Sunday, August 24, 2008

Russia? Respect?

My pique at the article in this morning’s Houston Chronicle, “ Give Russia respect it’s due,” has more to do with the Outlook section’s editor or headline writer than with the article’s author, Gale Stokes. Pictured below right, Stokes is the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of History emeritus at Rice University – a long-time observer of Soviet and Russian history and one of its most prolific chroniclers.

Now you know I hardly ever blog about politics – marketing is my life. But this article’s title has got up my nose; and the current condemnations of President Bush’s statements about Russia have reached their tipping point.

First: Dear headline writer, I suggest Russia will get the respect it is due when this “great country with an educated workforce just starting to feel its economic oats” does something worthy of respect. I don’t see Russian ships arriving in far-flung regions of the world with emergency supplies after a tsunami strike; I don’t see Russia stepping up to the plate to halt the slaughter of civilians in Darfur. What I mainly see (through the eyes of the Western press) is Russia being [a] the biggest bully on the block and [b] a thugocracy of the first magnitude.

Let’s see. When did Russia invade Ossetia and Georgia? Oh yes: During the opening days of the 2008 Olympics. That’s right out of the historical poke-them-in-the-eye playbook, isn’t it?

Second, fair is fair. Professor Stokes doesn’t use the “respect” line himself. In fact, his opinion piece offers a proposal that’s reasonable on the surface and that’s all the attention I’m going to give it today.

Third: I do wish the USA was a perfect place with perfect leadership. It is not. But we (as a political entity) come closer, I think, than most others to being the world leader that has to stand up and say things like “Bad dog, bad dog – drop that country right now.”

I’m heartily tired of two methods of condemnation much practiced against America right now: Historical blame-gaming and moral relativism. The first is a great favorite of Islamists; the second a big-time weapon in the liberal arsenal. Right is right – wrong is wrong. If we (America) sometimes get it wrong, I have great confidence that we’ll get it right sometime later down the road…that’s one thing we do really well.

I don’t think anyone else can say quite the same thing about their own track record, in a national, historical sense.

Well – I was wrong to say I’m not paying more attention to Professor Stokes’s article. It seems to bear further thought after all – the role of a good opinion piece whether I like it or not.

Professorial photo: University of Wisconsin.

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