View 813 Tuesday, March 04, 2014
“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009
If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.
Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983
Christians to Beirut. Alawites to the grave.
Syrian Freedom Fighters
In a few minutes I am off to get another needle full of steroids in the left eardrum. I have been taking huge doses of steroids all week, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to, even to get into a Hall of Fame. The mood swings are strange to the point of frightening, the acid reflux in the night is horrible, the blood sugar swings are truly terrifying, and so far none of this has done a bit for my hearing, Hope springs eternal.
The great fear of the Cold Warriors – at least all of my colleagues and those I associated with – was that the USSR would destroy the world in its death throes. Sun Tzu said you should build golden bridges for your enemies. Machiavelli tells us never to do an enemy a small injury. One must strive to keep the respect of your enemies, and never confuse your real objectives with speculative dreams.
And so, when the USSR dissolved, and Yeltsin essentially ended the rule of Communism and the Party and the Nomenklatura, and tens of thousands of nuclear weapons were dismantled, there was some euphoria. A few of us worried, particularly since Yeltsin’s influence and power began to melt. Putin emerged: a KGB Colonel who restored the established church and made it clear he put Russian national interests ahead of all else: a Tsarist without a Tsar.
And there was opportunity for the United States to play the realist balance of power game in this suddenly created New World with Russia, China, Europe, as players, and the United States as the sole superpower. It was possible to build a world on that.
And then came Clinton and Madeleine Albright, and the Balkan crisis. Of all places where the US had few interests the Balkans ranked quite high: yet because we had this great army we had to do something with it, and liberal ideology prevailed. We intervened in a territorial dispute in Europe, and we did so to the chagrin and humiliation of Russia. It came close to a shooting engagement. And then our air power dropped bridges over the Danube. We wrecked the economy of the lower Danube to no gain of our own, thus infuriating the pan-Slavic Russians and leaving a lasting grudge that will not go away. Instead of looking for common interests with Russia, we chose hostility for its own sake with no national interest of ours at stake, and chose sides in the ancient blood feuds of Christian and Moslem inhabitants of the Balkans. We chose to bomb Christian Slavs, thus making enemies of pro-Slavic Russia.
We sowed the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind; and now we are supposed to ‘rescue’ Crimea from Russia? It was crazy to intervene in the Balkans. It is stark raving madness to contemplate intervention in the Crimea. Perhaps we can send The Light Brigade?
Few analysts seem to understand what Putin wants. Unlike the USSR he’s not after territory and captive nations. He doesn’t need more territory. He does object to being encircled by a cordon sanitaire, and while he is willing to have the Baltic Republics and Poland be part of NATO, Ukraine and Belarus are a different proposition.
What Putin wants and desperately needs is Russians. Ethnic Russians. The USSR had a horrid policy of deporting ethic members of a captive nation like Estonia or Lithuania and replacing them with communists: these tended to be Muscovite Russians. Col. Budrys, father of SF master A J Budrys, was a representative of the US recognized Republic of Lithuania, and Algis did not become an American citizen until after the liberation of Lithuania during the collapse of the USSR. I also had friends in the exile representation of the Republic of Estonia. Both told the same story: after WW II the USSR would deport ethnic Lithuanians and Estonians to Siberia to settle there, and replace them with ethnic Russians who would sometimes assume the names of the people they replaced. The notion was to better integrate the captive Baltic nations into the Soviet Empire. It didn’t work very well, and worse, from the point of view of the new Russian government, many of those ethnic Russians have identified with their new homelands and do not admit to being Russian any longer; and most have converted to the Lutheran Church, so they might not be welcome back in the USSR.
The birth rate among ethnic Russians in Russia is low and falling. Russia is running out of Russians. While this is not an immediate problem, the continued population decline appears to be steady and inevitable, and that is a downward spiral with great consequences, aging population being one obvious result. Without young men you have no army; or so it has been through most of history. Russia needs Russians. Putin believes he represents the soul of Russia. Putin needs Russians.
He has sent Russian passports to ethnic Russians in the Moslem ‘Stans’ in hopes of luring them home; I am told there were some initial successes but not so many now. He has appealed to ethnic Russians all over the world. Come home and be part of the New Russia. A reasonable policy but not sufficient to solve the problem. Israel has and had similar problems, to the point where for a while ethnic Russian dissidents from Russia were accepted as Jews if they said they were Jewish: Israel cannot be The Jewish State if it runs out of Jews; and Russia cannot be the Russian State without sufficient Russians.
Crimea has Russians. I would guess – a guess based on insufficient evidence to have a high confidence, but at least on evidence – that if a plebiscite were held in Crimea on the question of “Russia or Ukraine”, Russia would win by a clear majority; which, in the doctrine of the liberal Democrats in the United States of the self determination of nations, ought to be sufficient in and of itself, and US Marines ought to be landing to assist the Russians in disarming the remnants of the Ukrainian military. Of course that will not happen, but the grounds for US opposition to the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent annexation by Russia must sound a bit strange to the inhabitants of Texas and Mexico. I would guess that economic sanctions on Russia over the future of the Ukraine are needless irritation of a major power with whom we have many common interests in East Asia, and for that matter in the Middle East, and serve no purpose whatever. If there ever were a territorial dispute in Europe that we ought not be involved in, the fate of the Crimea in this matter must be near the top of the list.
East Ukraine is another matter. The difference between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians is not obvious even to Russians and Ukrainians, much less so to me. There is more of the Swedish Russ (Vikings, who founded the Kievan State and ranged south to the Crimea) in the Western Ukraine than in the eastern part of the country, and more Slavic and Tatar ancestry mixed with Russ in Russians, but that is not universal and usually not obvious. In the United States this would not matter much. As Bill Buckley observed decades ago, one can study to become an American and do so no matter what one’s ethnic origins. This is not so with many European nations. I recall in Finland being introduced to a man by being told that “he is a Swede but his family has lived in Finland for two hundred years.” In Russia the same sort of sentiment is strongly felt. And there are lots of Russians in East Ukraine. Russia doesn’t so much want Eastern Ukraine as she wants the Russians who live there and if they cannot be induced to come to Russia, then Russia will come to them.
After World War II the United States abetted some great forced migrations which would now be called ethnic cleansing. In order to settle the borders of Russia, Poland, and Germany, borders were moved and millions of families were deported to their new homelands, Germans westward to the new borders of Germany, Poles out of the eastern Polish lands that went to Russia by right of conquest, and so forth. At the end of World War I the Austrian Empire, which was very much an Empire of diversity, was dismembered even though the Hungarians wanted to remain part of Austria-Hungary and the Hungarian chief of state called himself the Regent for the Hapsburg emperor who was forbidden on pain of US military intervention from returning to Austria Hungary. The nation of Czechoslovakia was created and jammed in Czechs, Slovaks, and Germans into a single republic dominated by Czechs; one of the more popular promises Hitler made was to return the Sudeten Deutschen to Germany. Another was to annex Austria. Eine Reich… This “self determination of nations” policy waxed and waned in popularity between the two World Wars, and was used as the justification for the ethnic cleansings and great migrations after WW II ended. Russia can now invoke it in the Crimea; and one wonders what part it will play in the Eastern Ukraine.
Russia needs Russians, and Putin’s goal is to get enough to assure the survival of his people and preserve Mother Russia.
1430 Back from getting my eardrum stabbed. No apparent improvement in left ear hearing, which remains essentially at zero. Mind races crazy so I try not to say anything without editing. Told to take Zantec with food for hiccoughs and indigestion due to steroids. I take only 5 steroid tablets a day for this week, and get stabbed again next week. We can hope.
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.