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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Saint Cohen on the Warpath

At a time when liberal values are being obliterated in Russia, liberals ought to be unifying against the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union, especially given the ire they direct at President George Bush, who is as responsible as any non-Russian for that odious development. But it turns out that, once again, we can't count on them for any real conviction -- or for that matter even coherence.

Senile has-been Professor Stephen Cohen has published an article in the sick partisan screed Nation magazine, edited by his wife, in which he unilaterally blames the United States for creating a new cold war with Russia. In a post about the article, Sean Guillory states: "Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cohen has targeted his intellectual ire on how American policy toward Russia in the 1990s exacerbated its economic collapse, social dislocation, and political instability."

So, let La Russophobe see if she understands: If only American policy had been different in the 1990s, then Russians wouldn't have freely elected a proud KGB spy as their president. They wouldn't have turned a blind eye as he recreated the Soviet Union. Their economy, always one of the world's most inefficient and comical, would have suddenly and miraculously become a dynamo capable of supporting the nation. Russians would have abandoned the military draft, they would have generated real political parties and real elections, and they would have won the respect of the former Soviet slave states. Is it really possible that so much sheer gibberish can be spewed out by American academia in the 21st Century, so soon after the fall of the USSR?

This is exactly the kind of insane American arrogance that Cohen hypocritically purports to stand against. Quite simply, it's ridiculous to suggest that America has this kind of influence over what Russia does, that Russia is some sort of helpless child subject to the bad parenting of America. It's the pathetic rationalization of a cowardly little man who makes himself feel better by attributing Russia's failings to causes he imagines he can control, those in America, rather than those in Russia far beyond his reach. It's Psych 101 rationalization.

Even Guillory, who seems to admire Cohen as a fellow academic with an international reputation, admits: "One could easily dismiss, (and many will), Cohen’s arguments as too biased since Putin carries no blame in the article for the current situation. But charges of bias are too often wielded as a rhetorical device for dismissing otherwise much needed discussion." But Guillory, blinded apparently by academic stars in his eyes, ignores Cohen's blatant hypocrisy, as well as his own: Apparently, it's just fine for Cohen to tell only part of the story because he's just promoting "much needed discussion," but when Vice President Dick Cheney does exactly the same thing, but with the opposite viewpoint, he is dismissed by the haughty Cohen as an ignorant and dangerous cold-war monger. And Guillory also ignores the larger and much more important point: leave aside Cohen's failure to attribute blame to Putin, what about the Russian people themselves??? Are American policymakers really more to blame for Russia's current situation than the Russian people? That idea is not only insane, its offensive enough to Russians that even La Russophobe blanches at it, which is saying something.

Give La Russophobe a break! Could it possibly be that Professor Cohen is looking for some time in the limelight, possibly seeking to ingratiate himself with the Kremlin so as to score some face time with the regime? What, La Russophobe asks, is Professor Cohen doing (or even recommending) about rampant race violence in Russia, or any of the other massive social atrocities going on there?

Guillory summarizes Cohen's attack on so-called American hypocrisy towards Russia as follows:

When NATO expands to Russia's front and back doorsteps, gobbling up former Soviet-bloc members and republics, it is "fighting terrorism" and "protecting new states"; when Moscow protests, it is engaging in "cold war thinking." When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is "promoting democracy"; when the Kremlin does so, it is "neoimperialism." And not to forget the historical background: When in the 1990s the US-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia's elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was "democratic reform"; when Putin continues that process, it is "authoritarianism."

So, let La Russophobe try to understand the complex workings of the Ivy League genius: President Putin isn't "authoritarian," right? Gee, I guess it must be true what they say about the smoking habits of "professors" at big-time universities. (Then again, Cohen got his bachelor's degree from the University of Indiana and right now he's teaching at New York University, neither one exactly to be considered top-ten institutions of higher learning; he did teach courses at Princeton, but they never offered him tenure -- gee, La Russophobe dares to wonder why . . . ).

