Jerry Pournelle is wrong

Jerry Pournelle, a man whose opinions I often respect, wrote the following on Sunday:

A New and Needless Cold War

We are clearly playing with fire. We have overseas adventures, entangling alliances, and total involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. We sided with the Albanians against Russia’s Serbian allies. We are shouting at Russia about the war in Georgia.

Thank God that Georgia is not a member of NATO. Nonetheless we are in a new cold war.

Yet the United States has more common interests with the Soviet Union than we have with most of NATO. We have expanded NATO to ring Russia with bases and allies — to what purpose? This is no policy for a Republic; it’s not even a policy for a competent empire. If we are going to play balance of power games, the new Russian empire is definitely a major part of that game. Working at restarting the Cold War is not in our interest in any way, and there is no outcome to this that is favorable to us.

Has everyone at State and in the Pentagon lost their minds?

No, they haven’t.  But on this subject, Dr. Pournelle, I believe you have.

  1. Russia is a corrupt dictatorship.  Given a choice between a Communist / other totalitarian dictatorship, and a non-totalitarian dictatorship, I’ll take the non-totalitarian one.  But dictatorships are our enemies.  Because dictatorships, especially corrupt ones, give their people lower standards of living, and fewer opportunities to succeed.  I’ve discussed this before: less freedom strongly correlates with more support for terrorism.
  2. Russia is our enemy.  Who is supporting Iran in their attempts to get away with nuclear proliferation?  Russia.  Who is supporting other State sponsors of terrorism in their disputes with the US?  Russia.  Why are they doing it?  “National Pride”?  Desire to show they’re “relevant”?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  They have chosen to put themselves on the side of evil, they have decided to support terrorists.  They are our enemies.
  3. Georgia has supported us in Iraq (to the tune that we transported 2,000 of their troops from Iraq back to Georgia to help them fight against the Russian invaders).  Worthwhile countries are worthwhile allies.  If we wish to be (justifiably) considered a worthwhile country, then it’s time for us to be a worthwhile ally.
  4. It is not in our best interests for Russia to be able to threaten those countries around it.  Economic competitors make us better (consider the quality of US built cars today, compared to the quality of cars built in the US in the 1970s).  Military competitors do not.  The more Russia is able to throw its weight around militarily, the more dangerous the world gets.  To the extent that we can humiliate the Russians, and the Chinese, every time they try to be military bullies, we should.  Because that makes the world a better place for all decent people, including us.

The goal is not to “play balance of power”, the goal is to be number 1, in a world where no one competes with us militarily.

It’s like the choice between MAD, and “Assured Survival”.  Dr. Pournelle once understood that Assured Survival (for us) was better.  Why he thinks having a Russian Empire that can threaten us is a good thing, I don’t know.  Because it’s not.  A Russian “Empire” that cannot expand militarily, that is surrounded by an SDI system that means they can’t threaten to nuke anybody, is the only kind of “Russian Empire” that isn’t a threat to us.

Now, if Putin had spent his years in power stopping the Serbs from using their military might to massacre Bosnians, encouraging Russian minorities in formerly conquered and now freed countries to be good citizens of the countries they were part of, and working the the US to shut down Saddam, and keep the North Koreans, Iranians, Libyans, etc. from getting nuclear weapons, IOW, if Russia had acted like a civilized country that wanted the world to be a better place, rather than acting like murderous thugs, my opinion of them would be different.

But if the Russian government wasn’t a group of murderous thugs, the situation in Georgia wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.

Screw Russia.  Until they stop choosing to be thugs, we should choose to diminish them in any and every way we can.  If that means another Cold War, so be it.  If they want respect, they’re going to have to stop being thugs.  Because if they only way they can be “important” is to be thugs, they are undeserving of respect.

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