Fish in a barrel

So I figured I’d make a short guide to some of the most common arguments coming from “geopolitical experts” and Putin fans both inside and outside of Russia. This is too easy.

America should mind its own business! It has no right to judge Russia’s actions! 

First of all, this argument applies to the government at best. Notice, however, that the US pulled out of Iraq and is pulling out of Afghanistan. President Obama declared the end to large-scale US military operations around the globe. The number of US bases abroad is typically overstated. America’s leadership is well aware of the fallout that the Iraq War caused in the minds of the American public. This is why even conservatives came out in opposition to war in Libya and Syria, for example.

Second, while it’s not really an excuse, countries like the US have a slight moral edge on Russia because unlike the latter, they don’t treat their citizens like shit all the time. Moreover, they at least claim to stand up for human rights, whereas Russia only seems to care about human rights when it’s using them for propaganda purposes. The actual dominant ideology in Russian power circles is geopolitics, an amoral, 19th century imperialist policy which is not concerned with such concepts as human rights.

Moreover, the Russian media has always been more than happy to talk about all the horrible things that go on in America and the West, both real and imagined. How is that minding one’s own business? It isn’t.

If there were unrest in Mexico, near the border of Texas, the US would act!

If you’ve been paying attention to the news for the last few years, you’d know that Mexico is basically at war with powerful drug cartels, such that army escorts are often needed to travel in some areas. One of the hotspots for violence is Ciudad Juarez, which happens to be right on the border. American citizens have been killed due to drug cartel violence in the past. Yet none of this has led to the US invading and annexing say, Baja California so as to secure Rocky Point for American tourists and property owners.

For the US to act in response to some more serious violence or unrest near the border of Texas, for example, there would need to be a considerable threat to those citizens in Texas. For example, the US military launched punitive expeditions into Mexico during the Mexican revolution due to cross-border raids on American settlements. There was no such threat to the Russian Federation due to Maidan. The Orange Revolution also involved Ukrainian nationalists and yet nobody in the Crimea was killed.

Furthermore, the implication that Russia wouldn’t say anything about the US invading or annexing part of Mexico is simply laughable. If Russian media attacks the US over its relations with countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, or Venezuela, are we really supposed to believe their response to a US invasion and annexation of Mexico would be anything like, “Well it is their sphere of influence, after all?” Of course that wouldn’t happen.  For one thing, millions of Americans would be up in arms about such an invasion, and RT would be more than happy to cover their demonstrations.

The US is trying to contain Russia and deny it access to markets!

Uh…No. Russia really isn’t a trade competitor with the US. It’s economy is approximately equivalent to that of the state of California, and most of its exports are natural resources. Plus the US oil industry and gas industry has been making huge strides in the past few years.

The problem with geopolitical theory is that its rooted in 19th century imperialist politics and possibly video games like Starcraft, where great powers compete to deny each other access to markets and try to capture more resources.

Also, as far as I read, the EU association agreement with Ukraine would not have blocked Russian access to Ukrainian markets. In fact, it’s been pointed out that Ukraine and Russia have, at least last year, continued to trade in spite of being at war with each other. Hell, Ukraine only recently tightened the entry regulations for Russian citizens, requiring them to have foreign passports as opposed to just crossing the border with their internal Russian passport.

But what about Libya? Syria? 

Many Americans opposed their government’s policy in regards to both those countries. Luckily in the US you can protest and run independent media without being labeled a foreign agent or having the government sponsor massive rallies to intimidate “traitors.” When we see similar debate in the mainstream Russian media over the war in Ukraine, get back to us.

But the US did (list of activities that happened over 50 or more years ago)! 

Indeed, those were bad, and in most cases a majority of Americans agree. Intelligent people realize that nations should not behave the way they did in the 19th or early 20th century. While the US has certainly engaged in a number of immoral actions since WWII, there are certain things which, in the 21st century, are now “off the table” for any country that wants to remain respectable.

I recommend reading a classic book on guerrilla warfare called War of the Flea. Written before the end of the Vietnam War, it makes a point about how guerrilla warfare in the post-WWII era was so successful because governments needed to maintain a higher level of respectability, which in turn limited the kinds of actions they could take in putting down an insurgency. Nazi and Japanese Imperial military personnel were sentenced for war crimes in connection with their anti-partisan operations. What is more, the spread of media, including television, made it possible for citizens around the world to learn about, and actually see, the realities of anti-insurgency warfare.

Why does any of that matter? Well nowadays, no country which wants to be in good standing can implement policies like those of the Third Reich, such as shooting 50 civilians for the wounding of a government or occupation soldier, and 100 for the killing of said soldier. It is also unacceptable to round up entire populations and move them into concentration camps. Things that the British Empire used to do as late as the early 1960’s are automatically out of the question now.  National reputation matters.

Is this a perfect system? No. Do governments that preach human rights often violate those principles, or support regimes which do so flagrantly, of course. Should citizens therefore shut up about certain governments who do the same? No.

Too easy.


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2 thoughts on “Fish in a barrel

  1. Realist

    “America should mind its own business! It has no right to judge Russia’s actions!”

    Being neither American nor Russian, I do not believe the USA has a “slightly higher moral ground” than Russia! The fact you guys openly ally yourselves with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the like (countries with human rights records that are many degrees more shameful than modern day Russia’s – a fact obvious to any clear-minded observer) already calls that into question! Remember the old cliche “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are!” And if you happen to be a Christian, you would also do well to remember how much Jesus SCORNED hypocrites!

    If your country is so fond of human rights to the point it has to criticize Russia for its human rights problems, then it should do the same in the same blunt matter for its allies Saudi Arabia or Qatar – think of what Sweden did recently which caused a spat between Stockholm and Riyadh! Failure to do so will only cause more and more people to turn a deaf ear into any proclamation by the USA! You can’t blame the rest of the world for becoming cynical if that’s what they’re observing!

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t doubt that Russia’s gov’t has historically treated its citizens worse than America’s for a very long time, but many Russians I’ve known (both inside and outside of their Motherland, especially those who remember the USSR days as well as the terrible and turbulent 1990s) tell me they’ve never had it better! I hear the opposite from many Americans I know – in fact I know people in the USA who say they won’t be surprised if their children end up moving abroad for work!

    But regardless, we should not let political/geopolitical differences dictate who we get along with (even though TPTB anywhere would want that)! The world will be better off if everyone thought for themselves and all strove to reach out to others in an attempt to find the common humanity! Anybody who wants to see that happen in the world all have their work cut out for them no matter where they are!

    This is just an observation coming from an outsider who’s neither American or Russian, therefore has no real dog in this fight! Thanks.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Of course the US needs to constantly strive to live up to its self-proclaimed values, but even when it comes to things like supporting dictatorships, note how many the US supports today compared to how many it supported during the Cold War or even shortly thereafter in the 90’s. Back then if you were a military junta who had seized power in a coup, the US was cool with it as long as you remained on their side. Nowadays this just isn’t acceptable to most of the world.

      It’s not that the US is getting better, it’s that the world is changing, thanks to decades of free press, grassroots movements, the internet, etc. Russia, however, wants to move back to a 19th century world of Great Power politics, where countries are allowed to do whatever they want within their sphere of influence.


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