But, but, but, I thought Hopey Obama and Dopey Kerry saved the world???
14 September 2013
13 September 2013
By Tom Rose
In 1975, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad told Henry Kissinger, “You abandoned Vietnam, you will soon abandon Taiwan, then Korea. We will be here when you abandon Israel.” The next month, Syria invaded Lebanon. Last week, his son, Bashar al-Assad, said almost exactly the same thing to the Russian daily Izvestia: “Failure awaits the US as in all previous wars it has unleashed starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.”
The problem with conducting foreign policy based on abstract principles like “international law” is that leaders have such a hard time making distinctions between individual cases. The one unbreakable law of geopolitics is that there is always a direct and proportionate relationship between power, prestige, and credibility. Credibility means following through with threats against enemies and keeping promises to friends. The all too common consequence of friends no longer trusting promises and enemies no longer fearing threats is war.
History shows what often happens when the world’s smartest and best educated people allow their ideological passions to so thoroughly cloud their view of reality that they end up wrecking the world they believe they were put here to perfect.
This is the story of the interwar years which began at the end of World War I in November 1918 with one of the greatest geopolitical mistakes of the 20th Century. The German high command asked for an armistice before the German Army had been beaten and before a single Allied soldier had set foot on German soil. This enabled the German High Command to blame its own defeat on their civilian successors they were forced to do the actual surrendering. Too many Germans thus believed they lost the war not because their army was beaten at the front, but because it was “stabbed in the back” by politicians of the hated new Weimar Republic.
Britain and France spent most of the interwar years at cross purposes. France lost British support by its insistence that German demands always be denied, while Britain undermined France by its insistence that German demands always be appeased.
The war’s only real winner was America and its idealistic, inflexibly arrogant, and self-righteously confident President Woodrow Wilson, who used his power not to help Europe reconstruct a semblance of the pre-war realpolitik framework that had more or less kept the peace for almost a century. Instead, Wilson used the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to brow beat his allies and the world into accepting his new and untested concept of geopolitical management he promised would prevent future wars. “Collective security”, he vowed, would guarantee world peace by creating a "moral consensus" of all peaceful nations. Since all nations had an equal interest in peace, Wilson argued, all nations would have an equal interest in punishing any nation that broke the peace.
The world’s first experiment in “collective security” was such a colossal failure, it should have confined the concept to the ash heap of bad ideas right then and there. That experiment was the League of Nations. Throughout the 1920's, whenever the democracies reached an impasse among themselves or with aggressors, they preferred appealing to the League rather than confronting their own geopolitical realities.
Long before Hitler ever came to power, German politicians were able to weaken the allies much the same way Arab leaders have been able to weaken Israel. From nearly the moment the ink on the Versailles Treaty was dry, the Allies sought to “build confidence” by encouraging Germany to seek changes to or waivers from many of the treaty’s most onerous provisions.
By volunteering to so often proclaim that the Versailles Treaty was unjust and immoral, the allies forfeited nearly all grounds to defend it. Ironically, Versailles ended up accelerating the very geopolitical outcome it was written to prevent. In being too harsh to permit real reconciliation and too weak to prevent Germany from recovering her pre-war strength, the treaty made Germany stronger and France weaker. Before the war, Germany faced three strong neighbors. After the war, she did not face any. France was spent, Russia was pushed 500 miles east and nearly consumed itself in civil war, while the Austro-Hungarian empire vanished entirely.
The first real challenge to "collective security" came with the “Mukden Incident” of 1931, when Japan “annexed” three Chinese provinces. After the League did nothing, Japan invaded Manchuria. All the league could muster was perfunctory condemnation; this proved too much for Japan, which left the League in protest.
These events were closely followed in Europe, where Mussolini was looking to dominate Africa much the way Iran seeks to dominate the Middle East today. Mussolini cleverly used French and German fears that he would ally himself with Hitler to win a freer hand in Africa, which he used In October 1935 to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
Demonstrating the preposterousness of the League’s fatal false promise of “collective security," the borders and sovereignty of Abyssinia, a tribal monarchy still dependent upon slavery, enjoyed the same League ”security guarantee” as every other nation, which of course in reality meant a guarantee of no security. Not only were no nations prepared to fight Italian aggression with force, none were even willing to impose meaningful sanctions. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin prevented the only sanction that might have worked--an oil embargo. When put to the test, Baldwin’s phrase “All Sanctions Short of War” was exposed as feckless bluster.
