Letters to the Editor(2)
Ira Straus's long-winded and largely defensive reply (volume 3, issue 27) to my criticisms of his optimistic view of Russia does not address the core issues. Let me expand my perspective:
- Why is it that if one highlights Russia's imperialist objectives one has a "Cold War outlook?" This was crude leftist propaganda when the Soviet Union existed and has now become politically meaningless. It does indicate that the counter-"milieu" (Straus' dismissive word) is itself prone to zero-sums, us-and-thems and other generalizations.
- "Moral equivalence" is not the main issue I was raising, but the notion that since the demise of Communism, America and Russia share the same objectives. Although Straus prefers to disregard my summarized observations, the goals are not the same even though temporary interests on specific missions (e.g. anti-Taliban) may coincide. He seems oblivious to the various instruments of reimperialization that Moscow is pursuing in parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. These are not "zero-sum" observations - a catchy phrase that seems intended to discredit an argument without addressing its substance.
- Despite the "milieu" of Putin apologists, "managed democracy" is not democracy but a modern version of central control. The "political center" in Russia has nothing to do with ideology but with location (the Kremlin). It is disingenuous and misleading for Straus to claim that I am equating Russia with the Soviet Union. I am simply pinpointing the continuities - not of communism or Sovietism but of Chekism and statism. The idea that the destruction of a rudimentary democracy is necessary during the "transition" is pitiful. Is democracy just over the horizon (much like socialism used to be) and will the management simply "wither away?"
- Russia does have "global regime interests" that do not coincide with those of a democratic and pluralistic world order. In the initial phase, the Kremlin is seeking to restore a Russian dominated post-Soviet space in which totalitarianism is unnecessary and ideology is redundant but where security, foreign policy, energy, and trade are determined by the Center. In future phases, Moscow wants to recreate a "multi-polar" world and place limitations on American hegemony in Eurasia.
- Sadly, Straus seems to be prone to some kind of conspiracy theories against Russia and himself personally by "analysis communities," "milieus" and other assorted enemies of "positive-sum games." Criticizing someone's opinion or their political objectives should not be dismissively interpreted as zero-sum games. Moroever, individual opinions, like my own, do not necessarily reflect group thinking - this is the stuff of dogmatic Leninism.
J. Peter Pham's July 7 commentary "Bringing Saddam Hussein to Justice" (Volume 3, Issue 27) propagandistically states "legal shenanigans" and "political show" on the part of indicted former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The real and unchecked legal shenanigans and political show relate to how Milosevic and other Serb leaders have been indicted by a largely American-funded legal body that has essentially complemented the anti-Serb foreign policy line of Clinton Administration and neo-conservative elites. When compared to Milosevic and other indicted Serb leaders, the late presidents of Croatia and Bosnia (Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic) should have been indicted (when both were still living), along with the still unindicted KLA leaders Hasim Thaci and Agim Ceku, who have been repackaged as acceptable political leaders.
The late judge (Richard May) who oversaw much of the former Yugoslav trials had well known ties to the British Labour Party, which enthusiastically embraced the biased Clinton Administration policies against the Serbs.
Mr. Pham claims that the trials dealing with the former Yugoslavia succeeded in publicizing its advocacy to the West, but, "failed miserably" in doing likewise to the peoples of the Balkans. The described "success" was largely due to an Anglo-American mass media readily accepting the barrage of anti-Serb commentary put out by Serb adversaries via the well-documented employment of politicians, journalists and academics like Stephen Schwartz, Janusz Bugajski, John McCain and Tom Lantos. For their part, the Serbs were "guilty" of not matching that propaganda onslaught.
The Serbs can't be legitimately blamed for seeing the Hague trials as nothing more than a NATO kangaroo court. Recent comparisons of Milosevic to Saddam Hussein add on to the ongoing misinformation. The latter more resembled Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, whereas the former more closely matched Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Like it or not, Milosevic was a democratically elected leader who did tolerate (albeit imperfectly) political opposition. He gave material aid to those who fought a nasty war against others who fought just as nastily, if not more so. In 1992, Milosevic supported the Vance-Owen peace plan unlike Clinton, who instead egged the Izetbegovic regime to fight on (a few years later, Clinton officials would take credit for the Dayton accord that was patterned after the earlier Vance-Owen agreement). From this vantage point, Clinton can be viewed as the greater "war criminal."