggesting that Bush really does want to take on the whole damned world?

    To the first, I say he's not that smart. To the second, I say he's not that stupid.

    "It should be noted that in 2002 the U.S. backed out of an arms reduction treaty..."

    Which is another stupidity I'd chock up to the War on Terror. Boys don't want to give up their toys when they're trying to play rough and be macho (no insult intended to the men in this discussion).

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 4:15 AM  

  • I don't know, Steph, I think you may be giving George too much credit on one front and not enough on another. And it's not just George, every president operates within their administration consisting of their crony/advisors. Seems like George and his posse want to be king of the world. The strong arm tactics that they have employed while simultaneously thumbing their noses at the requests/concerns of the rest of the free world does not support the idea of a man with good intentions who is just clumsy. I think there is a bigger agenda here and I think they are jerking Putin's chain on purpose and I don't think most people really believe that the "cold war" ever ended. It just went underground. Your contention that Putin is using George's missle plan to further his own agenda is probably sound, but that doesn't excuse George from having instigated the whole thing in the first place. The bad thing about all this is if Putin circles the wagons and cuts off Russia, we all take some giant steps backwards. None of these events are conduitive to stablizing the Middle East or Europe for that matter and that should be a great concern for all of us.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 6:24 AM  

  • RockyNC,

    "Seems like George and his posse want to be king of the world."

    I've heard that contention before, and I still don't buy it. Not because I'm under some misguided belief that Bush & Co. has good intentions (been there, done that); it's just that with all the ways people have attempted to take over the world throughout history strong-arming their way to control is the least viable.

    We were in a better position to take over the world, were that their intention, before they started throwing America's weight around. You don't start something like world-domination by alienating your allies (which Bush undeniably did); you do it by gaining subtle control. If people see it coming, they'll do something. If people think they see it coming, they'll do something; and they did do something.

    Allies backed off support of the US. Citizens elected more Democrats. And the list could go on and on; but doesn't complete withdraw the power they currently have.

    If Bush really wanted to take over the world and really tried to do so, he really is just an idiot; both for wanting to and for trying to do so in the manner here claimed. I don't think Bush is an idiot. I don't like the man, I'm very disappointed with his presidency, but I don't think he's an idiot.

    I don't think he's all that "well intentioned" either. If he was well-intentioned, then freeing Iraq would really be about freeing Iraq; not making Iraq an American puppet. If he was well-intentioned, then he'd make serious, honest attempts at understanding Iran, North Korea, ect., then making reasonable negotiations that both protected the US, the world, and helped improve the "out-sider" nation. If he was well-intentioned, then he wouldn't sell himself to the special interests here at home; which is, of course, assuming that he wasn't sold off to them at birth. Again, the list could go on, and on, and on.

    If Bush is jerking Putin's chain on purpose, he really is an idiot. Our resources are already overwhelmed in the War on Terror; America is losing patience with that; tweaking Iran's nose goes along with Bush's definition of the War on Terror, though it's still unwise. Tweaking Putin's nose is simply stupid. We have the War on Terror and and a full-on continuation of the Cold War and our economy is going to be the one that collapses. And somehow I doubt Russia will be giving us aid in the aftermath like we did them.

    Bush is not a wise man. He's not a nice man. His diplomatic skills leave a lot to be desired -- like having some. But, I don't think he's an idiot; and I don't think he's complete without contact with reality. And he'd pretty much have to be to take on Russia now.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 6:47 AM  

  • Then again, I admit quite readily that it may be that the dreamer still has some waking up to do.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 6:49 AM  

  • I'm not saying it's not GWB's fault.

    However, if there's another arms race over this it is NOT Bush's fault.

    I'm confused Stephanie. Is it or isn't it his fault.

    As to the whole Spain/Iran discussion. The missiles are in eastern Europe ostensibly for the protection of the whole of Europe against rogue states.

    And finally, if the missiles don't work, you should be arguing that Bush should not be installing these things in any way shape and form. You should be calling for him to cease and desist immediately.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:38 PM  

  • PT,

    "I'm confused Stephanie. Is it or isn't it his fault."

    Let's try an analogy/metaphor/whatever (which should translate to your present culture/location): Say you get drunk, get into your car, do some joy-riding, and end up ramming your vehicle into someone else's spruced-up spiffy-mobile, i.e. very expensive car.

    The accident is your fault.

    Just liking this missile defense thing is Bush's fault.

    Say, the person you hit is mentally unstable and generally an asshole. He takes extreme offense at you ramming your car into his. His reaction is to stalk you, beat you up whenever possible, and harrass you in every aspect of your life until one of you dies.

    Is that your fault? I'd say no, it's not.

    Just like I'd say, no, it's not Bush's fault if/that Putin intends to use this as an excuse to launch another Russian arms build-up, thus leading us to remarkable levels of international tension (best-case scenario) if not open attack/destruction of the US (worst-case scenario).