This is nothing, of course, but regurgitated Russophile propaganda. One hears Russophile maniacs arguing that America approaching Ukraine and Georgia for military alliance would be like Russia approaching Canada and Mexico, but one hopes for something at least a little better from an Ivy League professor. Neither Canada nor Mexico have ever been slave states of the U.S.; to the contrary, they've been slave states of England and Spain and both in that capacity have been used as staging areas for invasions of the United States, most spectacularly in the War of 1812. Neither country has the least to fear from U.S. invasion, while Georgia and Ukraine have every right to panic. The free election by Russians of a proud KGB spy who spent his whole life devoted to Communist propaganda and the destruction of the United States, whose resume is secret and who is creating a Neo-Soviet Union in Russia, has no parallel in U.S.-Canadian or -Mexican relations.

And did Professor Cohen really say that Putin is "continuing the process" begun by Boris Yeltsin? Yeltsin urged regional leaders to take all the power they could grab, Putin has systemmatically destroyed those regional leaders. Yeltsin was the living embodiment of antipathy to the USSR and its failed system; Putin has launched the creation of a Neo-Soviet Union at breakneck speed.

But what is worse, Cohen ignores the whole point, that the U.S. tolerated the abuses of the Yeltsin regime specifically because it was following exactly the policy Cohen now attacks the U.S. for not following, namely cooperation and tolerance rather than confrontation and Cold War. Had the U.S. been more confrontational in the 1990s, Cohen's "analysis" implies, it could have prevented Yeltsin from going down the wrong path; but when it tries to do so now, it is engaging in war-mongering and must be stopped.

In other words, the man is quite senile, annoyed that he's lost his name recognition and trying desperately to get back in the game. He doesn't even try to be scholarly, but engaged in a hysterical partisan diatribe even while attacking others for doing the same, and he offers no meaningful solutions to the rise of totalitarianism in Russia. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Putin is playing the anthem of the USSR, written to glorify Josef Stalin, and Cohen is blaming it ion Bill Clinton and George Bush.


Winston said...

It isn't only Cohen's present judgement that is questionable. Fourteen years ago, Cohen's judgement of Bukharin was misguided, too. In his 1992 intro to the memoirs of Bukharin's wife, Anna Larina, Cohen describes him as "astonishingly defiant", and quotes a Soviet investigating judge who found him "a fighter to the end". We may even, he speculates, come to admire the man.

...Who was so short sighted he couldn't (or chose not to) see through Stalin in the late 1920s?

Sadly the truth about Bukharin's last days was that he was far from tragic/romantic hero Cohen wish-fulfilled him to be.

As Edvard Radzinsky wrote (Stalin p374) when Bukharin's last letters to Stalin were released from the archives shortly after Cohen's comments were written, "It is a pity to debunk a good legend but let Buhkarin's letters speak for themselves.."

He then quotes Bukharin in them:

"Koba! .. I have been meaning to write to you for several nights now. Simply I want to write to you, cannot help writing to you, since now I feel you to be someone so close to me... I have it in my mind to write a book. I should like to dedicate it to you and ask you to write a short forward, to show everyone that I consider myself entirely yours.... (As) I am preparing myself spiritually to depart for this vale of tears...I feel toward you, toward the Party, toward the cause as a whole nothing but great and boundless love. I embrace you in my thoughts..."

And I won't bother to draw all the parallels. If you can't see them, fellow readers, you ain't going to be persuaded by my explanation.

When Putin finally decides that is is an obscenity to let even one blood-stained brick of the Lubyanka remain standing on another and razes the building to ground, then and only then will I believe that Russia has left the past behind. Until then, whatever Cohen and others say, the West must not let up; tactful and diplomatic it must be, but it must be firm. Human rights abuses by a nation that won't investigate or prosecute any of their own war criminals and mass murderers cannot be ignored.

La Russophobe said...

Gosh I gave Sean credit for the Bukharin business, looks like I'll have to learn to be even more cynical in the future. Thanks for the insights Winny, you are indispensable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what you typed but your rhetorical excess reinforces my convictions that phobics in any guise are in dire need of their meds. Cohen's not a fool and neither are you so stop trying to play one.

La Russophobe said...

