Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The New Social Divide Within the Pink Police State. By James Poulos.

The New Social Divide Within the Pink Police State. By James Poulos. The Federalist, July 23, 2014.

Welcome to the Pink Police State: Regime Change in America. By James Poulos. The Federalist, July 17, 2014.

Putin’s Deadly Doctrine. By Timothy Garton Ash.

Putin’s Deadly Doctrine. By Timothy Garton Ash. New York Times, July 18, 2014.

Garton Ash:

“Protecting” Russians in Ukraine Has Fatal Consequences.

OXFORD, England — SOMETIMES, just sometimes, you should pay attention to annoying things said by tiresome people at worthy conferences.
In 1994, I was half asleep at a round table in St. Petersburg, Russia, when a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face — apparently a sidekick of the city’s mayor — suddenly piped up. Russia, he said, had voluntarily given up “huge territories” to the former republics of the Soviet Union, including areas “which historically have always belonged to Russia.” He was thinking “not only about Crimea and northern Kazakhstan, but also for example about the Kaliningrad area.” Russia could not simply abandon to their fate those “25 million Russians” who now lived abroad. The world had to respect the interests of the Russian state “and of the Russian people as a great nation.”

The name of this irritating little man was — you guessed it — Vladimir V. Putin, and I know exactly what he said back in 1994 because the organizers, the Körber Foundation of Hamburg, Germany, published a full transcript. For the phrase that I have translated as “the Russian people,” the German transcript uses the word “volk.” Mr. Putin seemed to have, and still has, an expansive, völkisch definition of “Russians” — or what he now refers to as the “russkiy mir” (literally “Russian world”). The transcript also records that I teased out the consequences of the then-obscure deputy mayor’s vision by saying, “If we defined British nationality to include all English-speaking people, we would have a state slightly larger than China.”

Little did we imagine that, 20 years later, the St. Petersburg deputy mayor, now uncrowned czar of all the Russians, would have seized Crimea by force, covertly stirred up violent mayhem in eastern Ukraine and be explicitly advancing his 19th-century völkisch vision as the policy of a 21st-century state. Today’s Kremlin has its own perverted version of the Western-developed and United Nations-sanctified humanitarian doctrine of the “responsibility to protect.” Russia, Mr. Putin insists, has a responsibility to protect all Russians abroad, and he gets to decide who is a Russian.

We should, of course, avoid what the philosopher Henri Bergson called the illusions of retrospective determinism. History seldom moves in straight lines. After Mr. Putin’s rise to supreme power in the Russian state, starting when he became prime minister in 1999, he experimented with other models of relations with the West and the rest of the world. For some years, he tried modernization in cooperation with the West. He embraced membership in the Group of 8 — one of several inducements that the United States and Europe offered to help Russia down its inevitably difficult post-imperial path. President George W. Bush got Mr. Putin wrong when he “looked the man in the eye” in 2001, but it would be bad history to conclude that the Putin of 2001 was already secretly planning to take back Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine.

Although historians should explore those paths not taken, it is nonetheless fascinating to see how the essentials of Mr. Putin’s resentment-fueled protector state doctrine were already there in 1994 — even if they were not then buttressed by ideological quotations from Russian thinkers like Ivan Ilyin.

Once upon a time, there was the Brezhnev Doctrine, which justified as “fraternal help” such actions as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Mikhail S. Gorbachev replaced it with the Sinatra Doctrine — You do it your way, as Gennadi I. Gerasimov, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, put it — toward Eastern Europe. Now we have the Putin Doctrine.

It is impossible to overstate the degree to which this is a threat not just to Russia’s Eastern European and Eurasian neighbors but to the whole post-1945 international order. Across the world, countries see men and women living in other countries whom they regard as in some sense “their people.” What if, as has happened in the past, Chinese minorities in Southeast Asian countries were to be the targets of discrimination and popular anger, and China (where, on a visit this spring, I heard admiration expressed for Mr. Putin’s actions) decided to take up the mother country’s burden, exercising its völkisch responsibility to protect?

TO make clear why such actions are totally unacceptable, and a grave threat to world peace, we also have to agree on the legitimate rights and responsibilities of a mother country. My British passport still carries the resonant old formula that Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State “requests and requires” foreign powers to let me pass “without let or hindrance,” and if I got into a spot of local difficulty in, say, Transnistria, I would hope (though not necessarily trust) that he would very earnestly require it. More relevant, Poland has expressed concern for the position of Polish speakers in Lithuania. Hungary has handed out both passports and voting rights in national elections to citizens of neighboring countries whom it deems to be members of the Hungarian people. To pin down what is illegitimate, we have to explain more clearly what is legitimate.