When his vaunted Italian army unexpectedly found itself besieged in early December 1935, Mussolini ordered a massive chemical weapons attack that ended the siege and saved his army (not to mention himself) by gassing at least 50,000 people. It was history’s single most lethal use of chemical weapons. While dissension prevented the League from condemning the chemical weapons attack, that dissension had vanished just a month later, when the League reversed the meaningless non-binding sanctions it imposed before chemical weapons were even used.
By early 1936, Mussolini felt free enough to authorize his commanders to use chemical weapons at their own discretion, which they did almost daily until the war ended in May 1936. After a daring escape, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie arrived in New York to deliver the most devastating critique ever issued against the League. “It is us today”, he said, “but tomorrow it will be you.”
While the West’s abysmal response to Italy’s Abyssinian war certainly encouraged Europe’s aggressive powers to engage in predatory behavior, the successful battlefield use of chemical weapons in Abyssinia did nothing to unleash the poison gas "genie"--if such a genie ever existed. In fact, after Abyssinia, chemical weapons were never again used on any battlefield or conflict until the Iran-Iraq War of the early 1980's. Neither Hitler nor Stalin, Mao, or the North Vietnamese or even North Koreans ever used them in war. Nor, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, until August 2013, were chemical used in the three decades since Saddam’s defeat.
One man upon whom Mussolini’s battlefield success with chemical weapons did leave a lasting impression was none other than Winston Churchill. In response to Germany’s “doodlebug” raids that killed 3,000 English civilians in June 1944, the British leader warned his military chiefs, “I may have to ask you to support me in using poison gas to drench cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would require constant medical attention.”
“It is absurd” he thundered, “to consider morality on this topic.” Of course, that request from Churchill to drop poison gas on German cities never came.
Hitler saw Ethiopia as his chance to throw off the Versailles Treaty’s last restraints upon his army. Germany’s industrial Rhineland was demilitarized after the war to protect France and the Low Countries from another German invasion. Early on Sunday morning, March 7, 1936 Hitler ordered his army to march into the Rhineland with secret instructions to turn tail if confronted by French forces. France did nothing. Four years later France would be conquered by armies launched from the Rhineland.
The West "punished" Hitler’s illegal re-militarization of the Rhineland by granting him greater prestige and respect than ever before. France’s Socialist Prime Minister Leon Blum waved off the fatal blow to his country by saying, “We can’t achieve anything if we treat ideological barriers as insurmountable.” Britain’s War Minister, Lord Halifax, went to Berlin where he personally praised Hitler as “a bulwark against Bolshevism.”
Germany began massive military support to the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War almost the moment it begin in 1936. France talked about the need to help the Republicans fight back, but Britain pressured France to drop the idea since that would mean partnering with the Soviet Union. Spain’s Nationalists were to Germany what the Syria regime is to Iran now, and its opponents are to the West. Just as Iran and Lebanon send “volunteers” to fight for Assad, the Germans created and dispatched the “volunteer” Condor Legion together with the Luftwaffe to fight for Franco. Just as France and Britain offered only half-hearted support to the Republicans, the West dithers in its support or assistance to Assad’s opponents.
By the time Hitler’s forces marched into Austria in March 1938, the Allies had already used up all the censorious adjectives in previous resolutions condemning Hitler. After Austria, other than war, the only policy left for the allies was abject appeasement, which Britain embraced with particular enthusiasm.
Hitler’s next "peaceful" conquest would be his last. Czechoslovakia was by far the most advanced and prosperous of the new states born after World War I. It had a large, highly trained, and well armed military with huge domestic industrial capacity, not to mention natural defensive fortifications that made Czechoslovakia all but impossible to invade. But like Israel today, Czechoslovakia failed one key test for “collective security” purists: it was not "perfect."
