Is The U.S. In A Foreign Policy Cocoon?

The unfolding events in the Ukraine, where Russian military activities in the Crimea have caused the Ukraine to mobilize its forces, obviously are of tremendous concern in their own right. We don’t like to see the rights of sovereign nations impaired, nor do we like to see pro-democracy movements bullied into submission.

The unfolding developments in the Ukraine, however, also give rise to a deeper, yet equally significant concern arising from the fact that the Russian military actions apparently caught the United States, and the western world, completely by surprise. People in the foreign policy world had confidently predicted that Vladimir Putin, flush from the favorable PR about the Sochi Olympic Games, wouldn’t risk the goodwill of the world by taking any kind of military action in the Ukraine, or lacked the will or resources or interest to do so. Of course, those people were wrong.

Is our failure to predict the Russian actions in the Ukraine due to poor intelligence, or of a cocoon-like atmosphere in our foreign policy establishment that doesn’t recognize that other countries and leaders might not see the world as we do? This article in The American Interest argues that it is the latter — and that the cocoon, unless and until punctured, is going to produce more foreign policy crises and setbacks in the future.

I don’t know if the hypothesis of the article is correct or not — but I do think that, when it comes to contingency planning about responses to fast-moving global events, it’s essential to have different viewpoints represented and presented to President Obama. If our current foreign policy apparatus doesn’t include the contrarians who are willing to offer their competing views and the decision-makers who will consider those views, we need to make some changes, pronto. Presidents can only make good decisions if they are given full information and a range of options.

No Shelter From The Storm

IMG_5932As the windblown snow was pelting down this morning, I passed a gaggle of Canadian geese that had decided to camp on the fairway of number 4 North and just endure the storm. Normally they’d be on the nearby pond, but it’s been completely iced over for months and apparently was unsuitable as a landing zone.

The geese seemed comfortable enough when I walked by. They waddled around, primped their feathers, plumped down onto the ground, and squawked their lungs out. They must have gotten tired of getting bombarded by the pellets of snow, however, because by the time I made the turn and was heading for home I heard their full-throated call up in the air and saw their familiar airborne V formation headed east.

I’ve got news for them — conditions aren’t any better in Pittsburgh.

The Dog Burglars

Recently the Webner household has been repeatedly victimized by a thieving pair the authorities call the Dog Burglars.

IMG_5939It’s Penny and Kasey, of course. After two years of living together, they’ve developed into a very effective robbery team that successfully pulls off at least one caper every week.

Their sizes, shapes, and capabilities are complementary. Penny is tall enough to get her front paws on the counters and tabletops, and Kasey is small enough to get her nose and paws into even the most narrow, remote areas where part of a crust of bread might be found. And neither of them has an ounce of remorse about pilfering whatever they can.

It also helps that their tastes are complementary. Recently Kish bought a T-bone steak to cook for my dinner. Penny detected it on the counter and knocked it off, Kasey grabbed it, ran off, and ate the meat, and Penny was then chewing the bone when I got home to learn that soup was now the featured menu item. In other cases Penny will knock yogurt containers off the kitchen table, Kasey will open them and lick the inner surfaces clean, and Penny will then happily chew the plastic into a sodden, unrecognizable mess.

Of course, unlike cat burglars there is nothing stealthy or clever about our larcenous pair. They’re about as secretive as a thumb in the eye. They make lots of noise when they’re blundering up on the counters or scratching furiously to get at a blueberry that has bounced into the space between the refrigerator and the wall and when they’re chomping away at their illicit plunder. They’re not shy about leaving the evidence of their theft in plain view on the family room carpet, either.

They’re shameless, and they wouldn’t hesitate to steal every item of food in the house. We put up with them anyway.