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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

EDITORIAL -- Walter C. Uhler: Russophile Liar

Can you imagine what would happen to an employee of the Kremlin who penned an article entitled "Inciting a New Cold War: Hypocritical Russian views about American Democracy?" Have you ever heard of such a Russian doing such a thing?

Have you ever heard, for that matter, of something called the "Atlantic Free Press" or the "Russian-American International Studies Association" or its Annual Russian-American Seminar? Walter C. Uhler sure has. He's the president of the latter, and published the following article about how the U.S., his employer (he works in weapons procurement for the Defense Department and moonlights as a "scholar" of Russia), is responsible for "inciting" a new cold war and is "hypocritical" in judging Russian democracy. Let's test his "analysis," shall we? It appears below in black, with our running commentary in red.

But first, some background. Uhler's biography says he "currently serves as an Operations Chief in the Defense Contract Management Agency. His negotiations with defense contractors have saved DOD hundreds of millions of dollars." No backup on that latter claim is provided, nor does he explain why the U.S. doesn't choose to rely on his Russia expertise and instead relegates him to arms procurement. Here's what "Atlantic Free Press" says about itself:

Atlantic Free Press was launched in September 2006 by Dutch-Canadian Richard Kastelein of V.O.F. Expathos, in the Netherlands and American Expatriate Chris Floyd of Oxford, UK. Brick Ogden, an American Expatriate in Amsterdam has been a key supporter of this project. Assistant Editor Canadian Chris Cook hails from Victoria, British Columbia and Senior Writer Paul William Roberts is based in Toronto - but often on the road. The mission of AF Press is simple: to dig out nuggets of truth from the slag-heap of lies, ignorance and witless diversion that has buried public discourse today. AF Press provides a new venue for disseminating hard news and insightful, fact-based analysis of the harsh realities too often ignored or distorted by the mainstream press.
In other words, it's a bunch of anti-American weirdos who think that everything they don't approve of is a lie told by a witness igoramus and who just can't figure out why they're nto more successful. If you Google "Russian-American International Studies Association" you'll find out that it has no real existence of its own, but appears simply as part of Uhler's name, as in "he is also president of . . . " in his biographical statement wherever it is mentioned (all 75 times). The "Annual Russian-American Seminar" is being held at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, a bastion of hardcore anti-Americanism, a university owned and operated by the Kremlin, the place Vladimir Putin "graduated" from and which led him to the KGB.

Uhler is full of seething hatred for President Bush, and has called for his impeachment, and he despises "crackpot Christians" as well -- of which he feels Bush is one. Given the fact that Bush has "looked into Putin's eyes" and found him trustworthy, exactly what Uhler is arguing here, this contempt is hard to fathom -- but quite easy to agree with. We scoured the Internet, and the picture above left is the only one of this great scholar we could find (yes, it is that small in source). One picture really is worth a thousand words, it seems. Now we ask you: Could it be any more ridiculous?

OK, so much for the background. Now let's see what dear Mr. Uhler has to say about Russo-American relations (he plans to give this as a speech at St. Petersburg University, where they'll lap it up like cream).

Speaking to the United States Senate Appropriations subcommittee last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commented upon the "difficult period" afflicting recent Russian-American relations. She asserted, "the Russians, I think, do not accept fully that our relations with countries that are their neighbors, that once were part of the Soviet Union, are quite honestly good relations between independent states and the United States. Had she been more forthright and understanding, however, she would have acknowledged that the U.S. "does not accept fully" the pursuit of "good relations between independent states" in its back yard. It's called the Monroe Doctrine.

Can you imagine a bureaucrat in the Russian Department of Defense publicly attacking Russia's secretary of state as a clueless moron? Talk about hypocrisy! Is this card-carrying maniac suggesting that America has enslaved Latin America in the same way that Russia has enslaved Eastern Europe? Does his employer even know about his yammerings, or is he publishing them in fora so obscure that nobody knows or cares? Is this hopelessly dishonest lunatic claiming that Russia is honoring the Monroe Doctrine? If so, how exacly does he explain those missiles it sent to Cuba? And, more recently, those boatloads of AK-47s and attack aircraft that it sent to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Could this man possibly have anything to do with those $900 toilet seats the Pentagon keeps buying?

