Chuck Spinney: When a KGB President Lectures the USA — And Holds the Moral High Ground…Say What?

06 Russia, 08 Wild Cards, Ethics, IO Deeds of Peace, Lessons, Officers Call
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney
Who Benefits From America’s State of Perpetual War?


Putin Lectures Obama

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY, COUNTERPUNCH, SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

That our Noble Peace Prize winning President and the Congress needed a rational lecture [also attached below] on the need for a little common sense in foreign policy, from a graduate of the KGB, says a lot about about the degraded nature of domestic politics in the United States.

Domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge, as the foreign policy elite would like us to believe. On the contrary, any nation’s foreign policy is always a reflection of its domestic politics. (see for example, Robert Dallek’s insightful history, The American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs.) The political soap opera surrounding Obama’s quest to bomb Syria is a case in point. Two thirds of the American people opposed the war, yet elites have been debating how to ignore the will of the people. These domestic politics are the real subject of Putin’s lecture. Implicitly, his lecture is also about the democratic duty of American citizens to reign in the elites claiming falsely to be acting in their name.

Should a former KGB agent be giving advice to the people of a constitutional democracy?

Think about the pathway that ‘democracy’ has travelled on over the last twelve years: On September 11, 2001, the entire world was on the side of the United States. In fact one of the largest, if not the largest, of the world wide demonstrations in support of the United States was a mass vigil in Tehran, Iran — a country we promptly denounced as being part of an axis of evil. Twelve years later, America is increasingly isolated, its leadership elites having used 9-11 as a pretext to fabricate rationales for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for bombing Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Now Syria is in the crosshairs for reasons that are questionable, to put it charitably, and once again, the elites are fabricating stories to get their way.

America is in a state of perpetual war with large parts of the Muslim world. America is viewed by more and more people around the world, including some of its non-Muslim allies, as a self-righteous, narcissistic super power that believes its exceptional status gives it the right to bomb and bully anyone it deems to be a ‘threat’ to its interests or moral values.

Putin’s subliminal message may well be: Look, we ended the Cold War; now, at long last, is it not time for America to undergo a national introspection of its own and end its state of perpetual war, before it further destabilizes even larger swathes of the world?

Perhaps we, as the owners of our government, should be asking ourselves questions like –

How did our country land itself in a state of perpetual war?

Is our President, a man who excited the world, including Syria,* with promises to change in America’s behaviour, the cause of the problem evoking Putin’s lecture? Or is Mr. Obama merely a front man presiding over a deeper, more profound set of domestic political distortions? Is he a protector of an increasingly dysfunctional, distinctly un-American status quo domestic political apparat that benefits the richest one percent at the expense of the masses?

How and why did the American people allow their elites and political representatives — Republicans and Democrats alike — to exploit 9-11 in an arbitrary way to place our nation on a grotesque moral pathway into a shameful state of mismatches between the (1) values we profess to uphold and others expect us to uphold, (2) those values we actually hold dear as demonstrated by our actions, and (3) the conditions in the world we have to contend with?

But most importantly, with respect to domestic politics of America’s state of perpetual war, Cui Bono?

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*I was in Levantine, Syria in the summer of 2008, and the excitement on the street over Obama’s possible election and the promise it held for the Middle East was palpable and infectious.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.

——[Putin’s Lecture below the line]—–

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

A Plea for Caution From Russia

What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN

New York Times, September 11, 2013

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

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.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, 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.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. 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. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. 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. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. 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.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

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.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his 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.

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2013, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: A Plea for Caution From Russia.