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An old dog tries to be the same old dragon-slayer

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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What happens when the United States government participates meaningfully in toppling foreign governments in the name of spreading democracy? That behavior usually results in unintended consequences and often produces disasters.

In Ukraine in 2004, the Bush administration fomented the “Orange Revolution.” This was done by our diplomats and intelligence community, whose agents agitated demonstrators in the streets and liberally distributed American dollars to them.

This resulted in a free election, which resulted in subsequent free elections, until the most recent of those produced a president who — as an ex-communist — was more drawn to Russia than to the United States or Europe.

When the Ukrainian government needed cash and Russia offered it a better deal than the European Union, our imperial diplomats and lawless intelligence gurus were embarrassed. So, the U.S. fomented another revolution in the streets of Kiev. One of our diplomats, Victoria Nuland, acknowledged as much in a tapped and taped (complete with expletives) and eventually viral cellphone conversation.

Then, Viktor Yanukovych, the popularly and lawfully elected Ukrainian president, was toppled and fled to Moscow. The new unelected Ukrainian president has received American recognition and help. Last week, the U.S. offered him $1 billion in immediate cash.

Enter Vladimir Putin, the popularly elected president of Russia who has designs on reconstituting the old Soviet Union. After Yanukovych showed up at Putin's doorstep in Moscow, Putin flexed his muscles by sending 16,000 Russian troops to occupy Crimea, a province of Ukraine, which had been part of Russia and the Soviet Union until 1954.

Putin's invasion is profoundly unlawful. But don't expect the Russians to leave. Most residents of Crimea are Russian speaking and actually welcome their invaders.

The United States and Europe are in no position to resist the Russian invasion, nor should they. Europe receives roughly 30 percent of its oil, natural gas and coal from Russia. If the U.S. tightens the economic screws on Russia, American banks will suffer and the Russian oligarchs and Russian people will suffer. But no group will suffer as much as Europeans who have grown dependent on Russian fuel.

The stated purpose of the Russian invasion is to protect predominantly ethnic Russians in Crimea from the mob-induced fate of Yanukovych. How is anyone in the United States harmed by Putin's lawlessness? Should the United Sates government roam the world seeking monsters to slay? Or should it learn from its recent grave mistakes (in Iraq and Egypt)?

Nearly two centuries ago, President John Quincy Adams warned his successors against the foreign policies that would be manifest in the Bush-Obama years. “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons that they do not understand in the name of spreading democracy.”

But the government is an old dog that cannot learn new tricks.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

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