Bird that Sings

August 28, 2008

Play along with Putin

Filed under: Politics — admin @ 9:08 am

The Russian invasion of Georgia is off the front pages now, having been replaced in the news by the sometimes desultory spectacle of the Democratic Convention.

Which is probably just as Vladimir Putin planned it. Let’s face it, Putin is a lot smarter than the idiots who run our permanent, floating, National Security regime. If this were a chess match, we’d be praying we had that lunatic Bobby Fischer back. However rather than be frightened by Mr. Putin, those of us in the West should at least feel a certain pride of ownership.

Putin heard all the crap about Democracy and Free Market Capitalism the West heaped on the Russians after the fall of the Soviet Union and then watched as the West helped install a kleptocracy to take the place of the Soviet Communist Party. Putin probably even read “Managed Consent,” Noam Chomsky’s dry little tome on how the rulers of America and the West manipulate and marginalize the participation of their media and entertainment sodden public in the real business of running society.

One imagines Putin reading “Managed Consent” ruefully and thinking, wow, what a great idea. The results are on obvious display. Putin does Managed Consent better than we do.

Putin is obviously not a democrat but he is a patriot who has the best interests of his country—as he sees them—at heart. In his 10/25/07 NY Times op-ed, “Putin will always be with us,” the conservative, once-upon-a-time Soviet émigré, Leon Aron hypothesized how Putin would cling to power forever: how he would devise a way to continue on as President for life.

As we can see now, Aron didn’t quite get it right. Putin figured out a way to maintain himself in power without compromising his legitimacy or the legitimacy of the quasi-Democratic system he had constructed. Putin’s smarter than Leon Aron too.

Aron though, does bump against the truth when he quotes Lenin on what appears to be Putin’s modus operandi, “first we get into fight, then we see what happens.”

The larger truth is that nobody can really know what Putin is going to do long term because he doesn’t know himself. However what we do know is that Putin operates out of a given set of assumptions. He is, one, looking out for what is best for Russia. And two, he is a both a true believer in realpolitik in foreign affairs, and pragmatism, domestically. Rather than operate with ideological blinders on, Putin makes his foreign and domestic policy decisions out of an objective assessment of a given problem as well as what he thinks is achievable.

And so given these assumptions the best way to figure out what Putin is going to do, is what you would do yourself in the same situation. That’s why this game is called “Play Along with Putin© 2008.” (For more information, check back. Or better yet write back and we’ll discuss among ourselves)

In the case of Georgia, the neo-cons who advise Georgian President Shakashvili and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain—in this case both represented in the same suspect person of Randy Scheunemann—appear to have a horrible miscalculation.

The truth which Putin and his fast learning junior partner President Medvedev seemed to have grasped much more quickly than either Condi Rice or the equally moronic Richard Holbrooke, is that proverbial worm has turned.

After rubbing Russia’s face in the loss of the Cold War for almost twenty years, suddenly the objective truth is that Russia doesn’t have to take it anymore. For one thing the US has completely played itself out of geo-political position in Iraq and for another, Putin, to paraphrase Keith Richards, “has got the silver, he’s got the gold.”

Putin’s moves of recent years to effectively re-nationalize Russia’s oil and natural gas wealth have left the US and Europe, objectively speaking, in debt to him.

The good news about all this is that since the US has refused to conduct a rational foreign policy voluntarily, it’s going to be forced to by events. Short term that means that the West will need to negotiate with Russia, not only on a coherent strategy for containing Iran but also on a smart, big picture strategy for a just peace in the entire Middle East.

Long term, the hope is that finally, in a new multi-polar world poised on the brink of ecological disaster of epic, Malthusian proportions, a new regime that takes into account our dire—and objective—situation can take hold.

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