Commemorating a World War

That the commemoration of the end of World War II is being used to announce the commencement of World War IV is just another one of those little ironies that the Bush administration seems to delight in. The president’s five-day four-nation journey, which takes him to Latvia, Holland, Russia, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, quickly took on the aspect of a proselytizing trip, in which George W. Bush went door-to-door, so to speak, with his message of spreading “freedom” around the globe. It was in Riga that the thematic coloration of his journey to the East took on its most vivid hues. Instead of focusing on the defeat of Nazism or on the U.S.-Soviet alliance, he took out after the Russians and the postwar Soviet occupation of Europe: “For much of Eastern and Central Europe,” he averred in a speech in the Old City’s Small Guild House, “victory brought the iron rule of another empire.” Well, yes, thanks to the U.S.-Soviet alliance and Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s enthusiastic cooperation, but to the astonishment of many, the president not only acknowledged that – he also tried to atone for it:

“This attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations – appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability.”

This act of presidential contrition, while certainly welcome, does not go nearly far enough. By entering the war at all, and opening up a “second front” in the West – at the urging of American leftists and other friends of the Soviet Union – the U.S. saved the Bolsheviks from probable extinction at Hitler’s hands. Without American support via the Lend-Lease Act, the Soviet regime might not have survived the war – which was precisely the hope of those conservative opponents of U.S. intervention, supporters of the America First Committee such as Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the publisher of the staunchly anti-interventionist Chicago Tribune. When Hitler turned against Stalin, his ally and ideological soul-mate, and German panzer divisions drove toward Moscow, McCormick presciently warned in an editorial that while “our war birds” would “welcome” the dissolution of the Nazi-Soviet alliance “as reason for getting into the war,” the people still didn’t want it:

“To other Americans, the majority of them, it presents the final reason for remaining out…. Should we aid Stalin to extend his brutalities to all of Finland, to maintain his grip on the Baltic states, or to keep what he has of Poland and Rumania? Should we enter the war to extend his rule over more of Europe or, having helped him to win, should we then have to rescue the continent from him?”

McCormick was right. By the time Roosevelt met with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, in mid-February of 1945, it was too late to reverse the effects of our entry into the war: the enslavement of Eastern Europe by the Kremlin was an accomplished fact. As the three leaders sat down to plan the postwar world, Soviet troops were already ensconced in Bucharest, Sofia, Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. A few months later, they would “liberate” Prague and Vienna. At Yalta, the American president merely acknowledged the facts on the ground: when the Red Army raised its flag over the bombed-out ruins of the German Reichstag, the Bolshevist banner was hoisted over half of Europe. No other result could have been imagined.

If Bush really wanted to repent for a U.S. policy that essentially created the postwar Soviet empire, he would have commemorated the end of World War II by forthrightly ruing the day we got into it. Instead, the very itinerary of his trip – his arrival in Moscow bookended by stops in Riga and Tbilisi – is a provocation designed to underscore Russia’s encirclement. Gloating in Riga at the success of U.S.-funded-and-directed color-coded revolutions from Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan, Bush disingenuously declared:

“All the nations that border Russia will benefit from the spread of democratic values, and so will Russia itself. Stable, prosperous democracies are good neighbors, trading in freedom and posing no threat to anyone.”

If that’s true, then why is Ukraine clamoring to enter NATO – or, better yet, why is NATO still in existence over a decade after the demise of Communism? If the prospect of NATO troops stationed minutes from Moscow is “no threat to anyone,” then one has to wonder when Putin is supposed to start worrying. Presumably, when they reach the gates of the Kremlin.

That those gates are about to be breached by another kind of army – legions of “activists,” armed with U.S. tax dollars and plenty of logistical and strategic support from Washington – seems all too likely. All indications are that America’s fifth column inside the former Soviet Union is mobilizing for a mighty push to prevent Putin from running for a third term.

Imagine if the Russian foreign minister had arrived on our shores in the late 1930s and denounced the very idea of Roosevelt running for a third term as evidence that America was veering off the path of democracy. What a sensation it would have caused! We don’t have to imagine what would happen if an American secretary of state traveled to Russia and said exactly the equivalent about Putin’s ambitions, because Condoleezza Rice has done it – alienating the Russian people, as well as their popular leader, who had no choice but to answer in kind.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Putin wondered why America goes abroad in search of undemocratic monsters to destroy when the dragon of elitist rule survives in the Electoral College. He reminded Americans that Bush came to power thanks to the Supreme Court, rather than a majority vote of the electorate. He noted Russia is criticized for appointing rather than electing regional governors, but India has a similar system – yet no one is diagnosing New Delhi’s healthy democracy as afflicted with terminal authoritarianism.

Never mind the facts: the Americans seem intent on applying the Ukrainian template to Russia. Get out the rock bands; roll out the scenery and the loudspeakers; set up the slick Web sites and the networks of useful idiots, misguided idealists, and seekers after the main chance; pump in plenty of dollars (and euros) via “non-governmental organizations;” and – presto! – you have an Instant Revolution.

There is no lack of candidates for the beneficiaries of American largess: these guys seem like they’re looking for some kind of a handout, although the media might have some trouble marketing a group that calls itself the “National Bolsheviks.” With Radio Free Europe taking an interest in this sect of “former” Communazis moving toward a pro-Western/anti-Putin position, it won’t be long before some slick public relations firm working on a fat U.S. government contract gives them a complete makeover and tweaks them into “National Mensheviks.”

What color will the anti-Putin “revolutionaries” choose as their chromatic theme? Red is out, of course, and orange, yellow, pink, and rose are already taken. White is not recommended, either, and black has similarly unfortunate historical connotations. I leave it to the geniuses over at the newly refurbished CIA, or perhaps the National Endowment for Democracy, to come up with something tasteful: perhaps they might want to ask one of these guys.

