Thursday, December 19, 2013

From Ukraine to South Africa: The End of History (Again)? By Leon Hadar.

From Ukraine to South Africa: The End of History (Again)? By Leon Hadar. The American Conservative, December 19, 2013.

In Kiev, High Stakes for Democracy. By Chrystia Freeland. New York Times, December 6, 2013.


Despite the promises of liberal internationalist elites, religious fundamentalism, ethnic identity, and the old notion of nationalism have proved more resilient than unrelenting global democratic progress, not only in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, but even in the advanced industrialized nations of the European Union.
Meanwhile, as the latest Pew Research opinion polls suggested, a majority of Americans have no interest in making the world safe for democracy and would prefer the United States to “mind its own business.” The American people are largely indifferent to the Freedom Agenda, and what they want, to paraphrase what Stalin once said about socialism, is liberal democracy in one country, the United States.
But after the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and in the throes of continuing political unrest in Ukraine, liberal internationalism seems to be coming back to life. It’s as though we’re back where it all started, at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, followed by the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa, with the sense that in spite of many setbacks, universal liberal democracy is once again on the march.
“The true surprise—and one that should inspire democrats around the world—is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society” to what Chrystia Freeland described in the New York Times recently as the “thuggish leadership” of Ukraine and “Moscow’s ferocious intervention” in that country’s affairs. A “new, well-educated, well travelled, comprehensively wired generation has matured” in Ukraine, and these “young Ukrainians know the difference between democratic capitalism and state capitalism and they know which one they want,” Freeland concluded.
But didn’t we hear the same sort of arguments during the so-called Orange Revolution in 2004? Those who are depicted today as proponents of state capitalism were bashed then as “remnants of the communist elite” or “former communist party bosses” and today’s friendly yuppies, as Freeland portrays them, were hailed as democratic activists. But then the current “thuggish” president Viktor Yanukovych came to power through open and democratic elections.
The American media tend to downplay the ethnic and regional strains underlying the political tensions at the core of the color revolutions, not to mention the Arab spring. Recall that President George W. Bush was not even aware of the historical conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq when he set out to establish democracy there, and that it took some time for the press and official Washington to understand that what was happening in Iraq has less to do with the struggle for democracy and more with sectarian fighting.
Hence while there is no doubt that the current political tensions in Ukraine give expression to cultural frictions between young urbane professionals and aging conservative politicians, bureaucrats, and their business cronies, it’s also a reflection of historical antagonism and the conflicting sense of national identity among Ukrainian speakers in the Western and Central parts of the country and Russian speakers in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.
So it was not surprising that during recent elections voters in the Western and Central Ukrainian provinces voted mostly for political parties (Our Ukraine, Batkivshchyna) and presidential candidates (Viktor Yuschenko, Yulia Tymoshenko) with pro-Western platforms, while voters in the Southern and Eastern areas voted for parties (CPU, Party of Regions) and presidential candidates (Viktor Yanukovych) more oriented toward Russia. And both sides look toward outside powers (the U.S. and EU on one side; Russia on the other side) to support for policies that are rooted to some extent in historical-cultural experiences.
One could probably empathize with those Ukrainian nationalists who prefer to be linked to the EU rather than Russia (and Belorussia), and have access to the EU’s economic and cultural milieu while rejecting subservience to Russia which for many years repressed and exploited Ukraine.
In the same way, one could also identify with black South Africans who fought to liberate themselves from minority rule by the Afrikaners who had deprived them of political and economic freedoms.
The fight against apartheid has been viewed in the liberal internationalist narrative as an extension of the saga of the civil rights in the United States. In fact the struggle against apartheid took place in the confines of the West, and was aimed at the rulers of white controlled South Africa who had resisted pressure to reform a racist political structure.
The apartheid system collapsed because at the end of the day, F.W. de Klerk, like the last communist rulers in Eastern Europe (or for that matter Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic) and their people, wanted to remain part of the West and succumbed to the pressure to change.
The same kind of pressure operates today on the leaders of Ukraine and Israel. But the Enlightenment Project as it evolved between 1789 and 1989 in the West is mostly irrelevant to the aspirations of the political elites and people in the Rest. Whether the new post-Mandela South Africa remains in the West or joins the Rest remains an open question.