About a third of Czechoslovakia’s 15 million people were neither Czechs nor Slovak. Three million ethnic Germans lived in the Sudeten region bordering Germany. That these German speakers were far richer, not to mention freer, than their brethren across the border did not matter to the purists. What mattered was that they violated the gospel of "self-determination."
Western elites of the age all agreed that World War I was caused in large part by the "multiculturalism" of Europe’s pre-war monarchies. Today, their descendants believe no less fervently that "multiculturalism" is the antidote to war-- except of course for Israel, which is stigmatized for including among its enfranchised citizenry 1.5 million Arabs.
In the 95 years since it was first evoked, there has not been single case where “collective security” has defeated or even stopped the aggression of a major power. The Korean War and both Iraq wars were fought primarily by the United States, which lead alliances after itself deciding upon military action.
“Collective security” never worked in the past for the same reason it will never will work in the future; it presumes countries are moved to act by abstractions rather than national interest. As the Syria fiasco shows, countries are not equally committed to stopping each act of aggression, nor is every country ready to assume the same risks in confronting aggression.
Yet failure seems to have done nothing to lessen the left’s commitment to the theoretical principles of "collective security." By more on process than on substance, "collective security" has turned aggression into the muddle of abstract legal theory. In the words of Henry Kissinger, “No foreign policy has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.”
In a key scene in "Breaking Bad," the best TV show ever made, conscience-stricken ex-drug dealer Jesse Pinkman finds himself detained by two DEA agents who try to convince him to turn on his former partner, the infamous meth dealer Heisenberg, aka Walter White. Aware that Heisenberg/White is a ruthless, calculating sort out to win, Pinkman warns the two DEA men that Heisenberg/White is smarter than they: after all, they are just "two guys," Heisenberg/White "is the devil." In any plan the two agents make to bring down "the devil," well, Jesse warns, "The reverse opposite will happen!"
That wonderful scene came to mind on hearing that John "Botox" Kerry had flown to Geneva to meet Putin's Foreign Minister, Sergei "No Laugh" Lavrov. I know Lavrov--one day I will write how, it's funny--and Kerry is no match for him. Kerry, a supercilious dope, who wanted the SecState job as confirmation of his status as a celebrity deep thinker, will find Lavrov a humorless, extremely intelligent, worldly, intensely patriotic Russian nationalist with a deep envy of and resentment for the United States and the West. He holds the classic Russian view that the world, lead by the insufferably arrogant Americans, conspires against Russia to deny it the respect and status it deserves. Lavrov, a professional who speaks several languages, and works non-stop, sees his life's mission as restoring Russia's rightful place in the upper echelons of the world's hierarchy. And Kerry? As a callow youth he engaged in treason against the United States. Over time, he became a classic airhead liberal blow-hard, who used his "charms" to marry into money. He found in the Democratic party and Massachusetts an electorate that votes for rich airheads, and doesn't care if they have a treasonous past. Kerry has no discernible view on the world, and certainly has none of the drive to see his country come out ahead that we see in Lavrov. Foreign Minister Lavrov has laser-like concentration, does not speak carelessly--measuring his statements very carefully--and, therefore, is the "reverse opposite" of the goofy, gaffe-prone, lazy, unfocused, and shallow Kerry.
To confirm that things must not be going well for John "Xmas in Cambodia" Kerry, we see a press account which reports that Kerry has had to emphasize that the negotiations over Syria are "no game." It is, indeed, a sad day when the US Secretary of State has to plead to be taken seriously. But, my friends, what else could this disaster of a SecState expect? What about the Obama/Clinton/Kerry "policy" re Syria should be taken seriously? Not much--except that Obama and his two hapless Secretaries of States haven't a clue about how the world works, how to project American power and defend American interests. Putin certainly has realized that.
All this negotiation, and back-and-forth should have happened months ago, maybe two years ago when the Syrian crisis was beginning to boil and the consequences of Obama's "Arab Spring" were becoming painfully obvious. Instead, of course, the "reverse opposite" has happened. Obama, after months of dithering, presents his muddled end game, a plan for an "unbelievably" small military action of limited scope and duration that has no intention of hurting seriously the Assad regime, a regime Obama labeled as posing a threat to core American interests. Makes no sense. None of it.
