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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Richard Lourie Drops a Clanger


La Russophobe is a big fan of Moscow Times columnist Richard Lourie, but he dropped a major clanger in his most recent column, about KGB rule of Russia. Lourie states:

Andropov did not rule long enough to disappoint the high expectations many had of him. He did, however, rule long enough to establish the precedent and prototype of the intelligence chief turned national leader that President Vladimir Putin is developing further today. (There's nothing exclusively Russian about this: former U.S. President George H. W. Bush had, among his many credentials, the title of former head of the CIA.)
The analogy to George H. W. Bush (the current president's father) is suprisingly bogus, purely a red herring, and the reasons should be obvious to all. Nevertheless, let's enumerate them:

1. Totally unlike Bush, both Putin and Andropov came up through the ranks of the secret police. They both had secret resumes and might have committed any number of crimes in defense of the motherland. They spent years being inculcated with ideology. Bush merely served, very briefly, in an essentially adminstrative position. His resume is an open book.

2. Bush, unlike either Putin or Andropov, was first elected to office as vice president, and spent eight years in the crucible of public scrutiny before becoming president. When he became president, it was by means of a genuinely free election contested by a serious democratic rival. And during that election, the question of Bush's role in the CIA was repeatedly raised and challenged. Nothing like that has happened in regard to either Andropov or Putin; Russia has never had one genuine election in its history.

3. Even if Bush had been a trained CIA killer, he came to power only after two centuries of democratic governance, allowing the country to establish a long history of civil liberties and placing it in a far better position to withstand any possible encroachments upon civil liberties he might have pursued. The country was also in a far stronger economic and geopolitical position to absorb the punishment he might have handed out than Russia is today.

4. It's impossible to point to anything done by Bush while in office which could be viewed as an attempt to impose the values of the secret police upon the country. Indeed, a far better case can be made against his son in this regard than against him. By contrast, books are needed to fully enumerate all the encroachments made by Putin.

5. By far most important, say what you will about it nobody can accuse the American CIA of building gulags in America, blowing up churches (with the priests still in them) and killing more Americans than all its foreign enemies combined. Nobody can say that, as a direct result of such activity, the American population is now on the verge of extinction. But you can (indeed, you must) say that about the KGB, meaning that it's not even remotely comparable to be a CIA president of America and a KGB president of Russia. Electing a CIA spy president might be viewed as dangerous, but it can't possibly be viewed as a knowing embrace of a totally failed past.

Maybe Lourie was just following a common course among Russia-watchers, seeking to throw a bone to the Russians in order to get them to accept his critique more easily, like hiding a child's medicine inside a piece of candy. La Russophobe has always thought that is why the Moscow Times published the insane drivel of Chris Floyd, and that is why she was heartened by the MT's termination of that odious screed. It's disgustingly patronizing to view Russians as children who can't handle the truth full-on; if that's really what they are, they are beyond all hope. But even if you subscribe that tortured logic, statements of this kind must be monitored carefully, as they can easily become propaganda fodder for those in Russia who wish to rationalize KGB rule.

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