When Soviet communism collapsed, the West’s declarations of triumph were so full of hubris that it was easy to forget what was right about them. The Ukrainians protesting in downtown Kiev are a reminder that there was actually a lot to glow about.
But the struggle that seemed to be over in 1989 is still going on, and today’s battleground is the square that protesters have renamed the Euromaidan, or Euro-place. The people there are again insisting on the choice of a regime, a type of government, that they and their Soviet compatriots first tried to make in 1991. They know they want what we have and what we are. As our own self-assurance fades, we need to see what they are showing us.
When the Berlin Wall fell, Francis Fukuyama wasn’t the only one who believed history had ended. It was tempting then to imagine that the authoritarian form of government and centrally planned economic system that Moscow had championed and inspired in a lot of the world would inevitably give way to capitalist democracy and the greater freedom and prosperity it delivered.
But the new century brought disappointment. The spread of freedom had seemed inexorable in the 1990s: As Eastern Europe was rejoining the rest of the Continent, apartheid was being dismantled in South Africa, and India and China were becoming full participants in the world economy.
But in Iraq, Afghanistan and then even in the countries that made a bid for freedom with the Arab Spring, the progress of the Western idea began to seem a lot less inevitable. Russia and the former Central Asian republics developed a new, post-communist form of authoritarianism; China never dropped the original, communist version, though it finally figured out, at least for now, how to combine it with robust economic growth.
Meanwhile, back at home, free-market capitalism is feeling tired. Europe is economically sclerotic, politically fragile and flirting with xenophobia. The United States is still struggling to recover from the 2007-9 recession. The neo-authoritarians in Beijing and Moscow are, by contrast, increasingly confident.
In the developing world, particularly Africa, China presents state capitalism as a more effective alternative to paralysis-prone democracy. Russia, too, is reasserting itself, and in ways designed to create maximum Western discomfort, ranging from an 11th-hour chemical weapons deal in Syria to offering Edward Snowden safe haven.
State capitalism’s latest power play is in Ukraine, whose thuggish leadership backed out of signing a trade and association agreement with Europe at the last minute. It did so under fierce economic and political pressure from the Kremlin. Brussels did not expect Moscow’s ferocious intervention. It should have. Ukraine has always been Russia’s first and essential foreign conquest.
The true surprise — and one that should inspire democrats around the world — is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society to this about-face. For more than a week, Ukrainians have been protesting in the Euromaidan, and in front of government buildings throughout the capital and across the country. They have done so in miserable winter weather and in the face of police brutality.
What is important about the demonstrators is their certainty that democracy matters, and that it can be made to work. That’s remarkable, because this is 2013, not 1991, or even 2004, when the Ukrainian Orange Revolution prevailed, and then sputtered.
Democracy and independence are no longer shiny imports. Ukrainians have enjoyed some version of both for more than two decades; nine years ago, starting with protests in the same square, they succeeded in getting the democracy and the independence-minded president they wanted.
None of that worked out very well. The democrats who came to power after the Orange Revolution were such a disappointment that Viktor Yanukovich, who tried and failed to seize the presidency in 2004, was democratically elected in 2010 and is at the center of the current fight. If anyone has a right to be cynical about the power of an engaged civil society to make a real difference, it is Ukrainians. But they aren’t.
The people have taken to the streets in support of political values, rather than nationalist ones, or short-term economic interests. More than 20 years after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Ukrainian economy remains closely connected to Russia’s, and Vladimir Putin has made it clear that Ukrainians will pay higher prices for energy and face stiffer barriers to Russian markets if they choose Europe.
For the protesters, these economic sanctions are direct and personal. I spoke to one Ukrainian executive whose company exports more than half of its products to Russia. (For fear of economic reprisals, he asked that his name not be used.) Since Ukraine strongly signaled a few months ago that it would sign the European deal, exports are down 10 percent. If the agreement goes through, he thinks his sales will fall by 40 percent. But he has spent several evenings in the square, joined by many professional colleagues. His company’s bottom line notwithstanding, he wants Ukraine to make what the protesters call “the European choice.”
That’s because, in some ways, history really did end in 1989. Authoritarian societies, even ones that are able to generate strong economic growth, deny their citizens the freedom and the dignity that Western market democracies provide. Over the past two decades, Ukrainians have suffered from inept, corrupt and occasionally brutal government. But under that ugly skin, a new, well-educated, well-traveled, comprehensively wired generation has matured. These young Ukrainians know the difference between democratic capitalism and state capitalism and they know which one they want.
One community on the Euromaidan is computer game developers. Ukraine has a lot of them. One of the most successful is Andrew Prokhorov, head of 4A Games. He used his Facebook page to urge fellow gamers to join him in the square. His activism caught the attention of Polygon, an American gaming website.
“People want to move toward European values, especially the younger generation,” Mr. Prokhorov told Polygon. “The government aims for the quickest way to fill up their wallets. There is no place for our corruptionists in Europe. I come out to say, ‘Yes to Europe.’??”
From Washington to Warsaw, democratic capitalism is demoralized. Our political institutions aren’t up to the challenges of the 21st century, and the economy isn’t delivering for the middle class in the way it did during the postwar era, when the original version of the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, the Cold War, was at its peak.
That conflict has become a cool war, and those of us on the democratic side of the barricades aren’t so sure we have all the answers — or that it is a struggle we are all that interested in engaging. Russia has no such qualms. China, where Ukraine’s president traveled this week, knows which side it is on, too.
But as in 1989 the most important fault line in the world today runs through a cold, crowded, euphoric public square in Eastern Europe. The Ukrainians there are fighting for themselves, but their battle should also help us to remember where we stand and why it matters.

