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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hypocrisy and Friendship: The New Cold War

Nearly everyday the question regarding our involvement in Iraq is asked, “Why are we there?” The answer our president has given is, “We are there to bring democracy to a place where there was once tyranny.” I’ll grant you that he came up with this well after the original reason, to disarm former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, turned to ashes in his mouth. However, even if it was our third or fourth reason to justify invasion, the theory I believe is sound. A viable democracy in the Middle East could start a cascade effect, spreading outward from Iraq and Afghanistan and summarily ridding terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda a place to organize.

It’s really not that bizarre of an idea.

The problem is, as with all things concerning the Bush Administration, is a matter of consistency. We’re standing firm with this noble idea that it is good to depose tyrants in the world and allow all people to be free in the hopes that free people will maximize the potential for relative peace around the globe. However, as Eddie Izzard once said, “If we’re going to just take it upon ourselves to get rid of tyrants, well then let’s get rid of all tyrants then, not just the one we don’t like….are we going in alphabetical order starting with ‘S’?”

Bush and company talk a fairly good game when it comes to certain dictatorships they don’t like. They brought down their old buddy Saddam because he was a loose end as well as a loose cannon and probably felt like it was only a matter of time before the piece of Cold War strategery came back to haunt them. Of course they don’t like Iran because of that whole “death to America” business not to mention hard feelings from the overthrow of the Shah. And if it weren’t for either China or Russia, North Korea would be a steaming pile of ash by now, as they present no real strategic or economic value to the world. These are easy totalitarian countries to pick on.

But when Bush talks about Russia all of a sudden that very same lack of democracy is overlooked and Moscow is regarded as a, “good friend.” Bush has practically gushed over Putin, who by all accounts has become as close to a Stalinist as one could be without killing millions of your own people (for more on this read Kremlin Rising).

Despite what is apparently Bush’s wishful thinking regarding our friends to the East, the Council on Foreign Relations has presented a more accurate portrayal of where Russia is headed and what that means to us.

Almost 15 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ties between Russia and the United States are "headed in the wrong direction", suggests a new report released here this week by the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In addition to disagreements over an increasing number of foreign-policy issues - most recently, Moscow's hosting of top officials of the Palestinian Hamas party - the US is concerned about internal developments in Russia, particularly what it regards as the growing concentration of power in the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin.

"At a time when the president of the United States has made democracy a goal of American foreign policy, Russia's political system is becoming steadily more authoritarian," according to "Russia's Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do", the 98-page product of a CFR task force that included many top US experts and former policymakers who have specialized in Russian affairs.

"Russia is a less open and less democratic society than just a few years ago, and the rollback of pluralism and centralization of power may not have run their course," says the report, which is likely to strengthen those in the administration of US President George W Bush and Congress who have called for a tougher line with Moscow. Google Source

Russia has been sliding back toward totalitarianism for some time now. Even as Bush was inviting Putin to the ranch and calling him a good friend to America, Putin was very visibly imprisoning those who threatened his power, taking over media stations and committing near genocide in Chechnya. You’ll notice that there’s very little mention of this in the mainstream news except for the one time Bill Maher alluded to it on his late night cable show.

Even today the tone regarding Russia is so much softer than the one we reserve for Iran or North Korea. This stark hypocrisy and unwillingness to face reality has pretty much given Moscow the opportunity to go hog wild in reconstituting itself as a superpower that will stand directly opposite of the US.

For example, where we try to send a message to the terrorist groups Hamas that anti-Semitism and threats of violence are not acceptable in any governmental body, Moscow practically falls over itself to extend an olive branch.

Hamas' leader hailed his Moscow talks as an end to the militant Palestinian group's international isolation and said Russia's position in negotiations differed from that of the United States and other Western nations, according to an interview published Monday.

Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, whose three-day visit ended Sunday, told the daily Vremya Novostei that "Moscow became the place where we opened the door to the entire global community."

"It broke the blockade which Israel and the United States have been trying to impose on us," Mashaal said.

He also said that "Russia's position is completely unlike that of the West," and praised Russian officials for understanding Hamas' stance.

Many Russian media and observers hailed the Kremlin invitation to Hamas as helping boost the Russian role in Middle East peacemaking. Geidar Dzhemal, a Moscow-based Islamic affairs analyst, said talks with Hamas also helped the Kremlin win stronger sympathy from the estimated 20 million Muslims who make up nearly 14 percent of Russia's population. "That was a very successful spin by Putin," Dzhemal told reporters Monday.

But Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Russia's hosting of Hamas was unnecessarily warm. "Hamas should have been given a pat on the shoulder, but they had a passionate tango instead," Malashenko told Gazeta. Source

Russia not only opposes sanctions against their buddies in Tehran, but now they also oppose sanctions against North Korea. Russia opposes any kind of sanctions against what the United States calls rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, Glev Ivashentsov, Moscow's top diplomat to Seoul, said on Tuesday.

His remarks came as U.S. and North Korean officials were to hold a meeting in New York later in the day amid Washington's financial sanctions against Pyongyang for the communist state's alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

``In principle, we are against any economic sanctions because they do not work,'' Ivashentsov told The Korea Times after a forum hosted by the Korea News Editors' Association in Seoul.

``There should be dialogue, there should be consultation, but sanctions do not work neither against North Korea, nor against Iran, nor against any other country,'' he said. Source

To quote from the movie Aliens, “What exactly are we suppose to use, harsh language?”

Apparently that’s exactly what Russia would like our global reach to be cut down to. At the end of the day, what Russia, China, the Middle East and to a lesser extent the European Union really want is for the US to be disarmed of its military and economic strength. It’s the rest of the world that wants set tones and pace. That’s probably been the single biggest problem with Iraq. We’ve invested so much time, energy and resources into this one affair that we’ve compromised our ability to deal effectively with the rest of the world and now places like Russia are jumping at the window of opportunity to assert themselves and dominant powers.

Meanwhile, we’re still harping about spreading democracy in a world that spits on it.


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