Moreover, and worse, Ms. Rice added that the difficult period has been exacerbated by the deterioration of democracy in Russia. As she noted: "It is even more difficult when one looks at what is happening domestically in Russia where I think it's fair to say that there has been a turning back of some of the reforms that led to the decentralization of power out of the Kremlin." Again, few commentators seemed to have noticed the rank hypocrisy underlying her criticism of Russian democracy. For, depending upon your point of view — that is, depending upon whether you consider the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to be a more heinous crime than the Bush administration's unprovoked and, thus, illegal preventive war against Iraq — the majority of the public in America's democracy fully supported either the worst or second — worst international crime of the twenty-first century. Ms. Rice, in fact, knowingly lied when she told the American public on September 8, 2002, that the high strength aluminum tubes that Iraq was desperately seeking could "only" be of use in a nuclear program.

Did he just call Condi Rice a liar? He did, didn't he. Well, it must be a great testament to American democracy that a DOD bureaucrat can call the Secretary of State a liar and keep his job. Think he could find an example of that in Russia, the great democracy that he seems to feel is on a par with the USA? Is this wacko suggesting that the U.S. cannot fight a war unless it is "provoked"? Where exactly in the Constitution does it say that, dear Mr. Uhler? Do you notice that when the question of Russia's neo-Soviet crackdown comes up, Mr. Uhler immediately wants to talk about America? That's because he can't defend the Russian crackdown on its merits, so he attacks America -- exactly what the old Politburo used to do. And guess where the Politburo is now! Apparently, Mr. Uhler wants Russia to follow that same path to destruction. Gosh, that's real love for Russia!

Moreover, Ms. Rice apparently fails to appreciate how poorly most Russians view the "reforms that led to the decentralization of power out of the Kremlin." As Katrina vanden Heuvel recently wrote for The Nation [May 21, 2007], Boris Yeltsin — whom Americans credit for that decentralization — conspired to abolish the Soviet Union, imposed a "shock therapy" on Russia that "wiped out the savings of most Russians," permitted the "loans for shares" swindle that led to the rise of Russia's oligarchs and ordered tanks to fire on the Russian Parliament in October 1993, which "led to the Russian super-presidency and obedient Parliament of today," As Stephen F. Cohen has observed, during all of this so-called "decentralization," Russia's "essential infrastructure — political, economic and social — disintegrated. Moscow's hold on its vast territories was weakened by separatism, official corruption and Mafia-like crime. The worst peacetime depression in modern history brought economic losses more than twice those suffered in World War II. GDP plummeted by nearly half and capital investment by 80 percent. Most Russians were thrown into poverty. Death rates soared and the population shrank. And in August 1998, the financial system imploded." [Stephen F. Cohen, The Nation, July 10, 2006]

Ah, yes, Steven F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuve, his wife. His wife publishes the crazed left-wing screed "The Nation," which in turn publishes Cohen's crazed anti-American Russophilic ramblings, previously exposed by La Russophobe for the digusting, moronic propaganda that they are, as well as her own. It's just about the only way Cohen could get into print these days. And guess what. The Nation publishes Uhler too! What a surprise! It's the first "source" of information he chooses to cite in his broadminded, objective review of U.S. foreign policy. Apparently, this goony bird feels that the people of Germany were "justified" in turning to Hitler when things got rough for them after they lost World War I, and that we can't criticize that decision because, hating our sworn enemy, we made it rough for them, testing whether the had truly become benign or not. Apparently, he thinks the transition to democracy in Russia should have been accompalished in less than eight years, Boris Yeltsin's first two terms, and without pain, and if it couldn't be then Russians were justified in rejecting it. By that logic, America should have turned to dictatorship during the Great Depression and is somehow superhuman for not doing so.

Thus, Americans shouldn't be surprised to learn that many Russians have a bad taste in their mouth about the so-called democracy that flourished during the Yetsin period. In addition, they shouldn't be surprised to learn that, as Vyacheslav Nikonov recently wrote in Izvestia, "Russian citizens" by "a ratio of 29 to 1" believe "the rule of Vladimir Putin…[to be] more democratic than that of Boris Yeltsin." Finally, Americans shouldn't be too surprised to learn that many Russians also have concluded that the United States supported and extolled Russian democracy only as long as kept Russia weak.

Yes, that's right, his second source is Izvestia. Now THAT'S scholarship! Nope, not one single reason to think this man might be a propagandizing tool of the Kremlin, nosirree! Do you notice that Mr. Nikonov doesn't care to give the source for his claim that Russians think Putin, elected last time with over 70% of the popular vote without opposition after refusing to participate in debates, is "democratic"? His margin of victory was far greater than Yeltsins, and he immediately abolished all forms of local government, now appointing regional governors rather than allowing them to be elected and, in so doing, appointing the members of Russia's version of the Senate.