So now we have Obama and Kerry chasing after the Russians, who are masters at playing games, to help Obama and Kerry get out of the box they have built. Make no doubt, Lavrov will seek to humble Kerry in ways big and small, much as his boss is humbling Obama in ways big and small. We have, for example, Putin "writing"(I bet Lavrov is the author) an op-ed in the New York Times lecturing the United States on the need to show humility and to stop being so warlike. It appears that Vladimir Putin, as I stated in a Tweet earlier in the day, seeks to take the position once held by Walter Duranty at the NYT : that special slot reserved for overt members of the NKVD/KGB.
We dither as Russia, a country several orders of magnitude weaker than the United States, reestablishes its influence in the region; boldly announces it is helping Iran re-arm and strengthen its nuclear program; and kicks sand in the face of 98-pound weakling Obama on the Snowden affair. Obama, meanwhile, gives vacuous speeches and seeks desperately to have the Syria disaster go away. He doesn't even want Congress to vote on giving him the power to strike militarily--a power which he previously claimed he had by right of being President. The CIA, meanwhile, arms the "moderates" (oh, please) in the Syrian resistance in another half-baked program which gets us the opprobrium for intervening in somebody else's civil war, without any benefits for America, or even an end-plan.
Obama built it. We all are paying for it--and the final bill has not yet arrived.
Time: 'Why Vladimir Putin Thinks We’re Out to Get Him: The Regime Putin Fears We'll Change Isn't Assads. It's his own.'
This is what a former COLONEL IN THE KGB looks like.
OK, time for a Friday Funny!
By Michael Crowley
Why is Vladimir Putin so hostile towards the United States? His Thursday New York Times op-ed struck a superficially friendly tone, but it had the overall effect of undermining Barack Obama and chastising America’s sense of itself. But that was no shock, coming from the man who enraged Washington by granting asylum to Edward Snowden and who recently barred American adoptions of Russian children, among other affronts.
So is Putin just a jerk? Maybe, although there are numerous reasons that might explain his antagonism: the lingering Cold War mentality of a former KGB agent; insecurity about Russia’s post-Soviet global status; his sometimes comical machismo.
There’s likely another, potentially more important factor driving Putin’s animus, however. He thinks we’re out to get him. And in a sense, he’s right.
To understand why, start with the Russian president’s belief that America has a general habit of meddling in the affairs of other countries and trying to change their governments. Iraq is just the most obvious example, but Putin sees many others. He was furious that a United Nations military mission in Libya sold by Washington as a limited humanitarian mission became an extended bombing campaign to topple Moammar Gaddafi. Putin fumed that Russia’s then-president, Dmitry Medvedev, had supported the resolution: “It allows anyone to do anything they want—to take any actions against a sovereign state,” Putin said in March 2011.
Putin has also argued that America’s confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program is the pretext for a grander plan. ”Under the guise of trying to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction,” Putin said early last year, “they are attempting something else entirely and setting different goals—regime change.”
Sound familiar? Putin sees much the same in Syria, which is why he has adamantly refused to support a U.N. authorization of force against Assad. It’s not a totally unreasonable suspicion. Barack Obama has called for Bashar Assad to leave power, prominent members of Congress like John McCain are urging regime change, and although the White House denies it officially, there have been hints that any U.S. military strikes could indirectly serve that purpose.
Less widely understood than Putin’s concerns about Iraq, Syria and Libya is his anger over U.S. actions closer to his borders. Putin believes America helped defeat a Moscow-backed candidate in Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, partly by sending millions of dollars to pro-democracy activists there. He hated George W. Bush’s courting of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where a U.S.-backed president was defying Moscow’s longtime influence. (After a 2008 military clash between Russia and Georgia, McCain declared that “today, we are all Georgians.”) And he surely remembers well the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in the 1990s—which Russia also bitterly opposed—that led to the ouster of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
“If you look at events over the past 20 years from the Kremlin’s perspective, you see a consistent pattern of U.S. and western behavior amounting to a policy of regime change across Eurasia,” says Matthew Rojanksy, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Putin asks, if Washington can use force to topple regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya, and can sponsor regime change by other means in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine, why wouldn’t Belarus or Kazakhstan or even Russia itself be next? Putin has to draw his own red line, and Syria is a good place to start doing so.”
