Friday, September 13, 2013

Don't Get Mad at Vlad!

“An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often mistaken for opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board. These are different from editorials (which are usually unsigned and written by editorial board members) and letters to the editor (which are submitted by readers of the journal or newspaper).”

   “I was at dinner,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said on CNN after he read Vlad’s op-ed. “And I almost wanted to vomit.”
   “I was insulted,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Thursday morning. “I’ve probably already said more than I should have said, but you’ve got the truth.”
   Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain called Vlad's piece an “insult to the intelligence of every American.”
   What got these staunch American politicians (and a whole bunch of others, politicians or otherwise) all riled up was an op-ed piece in the New York Times last Wednesday, not by Vlad Drăculeşti III, Prince of Wallachia who is famous for having  tens of thousands of his enemies impaled in 15th century Transylvania (now a part of Romania), and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s vampire creation, “Dracula,” as one might expect, but that of the other Vlad, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the current President of the Russian Federation, which used to be our old Cold War enemy, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the U.S.S.R., a country made  famous for coldness, vastness, perverted communism, nuclear missiles, and a Beatles song.
   My very own Stephanie Miller (I hereby declare ownership rights) of “The Stephanie Miller Radio Show and BeanFest,” spent a good deal of Thursday morning’s show devoted to deriding the piece, along with her two “Mook” cohorts, mistakingly singling out the excluded middle argument (#15 in Dr. Carl Sagan’s list of common fallacies of logic and rhetoric) attributed to President George W. Bush, and cited in the piece, “you’re either with us or against us.” I believe she thought that Putin was getting his presidents confused, when I believe he was attempting to illustrate the continuation of Bush era policies into those of Obama’s.
   The op-ed easily dominated yesterday’s 24 hr news cycle, with media pundits if not voicing an opinion themselves, clearly reporting those in positions of power in politics (except for Stephie of course). Host of MSNBC’s “All In,” the pristine Chris Hayes took the trouble to group these responses all together and give them the encompassing title “America’s reaction.” Fortunately his guest, the lovely Russian-American journalist and blogger Julia Ioffe pointed out that the various social networks were perhaps a much better indicator of the majority of American’s feelings.
   I make it a policy never to argue with lovely women, so I checked myself and found some examples of what Julia was talking about in the “Comments,” section of Putin’s piece itself. Here are a few taken at random:
   From Anubis
“The lawmakers should be throwing up on an hourly basis reading about their own behavior because they are mediocre at best.”
   From romolo
“Putin insulted the politicians? I think there are millions of US citizens that view the gang in Washington with scorn.”
   From Get Real!
“Now on display, whining two year olds are running the country.”
   From Steve
“I am not surprised that our lawmakers were "upset" by the article. It hurts to hear the truth about yourself!”
   And from Patriot
“If our "leaders" are so insulted, then why-oh-why have they acted like utter idiots that made America look ridiculous and Putin/Russia look so good? They, our "leaders," make me want to vomit.”
   In case you were wondering this is what all of the brouhaha is all about

A Plea for Caution from Russia

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.

   Okay, so what’s the problem? Let’s examine the above in detail, shall we? Just you and me.

But we’ll wait until tomorrow. I’m going to go fix lunch now...

Vegetable Ragout with Pesto (Ragoût de Légumes au Pistou) and cheesy grits.

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