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Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars 
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 Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
Winter Is Coming
Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars

Please use this thread for discussing the above chapter.



Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:40 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
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Clinton recounts in his book that when he first met Yeltsin in the Kremlin on that trip, they “shook hands” on Yeltsin publicly announcing Russia wouldn’t give any nuclear technology to Iran that could be used for military purposes. He duly did so at the press conference, but Yeltsin wouldn’t officially prohibit such weapons-related transfers until August 1996, over a year later.

Many members of Congress were outraged and added conditions to restrict aid to Russia if it continued to support Iran’s nuclear program and to wage war on civilians. But the Clinton administration managed to include a provision in the Russian aid bill to “allow the President to waive this restriction if he deemed it in the interest of US national security. The Administration argued that it was inappropriate to condition aid to Russia on a particular desired behavior in either Iran or Chechnya inasmuch as the aid program was intended to benefit reformist elements in Russia and ultimately facilitate a transformation that might ensure a more cooperative relationship in the future.”

That paragraph lays out everything that is wrong with dropping the moral element from foreign policy. For the sake of a vague hope for “a more cooperative relationship in the future,” the Clinton administration fought to keep the Iranian nuclear program and Chechnya massacre off the table.

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Reagan and his moral foreign policy had shown the way, but it was now completely abandoned. It was not based on what could be done unilaterally. No one could ever imagine that the United States or NATO would directly aid the Chechen separatists, for example. The important element was to show clearly and consistently that human rights mattered and that human lives mattered. Clinton was so invested in hoping “for a more cooperative relationship” that he could not simply state that massacring civilians and helping a state sponsor of terror build a nuclear program were unacceptable.

Kasparov likes Reagan's approach to human rights and Russia, and dislikes Clinton's. Discussing Chechnya here, he argues the U.S. and the West should have been much more aggressive, not necessarily intervening, but in pushing for human rights more forcefully.



Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:20 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
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Nineteen ninety-four was the year the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, the US, and the UK all sat side by side at a long table in Hungary to sign what would be known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. This brief document is far from a comprehensive treaty or even a security guarantee, but its intent and purpose was clear. Ukraine was giving up the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world under heavy pressure from Russia and the United States. In exchange, Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma wanted a public pledge from Clinton, Yeltsin, and John Major that they would “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” Obviously Russia violated the agreement when it invaded and then annexed Crimea in March 2014.

...But what does it say when twenty years later Ukraine is practically helpless against the giant nuclear-backed war machine of Vladimir Putin and the United States tells Ukraine sorry, but it should have read the fine print in Budapest? To answer my own question, it tells the world that American security promises are worthless (and British ones, for good measure). The only point of Budapest was to demonstrate to any potential aggressor—all eyes on the Russian bear next door, obviously—that the United States was putting Ukraine under its nuclear wing.

Kasparov goes way beyond arguing for more pressure on human rights in Ukraine, stating we should have intervened including nuclear protection. I'm certainly no expert, but that sounds like an insanely risky adventure...



Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
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Here is where we come to one of the most difficult concepts to explain to outsiders about the Russian rejection of democracy. When Soviets pondered the collapse of our country and the future ahead, democracy was not a very well-defined or well-understood concept to most of us. Yes, we desired freedom, rights, and all the things that come with an open society, but for most people these are abstractions. What we really envied about the West was opportunity; specifically the opportunity to improve our lot economically. The free world had elections and it had money and we had neither, so these things obviously went together: a package deal. So when we happily mobbed the polls in 1991 to vote for Yeltsin the first time it was as if many Russians expected the ballot boxes to operate like ATMs: put your ballot in and money will come out! This conceptual misunderstanding later made it easier for an authoritarian like Putin to roll back civil rights by claiming that democracy had failed, that it had all been a Western scam to exploit Russia, and so on. The economic situation didn’t help much either. If there is anything worse than empty store shelves it is shelves full of expensive new products you cannot afford to buy.

Interesting. Democracy obviously doesn't guarantee a free or improved economy.



Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:35 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
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Putin, on the other hand, has no use for the people of Russia, especially its young and educated people. He and his junta have turned the country into a petro-state, and exporting natural resources to an insatiable global market doesn’t require entrepreneurs or programmers, let alone writers and professors. Boycotting oil and gas also requires coordinated political will, a substance Putin now knows is far rarer in the free world than the platinum and diamonds in Siberia.

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If you know, you must act, so it is better not to know.

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If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, compromises on principles are the streetlights.

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Repression may begin as a means to an end, but it always ends up being an end unto itself.

Random insights sprinkled about...



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Tue Jan 01, 2019 7:06 pm
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Post Re: Winter Is Coming - Ch. 3 - The Invisible Wars
I am finding Kasparov pretty hard to take. For one thing his rhetoric subtly shifts ground depending on the incident or issue. For example, in discussing Yugoslavia he declares himself opposed to whoever first sheds blood, but in Chechnya the actions of the separatists are overlooked to focus on the massacres by the Russian government forces. Now, he may be right in both cases about who should be censured on moral grounds, but if you are going to claim principle as your justification, you should be willing to stick to the principle.

Similarly he claims to be for freedom and human rights everywhere and at all times, but he gives Reagan a free pass for the suppression of human rights in Central America, including sponsoring guerrillas trying to overthrow an elected government. Like many defenders of freedom from socialism, what he really wants to defend is the right of rich people to keep their money. There is a lot to be said for that, but if he is going to pretend to be for freedom and human rights, we should be holding him to his own standard.

When he gets to Afghanistan and the Middle East he is simply incoherent, because the politics of the region does not reduce to simple black and white principles. If you are for self-determination then the Kurds should have the homeland they have fought and died for over many decades. If you oppose oppression, then the Israelis should be forced to give up the settlements on the West Bank through which territory has been gradually annexed. Like the politicians and pundits, he wants to pick and choose when realpolitik should determine policy and when morality should determine policy. This reduces morality to rhetoric, and I find it repugnant.



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Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:10 pm
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