Ukraine's Neo-con Champions Champion Mainly Themselves

tags: Russia, Ukraine, Leon Wieseltier

Jim Sleeper is a Lecturer in Political Science at Yale University.

Leon Wieseltier's self-published remarks opening a conference of intellectuals that he and the historian Timothy Snyder have assembled in Kiev (the text is in The New Republic, where Wieseltier is literary editor) almost beg for Karl Marx's observation:

"Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

Here is Wieseltier, presenting himself farcically as just such a world-historic personage:

"Last March, as I watched the progress of Putin's imperialism beyond his borders and fascism within his borders, I ruefully remarked to Frank Foer" -- New Republic editor and author of How Soccer Explains the World -- "that the moment reminded me of what I used to call my Congress for Cultural Freedom-envy -- my somewhat facile but nonetheless sincere regret at having been born too late to participate in the struggle of Western intellectuals, some of whom became my teachers and my heroes, against the Stalinist assault on democracy in Europe. And all of a sudden, pondering the Russian aggression in Crimea, and the Russian campaign of destabilization in Ukraine, I realized that I had exaggerated my belatedness. I was not born too late at all."

"Our time is not lacking for fundamental historical challenges and the obligation to choose sides. Passivity -- even sympathetic passivity -- in the face of a war on freedom is as inadequate now as it was then. So I exclaimed to my friend, 'But this is 1950!' As our predecessors went to Berlin, so we would go to Kiev. We contacted our comrade Timothy Snyder, whose eloquence about Ukraine has been fully the equal of his scholarship, and I proposed this event. Tim kindled instantly to the idea, and, with his extraordinary colleagues in Vienna and Kiev, we made a plan. And here we are."

Not only that, "Here in Kiev, you are not only clarifying yourselves, you are clarifying us." Excuse me, but this sounds a little like: "But enough about me. Let's talk about what you think about me." What a strange way to open a conference -- not with realism, or brave resistance, but with a politics of self-affirmation through moral posturing.

After gifting himself to Ukrainians, Wieseltier announces that "We bring not meals ready to eat but words ready to be heard and ideas ready to be pondered." He then invites his grateful listeners to ponder the peculiar nature of his own dismay "that the United States and its European allies are not inclined now toward a geopolitical struggle that would in any way resemble the Cold War, which many Westerners regard as a dark and cautionary tale. I am not one of those Westerners: Unlike many American liberals, among whom I otherwise count myself, I regard the Cold War as a mottled tale of glory, because it ended in the defeat and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, which was indeed (for American liberals this is a heretical prooftext) what Ronald Reagan said it was -- an evil empire." 

Read entire article at Huffington Post

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