These same Russians now view the emerging American outcry about Russia's backsliding from democracy as nothing more than the resurfacing of a Cold War mindset that many Americans in both political parties have never abandoned. And, if you read the analyses of Stephen Cohen, or Anatol Lieven, — two of America's more astute Russia scholars — you'll see that their suspicions have a solid foundation. More significantly, however, the contrasting examples noted above — of (1) an American democracy that sanctions one of the worst international crimes of the early twenty-first century and (2) a U.S.-approved "decentralizing" Russian democracy that permitted the impoverishment and death of many of its people (the so-called demos) — raise a more serious question. What, exactly, is democracy good for?

So source number three is the frenzied Russophile maniac Anatol Lieven, huh? At this point, he doesn't even care to mention a specific article or book written by Lieven or a place where it is published? Classic neo-Soviet stuff. Just throw the names around. But at least he's honest. He hates democracy, and wants to destroy it. But do you notice how his "brain" just fractured? First he said that America was hypocritical and needed to be more democratic itself before criticizing other nations, and now he says democracy sucks and Russia doens't need to be democratic. Which is it, pray tell?

After all, in a very persuasive new book, Democracy, the eminent scholar, Charles Tilly asserts that democracies "break their commitments differently, make war differently, respond differently to external interventions and so on." Moreover democracies rescue "ordinary people from both the tyranny and the mayhem that have prevailed in most political regimes." [p. 6] Yet, the contrasting examples noted above challenge both of Tilly's assumptions. Professor Tilly is no "preconditionalist," which is to say that he does not believe that any given polity must meet specific conditions before it can begin to transform itself into a democracy. Thus, he would reject the following conclusions reached in 1992 by Brian Downing: "Unique characteristics such as elective representative assemblies, royal subordination to law, the independence of towns, a balance of power between kings, nobles, and clerics, peasant property rights, and decentralized military forces, "provided Europe with a predisposition toward democratic political institutions, a predisposition that can never be repeated in the modern developing world" (p.3) [See Walter C. ] Instead, Tilly asserts: "The fundamental processes promoting democratization in all times and places…consists of increasing integration of trust networks into public politics, increasing insulation of public politics from categorical inequality, and decreasing autonomy of major power centers from public politics." [p. 23]

Source number four is the "eminent scholar" Charles Tilly, a sociologist. Tilly is so "eminent" that he has a stub biography in Wikipedia. Prospect magazine states: "America's most prolific and interesting sociologist is unknown in Britain." We will spare you Mr. Uhler's lengthy discourse on the finer points of Professor Tilly's views on "democracy" (click through the link to read them if you like). The conclusion is this:

The third and final necessary element for democratization and democracy is the willingness and ability of the state to reduce autonomous power clusters within the polity. It's accomplished by: (1) broadening political participation, (2) equalizing access to non-state political resources and opportunities and (3) inhibiting autonomous or coercive power within and outside the state. [p. 139] And here, surprisingly, Tilly uses President Putin as an example. "Putin's anti-democratic smashing of oligarchs to re-establish state control over energy supplies helped eliminate rival centers of coercive power within the Russian regime." [p. 139] According to Tilly, once these three elements are in place, it still requires a strong state, led by democracy-tolerant elites, determined to ensure that "political relations between the state and its citizens feature broad, equal, protected and mutually binding consultation." [p. 189] Democracies seldom emerge or survive in weak states. Neither do they survive when political elites withdraw their own powerful trust networks. In his examination of democracy in Russia, Tilly credits Mikhail Gorbachev not only for glasnost and perestroika, but especially for his stated ambition to create a "profound and consistent democracy" (during his extraordinary speech to the 19th party conference in June 1988). But he also notes how declining economic performance "and widespread demands for autonomy or even independence" weakened state capacity in the Soviet Union and, thus, prevented Gorbachev from leading a smooth transition to democracy on a national scale. [pp. 133-34] Whatever one says about Yeltsin's decidedly mixed record as a democratizer, it is difficult to deny that such efforts were being pursued during a period when the state was losing its capacity to govern. Which is to say that serious democratization became virtually impossible during the later years of his rule, especially after his faltering health "caused feverish maneuvering for influence within the presidential circle." [p. 134] Thus, Tilly credits President Putin, not only for destroying the oligarchs, but also for restoring political power in Russia.

Is this card-carrying maniac really suggesting that authoritarian dictatorship is a pathway to democracy? Doesn't it occur to him to notice that Russia WAS an authoritarian dicatorship, then it crumbled, and Russia STILL didn't become democratic? How many eons of suffering would this lunatic condemn the Russian people to whilst he gambles on a civilized system emerging from all that horror? Now, wait for it . . . after going on and on and on about how brilliant Tilly is (remember, we spared you most of the drivel), he's about to reject his conclusion after accepting all his evidence.

