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Friday, March 12, 2004

Sorry I’ve barely posted since Valentine’s Day. But really, there should be enough old stuff here to keep you occupied for awhile.

Here is a follow up excerpt from the Ukranian correspondence that I've previously excerpted from, and that, in a just universe, I'd link to here.

Natalia: According to your request, I'm going to express my opinion about the current political situation. Yes, willingly! Please, don't feel slighted by my point of view, because I'm so far from offending your political convictions. I am neither an arrant dissident, nor fanatic of some political party - I merely try to think and behave like a usual person of sense. As you remember USA and Europe often told off Russia for it's tough politics towards Chechens, in spite of this fact that it was after a number of acts of terrorism in autumn of 1999 (in particular, one of these acts took place in our region, not very far from our town). Well, we were strictly condemned for our strong measures against terrorism; but the tragic events of September 2001 gave Americans an opportunity to be in our boots, unfortunately. The matter is that Russians have gained a battle experience since they began to annex the Northern Caucasus - more, than 200 years ago. Israelites has the analogous experience, unlike Americans, that's why they behave in another way. Perhaps these accounts for the policy of President Bush, who fears for the future of your country. I don't want to look as a
partial critic or unfair judge, but I think that your president's administration fairly overdid in toughening of a vises conditions. Why does your country intend to perceive a potential terrorist in each tourist? In my opinion, the precautions with taking the fingerprints in all airports are too cruel. If our President hit upon a similar idea, I would be very ashamed for him. None country is able to protect itself against terrorism in such a way.

Dave: I was one of the ones who was very critical of Russia's policy toward Chechnia, and changed my mind fairly suddenly that September. One of the things that dissatisfies me about Bush is that he does not more consistently support Israel's strong policy. Although their situation has forced them to be somewhat more rational than us, their policy is still a far cry from sanity. They keep treating Arafat like a legitimate head of state! We have crazy ethnic separatists here too, if we'd been as foolish as the Israelis, we'd have given them Florida and had a nasty little outlaw regime to deal with there. I think that we now face the same choice they did, and are not unlikely to make similar mistakes. If Bush is not reelected, that will put us on the same pendulum Israel is on; whenever the enemy strikes hard, we'll elect someone who'll strike back, then we'll act all guilty and elect someone like Kerry, and a situation that could have been resolved in a decade will be perpetuated indefinitely. The security situation is even more absurd than you might suspect. At the same time as it is being made hard to fly across the country on legitimate business, let alone into it, the southern border is being opened up to the tuberculotic papist hordes. Arabs can so easily pass for Mexicans! Bush has opted essentially to leave the more difficult to enforce immigration laws unenforced. Of course, if they were easier to comply with, there'd be less reason to violate them, but apparently that is unthinkable for some reason that I can't comprehend.

It's been said that even a very successful president can only accomplish about three big things. One could defeat the Axis powers, enact the New Deal, and be elected to four terms, or lower taxes, deregulate business, and win the Cold War, but a mere President could not realistically hope to simultaneously rationalize immigration or reform the education system.

Natalia: For the matter of Iraqi problem, I consider that America received its personal Vietnam, just like the Soviet Union got Afghanistan in it's time. Nevertheless, I realize that comparison with Vietnam is not to the point. You see, Vietnamese war reflected a great conflict of two different social systems - at least, the confrontation between Socialism and Capitalism took place. For the present instance (I mean Iraq), I would not use the word "war". As far as I know, Iraq has never been the state of the Socialist orientation, and Saddam was a creature of the White House. Why did the USA choose precisely Iraq for a demonstrating thrashing while there are much more "proper" candidatures - socialist Northern Korea, pro-communist China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Lebanon with their religious fanatics?

Dave: A situation like Vietnam is exactly what I am afraid could happen. Our enemies then, as now, were essentially animals with no hope of defeating us, but a great deal of hope that we would defeat ourselves. One of their most dreadful weapons was literally a stick with feces on it. But when the leftmost wing of the Democratic party took over congress, and the President was replaced by the highly ineffectual Ford, it was not enough to withdraw our troops, they withdrew all support for the Southern Vietnamese. They may have been able to hold out, if those who said they opposed war did not actually oppose capitalism.

Hussien was a useful instrument of our policy at one time, as was Stalin during WWII. Traditionally, this does not make us responsible for him, or obligate us not to dispose of him after he becomes a liability. At all times we are temporarily allied with entities we may later be obligated to destroy. We are now allied with Pakistan, to the detriment of our relationship with India (who's support I believe we will need if we are ever to effectively confront China). The home country of the Taliban is almost certain to be our enemy in the near future.

At this time, China's ability to absorb casualties is essentially infinite. I don’t think we could defeat them in open war without using our entire remaining nuclear arsenal. Even the economic effects of cutting our merchants off from a market of that size would be dire. This situation might change as their population declines, especially if they end up with less dictatorial control of the people, and we finally form a proper alliance with India.

Koreans are a very serious people, who one does not like to mess with if one can avoid it. They also have China behind them. Arabs are an essentially frivolous, silly people, as evidenced by their architecture and their religion, and they are rather easily turned against one another. Koreans are like the opposite of Arabs, during the Los Angeles riots, they were the only people taking care of themselves instead of crying for the police. Also, Clinton already sold them technology that places me within range of their missiles, so it's too late to get them before they have the ability to effectively retaliate.

