The Russian Flag; in the public domain.
The not-so-eyebrow-raising thing about the huffing-and-puffing outrage about Russia is that we’ve heard it all before. Of course, it was during the Cold War, and we sometimes referred to them as the Soviets rather than the Russians. Growing up in the US of A, they were quite literally the poster children for ‘Our Enemy’, seen in everything from Red Dawn to Rocky IV. They were sometimes caricatures, sometimes respectable adversaries (General Gogol in the James Bond franchise), but always on the the opposite (and presumably) wrong side.
For myself, “the party line” (to use an ironic term), never really rang true. Like many of my friends, brought up on stories of World War 2, we dove into the histories at our local libraries, and knew the real, horrible score. 20 million Soviet citizens lost their lives during WW2 (with estimates going as high as 27 million); the American death toll was a little over 400,000, with hardly any civilian casualties.
Eisenhower stated, “The atomic bomb, the bazooka, the jeep and the DC-3 were the four things that won the war for the Allies.” Nothing about the bravery of our soldiers, or brilliance of the generals. In keeping with the dictum “amateurs talk tactics, professionals study logistics,” for those of you keeping score at home, two out of those four were things used for logistics, and the first was due to the brilliance of many engineers, physicists, and mathematicians who had never fired a shot. The other weapon listed, the bazooka, was a force multiplier that allowed a few infantry to bring down a heavily armored tank, or attack fixed positions from a long distance. Others, who have studied WW2, have also brought up cryptanalysis (thanks to the work of a good many brilliant Polish mathematicians, and a closeted gay genius, Alan Turing), the Liberty Ship, and American manufacturing capacity. Oh yes, a few honest assessments mention Russians doing most of the dying. If you aren’t much of a reader, may I suggest the Battle for Sevastopol; a bit fictionalized, but still a riveting view from the Russian side of the war.
When the West ‘won’ the Cold War (more likely, the Soviet economy went south first, rather than ours), relations with Russia normalized. Unfortunately, they listened to us, and in the land-rush of westernization and free-market, the life expectancy of Russian men dropped significantly. But we got along, and even McDonald’s started showing up in Moscow in 1990. Somewhere along the way, though, we thought we were the sole superpower, and started throwing our weight around. After the Cold War, we said we’d never expand NATO eastward… until we did, and when Russia started pushing back – surprise, they got upset, and started pushing back. The tale of things in the Ukraine and Crimea are best told by folks like Dmitry Orlov, who have on-the-ground knowledge of things from both the American and Russian side. Jim Kunstler has also been on a tear in these past few weeks on the topic as well. From what has been written, it might be that the Democrats might be in a lot more hot water than the Republicans.
The personal anecdote brought to the table today is from the late 1990s, when I actually got to know a few Russians first hand, while (misguidedly) working in the financial sector on Wall Street. As I remember jokingly telling one of my colleagues, “This is totally bizarre; ten years ago these guys were our mortal enemies, and I was working on stuff on how to kill them, and now we find out they are better capitalists than we are!” A small point, but once you meet more than a few Russians (or members of practically any other group), you do make a few common connections, and realize, yeah, in general, they are a decent bunch. This isn’t to say we all held hands and sang songs; there are still elements of the Russian character that shone pretty strong (one of the most stubborn software engineers I’ve ever met was a hypersmart fellow systems guy from Russia), but we worked together and essentially got along.
As a young child, I was taught that America did the right things, and was always a champion of good in the world. I said the Pledge of Allegiance, and thought that we would always do the right thing. Of course, after a bit of reading (everything from Smedley Butler, to our behavior during World War 2, to The Pentagon Papers, to the Citigroup Plutonomy memo), you realize we aren’t exactly the shining white knights many think we are. If there’s anything that galls me about the current treatment of the Russians by the folks in Washington, it is our blatant, outrageous, full-throttle hypocrisy. Even if investigations show the Russians did influence the election (the Wikipedia entry on Russian influence in the 2016 elections on this is pretty adamant, but there is pushback from this), it would a) not surprise me in the least b) be an enormously huge bit of karma, given the number of elections the US has tried to (and successfully) influenced over the years. Heck, we’ve even tried to influence elections of allied nations.
If the Russians started putting bases in Mexico now (oh, wait, they put them in Cuba, and look what happened), we’d have a huge hissy fit. A few Americans have pointed this out (mostly on the right, as far as I can tell; love him or hate him, Ron Paul has been incredibly clear on this ). Why is this so hard not to accept – that the Russians are doing exactly what we’d be doing if we were in their shoes?
I’m not saying it is right that other nations should be meddling in the elections of other nations. We aren’t perfect. The Russians aren’t perfect. But don’t be surprised (“I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on here!“) when it happens to you, if you’ve spent a good chunk of the last one hundred years doing the exact same thing. There’s a great quote from the Bible, and it bears quoting here:
- Who on the left feels that our policy towards the Russians is out of whack?
- Could America ever exist without an enemy? Could any nation exist without an enemy?
- Hypocrisy is high on the list of abominations that drive me up a wall. This recent article about a New York Times writer is a classic example. The seven deadly sins are ones that generally listed, but hypocrisy is one that rises above even those. What are yours?
- Yes, the Soviets did some very questionable things before and after the war, but if we start opening that can of worms, we should look at our own (and continuing) failures, from the way we treated Native Americans, to Vietnam and Iraq. Is there any sort of metric you can use to gauge the morality of a nation, group or person?