Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hitch on Putin

Before going off on Iraq/Iran some more (when was the last time he did anything else??...oh yeah!) Hitchens has this quote, which really sums up a lot. Russia has been nothing but trouble, and it’s about time our foreign policy addressed this more thoroughly. And if Bush thought he was reading Putin's soul right, his literacy problems are even worse than the left likes to joke.

Out of a thesaurus of possible nominations, one would have to select George Bush's remarks about Vladimir Putin as the stupidest utterance of his entire presidency. Impressed beyond words by the fact that Putin was wearing a crucifix that had belonged to his mother and was thus a man of faith, our chief executive then burbled like a schoolgirl and said that he had looked into the man's eyes and knew he was the one to trust. (I have not checked, but surely someone can discover how many times Putin has worn that crucifix since. It could be a sort of emblem of the fatuity of the "faith-based.") Since then, Putin has been noticeable for his efforts to protect Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, the Iranian mullahs, and the Sudanese racist cleansers from any concerted action by the United Nations and has instructed his troops in Chechnya to behave in a manner that would cause a storm of international outrage if emulated by coalition forces in Iraq. In response, Chechen insurgents have committed atrocities, such as the seizure of the Moscow theater or the Beslan school hostage-taking, which nobody would be so crass as to blame on the lack of vigilance of the Russian security services.


The Chechen situation and Russian actions have been ridiculous. A passable brief history of the conflict which goes back to the Muscovite imperial expansion (they've literally been fighting for 250 years) and most Americans know far too little about can be found here at Wikipedia. Among other highlights, in the 1940's the entire Chechen population was forcibly relocated to Siberia and the Kazakh steppes. This not only permanently embittered the current generation, which grew up in exile, but galvanized the population. Where other peripheral Russian ethnic groups have assimilated more to the Russian national identity, the Chechens have no such objectives, they want the independence they've been fighting for hundreds of years, and this is not the sort of conflict where a brokered peace will be successful with anything short of independence (something Russia will NEVER give, because it would signal the end of the Russian imperial age, and the dissolution of massive swathes of territory, including many of its regions richest in resources).

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