That’s a mouthful. Let me explain….
By now we all know of Putin’s Op Ed at the New York Times. Today I learned of a response by Senator Rand Paul, entitled “President Putin, America Is Exceptional.” (HT EPJ)
Senator Paul has painted the US (more accurately the US government) as having but a speck in its eye, compared to the plank in the eye of Putin’s Russia.
Mr. Putin’s second mistake is to focus on the speck in the eye of the United States, while ignoring the plank in his own.
I will get to the first mistake shortly….
Now, I don’t make any effort to defend the government in Russia, the Soviet Union, etc. My views about a coercive state are equal-opportunity. I also won’t spend time comparing atrocities. Even granting that the history of the Russian state (and especially the Soviet Union that preceded it) was more ghastly than the history of the US state, such a view does not absolve the US of arguably qualitatively and quantitatively lessor atrocities.
Paul takes exception to Putin’s questioning of American exceptionalism:
America’s exceptionalism is rooted in our founding documents and values. From the rights granted by our creator, but guaranteed by our Constitution. We should not shy away from saying so, especially when our actions are in keeping with this exceptional founding, as they were this week in our debate over going to war in Syria. Our constitutional checks and balances were on full display, largely resulting in the at least temporary halting of a rush to war.
I will set aside any comment on the value of those founding documents, other than to say that the more I understand the history, the less exceptional I find the history and the documents to be. However, for the first time in at least 100 years, those vaunted checks and balances have stopped (for now, at least) a US president from getting the country into a war. And this is the root of Paul’s claim of exceptionalism.
I don’t get caught up in the idea that Congress properly authorized the wars prior to Korea. That these were authorized does not justify the act. Further, these authorizations were famously based on lies. For example, the Maine did not explode due to Spanish sabotage; FDR committed many acts of war prior to the authorization in order to ensure Germany, then Japan, would take the first overt step.
The only exceptionalism in this regard is that this past week was the 100 year storm; the exception was that this week was the exception.
Now, on to the speck in the US eye and the plank in the eye of Russia:
We went to war in Afghanistan because they were harboring those who attacked us on 9/11. Mr. Putin’s cohorts went to war there three decades earlier for no legitimate reason.
We (meaning the people) have no idea who attacked us on 9/11. We (meaning the government) turned an entire country and region upside-down in order to find (supposedly) the supporting cast of those who died doing the deed. The government commission says they don’t know the truth about the events of 9/11, but they are sure they heard the lies. Architects, airline pilots, engineers and others have poked very serious holes in the official narrative.
And whatever the Soviet reasons were for invading Afghanistan, one can at least say they were sticking to their own neighborhood – a reasonably regular event for the Soviets, and a red line often crossed by the US.
The United States until now has resisted arming one side of the Syrian civil war – all the while the other side has been armed by Russia.
Look, I don’t think any state should be selling arms to anyone. With that said, the way of the world is that states authorize arms sales to other states – and very much so in the Middle East. Russia may very well be arming the Syrian government, but this is normal in international law and commerce. The United States is arming rebels, intent on overthrowing the internationally recognized government. I believe this is frowned upon in polite company – I guess unless we believe that the guy who ate the heart of his victim is the new Thomas Jefferson.
Additionally, two facts should not be ignored: 1) the United States spends about 7.5 times in its offense budget as compared to Russia, and 2) the United States exports approximately three times the arms as does Russia.
“Yeah, but US exports only go to the good guys….”
The United States has used diplomatic pressure to attempt to resolve the ongoing situation with Iran – Russia has just announced a large arms sale that will escalate tensions in the region.
“Diplomatic pressure” is code for “all options are on the table” which is code for “we will nuke you if we decide to, and we’ve done it before so don’t think we won’t.”
Nevertheless here we are. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or at least my temporary ally. …both countries certainly face real and present threats from Islamic extremists, both at home and in areas of strategic importance.
Well, the Russians face them primarily at “home” (didn’t the Saudis just threaten to unleash the Chechens?). The US faces them for the most part in “areas of strategic interest” (well, except for the dupes cajoled by the FBI), which these days means virtually everywhere around the world except for the non-coastal regions of Russia and China. This is, or should be, an important distinction.
American [sic] should not act militarily in Syria because it cannot and should not join the same side as Al Qaeda. Russia cannot and should not continue to support militarily the brutal Assad regime.
On the one hand, this is a statement with which I can agree wholeheartedly…if it was made more complete. No government should use money stolen from its taxpayers to fund arms in favor of any other government. By the way, didn’t Assad do some torturing on behalf of the Americans in the name of the global war on humanity?
Somehow, however, I don’t believe this is what Paul means. Let’s just say if support can be judged on the brutality of the government being supported (as Paul does regarding Assad), the United States has one of the larger planks-in-the-eye in this discussion.
…I respond to [Putin] directly with the statement that yes, American is indeed exceptional. Our history has proved it so.
This one is too much.
I offer the following, all from the top of my head: slavery from birth, the invasion of Canada, the war against self-determination in 1861, the genocide of American Indians, the false flag of the Maine, the slaughter of a few hundred thousand Filipinos, the arrogant and uninformed contributions to the worst peace treaty in history in 1919, the instigation toward Germany and Japan in the late 1930s, the carpet bombing of civilian positions throughout Germany and Japan during the war, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the absolutely unnecessary nuclear bombings of Japan, various chemical experiments on its own citizens, building up and ripping down various dictators throughout the cold war and since, chemical weapons against the Vietnamese, chemical weapons against Iraq, chemical weapons in Waco, lies in explanation of September 11, drone strikes against innocent civilians, kill lists authorized by the president, spying on every connected person in the world.
If I thought about it for more than 30 seconds, I imagine I could come up with 20 more.
Of course, this is not to say that Russia has a spotless record. As mentioned, a pox on them all – most states only differ in degree, not in direction.
Whatever one can say about Putin and about the history of the Russians and the Soviet Union before it – and of course, much can be said – this much is clear, right now, today: Snowden found asylum there, and Putin helped put a stop to the senseless murder of more Syrians. If someone can get a Nobel Peace Prize merely for being elected president, certainly these actions are worthy as well.
In the meantime, Senator Paul has turned this into a black pot calling another black pot black.
The US government has plenty of blood on its hands. In this, it is no exception. Enough said.