“It’s not the whole story,” says Rojansky. “But it’s a big part.”
Most galling for Putin is evidence that America’s regime change agenda has crept into his own country. When mass anti-Putin demonstrations erupted in Moscow in late 2011, Putin quickly accused the U.S. of encouraging the protests. He lashed out specifically at Hillary Clinton for encouraging pro-democracy activists. “She set the tone, gave the signal,” Putin said in December 2011, charging that the U.S. was spending tens of millions of dollars “to influence our internal political process.”
Soon after, Russian state media accused the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, of being a subversive revolutionary agent. Pro-Putin commentators noted that McFaul is a longtime democracy advocate who has written of “Russia’s Unfinished Revolution,” and argued in a 2007 article that “even while working closely with Putin on matters of mutual interest, Western leaders must recommit to the objective of creating the conditions for a democratic leader to emerge in the long term.”
And then there was Putin’s gleeful nemesis McCain, who responded to the protests by taunting Putin via Twitter: “Dear Vlad, the #ArabSpring has arrived at a neighborhood near you,” the Arizona Republican Senator tweeted in February 2012, linking to a Times article about a mass demonstration.
Last year Putin responded by kicking the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) out of Russia; a foreign ministry spokesman charged that USAID had been trying to “influence the political process, including elections at various levels and civil society.” That move was part of a wider crackdown on “foreign agents” with alleged political agendas for Russia.
Putin is undoubtedly posturing some—playing the old autocrat’s trick of blaming foreigners for internal problems. But he also clearly feels that Obama has, at a minimum, tried to undermine him within Russia. His Times op-ed may have been a small way of returning the favor.
Every American ally is cringing with embarrassment at the amateurishness of the last month.
By Mark Steyn
For generations, eminent New York Times wordsmiths have swooned over foreign strongmen, from Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer-winning paeans to the Stalinist utopia to Thomas L. Friedman’s more recent effusions to the “enlightened” Chinese Politburo. So it was inevitable that the cash-strapped Times would eventually figure it might as well eliminate the middle man and hire the enlightened strongman direct. Hence Vladimir Putin’s impressive debut on the op-ed page this week.
It pains me to have to say that the versatile Vlad makes a much better columnist than I’d be a KGB torturer. His “plea for caution” was an exquisitely masterful parody of liberal bromides far better than most of the Times’ in-house writers can produce these days. He talked up the U.N. and international law, was alarmed by U.S. military intervention, and worried that America was no longer seen as “a model of democracy” but instead as erratic cowboys “cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” He warned against chest-thumping about “American exceptionalism,” pointing out that, just like America’s grade-school classrooms, in the international community everyone is exceptional in his own way.
All this the average Times reader would find entirely unexceptional. Indeed, it’s the sort of thing a young Senator Obama would have been writing himself a mere five years ago. Putin even appropriated the 2008 Obama’s core platitude: “We must work together to keep this hope alive.” In the biographical tag at the end, the Times editors informed us: “Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.” But by this stage, one would not have been surprised to see: “Vladimir V. Putin is the author of the new memoir The Audacity of Vlad, which he will be launching at a campaign breakfast in Ames, Iowa, this weekend.”
As Iowahawk ingeniously summed it up, Putin is “now just basically doing donuts in Obama’s front yard.” It’s not just that he can stitch him up at the G-8, G-20, Gee-don’t-tell-me-you’re-coming-back-for-more, and turn the leader of the free world into the planet’s designated decline-and-fall-guy, but he can slough off crappy third-rate telepromptered mush better than you community-organizer schmucks, too. Let’s take it as read that Putin didn’t write this himself any more than Obama wrote that bilge he was drowning in on Tuesday night, when he took to the airwaves to argue in favor of the fierce urgency of doing something about gassed Syrian moppets but not just yet. Both guys are using writers, but Putin’s are way better than Obama’s — and English isn’t even their first language. With this op-ed Tsar Vlad is telling Obama: The world knows you haven’t a clue how to play the Great Game or even what it is, but the only parochial solipsistic dweeby game you do know how to play I can kick your butt all over town on, too.
