"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Putin, Gender, And Biden’s Dilemma–Should He Or Shouldn’t He?

“Motherfucker!”, the President shouted in his closed door National Security meeting, pointing at the image of Vladimir Putin on the giant screen suspended over the roundtable. 

“Mr. President!”, exclaimed the Secretary of Agriculture who stood up and reached out to the president, as if ready to lay on hands. The Secretary had dismissed such Jesus tomfoolery on his way up the Democratic political ladder, but had never ever really gotten it out of his system, and reacted as his Uncle Robert would have.

“Mr. President, please”, said the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, wiping away the crumbs of her last bite of cruller and touching her chest three times in the automatic Domine, non sum dignus of her own religious past.

All of them would have expected such a crude remark from LBJ who from the podium spoke in diplomatic terms about the hegemonic ambitions of Ho Chi Minh, but in private quarters said he wanted to “kill that slope cocksucker”; but not from this man of rectitude and principle.  What was he thinking? What did this mean?

To be fair, no President likes to be pushed to the brink of war, especially one like Joe Biden who spent decades of friendly compromise and hale-fellow-well-met camaraderie in the cloakrooms of the Delaware legislature and Congress. He had never come any closer to battle than meet-and-greet trips to Dover Air Force Base.  

As importantly he was always reminded of Michael Dukakis who, when running for high public office had his picture taken on an M-1 tank, all do-dadded up with tank gear pointing to an admirer.  The press had a field day – this diminutive, quietly progressive, liberal politician in battlefield gear, a visual oxymoron if there ever was one – and he lost the election in large part due to his tone-deafness. 

Image result for Images Michael Dukakis In A Tank. Size: 237 x 101. Source: www.dailykos.com

He was also reminded of George W. Bush who strode the deck of an aircraft carrier in military gear claiming victory in Iraq, but who soon after when failure was the most likely outcome of the American misadventure in Iraq, became the butt of late-night television.

See the source image

No, Joe Biden wasn’t going to make those kind of mistakes.  A crisp salute on and off Air Force One was all he was willing to give the military establishment. Besides, he was elected president not to make war or rattle sabers, but to realign the sexual mores of the country and make it into a gender neutral, inclusive place for all sexual comers.  He was to be the president remembered for rolling back climate change, elevating black people to places of honor and removing white, racist hate from America’s history. 

Then comes Vladimir Putin, not only a formidable adversary, but the formidable adversary, the implacable, savvy, Machiavellian genius of the Russian steppes. 

“Motherfucker”, the President again shouted, this time raising his fist to the stony image of the Russian president, 50 ft. high and 30 ft. wide above him.  

Biden had spent the morning awash in briefing papers, one-on-one confabs with the Joint Chiefs, NSA, CIA, and all black-ops chiefs all of whom insisted that Putin’s aggression should not stand, and that they were ready to stand behind the President politically and fight on the front lines against the Russians once the President had done the right thing.

Image result for images vladimir putin

Of course, had the President had the patience and ability to go through the briefing papers he would have seen that the situation was not quite that simple.  It wasn’t just a matter of NATO, Ukraine, and Russia; but the breakaway regions of Eastern Ukraine, the historic and persistent corruption of the current Ukraine administration, the volatile politics and indecipherable complex of competing interests, gas pipelines, European dependence on Russian energy, Putin’s compelling history lesson of Khrushchev and the creation of the Ukraine SSR, the reintegration of Crimea into the Russian Federation, and much, much more.  Yet, the military always wants to shoot first and ask questions later.

“Guns and butter!”, the President said, turning his attention to his advisors. 

The expression “Guns and butter” is thought to have first appeared in writing in 1915 when President Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, resigned due to Wilson’s strong stance on the sinking of the Lusitania. Bryan used the term to express his dismay at the spending of government funds on a war that did not seem to benefit the American people; but Biden had mixed up the metaphor and in his mind it had more to do with the arms industry and Vermont dairy farming.  One of his cousins came from Connecticut where Colt and Winchester had their factories and another had moved to Brattleboro from Wilmington to begin a successful farming operation.  Guns and butter were part of his family.

Image result for images vermont dairy cows

The Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors asked to be heard.  “You’re quite right to raise the guns and butter issue, Mr. President, but if I may, the issue here is only guns”.

She, like many in the the President’s entourage, had quickly changed their stripes when it came to Ukraine.  Whereas they had all been schooled in the arts of diplomacy and compromise, and were trained to act on social principles which affected the lives of ordinary Americans, not those far from our shores, they were convinced that a line in the sand had to be drawn, and international moral principles had to be applied.

The Machiavellian in the Administration, an admirer of Putin and his geopolitical savvy, was not invited to the security meeting.  They all had heard enough from him about Putin’s unassailable political logic, his expression of spheres of influence, his calculating appraisals of the weaknesses of his adversaries, and his unshakeable will.  

Putin reasons rightly that since Ukraine is not a member of NATO no Western troops will be deployed to counter the Russian army.  Western Europe cannot do without Russian gas and oil; and as witnessed by its demurral over the re-integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation, it has no stomach for a European adventure which it can never win. 

He also knows that the US really could care less about Ukraine – a country run by a corrupt administration, rife with ethnic, linguistic, and political divisions, exporter of little, importer of less, a hopeless cause not worth fighting over.

Image result for images machiavelli

Was Putin ‘right’ in crossing the border into the separatist regions of Ukraine? There is no such thing as right, said the Machiavellian.  Only might and its exertion within a context of risk and reward is relevant.

When Biden had first heard the Machiavellian’s arguments, he was befuddled.  He knitted his brow, squinted his eyes and reached for the cruller that the Secretary of Urban Development had left on the coffee table.  The poor man just didn’t get it.  He was so tangled in gender, racial, and cancel politics where he saw certainty about  moral right and wrong, that he couldn’t think otherwise. 

He mumbled and bumbled his way through American exceptionalism, the wisdom of Martin Luther King, the Spanish Civil War, AIDS, and COVID-19 but could come up with no coherent reply.   “You mean, we just do nothing?”

Of course the President paid no attention to the Machiavellian.  Not only did he not understand Putin or his motives, he had only the vaguest idea of Russian history, Peter the Great, and the Russian Imperial court.  He was dazed and confused and hoped Putin would go away so he could return to the simple domestic issues which he really and truly did understand.

“So, we’re agreed”, the President said to the assembly of advisors, closing his briefing book.  There of course had been no agreement at all, just a consensus of having to do ‘something’ to stop the bully in the Kremlin but not to upset the applecart.

Meanwhile, Putin’s tanks maintained their positions in Eastern Ukraine, the EU came up with middling sanctions which would do no harm to either side, and the US went after Russian banks and ‘wealthy individuals’ both of which had, of course, shifted billions to offshore, untraceable and untouchable accounts.

“What should I do”, the President asked his wife when he finally came to bed that night.

“I don’t know, dear”, she replied.  “You know what’s best for the country”.

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