A More Machiavellian World Than Ever. By Gianni Riotta.

A More Machiavellian World than Ever. By Gianni Riotta. Real Clear World, December 19, 2013. Also at Worldcrunch.

Codevilla: Republican Leaders Care More About Loss of Power Than Loss of Liberty.

Codevilla: Republican leaders care more about loss of power than loss of liberty. Angelo Codevilla interviewed by Ginni Thomas. Audio. The Daily Caller.

“Duck Dynasty” vs. “Pajama Boy”: Two Americas? By Matt K. Lewis.

“Duck Dynasty” vs. “Pajama Boy”: Two Americas? By Matt K. Lewis. The Daily Caller, December 18, 2013.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson Says Being Gay Is Illogical: A Vagina Is More Desirable Than a Man’s Anus. By Zach Johnson. E! Online, December 18, 2013.

What the Duck? Phil Robertson interviewed by Drew Magary. GQ, January 2014.

The obligatory “Pajama Boy” post. By Allahpundit. Hot Air, December 18, 2013.

“Pajama Boy” on Obamacare: Will Millennials hear a grownup in a onesie? By Peter Grier. The Christian Science Monitor, December 18, 2013.

Big trouble for the Duck Dynasty folks. By Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham. Video. The O’Reilly Factor. Fox News, December 19, 2013.

Paglia: Duck Dynasty uproar “utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist.” By Caroline May. The Daily Caller, December 19, 2013. Audio.

Disraeli and the Eastern Question. By Robert Kaplan.

Disraeli and the Eastern Question. By Robert Kaplan. Real Clear World, December 19, 2013. Also here.

The Real Problem With the ASA’s Boycott of Israel. By Peter Beinart.

The Real Problem With the American Studies Association’s Boycott of Israel. By Peter Beinart. The Daily Beast, December 17, 2013.


Why did the ASA ignore far worse abuses in Burma and Congo? For the same reason lefties rally endlessly against the economic policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund but not against the economic policies of North Korea. And for the same reason that in the 1970s and 1980s, academics across the globe boycotted apartheid South Africa while saying barely a word about post-colonial African tyrants like Sekou Toure, Macias Nguema and Paul Biya. Because for the global left, imperialism is the great sin of the modern world. And only Western governments and institutions—the United States, South Africa, the World Bank, IMF and now, Israel—can commit it. For institutions like the ASA, Israel’s real crime is not being a country where Jews rule non-Jews. It’s being a country where, in their view at least, whites rule non-whites. That’s empirically dubious and morally myopic. But not all political action fueled by moral myopia is wrong.
. . . .

