25 March 2014
Democracy in America or democracy in Ukraine
The American people have spoken -- or at least a sample has. A CBS poll indicates that 65% of Americans surveyed -- including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, don't want the U.S. giving military aid to Ukraine. A slightly smaller percentage, 61%, asserts that the U.S. has no responsibility to intervene in the beef between Ukraine and Russia. This news certainly will disappoint neocons and those liberals who believe that democracies have a responsibility to stand up for each other. Some observers inevitably will damn the Obama administration again, this time for failing to articulate a "freedom agenda," for want of a better term, in foreign affairs that would awaken Americans to what some see as their responsibility to the global cause of democracy. Expect Sen. McCain, who now wears Russia's refusal to let him in the country as a badge of honor, to be heard from on these points, along with his remaining followers. They seem to be increasingly isolated in what they most likely see as an atmosphere of "isolationism" and "appeasement." Yet the Obama administration itself remains too strident for its own good in its demonization of Russia, as the President's U.N. ambassador unapologetically insults the Russians as "thieves" of the Crimea in the Security Council. You don't have to be an "apologist" or appeaser to find this attitude ridiculous, even childish. Russia conquered the Crimea fair and square a long time ago, only to have it taken from them and reassigned to Ukraine by the arbitrary will of a Communist dictator, Nikita Khrushchev, who spent his formative years in Ukraine. Nor do you need to be an appeaser or apologist to question our assignment of superior legitimacy to a Ukrainian regime whose base is a mob, remains unelected, and stands for little more than hatred of Russia. None of these observations make Russia or President Putin the good guys in the story, but there doesn't really have to be a good guy in every story. To different extents, the neocons and the Democrats in the U.S. are still selling an existential foreign policy that commits American power to the preservation and spread of "freedom" around the world. But between the "liberations" of Afghanistan and Iraq and the full flourishing of "freedom" at home fewer Americans, if the poll is accurate, see the benefits of promoting "freedom" anywhere. They no longer believe in the ideological myth of the free world locked in eternal struggle with the forces of tyranny. That doesn't mean they've grown soft on tyranny; many remain oversensitive to supposed tyrannical trends at home. But that only makes more Americans skeptical of the idea that American hegemony benefits everyone, since many feel that it doesn't even benefit us. If that means Ukrainians have to fight their own battles, and lose, so be it. If the world doesn't owe anyone a living, it doesn't owe Ukraine freedom. If that sounds hopelessly cynical and defeatist, try giving us a government of our own that we can believe in before telling others how they should govern themselves.