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Posted by BBC News, November 9, 2016

“As I have repeatedly said, it is not our fault that Russian – American relations are in that poor condition.”

If you’re a BackChannels regular or an enthusiast in political psychology, you know that the “malignant narcissist” — autocrat, bully, or dictator — is never wrong.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”

Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Lest any forget, there’s plenty of reading at hand (these days: Amazon One-Click shopping may be the next best thing) for guarding against forgetting.

Posted by The Guardian, November 9, 2016.

BackChannels has framed contemporary conflict in terms of time, i.e., whether confronting Assad or, for a domestic example, the Ku Klux Klan, the modern person is actually rejecting the reappearance of the past in his own path.

For the most part, whether involving the aggressive Muslim Brotherhood aspect in contemporary Islam, the barbarism on display in Syria — and do “thank” Assad, Putin, and Khamenei for choosing that evil path — or the Russian invasion of Crimea, one is actually aiming the finger back at the world of Medieval Political Absolute Power, i.e., AKA the divine right of rule, rule by a presumptuously superior nature, rule by thuggery, and, most certainly, unquestionable authority, or authority beyond criticism and beyond law.

Putin : Medieval Political Absolutism


Trump: Modern Democratic and Checked Distribution of Political Power


Posted by VICE News, March 3, 2014.

While “western” political success and related productivity and affluence provide for western humanism and other aspects of idealism, “eastern” barbarism and suffering have left behind a world in which fear and insecurity appear to threaten those who should be in the most confident and secure of internal psychological states.  Leadership in  tribal cultures and states tend toward a winner-take-all — and loser-lose-all — position in their politics, and it may be that we mistake for a better politics and ennoble with the term “realpolitik”.

Our world pays a high price in general suffering — suffering associated horrors beyond imagining — for the emotional care and feeding of its “malignant narcissists” — its most damaged bad boys, the same that make themselves known as political and war criminals.


Bashar al-Assad: war criminal?
Vladimir Putin: war criminal?
Ali Khamenei: political criminal?

As a class, dictators “exceed limits” — just as Muhammad warned 🙂 — and in doing so free themselves from other normative restraints while at the same time condemning themselves to remaining in political power at any cost (always to others).

In effect, the worlds of despots become worlds of political absolutes, and if for no other reason than the near impossibility of the retreat of their authors.

If over the past five years you had been a Syrian noncombatant, would you wish to see Bashar al-Assad a) remain in power, b) exiled, or c) hung in public?

If you had been swept off the streets of Tehran and dumped in Evin Prison (say for wearing that hijab a little to far to the back — or for being Baha’i or gay or western in outlook) , or if you had had family murdered by the Iranian regime, would you care to see Ali Khamenei’s term in power a) modified, b) truncated, c) “terminated with extreme prejudice”?

Has Putin a graceful retreat today — Syria was al-Assad’s war and armies, flyers especially, make mistakes; and Ukrainian autonomy was Khrushchev’s mistake, which was made with the confidence that Kiev would remain forever bent to Moscow?

Putin may have that.

And Trump may be wise to see that Putin, the Russian State, and the Russian People (of Russia proper) have that “out” — but to horse trade Ukraine, the European Union, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

“Nyet” to all that!

(Liberal politics have come to mire judgment, unfortunately.  Biography.com maintains a page titled “Political Criminals” but begs credulity by placing side-by-side J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, both of whom may have exceeded some boundaries in power, with Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Fidel Castro, and Idi Amin all of whom plainly represent the most reckless of minds and murderous of despots).

Recommended Reading

Post, Jerrold M. Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World: The Psychology of Political Behavior. Forward by Alexander L. George. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

Wikipedia Reference





Historian John Bew suggests that much of what stands for modern realpolitik today deviates from the original meaning of the term. Realpolitik emerged in mid-19th century Europe from the collision of the enlightenment with state formation and power politics. The concept, Bew argues, was an early attempt at answering the conundrum of how to achieve liberal enlightened goals in a world that does not follow liberal enlightened rules.

Also in Media

Weiss, Michael.  “It’s Putin’s World Now.”  The Daily Beast, November 10, 2016.

If, as the poet says, America is not the world, then the world is surely owed an apology for the lack of attention paid to what ought to have been, and are, a series of alarming developments throughout Europe and the Middle East. Perhaps appropriately, all have involved or implicated a revanchist authoritarian power for which the incoming commander in chief has repeatedly professed his admiration and which, after having done all it could to facilitate an upset American electoral outcome—“maybe we helped a bit with WikiLeaks,” as pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov put it Wednesday morning—offers its hearty congratulations on his victory. Meanwhile, Russia’s alleged “wet work” and maneuvering outside the United States in the last two weeks has been even more impressive.

Adriatic Assassins . . . .