I believe that the Arabic part of the world is really one nation culturally, which fortuitously happens to be divided into many states. Fighting them all as one might be something like fighting China, and that might be necessary were we to do anything like invading Saudi Arabia, where the de-facto capital of the Pan-Arabic nation is located.

I know even less about Lebanon and Iran, but I suspect these are areas we'd like to avoid entanglement in if we could. Iran is so mountainous, and could already have means of retaliation sufficient to deter anything like what is happening in Iraq. There are some hopes that the Iranians could eventually overturn their own regime, if we keep out. Any open American support of this seems to be counter productive though. When anyone there does something we like, letting it be known that America likes what they are doing causes them extreme embarrassment. Lebanon might me a place we'd prefer to let Israel deal with, because of the proximity.

I suspect that one of the unspoken motives of the occupation of Iraq was to make the Saudis more cooperative by opening the possibility of getting lots of oil elsewhere. I think that's been somewhat effective, and Libya is exhibiting an attitude improvement that might just be the begining of positive changes in the entire region, if we "don't go all wobbly".

Natalia: However, let us ponder on this question together, because two heads are better than one. Let us assume that your country sincerely wants to obtain the democracy in the Near East. In that case, Americans should have studied historic science better. All historical experience indicates that many states have never been adopted for democracy. Please, tell me, what country is democratic in a full sense of this word? I'm afraid, that your country will repeat the "golden deeds" of the Soviet Union during 1960-80 s. You are inquired about our policy, when our country put in ward lots of developing states in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our government sank milliards of dollars into that business to the prejudice of its own citizens, and what was in the end? Our country has ruined itself, but could not spread the Socialism in above-mentioned regions.
It's pity, but the USA intends to step on the same rake (it's a common Russian expression, which means "to thread in the same step")/ I think States will invest a great deal of money in the reconstruction of Iraq and it's oil industry, but what's the use? You won't even be thanked! At best, all your milliards will be plundered by the official and politicians of all colours. It will be disgustfully, if the USA gets "Vietnam in a Soviet variety".As for Germany, France and Russia - they did a lot of business with Iraq, of course. And what about States? I think, all of these countries has the same strictly practical interests in this region - a cheap oil, and one must call a spade a spade. You mentioned Tony Blaire's expression. By the way, Blair is said to be a political insipidity for a long time, and the Great Britain has lost it's own political voice since Margaret Thatcher left her post of a prime-minister. I've got several friends, who live in Europe (particularly in Germany) and they tell me that Britain now is considered to be only a "mouthpiece of USA". It is both funny and sadly. You said that the governments tightly control the media so that to bring to their people only that part of truth, which is considered to be necessary. You are absolutely right, but it applies equally to the USA, does not it? It is doubtful that your President's administration does not filter all information to it's benefit.

Dave: We really are hoping for Iraq to become something like Turkey, a somewhat reasonable adult nation. Democracy is a nice word that politicians are obligated to throw around a lot. One could say that in Europe during the Cold War, it could equally well be said that our own interests were at stake as that we had to defend democracy, but for some reason, only the democracy part sounded nice. A lot can go wrong with democracy, like the French Reign of Terror, or the Weimar Republic. Sometimes at the end of a war, like our Revolution, one can't help but institute some form of democracy. It's the hardest form of government to get right, and it takes awhile. We wouldn't want to leave a new democracy to be taken over by Wahabis or Shiites.

Ann Coulter, my second favorite political writer, said "Why not go to war for oil? We need oil!" My main point before about oil is that some of the friction that is attributed to high minded principles is really about conflicting national interests.

There are much worse things a country could be than a mouthpiece of the US. For example, a country could be Germany, where a survey said that something like 30% of the people believe that the 9/11 attack was a Mossad operation with Bush behind it. Or it could be an appendage of Brussels, which is what the Germans seem to want England to be. I'm beginging to doubt that the German national character has really changed much in a hundred years.

One of the things that surprises foreign visitors here is how unrestricted the press really is. The White House controls access to the White House, Senators control access to themselves, and of course security agencies can keep things secret. It's illegal to publicly threaten to assasinate government officials. There are local statutes against indecency. That's about the extent of restrictions on the press. So if a network angers the President, he might not invite their reporters to press conferences, and their reputation suffers, but he can't just close them down. Clinton did that to somebody, but I can't remember who. We're much more pious about the first amendment to the Constitution than the others, even some of the restrictions that Canadian judges get away with are fairly horrifying to us.

Interesting things are happening in the news media here now. TV news and most newspapers are quite left-wing and hostile to the President. Their point of view is not that unlike that of Europe. They privately refer to everyplace between Los Angeles and New York as "fly over country", and prefer European ways of doing things. The main difference between European TV news and American TV news is that on our news, they present things somewhat simplistically because they think Americans are stupid. There's a very strong tradition that they are supposed to be objective, so their biases are fairly subtle (they never yell "down with Capitalism"). Less mainstream media, like the radio, have recently started to set themselves directly in opposition to this. They present conservative opinion though, basically, not so much news, and they openly present it as such.

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