I offer below,
random musings, reflections, correspondence, scraps of
work-in-progress, and other such miscellany, perchance worth sharing
but not ready for the prime time of formal publication.
Much of this
material has been adapted from personal e-mail correspondence. While
I am perfectly free to use, revise and expand on my side of these
exchanges, use of the "incoming" correspondence is problematic. I
have neither the right nor the inclination to include the words of
my correspondents if they can be identified either by name or
If I am confident that the correspondents can not be identified and
if their part of the exchange is essential to the exchange, then I
might quote them directly. Otherwise, their ideas will be briefly
paraphrased, only to supply context to my part of these
conversations. In no case will I identify the correspondents by
On the other hand, signed letters to The Crisis Papers and The
Online Gadfly are fair game as are other comments published in the
internet. They were submitted with the clear understanding that
they, and their signatories, might be made public.
Some of this
content, especially from earlier years, has been imported from the
Crisis Papers blog, as will be evident as you read these "jottings."
Incoming correspondence will be identified by italics. My
contributions will be in plain text.
April 9, 2017:
Exchange regarding "Vladimir Putin as Emanuel Goldstein." OpEdNews.
"Vladimir Putin may be as evil and as threatening as we are told. But before
we agree to believe this, are we not entitled to evidence and a reasoned
argument, along with informed rebuttal? If not, then what are we getting
other than propaganda and "proof" by repetition, whereby Putin is presumed
guilty until proven innocent, as scant evidence is offered as to either his
guilt or innocence."
How scant is evidence that Russia took Crimea?
"Russia and China have vetoed a draft UN resolution
calling for the crisis in Syria to be referred to the international criminal
court -- ignoring support for the measure by 65 other countries and all
other members of the security council."
How about Nemtsov's death?
Let us discuss all or any of these.
Submitted on Saturday, Apr 8, 2017 at 12:14:28 PM
Reply to BFalcon:
Perhaps a re-reading of my essay might shed light on your
questions. Remember, I am no fan of Putin. Also, we should resist the
American habit of falling into polar thinking. There are many shades of grey
between black and white. Between "yes" and "no" may be the wiser, "I just
don't know." The MSM's recent record of outright error and unsupported
propaganda (e.g., Saddam's WMDs and Powell's lies), provides us abundant
reason to doubt what we are told by our media.
To your points:
RE: Nemsov. Informed observers report that Nemsov was a
spent political force in Russia, of no great threat to Putin -- while alive.
But as a martyr, a much greater danger, as subsequent events have
demonstrated. Especially so if Putin ordered the killing in the shadow of
the Kremlin, next to St. Basil's Cathedral. Still, I am willing to believe
that Putin ordered the murder if I am presented compelling evidence. None so
RE: Crimea. Another grey area. I wish Putin had not taken
Crimea. This has caused Putin and Russia a lot of grief. Still I can
understand his motives, even if they were morally unjustified and
strategically unproductive on balance. At the time of the annexation, it
seemed likely that Ukraine might join NATO. Russia's only warm-water naval
base is in Crimea (Sebastopol). Imagine Newport News, San Diego or Pearl
Harbor about to be absorbed into Russian, or Russian allied, territory. And
what would we do if Russia set up missile bases in Cuba? Well, we know the
answer, don't we? Finally, an issue rarely raised: it is clear that most Crimeans would prefer to be Russian than Ukrainian. Shouldn't they have a
say in the matter? Crimean secession (initiated by Crimeans) with
compensation to Ukraine would have been a much better solution. If
Yanokovitch had not been overthrown, it's a good bet that Crimea would still
be a part of Ukraine.
RE: the veto. Shame on Russia and China! Still, don't
forget that John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov (Russian Foreign Minister) together
worked out a cease fire in Syria, only to have it scuttled by a US military
attack. "An accident" we were told. This Syrian bloodbath has to end, and it can
only end through negotiation, which means a willingness of all sides to make
concessions. Do you see any other way? Maybe WWIII?
Here's an interesting article from the independent Russian
Submitted on Sunday, Apr 9, 2017 at 5:45:45 AM
Reply to Ernest Partridge:
Is it really believable that Nemtsov was killed so close to Kremlin by
somebody not related to Putin? And only one camera was working?
Taking Crimea is a crime, pun not intended, whatever
Veto even more. Protecting criminals is criminal.
As for ending the war in Syria, there are many ways. If
Russia decides to cooperate Assad is gone. ISIS needs to be defeated and
will be. As for the future, it is tough but possible.
Submitted on Sunday, Apr 9, 2017 at 8:07:58 PM
Reply to BFalcon:
We simply have two very different ways of interpreting the
world: you prefer bipolar perspective (black hats vs. white hats), while I
recognize shades of grey. You "reason" from conclusions (Putin is a
criminal, Crimea is crime) to a search for supporting "evidence." I prefer
to examine evidence and then draw conclusions. Everybody (myself included)
thinks your way. It's called "confirmation bias." But there are means to
overcome this bias: e.g., scientific method and legal due process (rules of
evidence). Striving, however imperfectly, to think like a scientist or judge
requires rigorous cognitive discipline. But there are rules of evidence and
logic to guide us.
E.G. Nemtsov: You: Putin did it, now let's find
some "evidence." Me: Maybe Putin did it, maybe not. Absent
independently verified evidence, no conclusion. We just don't know.
Proximity to the Kremlin is not evidence against Putin who can order a
murder anywhere. A hit on the Bol'shoi Moskvoretskii Most (Cathedral
Bridge), which by the way I have walked across several times, is an
embarrassment for Putin, resulting in troublesome protests.
Yes, the annexation of Crimea was arguably a crime. But
not "plain and simple." International law is not "plain and simple." (Those
damned "shades of grey" again!). By the same rule of international law, the
Iraq war and last week's missile attack in Syria were crimes. So?
Great power conflicts are not constrained by, or conducted according to,
"law." The international scene is a Hobbesian state of nature, to the peril
of us all. The UN and the Nuremberg Tribunals were meant to change that, and
clearly they have failed. As I said, Putin should not have annexed Crimea,
at least not in the way he did. He could have done so legally at the
initiative of the Crimeans. You have not addressed my question: Don't the
Crimeans have a right to choose their national affiliation? Isn't that the
message of the Declaration of Independence? ("Consent of the governed").
What Talleyrand said of Napoleon applies to Putin: "It was worse than a
crime, it was a blunder."
And finally, "if Russia decides to cooperate..." You make
it sound so simple. Why not say "if the US decides to cooperate"? But of
course, "we don't need to cooperate: we are righteous, and the Russkies
are evil." To be sure, many influential Russians have a polar view.
Result: no cooperation, and the war continues. For negotiations to succeed,
mutual cooperation is essential, which means both (better "all,") sides,
including Syrians, must be willing to make concessions. Which is what I said
at the close of my previous.
To which I add: ISIS, due to its behavior, is disqualified
from negotiations. It must simply be defeated. The same rule applied to
The world is very complicated. Simplistic, dogmatic and
polarized thinking can not lead to solutions.
Enough! I didn't expect to go on this long.
Submitted on Sunday, Apr 9, 2017 at 9:54:48 PM