Saturday, December 04, 2004

Opposing America, Regardless

I have been negligent in not previously noting the historic events taking place in Ukraine. Hopefully the Ukrainian people will succeed in ridding their country of the final vestiges of Soviet-style politics and enjoy genuine democracy. For an overview of the ruling party's ham-fisted attempt to rig the recent presidential election, see this interview with Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations.

While most in America and Europe stand squarely behind the right of the Ukrainian people to be allowed to freely determine their political future, part of the Western Left has taken a somewhat different view of events in that country. Anne Applebaum, in a piece from the December 1 Washington Post, explains:

Just in case anyone actually thought that all of those people waving flags on the streets of Kiev represent authentic Ukrainian sentiments, the London Guardian informed its readers otherwise last week. In an article titled "US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev," the newspaper described the events of the past 10 days as "an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing." In a separate article, the same paper described the whole episode as a "postmodern coup d'etat" and a "CIA-sponsored third world uprising of cold war days, adapted to post-Soviet conditions."

Neither author was a fringe journalist, and the Guardian is not a fringe newspaper. Nor have their views been ignored: In the international echo chamber that the Internet has become, these ideas have resonance. Both articles were liberally quoted, for example, in a Web log written by the editor of the Nation, who, while writing that she admired "citizens fighting corrupt regimes," just as in the United States, she also noted darkly that the wife of the Ukrainian opposition leader, a U.S. citizen of Ukrainian descent, "worked in the Reagan White House."

Such is the twisted worldview of much of the left, including a sizable minority in this country. It's far better to have been a Soviet apparatchik, part of one of the twentieth century's most monstrous totalitarian tyrannies, than to have "worked in the Reagan White House." It's far more important to engage in paranoid electoral necrophilia over alleged "irregularities" in Ohio and Florida, than to stand with people who really did have an election stolen from them. Of course, that's when they're not dismissing the Ukrainian demonstrators as tools of the evil "neocons" and all-powerful CIA. Applebaum ably debunks these notions:

This phenomenon is interesting on a number of accounts. The first is that it rather dramatically overrates the influence that American money, or American "democracy-promoters," can have in a place such as Ukraine. After all, about the same, relatively small amount of U.S. money has been spent on promoting democracy in Belarus, to no great effect. More to the point, rather larger amounts of money were spent in Ukraine by Russia, whose president visited the country twice to campaign for "his" candidate. If the ideas that Americans and Europeans promoted had greater traction in Ukraine than those of President Putin, that says more about Ukraine than about the United States. To believe otherwise is, if you think about it, deeply offensive to Ukrainians.

Applebaum's conclusion is dead-on:

The larger point, though, is that the "it's-all-an-American-plot" arguments circulating in cyberspace again demonstrate something that the writer Christopher Hitchens, himself a former Trotskyite, has been talking about for a long time: At least a part of the Western left -- or rather the Western far left -- is now so anti-American, or so anti-Bush, that it actually prefers authoritarian or totalitarian leaders to any government that would be friendly to the United States. Many of the same people who found it hard to say anything bad about Saddam Hussein find it equally difficult to say anything nice about pro-democracy demonstrators in Ukraine. Many of the same people who would refuse to condemn a dictator who is anti-American cannot bring themselves to admire democrats who admire, or at least don't hate, the United States. I certainly don't believe, as President Bush sometimes simplistically says, that everyone who disagrees with American policies in Iraq or elsewhere "hates freedom." That's why it's so shocking to discover that some of them do.

There are, of course, many decent leftists who stand on genuine principle, such as Norm Geras and the folks at Harry's Place. Far too many on the left, however, are seemingly guided by no other belief than the necessity of taking a position in direct opposition to that of the US, regardless of the actual circumstances of an issue. If being in de facto agreement with former communist thugs in Ukraine, a genocidal regime in Sudan, or jihadi terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan bothers such people, they haven't shown it so far.


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