Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Remembering Stalin in Ukraine, and Other Atrocities to Keep in Mind while Doing Very Careful Business with the Latest Russian Empire (and the Iranians)

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

                  — Attributed plausibly to Adolph Hitler,
                      preparing to annihilate, most immediately, Poles         

I'm listening again to Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin (1st published 2012), and I've gotten to Stalin's program of collectivization and against the peasants and nationalisms (sic: plural) inside that "prison-house of nations" the Russian Empire was under the czars and remained under Stalin.

            The United States will have to cooperate with the Russians (and the Iranians) for immediate needs like a reduction of slaughter in Syria and vicinity, and for continuing necessities like nuclear-arms reduction so the number of warheads gets to and stays below any number likely to destroy human civilization. The history of Russian rule in Ukraine and in the Balkans, the history of Russia in the various attempts to destroy Poland — another big topic for Snyder — is crucial to know and keep in mind during any rapprochement with the Russian Federation: It must be done in ways that won't really upset people with grievances against the Russian Empire in its Stalinist forms and decent memories. In American time, the 1930s were a long time ago; not so for people with better memories, especially when the memories include Ukrainians in huge numbers intentionally starved to death by Stalin and his willing executioners.

            I just finished listening again to Destiny Disrupted: A History Of The World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary (2010), which makes the point that Islam, like aspects of Judaism and in the history of Christendom, is in part a political project. (Year 1 in the Muslim calendar is not the birth of Mohammed nor the year of the first revelation, but the year of the move to Medina and the birth of the Muslim community.) This is a point insisted on by Donald Trump’s national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. It is also a point that must be kept in mind *and* handled with great delicacy.

            Here are two areas where the Trump people have legitimate points to make and could suggest some useful policies, but may end up with greater or lesser disasters because they don't "do nuance" and seem to consider delicacy (and what George Orwell called decency) unmanly.

            We need to cooperate with the Russians without undermining NATO and putting large parts of Europe in doubt of our willingness to prevent Russia from again doing horrible things on their territory. We need to cooperate with Russia and Iran against very much political aspects of "Jihad" in senses that definitely included military struggle. And we need to do all this very carefully.

            Another US administration that's into swagger over substance and some subtlety could make the US Iraq misadventures look relatively minor.

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