Blogs > Liberty and Power > No Ability, No Right, No Responsibility

Sep 27, 2004 12:19 am

No Ability, No Right, No Responsibility

William Marina’s post directly below links to a very good article of his that raises two interesting questions. He discusses the idea that Russian President Putin is using the atrocity that took place in Beslan as a device to install a much more authoritarian government. Marina then quotes Peter Reddaway of George Washington University as observing, “it remained to be seen whether the U.S. would translate rhetoric into tougher action.” I believe that we can discern the root of our so bloody foreign policy tribulations through the above statement. The fact that so many people, especially those in the field of international relations, take it as a given that the United States has the ability, the right, and even the responsibility to keep the Russian system democratic is the source of our failed policies abroad.

We have none of those three things. Short of going to war, we have no real way of preventing a Putin dictatorship. We could impose economic punishments but what would that accomplish? The people hurt would be our own businessmen, their stockholders, their employees, and their customers who wanted Russian goods. What right does this or any administration have to decrease the wealth of countless individuals for a policy doomed to failure. Look how well our sanctions have worked against Castro.

Up until the Communists took power the story of U.S/ Russian relations has always been a very positive one with many instances mutually beneficial trade and diplomacy. This all took place during a time when Russia was ruled by one of the most autocratic people in the history of mankind, the Czar. If our government chooses the course of tougher action against Putin inevitably there will be a hostile reaction from a nuclear power. Have we so quickly forgotten the all consuming stress of mutually assured destruction? Our leadership has no right to risk the very survival of the American people by antagonizing a country with a form of government that has not proven to be a threat in the past. Putin is not bringing back the messianic ideology of communism, he is trying to bring back the Czar.

Russia is a sovereign nation, if they pose no danger to us we have no more right to interfere in their internal affairs than they do to interfere in ours. It is the responsibility of the Russian people to hold on to their own freedom and democracy, not ours. Our responsibility is to hold on to the ever diminishing freedom and democracy that we have here. Both Bush and Putin see horrific tragedy as an opportunity to increase the power of the state. President Bush is just slightly more subtle about it.

I paraphrase Abraham Lincoln when I write that America is the last best hope of mankind. He did not mean that we were to spread over the globe installing our way of life by force. He meant that we were to lead by example, to create the most free, most humane, most prosperous society possible, as a beacon for the rest of the world. We can not do that and also do something tough about Putin’s collection of more power. They are two incompatible goals.

Secondly, Professor Marina presents the notion that the Russians will come to our aid by sending troops to Iraq. To believe that will happen is to believe that Vladimir Putin is as bad a decision maker as George Bush is. Maybe the Russians would get along with the Sunnis who were loyal to Hussein but what about the Shi’a? Putin may have forgotten what took place in Afghanistan during the 1980s but I do not think they have.

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