As of Friday, American and Ukrainian officials were saying it was likely that a Russian-made antiaircraft missile had brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in yet another harvest of sorrow on Ukrainian fields already blood-soaked by history. It was not clear who fired it. But it is hypocrisy on an Orwellian scale for Mr. Putin to maintain, as he did on Friday, that “the government over whose territory this happened bears the responsibility for this terrible tragedy.” There is undoubtedly bitter discontent among many self-identified Russians in eastern Ukraine, but the violence of their protests has been stirred by a massively mendacious narrative on Russian television, and their paramilitaries have been supported, to put it no more strongly, by Mr. Putin’s Russia — including the presence of members or former members of Russian special forces.

It seems plausible already to suggest that a regular army (whether Ukrainian or Russian) would usually have identified the radar image of a civilian airliner flying at 33,000 feet, while a group made up solely of local militants (even ones with military experience) would not ordinarily have had the technology and skill to launch such an attack without outside help. It is precisely the ambiguous mixtures created by Mr. Putin’s völkisch version of the “responsibility to protect” that produce such disastrous possibilities. He subverts and calls into question the authority of the government of a sovereign territory, and then blames it for the result.

So if an obscure deputy mayor starts sounding off in alarming terms at some conference you are attending, my advice is, Wake up. Of course, most such ranters do not rise to the top. But when they do, their ideologies of resentment may be written out in blood.

At Last! A Hashtag for Middle East Peace. By Rush Limbaugh.

At Last! A Hashtag for Middle East Peace. By Rush Limbaugh., July 23, 2014.

Hamas Nazi Compares Netanyahu to Hitler. By Rush Limbaugh., July 23, 2014. 

Rush [Hamas Nazi]: 

RUSH: Here is Osama Hamdan. He is the Hamas spokesman, and was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s the Situation Room yesterday, and Wolf Blitzer asked the Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, “Are you deliberately targeting Ben-Gurion International Airport?”

HAMDAN: What the Palestinians are supposed to do? To give their, uhhh, names for this Israelis to slaughter them or to trying to defend themselves? We were expecting that international community will protect the Palestinians from the Israelis, would protect the Palestinians from the mentality of Netanyahu, who lost his morals and his army also – and, ehh, he’s reflecting a new image for Hitler and the Nazist (sic) army. They are acting in the same way, killing the Palestinians just because they are Palestinians, like what Hitler was doing in the last century.

RUSH: Alright, now, folks, this has gone beyond absurd now. Here we have the modern-day Nazis. The Palestinians, Hamas, you name it, are the modern day Nazis where the Jews are concerned. They are the current incarnation of Adolf Hitler. It is their total hatred for Jews and their anti-Semitism that defines their existence. That’s the root of the problem! It won't even be stated as such.

You know, whenever there’s anti-Semitism in America, boy, people can’t wait to point it out! They’d love to tar and feather as many anti-Semites as they could. But here you have a whole region full of ’em, and nobody will utter the word that describes the ideology of the Islamic Jihad, which is anti-Semitism. Militant, vicious, bloodthirsty anti-Semitism. This is now beyond absurd!

Here you have the modern day incarnation of the Nazis accusing the Jewish state of being a “Nazist army,” is what he said.  He meant to say Nazi, or Nazi-ist. (You have to allow for the speaking of a foreign language.) But this is just absurd. Of course incumbent in this sound bite (impression), “The Israelis are slaughtering! The Israelis are attacking! The Israelis have lost their morals! The Israelis are reflecting a new image of Nazist!”

And there’s Wolf Blitzer just standing there listening to this? Nodding his head? I didn’t see it, so I don’t know what his reaction was. But that’s how ridiculous this is. Ladies and gentlemen, ancient Islamic Jihad liters such as the old Grand Mufti himself met with the Nazis in World War II. They knew they held something major in common.

Yet they automatically are granted victim status!

It’s just absurd.

It’s beyond absurd.  It’s incomprehensibly stupid! It ought not be given any recognition. It ought not be given any cognizance. It ought not given time of day, this assertion. But that’s the Hamas spokesman. So we get a hashtag (sniveling): "#JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies, please! #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. “Man, I really, I’m a good person. Do you see my hashtag? I care. I wish they would all just get along.” 


Putin May Have Killed Russia’s Brand. By Leonid Bershidsky.

Putin May Have Killed Russia’s Brand. By Leonid Bershidsky. Bloomberg, July 21, 2014.

No Russian. By Max Skibinsky. The Vault of the Future, July 20, 2014.


Is the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 the end of Russia as a brand? That’s what one of the most successful Russian professionals in the tech industry, Max Skibinsky, thinks. He has a point: Whoever is really responsible for the tragedy, it’s the perception that matters.

A Moscow-trained physicist, Skibinsky is a serial entrepreneur associated with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz LLC. Although he has spent the last two decades in the U.S., people in Silicon Valley still see him as a Russian – an identity he worries may turn into a stigma. As he put it in a lengthy blog post:
Personally, I’m thinking to start calling myself Euro-Slavic instead of “Russian.” It’s a flimsy defense, yet Russian brand, after already being tainted with gulag and the rest of its toxic legacy, is now synonymous with mass murder of innocent civilians. There is nothing of value left to recover.
Skibinsky wouldn’t be the first Russian tech guru to give up on his native country. Sergei Brin, the Google Inc. co-founder, famously called Russia “Nigeria with snow” in a 2003 interview with Red Herring magazine, adding that Russia’s rulers were “a bunch of criminal cowboys” trying to control the world's energy supply.