But, he also blames Putin for strengthening the state at the expense of de-democratizing Russia. Moreover, "as of 2006… Putin's regime was not striking bargains that subjected the Russian state to public politics or facilitated popular influence over public politics." [pp. 139 - 40] Why? Because, the Russian government currently exercises direct control over huge oil and gas revenues, which renders such bargaining unnecessary. Thus, Putin's regime frees itself from political accountability. Notwithstanding Professor Tilly's superb scholarship, we still must confront evidence that undermines his interpretation. First, we have President Putin's own commitment to democracy. Second, as mentioned earlier, Russians believe that their country under Putin's rule is more democratic than it was under Yeltsin. Finally, there is still that stubborn fact of elections. As Thomas Carothers has written recently: "Weak and problematic though elections often are, they now form a crucial step in the process of attaining political legitimacy throughout most of the world." [Carothers, "How Democracies Emerge: The 'Sequencing' Fallacy," Journal of Democracy p. 21] Finally, even if one concludes that democracy in Putin's Russia is weak and undergoing de-democratization, that trend is not irreversible. For, as even Tilly notes: "If, in the future, the Russian state again becomes subject to protected, mutually binding consultation in dialogue with a broad, relatively equal citizenry, we may look back to Putin as the autocrat who took the first undemocratic steps toward that outcome." [p. 137]

The problem with morons like Uhler is that they are utterly detached from reality, just like the old Soviets were, and they like it that way. The result is that they simply tell lies of the most ridiculous kind, beliving they are "cleverer" than everybody else in the world and can't get caught. But there's no need to fear, La Russophobe is here! Just days ago, La Russophobe reported that a public survey from Russia's leading pollster found that "almost half of Russia's voters expect that the parliamentary election this year will be falsified by the ruling elite and defy the will of the people." In other words, the Russian people themselves repudiate the idea that Putin is the least bit democratic. The reality is that they don' t want democracy, and this loser just got finished trying to prove that democracy isn't all that great. Like all Russophile idiots of his ilk, he can't even decide which stupid argument he wants to propound, that Russia is democratic or that it doesn't have to be, so he tries to accomplish both.

More significantly, when one asks about current trends in Russia, he should also ask: "To what effect?" After all, the United States of America boasts about its possession of the oldest and most robust of democracies. Yet, the American public permitted itself to be duped into supporting an illegal, immoral war in Iraq and then tolerated some three years of worsening destruction and, finally, civil war there, before deciding, in the mid-term Congressional elections of November 2006, to hold President Bush and his administration accountable for it. Moreover, even at this late date, the issue moving the public is less the lies and immorality attending the decision to wage war than it is the fact that most Americans now believe that the war was not worth the cost. By this standard, the sins committed by President Putin, by "turning back of some of the reforms that led to the decentralization of power out of the Kremlin," appear very minor, indeed.

So, the "author" admits that the American people did in fact hold Bush accountable. Has Putin been held accountable for Chechnya? Or Dubrovka? Or the Kursk? Or Beslan? Has he even once participated in a debate over his policies with a credible rival? These are not questions the "author" will address because they are honest questions. Instead, like a Communist apparachik or KGB mole, he'll try to shift the discussion to America. If America has problems, he'll argue, then Russia should ignore its own -- or at least ignore American criticism of those problems. In other words, it should simply let those problems get worse and worse until they destroy the country, just to satisify its crazed notion of "pride."

Uhler ignores the fact that in every international survey of performance the Putin regime has failed miserably. He ignores the fact that the population is falling just as fast under Putin as it was under Yeltsin. He ignores the horrific string of political killings under Putin, starting with Galina Starovoitova, and he ignores Putin's wildly provocative rhetoric and policies (Iran, Venezuela, Hamas and Hezbollah). He ignores everything that might undermine his propaganda.

Truly, there may be nobody in the world who hates the people of Russia more than Walter C. Uhler.

And there may be nobody who hates the people of America as much either. After all, if a KGB spy were writing to destroy America, how would the article be any different than what you see above?

1 comment:

james24 said...

I certainly have no problem finding plenty of holes in Uhler's arguments, and you've done a good job discrediting his background.

One note however - Charles Tilly is actually indeed an extremely important (and often dull) academic. I had to read his stuff all the time in grad school. If you search a university library site, you see that he has published more than 40 books.

Of course that isn't to say that this particular russophile hasn't misinterpreted Tilly's work.