Many conversations in the social networks rely on partisan politics for argument — Democrats this, Republicans that. For the most part, the framing it time involves the period set by the run-up and aftermath of the Clinton v Trump election. BackChannels suggests that the greater challenges associated with “Islamic Terrorism”, America’s political polarization, and the advent of vicious Far Left and Far Right fascism span Administrations all the way back to the last day of the Cold War (Dec. 25, 1991) and therefore beg Americans to broaden their scope accordingly.
Try to set aside partisan information and opinion and look at the present international relations in the greater frame of the post-Cold War period begun on the morning of December 26, 1991, the day after the Soviet Union dissolved. Rather than write long (e.g., “We know today through writers like David Satter and scholars like Karen Dawisha . . . .”), I’d rather share one link to what has been really taking place with “Islamic Terrorism” and the “New Nationalism” x Russia’s interest in sustaining dictatorships and much of the related political dynamics of the medieval world.
Putin | Assad | Khamenei comprise a package, as it were, from the Soviet Era: they are each in their way a part of what has been left of it.
Putin | Orban | Erdogan | add the leadership in some former satellites reengaging with anti-Semitism — should open the window wide on the medeival revanche.
I feel quite Quixote-like fighting this post-Soviet battle for liberal democracy because what Putin has done is brought back authoritarian and fascist (Turkey) or nationalist (elsewhere in EU / NATO) leaders in a way way that has damaged interstate democratic cohesion.
Russia from before the Bolshevik Revolution and to this day has had a long history as a promoter of anti-Semitic ideas and as a host, motivator, manipulator, and sponsor of terrorism. I hope the “Reflexive Control” piece will open a window for greater curiosity that may then lead to greater perception of an east-west conflict in which Israel very much represents a democratic and humanist future where other forces have kept installed medieval tyranny.
The Obama-Trump Punch and Judy gets and takes a lot of attention, but the struggle for western democracy against Moscow’s eastern sham spans American (“I looked into his eyes”) Administrations.
At the closing press conference, in response to a question about whether he could trust Putin, Bush said, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him very straightforward and trustworthy – I was able to get a sense of his soul.” Bush’s top security aide Condoleezza Rice later wrote that Bush’s phrasing had been a serious mistake. “We were never able to escape the perception that the president had naïvely trusted Putin and then been betrayed.”
In her book, No Higher Honour, Condoleezza Rice would go on to say, “There was little room to convince critics that the circumstances of 2001 and the relationship with Vladimir Putin then were very different from what would come to pass.”
BackChannels submits that Putin was perceived differently in the White House by KGB design in those years and was not all different from the soul of the Soviet Union that had collapsed ten years earlier. For reference to the Soviet transition plan developed in the 1980s for the event of dissolving, I would recommend reading Karen Dawisha’s Putin’s Kleptocracy.
For an overview of Russian history and related authoritarian paternalism, BackChannels recommends from the Russian Section of its library the two volumes by Richard Pipes.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Old Regime: The History of Civilization. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974.
Pipes, Richard. The Russian Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knop, 1990.
Also in Media
Posen, Barry R. “The Rise of Illiberal Hegemony.” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2018.
America as led by President Trump appears to be winning its battles but altogether losing its war against a potential tyranny in the making that has come in the form of a “New Nationalism”, i.e., a populist president who is himself autocratic and seemingly enthrall to and reliant on feudal aggrandizement, cunning, and dumb strength in both personal and public realms. As quoted from the Awesome Conversation and worth inserting here, the BackChannels piece on “Reflexive Control” and the rule of the manipulative and wealthy (like Medvedev) applies as regards the greater torque exerted by Russia, principally, and China as representing each their own politically unassailable business and leadership elites.
If Moscow believes it has taken the world forward by turning history’s clock backward, what has Washington done to freeze that totalitarian regress — and is it doing enough to keep from sliding into its own Orwellian (“Fake News!”) hell?
The American President — but not America’s governments in their totality — appears enmeshed in what ails most authoritarian regimes: questionable policies serving elites more than constituents, a host of political scandals, especially that “kompromat” thing that has come to associate the Trump brand with money laundering (for more, web search, say, “Trump, Felix Sater”) and philandering.
Ours is a competitive world but also one bound by our human awareness of self and related facets of conscience, empathy, ethics, and morality. We’re aware of what we do and, perhaps, at the same time fearful of what we are capable of doing.
BackChannels believes that the Russian experience of the Mongol Invasion and related administration left their marks within Russian princes who would fear what any show of weakness might invite from the world around them while in the subjugated inspiring a festering crude anger and resentment. The vaunted “realpolitik” would then seem to have evolved from doing what works, and if criminality and main force and leverage appear to have worked, then then those devices may remain installed but deeply redolent of despair and disaffection and far opposite the inspiriting benefits of higher-integrity and rule-of-law democracy.