Skibinsky’s remarks, though, have deeper implications. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to shift blame for MH17 are not going to fly in the court of Western public opinion. U.S. President Barack Obama was simply reflecting public perception when, in a speech today, he asserted that Putin has “extraordinary” and “direct” influence on the separatists in eastern Ukraine. In the public mind, Russia is already at fault for the tragic death of 298 innocent people.

“This situation will get worse before it gets better,” wrote Skibinsky. The Kremlin “will fight to the last: we will yet see the massive flood of lies and deceit they will unleash to mitigate the anger of their recent mass murder. Very unfortunately everything they do will be branded with the words Russia or Russian.”

To Russians plugged into Western banking or technology, two industries in which they have a large presence, this means dealing with disapproval by extension. There will be nothing rational about it, just an emotional undertone, forcing them to explain without being asked that they do not support Putin and have nothing to do with his treatment of Ukraine. In Russia itself – where, according to a recent Gallup poll, 83 percent of people are in favor of Putin – only a minority gets the uncomfortable urge to dissociate themselves from leader and country. To those of us living in the West, it’s going to be a fact of daily life.

Skibinsky wrote that Silicon Valley should expect a lot of Russian resumes soon. He wants tech firms to consider these applicants seriously: “They are not just looking for a job, they looking to save themselves and their families.” He also called on the tech industry to help Ukraine by sending work to its outsourcing shops and by boycotting firms associated with the Russian government and state-owned companies (some of them, such as venture capital firm Russian Venture Co. OJSC and VTB Bank OJSC, have been looking to invest in Silicon Valley startups lately).

The industry is quite likely to follow Skibinsky’s advice, even without reading his post. Russia is getting more than unfashionable. It's on its way to taking on the Soviet Union’s onetime status as an object of fear and hatred.

The World Is Returning to Normal. By Michael Ledeen.

The World Is Returning to Normal. By Michael Ledeen. PJ Media, July 21, 2014.


Of all the popular myths about “how the world works,” the most dangerous to us at this moment is the one that goes “peace is normal, war is an aberration.”  Truth is, war is normal and peace very unusual.  We’ve lived through a happy time, ever since the Second World War.  Thanks to American superpower, and the destruction of the totalitarian regimes in Rome, Berlin and Moscow, we’ve had a happy period of relative peace.  Very few big wars.  Little genocides (China is exceptional, but they changed to accommodate the global pattern).  Deterrence (as in “mutual assured destruction”) mostly worked.

That was a rare time.  Now we’re getting back to normal.  There’s a good reason for that old Roman wisdom “if you want peace, prepare for war.”  It’s because “peace” most always happens when somebody wins a war, and then imposes conditions on the losers.  That’s what “peace conferences” are all about.  Our recent happy time was the result of war, and our adoption of the Roman wisdom.  We smashed our enemies, we created military alliances to deter our new enemies (NATO, etcetera), we built and maintained a big arsenal on land, air and sea.

We prepared for war to make peace possible.

It worked so well and lasted so long that we forgot why we were doing it. Over time, the “peace is normal” myth took hold and its attendant policies — “future wars will be economic, not military” and “guns to butter” — came to define our strategic thinking.

Moreover, Americans have always been conflicted over foreign policy.  We have always wanted two incompatible things at once:  we want to export the American model, and we want to stay out of other countries’ affairs.  We have invariably waited until the eleventh hour before fighting.  In the last century, we were torpedoed into the First World War by the Germans, bombed into the Second World War by the Japanese, and frightened into the Cold War by Stalin.

Then came 9/11 and we were reminded that there are (always) enemies out there.  In time, we forgot that, too, and now, having deceived ourselves into believing that peace is normal, we are trying to talk our way out of the global war.  It won’t work.  It never has.

So we’re back to normal.  War, and the runup to more war, is the order of the day, as it has been for most of human history.  Our real options are the same as they have always been:  win or lose.  Both lead to “peace,” but the one is a happy peace while the other is an extended humiliation.

If we accept that war, and the preparation for war, is the basic leitmotif of human history, we might also overcome the parallel myth:  that all men are basically the same, and all men want the same (good) things.  Not so.  Just ask Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, and their friends, proxies, and agents.  They want bad things for us, namely death and domination.  And they’re not likely to change, which is why it’s very dangerous to give Khamenei more money, and try to make Putin more “reasonable.”  They’re going to continue the war.

“Man is more inclined to do evil than to do good,” Machiavelli wrote, and he knew whereof he spoke.  Which is why war is normal, and peace so rare.  And why we’d better get used to it.

That happy time is done and gone, at least for now.  We’d better stop whining and get about the business of winning.