    If, on the other hand, when Joe Blow-His-Top starts stalking, beating, and harrassing you, you respond by getting together all your friends, tracking him down, and putting him in his place (instead of turning the matter over to the Czech equivalent of 'the cops') by stalking, beating, and harrassing him with your buddies, then it is your fault that you reacted to his harrassment, ect., the way you did.

    Just as if the US were to respond to Putin's posturing by matching + his military movements, thus launching our side of the arms race; it would be the US (and Bush's) fault for doing so.

    Bush launched this missile program, which I think we're agreed on as being a bad idea. You (in the scenario) got drunk and smashed your car into someone else's. Escalation depends on mutual reaction to these events. These events do NOT cause the escalation, because the escalation is a matter of choice between both people involved.

    Putin didn't have to make his demonstration. He didn't have to issue threats, warnings, ect. That was his choice, his responsibility, and his fault. That being the case does not excuse Bush from the initial "crash;" nor does the initial "crash" excuse Putin his reaction.

    Nor will Putin's reaction excuse Bush if/when he reacts poorly to Putin's reaction.

    Does that clarify my position sufficiently? Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.

    "The missiles are in eastern Europe ostensibly for the protection of the whole of Europe against rogue states."

    Perhaps someone thinks the Czech Republic and Poland are less likely to (unwittingly) harbor terrorists? I'm not defending Bush's logic; I really don't see anything defensible on that front.

    "And finally, if the missiles don't work, you should be arguing that Bush should not be installing these things in any way shape and form."

    See, and I thought we agreed to agree on that already (not a typo). I don't think the missiles are a good idea. I don't think the missiles would be a good idea, even if they did work. However, bureaucracy being what it is, we spend a lot of money on things that don't work. I see that as a reason to change the system, not raise noise over the individual instances of gross abuse of federal funds.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 2:30 AM  

  • Now, onto my own over-reaction:

    "You should be calling for him to cease and desist immediately."

    Reality Check:
    Me: Okay, in a world where I have an infinite amount of energy, don't need to sleep, and can manage the other aspects of my life with reasonable skill and success, I'd agree with you, but only if I didn't know what I've learned from past attempts of a similar kind. We both know that I have my own causes and methods which I prefer to focus on, when it comes to activism. And, we both know I'm just getting back into the swing of things with those when it comes to activism-via-blogging.

    Them: It takes a lot of work for me to raise my voice loudly enough for my Congressional representatives to hear me. I do not have the resources to raise my voice loudly enough for the President to hear me. That's a sad, ugly fact which I endeavor to change. Grassroots campaigns, which are the extent of my capabilities, reach people, not politicians. I do not have the time, energy or resources to have any impact doing what you ask. It would require a lot of work, a lot of money, and access to special interest mediums that don't want the voice of a skeptic (of them) in their midst.

    Me again: I'm here not for work, but for play. Serious, important play, but play nonetheless. I am interested in your opinions. I am interested in your concerns. I will debate with you on both for play. The intellectual stimulus of blogging has proven itself to be very important to me; it's fun, it's relaxing, and it's productive. And I find that to be a highly important mix.

    It's a sad fact that going back to college does not meet my intellectual needs, but it's a fact all the same. My disappointment with the standards of my scholastic institution haven't prevented me from meeting my own standards, but it does mean that the responses I get, both from my fellow students and from my professors, are unsatisfying. Coming here, debating with you, fills that intellectual need.

    If my participation is undesireable in and of itself, I'm sorry. But, I don't have a whole lot more to give. Certainly not enough to convince the President that the sky is blue and the Earth revolves around the sun, let alone that the U.S. should not be putting missiles in Europe. I'm exhausted and am blogging for renewal, not guilt-trips.

    I understand and appreciate your concern over this matter. I applaud you for that concern. I can even support you in your efforts. You start a writing campaign that consists of copying and pasting an e-mail and sending it to the President, I'll tag along. It won't do any good, but I'll tag along all the same.

    In order to prevent things like this from happening, we have to change the system. You work on that your way and I respect you for that. I work on that my way, and in the past you've encouraged me in that. Call me jaded, but I don't think there's anything we can do to change how politicians do things until we change the politicians that are doing them.

    The way I see it, the fix of this problem is the same as the fix of most of America's other problems: Get Bush & Co. and everyone else who can be bought and sold by special interest groups and irrational, grandiose agendas irregardless of party affiliations out of office; replace them with statesmen and stateswomen who actually care more about the American people and the American nation than about scratching the right backs and gorging at the political trough.

    That's why I invest my time and effort into VOID. I've tried tackling matters issue by issue when I first started blogging on WatchBlog. It did absolutely nothing. One thing I absolutely love about learning about business is the focus on efficiency and effectiveness. I need lessons like that, otherwise I'm just spinning my wheels. And, frankly, if I want to spin my wheels I'll pick up my kids' toys while they're awake. There is a much quicker return on that completely unsuccessful, time-consuming endeavor. And I get approximately two minutes of lego-less floors for my efforts.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 2:48 AM  

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