Something’s been bothering me for quite some time. By disposition, I am instinctively wary of conspicuous displays of irrationality, of situations in which society and its institutions begin to zealously believe things with little or no evidence. Watching people work themselves into a frenzy without facts or legitimate justification is a disturbing thing to behold.
The outbreak of irrationality that most interests me now is the tornado of Putin-hatred, the torrent of bile that is being directed at all things Russian. Although public irrationality is concerning in and of itself, the fact that this particular irrationality has nuclear implications makes it all the more so.
The media. The neocons. The Democratic party. A significant portion of the general public. They have gone into a frenzy the likes of which I’ve rarely seen. And it’s not just since the unexpected election of Donald Trump. This hatred has been boiling for years.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the cause, and, for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.
As Sherlock Holmes was wont to do, it is a useful exercise to examine what is clearly NOT the cause, to rule out the various proposed reasons behind the hatred, and see what’s left.
So what are the reasons being given for this pathological hatred? What is offending our elites so badly that they are willing to risk World War III?
Here is the short list I’ve been able to unearth:
- Putin is a dictator.
While it is true that Russia’s democracy is not squeaky clean, what democratic system is? (Check out the elections in Chicago sometime. They make Russia look like Mayberry). But even given the corruption, the polls I’ve seen indicate that Putin is enormously popular and would win any free and fair election. Why aren’t we thrilled about this? After all, Russia has a democracy, however imperfect. I remember the Cold War, when the very idea of even flawed elections in the Soviet Union would have seemed unimaginable, an amazing cause for celebration.
Whatever Putin may be, he is not a dictator.
Furthermore, America pals around with a lot of countries that are nowhere near as democratic as is Russia. The Gulf monarchies? Vietnam? Morocco? The motley collection of African potentates that we’ve befriended? Clearly, with “allies” like these, the American establishment doesn’t let such considerations interfere with a cozy relationship.
So no, it can’t be the dearth of democracy in Russia.
- Putin wants to conquer the world.
I hear this argument a lot from liberals, and it always makes me do a double-take. These are people I knew in the 80’s. They heaped scorn on anti-communism back then, dismissing it as paranoia, making jokes about Dr. Strangelove and accusing conservatives as being obsessed with “fluoride in their body fluids.”
But at least the Soviet Union really was dangerous. The KGB. The gulag. The Holodomor. The kulak liquidation. The USSR had an economy and a military that could challenge the west globally. The Red Army could have quickly overrun Europe in a conventional conflict. The Soviets had an ideology that was expansionist and which dreamed of global domination.
Despite the excesses of the anti-communists, the fear of communism was not completely irrational.
Putin’s Russia, on the other hand, is nowhere near as dangerous. Its economy is fragile. Its military is far less of a threat (relatively speaking). Its population is falling. Russia lacks most everything an aspiring hegemon would need, and is thus not going to conquer the world any time soon. They lack the economic might, the military might and the ideologic compulsion to even attempt such a thing.
Yet, people who mocked anticommunism a few years ago are spewing anti-Russian rhetoric that would have made Joe McCarthy blush.
When confronted with these facts, most of these Russophobes will back off and merely claim that Putin’s Russia is imperialistic and is a threat to neighboring countries. Putin, they say, gins up military conflicts to expand his influence and control.
For starters, if this isn’t a “pot and kettle” situation, I don’t know what is. The list of nations with whom Putin has had military clashes is miniscule compared to ours. Off the top of my head, we have recently bombed or invaded Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Serbia, Bosnia, and Haiti. I’m sure there are a few more that I’m missing, but you get the idea.
As for Putin’s Russia, discounting the Chechen Wars (which occurred inside Russian territory), I can only think of two: Ukraine and Georgia (I’m not counting Syria, since the internationally recognized government of Syria has invited the Russians into their country to help them fight ISIS). While I won’t belabor the long histories of Crimea and Georgia, both of those conflicts were not solely acts of Russian aggression. Crimea is historically part of Russia, is populated overwhelmingly by Russians (who voted to join Russia) and the Crimea only left Ukrainian control after a CIA-aided putsch overthrew the pro-Russian, elected president. Russia only entered the fray in Georgia after the Georgian government broke a peace agreement and launched an attack on South Ossetia (which killed several Russian peacekeepers).
Despite the complicated history, these two incidents do not, in my opinion, warrant the level of hatred that is being directed at Putin’s Russia, and they come nowhere near the level of American military aggression we’ve seen these past decades. Nothing that Putin has ever done even remotely compares to our invasion of Iraq, which was a totally unjustified and illegal act of aggression shrouded in propaganda and lies (and which killed nearly a million people).
So no, whatever the source of the hatred, it is not due to an objective assessment of Russian military adventurism.
- Putin interfered in our elections.
This is an even bigger pot/kettle situation than the military adventurism. The list of CIA skullduggery in other nations’ political systems is too long and too blatant to merit serious debate.
And several other facts undermine this narrative. First, I’m not at all convinced that Russia did, in fact, hack those email accounts. It has not been proven. Second, Putin-hatred predates the election. And third, many other nations (Mexico? Israel? Saudi Arabia?) interfere in our political system with impunity. Why the lather over Russia?
So no, I don’t buy this excuse either.
- Putin is corrupt.
Yeah, probably. But given the world-historical level of corruption oozing from every pore or our financial and political elites – which nearly collapsed the world economy back in 2008 – I won’t even dignify this line of thinking with further comment.
Are homosexuals persecuted in Putin’s Russia? Is the government anti-gay?
One might ask whether this is a legitimate reason, even if true, to risk a nuclear war, but I’ll assume for the sake of argument that it is a core value of vital importance.
My research into this issue only turned up two things: First, is a law passed several years ago by the Russian parliament (a democratically elected parliament, I might add), that forbad teaching homosexuality to children in schools. And second, Russia does not recognize gay marriage.
As to the marriage issue, it’s important to remember that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008 opposing gay marriage. Are we really going to have a new cold war over a policy that our own liberals held less than a decade ago?
I support equal rights for gays, and I certainly want them to be treated with dignity, but does anyone really care whether Russian school children learn about homosexuality? If this really is the cause of the Russia-hatred, it would probably be history’s dumbest reason to have a great power conflict (a distinction that covers a lot of ground).
And what about our allies? How does Saudi Arabia compare to Russia in LGBT rights, for instance? Why isn’t our media enraged at them?
Looking at the big picture of gay rights in Russia, it doesn’t make sense. This can’t be the real reason.
Which leaves us with…what, exactly?
I have no idea.
Daily, I see talking heads on TV foaming at the mouth about Putin. They hate him with a passion that is as violent as it is incomprehensible. There must be more going on here than meets the eye. The explanations don’t add up.
Either our elites have gone stark raving mad, or they are not telling us the truth about their real motives.
Which of these is true, I’ll leave to the reader. Perhaps I’ve missed something? Or perhaps there is a lurker from the Deep State who can clue me in?
If we’re going to be incinerated, it would at least be nice to know why.