By Hank Beckman -
“God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.”
The quote is often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman and first Chancellor of Germany.
It’s likely apocryphal, as there is scant evidence that Bismarck ever actually used those words. Several variations of the God-protecting-the-weak-and-foolish quote by other figures can be found both before and after the quip he supposedly tossed off just before his death.
But there exists a strong element of truth in the sentiment, and we better hope the Almighty still feels that way. We are currently in the most dangerous situation since the Cuban Missile Crisis, being led by a man obviously not in complete possession of his faculties.
In his recent speech in Warsaw rallying the world against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden ended it with an emotional appeal for the removal of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation.
“For God sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he said.
As intemperate, poorly-thought out statements go, calling for regime change—forcing the removal of a popular leader of the nation with arguably the world’s most lethal nuclear arsenal—is about as irresponsible as it gets.
The remark immediately sparked controversy in the chattering class, with many rightly pointing out the rash nature of the statement, while others praised him for being honest and speaking a much-needed truth on the world stage.
Yes, well, everyone has their opinion on the matter and in this country they have the right to ventilate it—at least for now.
But what supporters of the President’s bold remark seem not to understand is that how some politico or cable television talking head interprets the remark is essentially irrelevant. Vladimir Putin’s opinion is the one that matters; for him, the remarks can only be construed as the most serious threat.
That Biden’s open call for regime change is ill considered can best be understood by other examples of modern statesmen making statements that helped lead to military conflict, or near conflict.
In 1950, with the Soviet Union only recently attaining atomic weapons and the Cold War heating up, the leaders of the Soviet client state in North Korea considered the partition of the Korean peninsula intolerable, and pressed Josef Stalin for the OK to invade South Korea to rectify the situation.
Stalin, one of history’s great villains, and generally ruthless, was nonetheless hesitant for one of his allies to embark on such a bold project so soon after the devastation of the Second World War.
But as fate would have it, an American statesman unwittingly provided the information the communists needed to steel their nerves and go ahead with the invasion.
Speaking to the National Press Club in January 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson told his audience that the American defense perimeter excluded South Korea and Formosa (Taiwan).
A few months later, the North Koreans launched their invasion of the South, beginning the war that claimed 37,000 American lives and left more than 100,000 wounded.
Among historians, Acheson’s statement had long been considered a blunder of epic proportions. That judgement was modified somewhat when the release of Soviet files after its implosion provided evidence that Stalin’s permission for the invasion was reluctant.
But permission is permission, even if reluctant. If nothing else, Acheson’s statement added strength to the North Korean’s argument in favor of invasion. If, as some have argued, the speech was largely irrelevant to Stalin’s decision, it should also be noted that it could hardly be interpreted as a reason to withhold permission.
And even if the Korean War hadn’t followed, Acheson’s statement should still be regarded as a strategic mistake. Why openly confirm where your potential soft spots are to such a deadly adversary?
There’s another example in recent memory of a president’s rhetoric inflaming passions of our adversaries, one that might not warm the hearts of some in the conservative community.
In March of 1983, Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech to the National Association of Evangelicals and shocked the Soviets by referring to the USSR as an “evil empire,” and the “focus of evil in the modern world.”
Later, NATO conducted routine, but enhanced military exercises (Google Able Archer 83) and deployed advanced Pershing II missiles in Western Europe.
Coming after Reagan’s openly hostile speech, these actions were the cause of many befouled trousers in the Kremlin and convinced some in the Politburo that we were set to launch an attack.
What Reagan said was true, of course; no war resulted and his words to the Evangelicals, along with his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” remarks made in 1987 in front of the Brandenburg Gate, are considered by most to be among the finest examples of Cold War rhetoric by an American statesman.
And he did negotiate a significant nuclear arms reduction treaty with the Soviets; but no honest person can deny that there was an element of luck involved in the Soviets not making rash policy decisions based, at least in part, on The Great Communicator’s rhetoric.
Joe Biden’s habit of tossing off inappropriate and/or nonsensical statements is long-standing and is usually the source of much amusement, both to his political allies and opponents. He’s well-aware of his penchant for inane comments, admitting once that he was a “gaffe machine.”
But tasteless remarks about having to have a “slight Indian accent” to enter a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts, telling African Americans they “ain’t black” if they don’t vote for him, or calling Barack Obama “clean and articulate,” as if that were a achievement beyond the grasp of most black people, are relatively harmless. (My personal favorite was calling a young female college student a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier.” WTH?)
Verbal miscues when publicly discussing an international crisis that could escalate into a nuclear armageddon are another matter altogether.
Biden’s advisors quickly walked back the statement about regime change, an art they’ve needed to perfect, particularly since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion.
Clarifications were needed for his off-the-cuff statements about sending U.S. troops to Ukraine, responding “in kind” if Putin used chemical weapons, whether sanctions were really meant to deter Putin, and what the U.S. would do in the event of a “limited incursion.”
If we get through this mess in one piece, our leaders in both parties need to realize that with the state of the country and the entire world hanging in the balance, there should be serious consideration of activating the 25th Amendment and removing Biden.
Replacing him with Kamala Harris is obviously not the situation of choice. There is no one in recent memory sitting a heartbeat away from Lincoln’s Chair with less credibility.
She famously avoids tough issues, is apparently uninterested in her staff’s research—explaining her inability to retain staff—and her tortured public speaking makes Dan Quayle sound like Socrates.
But with the recent discontinuing of the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, leaving Xi Jinping’s minions free to spy on Americans, spikes in crime and inflation, and a mere suggestion of a Southern border leading to God only knows what future problems, can we really afford even another year with Joe Biden steering the ship of state?