Nice try, Vladimir Putin, but you have not won me over. You had me halfway up until the last paragraph.
Here’s my response to the President of Russia’s NY Times op ed that was published today:
First, he says this:
“No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.”
Correct, Putin, no one wants the United Nations to collapse. It has its merits, namely the peacekeeping attempts. BUT, here in the United States of America, we do not feel that we need the permission of the world government to take action if we feel that it’s necessary. Now, speaking to President Obama, I would use this confidence very sparingly as not to alienate ourselves from the United Nations for just any old attack.
I’m skeptical about what President Obama says. He says that it’s in our national self-interest to deliver the attack on Syria, but Putin disagrees with Obama. He says,
“The potential strike by the United States against Syria… will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
I tend to lean that direction with Putin, given our past failed engagements trying to lend “humanitarian support” and police the world*. If President Obama wants us to believe that Syria poses a direct threat to the United States, then he better offer up some better evidence.
Putin goes on,
“There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.”
So, we would be helping terrorists? Hm, why would we want to do that? Like Putin says, this is not a fight of freedom vs. tyranny. It’s terrorism vs. tyranny. He also recognizes that the Syrian civil war does pose a threat to the world, stating that the extremists fighting in Syria are gaining battle experience and may move on to fighting elsewhere.
So far, I’m half with Putin. Then he says this, and loses me a bit more…
“We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.”
Um… I’m sorry but the U.N. does not rule over the United States. We do NOT have a world government- that would be terrifying- end of story.
Plus, people, keep in mind that Russia and Syria are allies. It’s in Russia’s interest to protect Syria.
I agree with Mr. Putin that it’s alarming that United States military intervention is considered commonplace. We should not be constantly meddling in others’ business, civil wars and disputes. He’s correct- it is NOT in our long-term interest. But then he says this: as if it’s supposed to matter to us,
“Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.””
I would like to dissect this sentence. “Millions see America as relying on brute force…” Perhaps we have been too “aggressive” or have relied on force, but if that’s true than it should be the principle of liberty that causes us to change our ways- not the fact that the world disapproves. Disapproval is not America’s driving force- principles are.
Also, we implicitly have the slogan “You’re either with us or against us” because IT’S TRUE. Freedom and liberty are not principles to be compromised. A country is either free or not free. It is either pro-liberty or not.
Putin is right about Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq (force has been ineffective).
He goes on,
“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”
Yes, except when you have countries and leaders who couldn’t care less about the U.N. law or being “diplomatic”. Oh, and by the way, Syria never signed the U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention. How can you deal with countries who refuse to be “civilized and diplomatic”?
“If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.”
I hope that this is true, and I hope that it happens.
Now, for the portion of the article that causes me to throw out my respect for Mr. Putin comes at last. The very last paragraph, he says,
“I carefully studied [President Obama’s] address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
I never thought I’d see the day when I would whole-heartedly defend something that Barack Obama said, but I shall do it now.
Mr. Putin, how dare you say that it is “dangerous” to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional? The United States IS exceptional. We are the only country in the world to operate under a constitutional republic which exists solely to protect the rights of the citizens. We are the only country to truly believe that human beings are BORN with rights. We are the most productive country in the world. The United States operates under the only moral set of values, which are individualism, human liberty, natural rights, and freedom of thought and expression. There’s a reason why people want to live here more than any other place in the world.
Mr. Putin operates under a malevolent assumption that no one is better than anyone else, regardless of their moral behaviors. WRONG. Human beings are moral creatures and there is an objective morality that is best for human life. If you do not operate within this set of morality, you are NOT exceptional.
As Americans, we need to understand where our values came from, how our constitution was created and why, why capitalism is the best economic system, and then STAND UP FOR OURSELVES and practice moral confidence. It’s time to face reality- not all countries are equal in moral stature (big or small, rich or poor, these are not determining factors).
Be confident in the moral rightness of the philosophy that our country was founded on, and fight for it.
*Countless examples of our failures in Afghanistan and Iraq where we sacrificed our own moral values in order to secure Iraqi or Afghani approval can be found in Peter Schwartz’s book titled, “The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America”.