ANONYMOUS: I never said Cohen was a fool, I said he was an APOLOGIST and an EGOMANIAC who is trying to SUCK UP THE KREMLIN to revive his flagging career.

If you don't care for my style, please point me to a different one that you can prove is more effective in resisting the Kremlin's advances. Until then, or until the Neo-Soviet Union disappears, there is room for every approach.

You might be interested to know that many find a confrontational style very attractive, which is why folks like Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh are so influential.

Sean Guillory said...

It should be noted that Cohen's book on Bukharin was published in 1971 (reprinted in 1980) and therefore didn't have access to the archival materials that Radzinsky (Stalin was published in 1997) did. Bukharin's letter to Stalin that is quoted above being one of them. Cohen has not published an updated version but few scholars do. Especially if new eidence invalidates their previous work. For example, just look at Robert Conquest's Great Terror. He didn't do a reevaluation of the Terror except for his feeble "reassesment" in 1991 even though the archives have proved him completely wrong. Still his book continues to be an important work.

Bukharin was no saint, though Cohen tries to make him out to be. Very few Boklsheviks were. Still his book is the only and best treatment of Bukharin to date. But in regard to the assertion that Bukharin should have seen what was coming, we should remember that history is 20/20. And to state that Bukharin should have known does nothing to shed light on his rise and fall and the times it occured.

Anonymous said...

"Rush Limbaugh are so influential"

No wonder you are so messed up, if he is your idol:-)

By the way, do you know that Rush is being suspected of being a sex tourist to the Dominican Republic? This should present you with a problem, you are either for Rush - the sex tourist or Sharapova - the "slut", as you call her:-)

He is also a pill popper, and it has been alleged here that you take medications too, like xanax:-)

So the more you say, the more people are building a certain portrait of you:
- You consider Rush to be influention due to his confrontational style, and you admire him for that.
- You more than likely take certain medications.
- You consider yourself to be inferior to Sharapova, through your looks, success, wealth, etc.
- You consider yourself inferior to Russians, because they paid your salary at one point, and you did not like that.
- You admit that you have a phobia of Russians. And phobias are a mental condition:-)
- You always claim that you present valid and supported arguments, but then someone presents a rebutall, you reserve to childish insults, like "moron," etc
- You refer to yourself, sometimes, in third person or in plurial; these either means that there is more that one of you, or you have voices and you are mental.
- You admited yourself, that the arguments you present here are one-sided, thus you are a provocateur without any purpose of having a sane argument.

Others might want to expand my list of Russophobe's problems.

Dear Russophobe, please write more! We want to know you better!

vanderwall said...

"Guillory summarizes Cohen's attack on so-called American hypocrisy towards Russia as follows:"... and then a direct quote from Cohen's article - which you obviously didn't read. Nice.

vanderwall said...

"Human rights abuses by a nation that won't investigate or prosecute any of their own war criminals and mass murderers cannot be ignored." Even when they happen in Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, and everywhere else we send our teenage death squads?

Svetlana said...

I undrstand wy you KIm would criticize Stephen F Cohen for his belief about the Cold War; most people, I think, choose one or the other country to blame for the cold war. I however take a view that isnt very popular in the west, and alot of people,including you I think would eat me alive for daring to say that the US ws also to blame for the Cold War. My view is that BOTH countries were to blame for the start of the cold war. While I agree with you that Russia is responsible for it, so is the US. To say why would be to give you an essay which would be to big for a little blog comment. But that is my view.
Regarding Bukharin, I am dealing with the reasons why Bukharin didnt see (or chose not to see) what Stalin was really intending to do regarding the Trotsky and Kamenev and Zinoviev in the late 1920's, that Stalin was using Bukharin as an ally to defeat the Zinoviev/Kamenev duo and why he did not do anything until it was to late, in my website. but basically my view is that Stalin knew enough about these people to divide them and play them off against each other , seeing each other as threat more than they saw stalin as one, and I think part of it was that certain aspects of stalin's character compared with say Trotsky, caused them to ignore him as a threat and t defeat each other first. Thats was one reason. And of course Bukharin was no angel. Nobody is. Nobody is perfect.