Graduate student David Ernst has a fantastic article on Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin’s political acumen. The article should be read in full, but here are some highlights:
“Vladimir Putin has suddenly emerged onto the world stage as a conservative.”
“Russia’s rightward turn renders Putin’s regime immune to the criticism of western liberals, and polarizes western conservatives. … Moreover, it establishes an entirely new ideological precedent for autocratic regimes who seek to challenge the American led world order. … If Western Europe and the United States are serious about sustaining a world order that prevents conflict, enables prosperity and promotes liberty and the rule of law, then their governments should defend it on those terms. Evidently, the Kremlin has figured out how to either shut them up or turn them against each other.”
When the leaders of the free world lack the eloquence – or the self-confidence – to defend the values of the greatest civilization that ever existed, that’s a problem. And it is the fault of the post-modern ideology that grips so much of our elites.
“Putin’s embrace of social conservatism … targets and exploits latent Western frustration with post-modern liberalism itself. In his most recent address to the Russian Federal Assembly, Putin spoke disdainfully of what for decades Americans have known as “political correctness”:
‘Society is now required not only to recognize everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning. This destruction of traditional values from above not only leads to negative consequences for society, but is also essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority, which does not accept the changes occurring or the proposed revision of values.’”
The real irony is that political correctness is a communist concept developed by the Frankfurt School and found its greatest expression in the devastation of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
“To hear a former KGB colonel bemoan the “erosion of ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures,” and the “destruction of traditional values from above” is at the very least amusing, if not astoundingly mendacious.”
Let alone from somebody who rose to power blowing up his own citizens in an apartment-house bombing campaign he likely orchestrated.
“Putin is nevertheless speaking to sentiments that an increasing number of Westerners share. Moreover, he is the only statesman of any noteworthy stature who is publically addressing them.
The opposition to political correctness is the greatest winning cause of our times that none of our cowardly politicians is willing to champion. Everybody –except the Frankfurt School left - hates it.
"In the United States, Putin’s right turn has exacerbated old divisions among its conservative intelligentsia. The reaction of some conservatives to Putin’s December speech has been positive, if not affirming. Putin’s call to return to traditional values and scorn for elites who willfully promote “abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values” compelled Pat Buchanan to wonder aloud whether Putin “was one of us?”
Pat Buchanan has lately become Exhibit A for the case that isolationists are fools – who end up being dupes of unsavoury foreign tyrants.
“Putin’s appeal to right in Europe is far more serious….Recent polling data, projections for the EU elections this May, and the Hungarian government’s recent solicitation of a 14 billion dollar loan from Moscow, however, suggest that Putin’s right turn coincides with widespread European disenchantment with the EU.”
The EU is the largest failed economic experiment since the demise of communism. Can anybody tell me what good the Euro has done?
“Russia’s growing influence in European affairs begs the question, how can policymakers in Brussels counter Putin’s charms? More specifically, how can they address the grievances that many Europeans have against the EU, and indeed the transatlantic alliance itself? The dispiriting answer increasingly appears to be that they cannot;”
The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is a soul-less bureaucrat. Who would follow him into the trenches? To paraphrase Marlon Brando, “He is an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.”
“the only electoral trump card that the EU bureaucrats can play against Euroskeptics and the European radical right is the promise of continued economic growth, and the survival of Europe’s generous social programs.”
The promise of economic growth isn’t looking too good these days, which just leaves welfare.
"Other essential elements of the human condition: religious faith, national identity and a spiritual sense of purpose have no place in their discourse, or indeed in the EU’s very reason for existing. Putin has shrewdly chosen a debate over hearts and minds with an opponent who is entirely ill equipped to respond.”
People fight for things like “religious faith, national identity and a spiritual sense of purpose”. They don’t fight for bureaucracies.
“On the matter of gay rights, Putin is likely more than happy to draw a stark contrast with President Obama. The choice to select gay athletes to participate in the Olympic Ceremony in Sochi undoubtedly won Obama praise from his supporters at home. On the world stage, however, it stands to reason that Putin was using the very same old Marxist tactic of “heightening the contradictions” against Obama.”
The need to draw “a stark contrast” with your opponent in order to win, is a lesson moderate conservatives stubbornly fail to learn, no matter how much bitter electoral reality bonks them on the head every time they try make themselves indistinguishable from their opponents.
"The choice to send gay athletes in a clear statement of protest against Russia’s “anti gay propaganda” law feeds right into Putin’s claims that global western “elites” are forcibly imposing their “abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority” appear credible.”
In the West, the popularity of politically correct values like gay marriage is a mile wide and an inch deep.
“In the case of Russian skullduggery in the North Caucuses, Ukraine and in Syria, Putin has already won the debate against his Western liberal opponents. Such was evident in the Russian President’s letter to the American People urging them not to intervene in Syria in the New York Times on September 11th last year. Rather than draw a contrast with Obama, Putin cynically harnessed the American President’s very own liberal idealism, internationalism, and scorn for his predecessor’s bold use of American power. Putin warned the American people that action in Syria would undermine the credibility of the United Nations, that it would inspire hatred among foreigners towards the United States for its presumption and arrogance, and that it would prove every bit as fruitless as our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Liberal utopianism results in a foreign policy that is just as foolish as right-wing isolationism is short-sighted.
“The Russian President’s sophistry notwithstanding, it was a flawless implementation of Saul Alinsky’s fourth rule of political warfare: make the enemy live up to his own book of rules. Many American liberals regarded the audacity of Putin to appeal their sensibilities with indignation, but they were speechless all the same. … When all was said and done, however, none could actually claim that what Putin said was wrong. Thus Putin left Obama with an ugly choice between publically buying his nonsense, or compromising his principles. Obama opted for a third option: make no choice at all.”
Nobody is more effective at demonstrating the incompetence of President Obama than Vladimir Putin. Col. Ralph Peters has its right: “Putin has Obama’s number, and it is zero.”
“Most disturbing of all, Putin’s successes demonstrate that he intuitively grasps the weaknesses inherent in modern liberalism itself. His objections to its shallowness, decadence, and materialism are especially potent, because they contain elements of truth. He sees that the European Union has a very tenuous hold on the identity of its citizens.”
“Effective grand strategies are distinguished insofar as they are able to articulate their objectives in moral terms, and then methodically filter them through rigorous assessments of what is possible. Currently, Putin is adopting a moral purpose for his country in international affairs, and it is lending him strategic clarity.”
As Napoleon once said, “The moral is to the physical as three is to one.”
“Western Europe and the United States, by contrast, are increasingly confused about their moral purpose, and have thus lost the initiative in shaping global events. Their statesmen would be wise to blunt the divisive effects of Putin’s right turn by turning back to the basic elements of their civilization, and articulating why they are a force for good. As Ukrainian liberals struggle to gain political traction following their ouster of a Kremlin backed stooge, Washington and Brussels could challenge Russian influence by calling for self-government, ordered liberty and the rule of law. Moreover, they could call out the Kremlin for its lawlessness and aggression.”
A leader convinced of the superiority of western civilization and possessing moral clarity, a Churchill, a Thatcher, a Reagan, or even a George W Bush, would have no trouble doing this.