Short Takes

Short Takes

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As Ukraine Goes….

The White House had a good week while Congress was out of town. The President actually found an international crisis which, to date, seems to be moving towards resolution. The violent confrontation in Kiev set the stage for the successful ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. With him on the lam, Obama now only needs to address his already difficult relationship with Putin; while the Russians scramble to keep the Ukrainians from totaling bolting away from their grasp and into the Western orbit. This nightmare will undoubtedly color all other international negotiations for the foreseeable future, as Putin determines how much to stake on bring Ukraine under Russia’s influence.

For the Obama Administration there is a fascinating problem which no one wants to address in terms of their approach to democracies. Yanukovych while clearly not an honorable or nice person as well as a ruthless leader, was the democratically elected President of the Ukraine. As was the case with Mohammed Morsi in Egypt and Hamas on the West Bank, for example, the U.S. supports democratic leaders whom they like and who wish to keep their country aligned with the West.  Now that Yanukovych has been removed by a popular uprising, U.S. policy can once again revert to a national interest based ideology. In other words, let’s supports the democrats we like.


Military Might

The FY 2015 budget that Obama sent to Congress, which contains the smallest defense budget since before World War II, presents observers with contradictory readings. This approach can be sensible if going smaller, faster, more mobile, and technologically much more sophisticated was truly the intent of the Obama Administration.  The problem is that there remain deep reservations within the Administration concerning the terms, and the nature of drone use in the future. Apparently this applies as well to the entire domain of cyber-warfare. Consequently, one ought to have a genuine concern that we are reducing the military while ineptly attempting to emphasize all types of non-military forms of confrontations; as the U.S. did after World War I with tragic consequences of non-preparation. If that is not sufficient reason for concern, one ought to consider that the international community today hardly resembles what the English scholars Robert Graves and Alan Hodges described in their study of the inter-war years as The Long Week-End.



As one observes the Members of Congress slowly announcing their forthcoming retirements there is a truly sad picture emerging. Yes, some are indeed elderly; some do indeed want to spend more time with their family; and some are indeed unwell, but almost all of them have mentioned the change in the climate on Capitol Hill. Clearly the sourness and toxicity which has grown in Washington has frustrated numerous of these pending retirees from continuing what had been for many of them exceptionally productive careers. Legislating and conducting people’s business was always considered a joy, an honor, and a pleasure. Sadly, despite its grossly exaggerated form, perhaps the picture presented of Washington in the NETFLIX series House of Cards is much truer than anyone would like to believe.

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