The best argument against the ASA’s boycott isn’t about double standards or academic freedom. It’s about the outcome the boycott seeks to produce. The Association’s boycott resolution doesn’t denounce “the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.” It denounces “the Israeli occupation of Palestine” and “the systematic discrimination against Palestinians,” while making no distinction whatsoever between Israeli control of the West Bank, where Palestinians lack citizenship, the right to vote and the right to due process, and Israel proper, where Palestinians, although discriminated against, enjoy all three. That’s in keeping with the “boycotts, divestments, and sanctions” movement more generally. BDS proponents note that the movement takes no position on whether there should be one state or two between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. But it clearly opposes the existence of a Jewish state within any borders. The BDS movement’s call for “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” denies Israel’s right to set its own immigration policy. So does the movement’s call for “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”, which presumably denies Israel’s right to maintain the preferential immigration policy that makes it a refuge for Jews. Indeed, because the BDS movement’s statement of principles makes no reference to Jewish rights and Jewish connection to the land, it’s entirely possible to read it as giving Palestinians’ rights to national symbols and a preferential immigration policy while denying the same to Jews.
This is the fundamental problem: Not that the ASA is practicing double standards and not even that it’s boycotting academics, but that it’s denying the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one. I don’t think that position is inherently anti-Semitic, but I do think it’s profoundly misguided. Britain is not illegitimate because it has a cross on its flag and an Anglican head of a state. Germany is not illegitimate because its immigration policy favors members of a dominant ethnic group. Jews deserve a state that takes a special interest in their self-protection, just like Palestinians do. And disregarding both peoples’ deep desire for such a state is not a recipe for harmonious bi-nationalism (if such a thing even exists); it’s a recipe for civil war. That’s not just my view. It’s the view of the most popular Palestinian leader alive, Marwan Barghouti, who said earlier this year that, “If the two-state solution fails, the substitute will not be a binational one-state solution, but a persistent conflict that extends based on an existential crisis.”

Some Lessons in Effective Scapegoating. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, December 16, 2013.

On Academic Freedom and the BDS Movement. By Omar Barghouti. The Nation, December 14, 2013.

Boycott a sting to Israeli apartheid. By Yousef Munayyer. CNN, December 19, 2013.

The ASA’s Boycott of Israel Is Not as Troubling as It Seems. By David Greenberg. The New Republic, December 19, 2013.

How the ASA Became the RASA (Racist American Studies Association). By Divest This. The Algemeiner. December 19, 2013.

The Academic Boycott of Israel Is a Travesty. By Leon Wieseltier. The New Republic, December 17, 2013. Also here.


For all the politicization of the ASA, it is indifferent to the politics of what it piously deplores. The occupation of the Palestinian territories is a political problem that requires a political solution. In the attempt to attain such a solution, the Palestinians are not inert victims or bystanders to their fate. They are historical actors; and their refusal to accept any of the plans for Palestinian statehood that have been proposed to them—the imperfection of the solution disturbs them more than the imperfection of the problem—is one of the reasons—one of the reasons—that they find themselves in a condition of such weakness. The Israeli settlement of the West Bank indeed must end; but even if it ends, Israel is a state by right with a perfectly understandable anxiety about its security. “We do not support the boycott of Israel,” Mahmoud Abbas, in South Africa for Mandela’s funeral, declared. He supports only a “boycott [of] the products of the settlements.” “We have relations with Israel,” he added, “we have mutual recognition of Israel.” But who is Abu Mazen to speak for the Palestinians, compared with an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego?

Comment by delta5297:

True, there are many countries that commit far worse human rights abuses than Israel, but only Israel is considered to be a First World democracy, and it must be held to a higher standard.
Also, the author criticizes the ASA for being “anti-Zionist.” But was Zionism ever a good thing? Zionism, as I understand it, was the idea that the Jews should create a state for themselves in their “historic homeland.” However the Zionists either did not care about the consequences, or they considered the fact that their ancestors lived there over two thousand years ago to give them greater rights to the land than the people who were already living there in the present. If this is what Zionism is, then it is a morally bankrupt ideology and we are right to be anti-Zionists. This does not mean that Israel’s existence should be abolished, after all the Israelis have been there for several decades now, but it does mean that the historical record should be re-evaluated and Zionism deemed immoral, just as the ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans was eventually deemed wrong in the United States. Moreover, when Zionist sentiment is invoked by the religious-nationalist settlers as justification for claiming the West Bank in whole or in part, this argument/sentiment must be soundly rejected.
Lastly, it may be true that Palestinian leaders unwisely rejected peace deals in the past, but this does not give Israel the right to unilaterally alter the status quo with its settlement expansions. It was once said that Israel lacked a credible partner for peace on the Palestinian side, but today Mahmoud Abbas could justifiably point to Benjamin Netanyahu and say the same thing.

The radical anti-Zionist Left. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, November 10, 2013.

A still, small leftwing voice against BDS. By Gerald M. Steinberg. The Times of Israel, November 10, 2013.

The Third Narrative. Two states, peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Ameinu.

NGO Monitor.

Divest This!