This is what happens when you elect someone because he looks cool standing next to Jay-Z. Putin is cool mainly in the sense that Yakutsk in February is. In American pop-culture terms, he is a faintly ridiculous figure, with his penchant for homoerotic shirtlessness, his nipples entering the room like an advance security team; the celebrities he attracts are like some rerun channel way up the end of the dial: Goldie Hawn was in the crowd when Putin, for no apparent reason, sang “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” which Goldie seemed to enjoy. In reality, Putin finds his thrill by grabbing Obama’s blueberries and squeezing hard. Cold beats cool.
Charles Crawford, Britain’s former ambassador in Serbia and Poland, called last Monday “the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began.” Obama set it in motion at a press conference last year by drawing his famous “red line.” Unlike, say, the undignified scrums around the Canadian and Australian prime ministers, Obama doesn’t interact enough with the press for it to become normal or real. So at this rare press conference he was, as usual, playing a leader who’s giving a press conference. The “red line” line sounds like the sort of thing a guy playing a president in a movie would say — maybe Harrison Ford in Air Force One or Michael Douglas in The American President. It never occurred to him that out there in the world beyond the Republic of Cool he’d set an actual red line and some dime-store dictator would cross it with impunity. So, for most of the last month, the bipartisan foreign-policy establishment has assured us that, regardless of whether it will accomplish anything, we now have to fire missiles at a sovereign nation because “America’s credibility is at stake.”
This is diplomacy for post-moderns: The more you tell the world that you have to bomb Syria to preserve your credibility, the less credible any bombing raid on Syria is going to be — especially when your leaders are reduced to negotiating the precise degree of military ineffectiveness necessary to maintain that credibility. In London this week, John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, capped his own impressive four-decade accumulation of magnificently tin-eared sound bites by assuring his audience that the military devastation the superpower would wreak on Assad would be “unbelievably small.” Actually, the problem is that it will be all too believably small. The late Milton Berle, when challenged on his rumored spectacular endowment, was wont to respond that he would only take out just enough to win. In London, Kerry took out just enough to lose.
In the Obama era, to modify Teddy Roosevelt, America chatters unceasingly and carries an unbelievably small stick. In this, the wily Putin saw an opening, and offered a “plan” so absurd that even Obama’s court eunuchs in the media had difficulty swallowing it. A month ago, Assad was a reviled war criminal and Putin his arms dealer. Now, Putin is the honest broker and Obama’s partner for peace, and the war criminal is at the negotiating table with his chances of survival better than they’ve looked in a year. On the same day the U.S. announced it would supply the Syrian rebels with light arms and advanced medical kits, Russia announced it would give Assad’s buddies in Iran the S-300 ground-to-air weapons system and another nuclear reactor.
Putin has pulled off something incredible: He’s gotten Washington to anoint him as the international community’s official peacemaker, even as he assists Iran in going nuclear and keeping their blood-soaked Syrian client in his presidential palace. Already, under the “peace process,” Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower.
As for Putin’s American-exceptionalism crack, he was attacking less the concept than Obama’s opportunist invocation of it as justification for military action in Syria. Nevertheless, Democrats and Republicans alike took the bait. Eager to mend bridges with the base after his amnesty bill, Mario Rubio insisted at National Review Online that America was still, like, totally exceptional.
Sorry, this doesn’t pass muster even as leaden, staffer-written codswallop. It’s not the time — not when you’re a global joke, not when every American ally is cringing with embarrassment at the amateurishness of the last month. Nobody, friend or foe, wants to hear about American exceptionalism when the issue is American ineffectualism. On CBS, Bashar Assad called the U.S. government “a social-media administration.” He’s got a better writer than Obama, too. America is in danger of being the first great power to be laughed off the world stage. When the president’s an irrelevant narcissist and his secretary of state’s a vainglorious buffoon, Marco Rubio shouldn’t be telling the world don’t worry, the other party’s a joke, too.