Friday, March 14, 2014

Fools and Blowhards

My answer to Charles Krauthammer's op ed of 13 March:

Krauthammer starts from the false premise that Putin has an expansionist agenda. That in itself precludes any intelligent resolution to the Ukrainian crisis. The point is that Putin simply used Crimea as a negotiating chip to make the EU / US stop the support for the Kiev coup d'etat by thoroughly unsavoury characters. Putin hoped to restore the uneasy (but workable) status quo ante by allowing noises in Crimea about separation. The West would not play, thinking perhaps at the start that Putin was bluffing. He was not bluffing and the result of the Sunday's referendum in Simferopol is a foregone conclusion. Crimea will go back to Russia on short order and that's that.. Nothing president Obama can do about it with or without Charles Krauthammer's unsolicited help. The second stage of Putin's plan is open at this point but will not be much different from the first scenario. The West will either abandon doing mischief in Russia's backyard and agree on a mutually acceptable compromise, or Russia will annex the eastern regions of Ukraine. Again, my reading of the Kremlin strategy that this is going to be done swiftly, before anything in a way of an military opposition can be cobbled up to thwart it or make it long and ugly. Russia will swallow the economic consequences which will be harsh but not catastrophic, given that it has now alternative oil and gas markets in the East. Once the carveout is complete, Putin will sit on his hands and let the new bubble burst in Kiev, much like he did with Yuschenko between 2004-2010. Lesson for the fools and blowhards ? Well, Charles will tell you there will be none.

Left - Right Chasm Destroying US Democracy

Americans appear to live in a bubble. As I noted in my first blog here, some things US politicians do are so far in the left field that one would normally inquire about theirr sanity. Carter's mission to save the hostages in Tehran, Reagan's "joke" about outlawing the evil empire, Madeleine Albright's radio appeal in ridiculously accented SerboCroat to the people of Serbia to topple Milosevic, Dick Cheney travelling to Baku to convince Aliev to stop selling oil to Putin,  these are all exhibits, not of simply bad judgment but an astounding lack of  grasp of how the world operates.  There seems to be a large blind spot in the Americans' view of the world (and their own place in it), which sometimes translates into what the British socialist historian E.P. Thompson described as "dangerous craziness".  I am mentioning the political affiliation of the eminent academic to make a point : my best guess is that most Americans would instantly dismiss such a view of themselves as coming from an ideological adversary and/or an avowed America-hater. It is the property of their cultural blind spot that any negative view of America - or aspects of it - can be explained  by envy or a hostile animus to democracy.  There is no valid external view of the US if it is critical.  Write an op-ed piece to NY Times criticizing American "exceptionalism" and you are a KGB thug even though you cried at the funeral of Soviet dissident because you recognized him as a great Russian patriot.

    Problem is, Solzhenitsyn, who defined the archetypical Russian patriot's attitude to communism, distrusted America about as much as Putin does.  Why ?  It is simple.  If you are an American University graduate you would be revolted at a Saudi cleric's green light to marrying off a nine-year old. But you can't understand why the rest of the world is revolted by American politicos with average personal wealth in millions going berserk over a piece of legislation which guarantees that when a person is sick the first concern of a health-care industry would not be the prospect of making money off him or her.  You can't understand the revulsion because you are an American Idiot, who does not grasp the external view of himself.  You can't grasp why caring for the sick and helpless cannot be just another business, the same way a religion-obssessed paedophile can't grasp that a nine year-old is not a piece of ass. 

    There is yet another problem that compounds the issue.  If what passes for the liberal point of view these days had a corrective effect, perhaps there would be hope for America. But it doesn't. All it does is provide an irreconcilable alternative political fantasy. In the US foreign policy this projects as the absurd "humanitarian" wars, in which a part of country can be cleansed ethnically from people falsely accused of practicing ethnic cleansing, or a dictator in a country with a quarter of its population displaced by internal strife, accused of violating laws of war, at a moment he appears to be winning. 

   Domestically, of course, this supplies the run-away political platform which does its part in shredding the political fabric of the country.  For example, it was absolutely unnecessary and politically destructive for an American president to weigh in on one side of issues like gay marriage, the so-called Zero-ground Mosque in New York City,  or even inserting himself into an open judicial process in the trial of a killer of a black teenager. 

  I have attached Robert Reich's "Treason" pamphlet above as an example of the complementing demagoguery.  Note the hyperbolic narrative designed to set off political rage: "a small group of extremely wealthy people [seeking] to systematically destroy the US government",  "finding and bankrolling new candidates",  "intimidating or bribing many...senators and block all [sic] proposed legislation",  "taking over state governments",  "running a vast PR convince...of certain big lies", "buying up the media, so the public cannot know the truth".  It is not just the conservatives but also the majority of liberals who should be turned off by this inane rhetoric. How is this different from Vyshinski's denunciations during Stalin's Moscow show trials of 1930's ?  The GOP are painted as mad dogs, wreckers, enemies of the people.

   I call Reich's conspiratorial scenario inane because it promises no effect other than fostering a climate of distrust and loathing. It is not that it is completely false view of the political Right in the US, it is just that is articulated in a manner to that it ceases to be a  a political viewpoint within a civilized political dialogue. Instead it becomes an ad-hominem harangue whose sole purpose is to declare a dissenting political platform repugnant and destructive.        