The last leg of Bush’s journey is surely the most ominous. Georgia sits amid the smoldering cinders of a low-level brush fire that could well flare up, on any pretext, into a more generalized conflagration: the Caucasus is the Balkans of the 21st century, where a single spark could set off World War IV. When the Soviet empire imploded, the region splintered into a welter of mutually antagonistic “republics” and “autonomous” regions – one for every sub-ethnic language group – and they are still splintering and seceding from one another. Russian troops remain in parts of Georgia, protecting the Russian-speaking minority from the tyranny of the Georgian majority, while torture still goes on routinely in Georgian prisons and opposition groups have a hard time of it. According to the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, amendments to the Georgian constitution enacted by the Rose Revolutionaries:

“Gave the president too many powers over the weakened parliamentary opposition, embryonic civil society, and first tender shoots of local self-government. The European body also noted a failure to ensure an independent and effective judicial system, the introduction of self-censorship in the Georgian media, and unjustified limits put on the independence of Adzharia.”

Georgia’s “revolutionary” pro-Western regime – put in power by the U.S. and maintained by massive amounts of “foreign aid” – has restricted freedom of assembly, cracked down on opposition groups, and engaged in arbitrary arrests and detentions. The “pro-democracy” activists of the “Rose Revolution,” once in power, launched what amounts to a massive purge of former officials and Schevardnadze-era business moguls. Victims of the “revolution” are blackmailed, hauled before a kangaroo court, imprisoned, and brutally mistreated – that’s according to our own State Department country report on human rights practices in Georgia.

If George W. Bush scolds Putin for an alleged “authoritarian” streak, then what will he say to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili? He led a “Rose Revolution” fueled, in large part, by the claim that the Shevardnadze party had rigged the 2003 parliamentary elections – and he was elected president in 2004 with a disquieting 96 percent of the vote, an achievement second only to the results of Saddam Hussein’s 2002 “referendum,” in which he claimed 100 percent assent for another seven-year term.

You can count on Bush not mentioning any of the above in Tbilisi, but instead pointing to Saakashvili as a model leader of Georgia’s “aspiring” democracy. As a prospective NATO member, Georgia is on the front lines of the new anti-Russian alliance: along with Ukraine and the Baltics, it is slated to become an important forward base for the West. Before a substantial American military presence can be implanted, however, all Russian troops must leave Georgian soil – or what Georgia claims as its soil, though some who dwell there would disagree. Saakashvili, who is even more nationalist and centralist than his old opponent, Shevardnadze, would welcome American intervention, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush publicly raises the issue on his visit. It won’t be as easy as getting the Syrians out of Lebanon, although the Western media is bound to frame the coming conflict in similar terms.

The Caucasus rumbles with seismic tremors, as the tectonic plates of power shift. In newly “liberated” Kyrgyzstan, the pink-and-yellow “revolutionaries” are seizing the property of Russian speakers and effectively carrying out an anti-Russian ethnic cleansing. Moldova smolders, while the Americans openly incite the Belarusians to rise. Oh, but we aren’t Jacobins, protests the president:

“The idea of countries helping others become free, I hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary but rational foreign policy, as decent foreign policy, as humane foreign policy.”

The new Bush Doctrine of instability as the central motivating factor – the motor – of American foreign policy is anything but rational: it is nihilism writ large. There is nothing humane about the wars it incites, nothing decent about the lost lives and shattered hopes of nations crippled by age-old ethnic and religious strife.

That Moscow now finds itself in a circle of steel, surrounded by enemies armed and brought to power by the West, should disabuse Putin of any notion that he can successfully appease the West and avoid being targeted as the latest “dictator” to fall. They will come for him, or they will come for his successor. They are already on the way. Bush’s foray was the first tentative incursion, to be followed, soon enough, by other less overt efforts to bring Putin to heel. Supplying the Iranians with nuclear technology was bad enough, and sending missiles to Syria only increased Washington’s growing ire – but sending all those Kalashnikovs to Venezuela was really the last straw! They can’t – and won’t – let him get away with it.

Putin, the quintessential patriot, is standing up for Holy Mother Russia, and he is far from the authoritarian monster that Western liberals have conjured. He is, however, (a) no angel, and (b) burdened by major economic problems. His country is crippled by consequent social dislocations – drug addiction, rampant alcoholism, underpopulation, a vast criminal underground – that threaten to overwhelm the system and undermine the foundations of post-Soviet reforms.

What is important to keep in mind, as the demonization of Russia proceeds apace, is that Russia is no threat to the United States at present, and it is not in our interests to institute a policy of “regime change” in that country, either by funding “pro-democracy” movements and institutions or by other means. Putin has an interest in fighting the al-Qaeda-affiliated units in Chechnya – the source of so much of the terrorism that afflicts the Russians, such as occurred at Beslan. Russia is barely a decade out of the worst tyranny the world has ever seen, and the progress it has made in the direction of individual liberty, the democratic process, and the rule of law is remarkable by any measure. Yet our president and his chief foreign policy advisors are engaged in a campaign of full-time finger-wagging, while ignoring the substantive mutual interests that make for a natural Russo-American alliance against terrorism.

Our policy toward Russia brings out the underlying theme of American foreign policy, which is not Democracy but Domination – American domination, that is. In the endless search for enemies that keeps the interventionists perpetually busy, it is Russia’s turn, once again, to play the bogeyman. We can only hope that the Fourth World War, like the Third, will remain a cold war.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

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Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].