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The End of the Politics of Mindless ?

        It seems pretty clear by now that no one of any political weight in Washington or  Ottawa reads my blog. Which I would say is sad given that I offer an essential point of view that describes me, as the Soviet dissidents under Brezhnev used to say, inakomyslayuschiy.  Curiously, the Mainstream Media in the West, is now the official POV of the nachalniki (ie. the big cheeses), and no-one pays any attention to those "thinking differently" except for the Department of Homeland Security analyzing the NSA intercepts of their smart phones. 

        Of course, in the eyes of the average Joe and Jane, as in the Eastern Europe of my youth,  the mainstream media are professional liars, starting with their describing themselves as "mainstream".  The only difference is that the average anglo today does not have access to intelligent, consistent political viewpoint to shed light on the two official versions of the same political drool. If, for example, I do not believe in equating homosexual partnerships with traditional institution marriage, it instantly disqualifies me in one camp as a pervert who would deny gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered folks their civil rights. In the other version naturally I would be a closet fairy who would give them every civil right except the rights of parenthood if they are not parents.  Strange as it may seem, on a certain level these two political stances are equivalent - in being vacuous.  Like in the former USSR, the different personal creeds and obsessions, do not obstruct the party line (though sometimes they were at variance with it).  Dick Cheney may be a supporter of gay marriage, but his view of the Maidan putsch in Kiev coincides with that of Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and president Obama. It was not a putsch: it was a revolution of Ukrainian people in revolt of Putin's henchmen who would deny them the pearly gate of EU.  All of them deplore the thugs in Crimea who deny the OSCE observers (the verb derived from the Czech word obsírati - to 'pooh around') access. None of them would so much as peep for an investigation into the identity of the Maidan snipers who apparently were picking their targets equally among the rioters and the riot police !  Imagine the scandal if they were to be linked to the legitimate government of Ukraine which put out an international arrest warrant on the former president Yanukovich for mass murder.

       Henry Kissinger may have difficulty reading some aspects of the current conflict, but I don't.  The happenings in the Ukraine were prefigured by the Western posture in Libya and Syria, and had I been asked, I would have predicted that Putin would react forcefully if confronted by the meddling and bungling US-led shit-disturbers in his back yard.    Kissinger's reading of course is right on many points, and his viewpoint stands in stark contrast to the bluster and bleating heard everywhere west of Dnieper. He understands the importance of Ukraine to Russia and that it far exceeds any political gambits that Putin may have had in mind.  Above all,  good old Henry understands that this issue far surpasses whoever might be sitting in the Kremlin. Had some strongman (like the late general Lebed') been in power, Russian tanks would have been in Kiev before the Sochi Olympics' closing ceremonies.  The former player of the China-card (which somehow ended in Putin's hand too)  is also sharply critical of the EU's handling of Ukraine, anabashedly accusing its 'bureaucratic dilatoriness' with turning negotiations into a crisis. All good !  Kissinger, in my view,  however does not quite grasp the Crimea power play by Putin.  It is a carefully chosen piece of strategy, which I believe is calculated to extract a price for the West's repeated unprovoked harrassment of Russia and to dissuade Washington and Brussels from trying the heavy-handed tactics again. It is also a revanche for the ugly assault of the West on Russia's traditional Balkan's ally, Serbia, and the forceful separation from its cultural cradle, Kosovo. It happened under Yeltsin who was the friendliest Russian leader to the West since Catherine. The unilateral proclamation of Kosovo independence in 2008, on Putin's watch, left the Russians slighted and humiliated but also resolved.  It might have happened to the Serbian holy land around Kosovo Polje; it will not happen to Russia's holy land of Kievan Rus. There are powerful motivators for Putin to make the West eat the humble pie. 
       The US policy makers would do well to take the another look. Hillary's sophomoric parallels won't do.  Is it possible that she is so out of touch she does not know the type of argument she deploys has been a staple of ridicule known as the Godwin's Law ? Incidentally, also someone apparently forgot to tell Madam Secretary that the United Kingdom still holds Munich to be a valid agreement, based on the unalienable right of a people to self-determination. In the unapologetic view of Whitehall, it was Hitler who abrogated the treaty when he took over Bohemia and Moravia in 1939. 

   Putin is an exceptionally shrewd politician who knows how far he can go. I don't think it was his plan to annex Crimea outright, but to hold it as a bargaining chip to make the US and EU more amenable to his point of view.  When he was snubbed, he opted for plan B.  The referendum may still be an open-ended play. If Russia gets what it wants : most importantly the implementation of the accord signed by Yanukovich with the West (Putin has already indicated he does not expect him to return),  recall of the new "governors" in the East, repeal of the despicable language edict, and the absurd "lustration" laws which in effect bar Russian speakers from political office, the plebiscite may be postponed and the region will eventually settle for quasi-independent status with no political satraps from Kiev and Ukrainian military on the peninsula.  But Russians will not de-escalate since from their point of view it was not they who escalated the situation in the first place.  I think secretary Kerry has some leg-work to do.  Let's hope someone at the State Department can decipher the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Preferably someone who knows the correct Russian word if you want to be friendly with them.