Thursday, 17 September 2009

Destroying Illusions



Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they blind.
-Epictetus

I realise that different people have different ideas of what constitutes an interesting etymological fact. But it strikes me as interesting that the British word 'sycophant' or flatterer is derived from a Greek word meaning slanderer.

Indeed, slandering someone is in some ways preferable to giving insincere flattery, because a slanderer's slander is only as good as their word. Whilst people can make right tits of themselves if they are drunk on flattery. No slanderer can humiliate them as much as they humiliate themselves.

These were my thoughts on the East/ Central Europeans who have been spitting out their dummies over Obama's cancelling the missile-defence shield. It must have seemed only yesterday that they were Rumsfeld's 'new Europe'. Sadly for them:

'Pentagon officials said the decision to move away from the shield was based on intelligence indicating Iran is focused on developing short and medium-range missiles rather than the long-range intercontinental missiles originally feared.'

Now, I am as shocked and surprised as anyone to discover that Iran does not have 'intercontinental missiles'. But I still find some responses a bit much:

"The Americans only cared about their interests. They used everybody else," said Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and revolutionary leader. "It wasn't that the shield was that important, but it's about the way, the way of treating us."

I love this. The multibillion dollar project wasn't important, but they should have wasted the money anyway because it was a sweet gesture. Whilst I'm no especial fan of Uncle Sam, I can't say I'm with the Solidarity leader on this one.

For more background, this is brilliant.

An open letter about Obama's 'neglect' of Eastern/ Central Europe. The verbose bullying, mumbling tone spiced with saccharine and heavy-handed praise of American values as well as not-so-veiled threats reads like a Steven Segal monologue. In fact if you imagine Steven Segal reading it, it becomes so much better. Especially the bullying, the bullying undertones make it:

'This means that the United States is likely to lose many of its traditional interlocutors in the region'

Get that Mr America? Tremble at the thought that Vilnius might stop answering your phonecalls.

'Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods. At a global level, Russia has become, on most issues, a status-quo power. But at a regional level and vis-à-vis our nations, it increasingly acts as a revisionist one. It challenges our claims to our own historical experiences. It asserts a privileged position in determining our security choices. It uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of central and eastern Europe.'

Get the threat there? If you don't give us support, we may well swing to Russia. How d'ya like that? Imagine one million screaming Estonians on Russia's side, their geriatric elite in Waffen SS uniforms screaming hatred. That would really tip the scales of power and essentially give global hegemony to Russia. Incidentally, one of the 'priorities' which Obama spelt out is to 'Restore American Leadership in Latin America'. They might protest that that is given greater priority than restoring American leadership in Eastern Europe. But they don't seem to have any ethical hangups about the much more savage American imperialism in Latin America.

'Third, the thorniest issue may well be America's planned missile-defence installations. Here too, there are different views in the region, including among our publics which are divided. Regardless of the military merits of this scheme and what Washington eventually decides to do, the issue has nevertheless also become - at least in some countries - a symbol of America's credibility and commitment to the region. How it is handled could have a significant impact on their future transatlantic orientation. The small number of missiles involved cannot be a threat to Russia's strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We should decide the future of the programme as allies and based on the strategic plusses and minuses of the different technical and political configurations. The alliance should not allow the issue to be determined by unfounded Russian opposition. Abandoning the programme entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.'

Uh, did I see the word 'Russia' thrice in that paragraph about the missile-defence system that defends them against Iran, which is mentioned 0 times?

'Sixth, we must not neglect the human factor. Our next generations need to get to know each other, too. We have to cherish and protect the multitude of educational, professional, and other networks and friendships that underpin our friendship and alliance. The US visa regime remains an obstacle in this regard. It is absurd that Poland and Romania - arguably the two biggest and most pro-American states in the CEE region, which are making substantial contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan - have not yet been brought into the visa-waiver programme. It is incomprehensible that a critic like the French anti-globalisation activist José Bové does not require a visa for the United States but former Solidarity activist and Nobel peace prizewinner Lech Walesa does. This issue will be resolved only if it is made a political priority by the president of the United States.'

As I said earlier, one of the things that I dislike about politics is the sentimentality. I can just imagine the writer of the previous paragraph with a tear in his eye, daydreaming what would happen when Obama reads this:
'Cancel all my appointments immediately. Did you realise that someone who criticised the United States is allowed into the country? Isn't that disgraceful? Meanwhile the Romanians who lent us 730 soldiers to help in the war I fully supported (even though I voted against it) and the Poles who lent us 2,500 soldiers to help in the war I fully supported (though voted against) are not. I mean, just think if they were not on our side? We might not have gone to war in Iraq at all.'
'But sir, you have a meeting with the French ambassador in half an hour. You don't have time to-'
'Shit man, this is noo Europe we're talking about. I don't have time for those cheese eating surrender monkeys in Old Europe. These are good people who don't criticise the US of A who aren't allowed visas. It's a disgrace maen'.

Yes, I can just see the letter-writer gazing blissfully into space and wiping tears from his cheeks at this lovely fantasy.

I feel great affection for the Romanian people, who I have found to be immensely kind, devout and generous. But they are kidding themselves if they ever thought that the USA saw them as a priority.

America's complicity in the narcotic, fundamentalist, fascist state of Kosovo and their amount of interest in the 400 Churches that have been destroyed there is evidence of just how much they care for the true values of Central-Eastern Europe. Whilst the signatories brag about supporting America in the Balkans, I wonder how many of them will do so as it becomes increasingly plain that the Americans and NATO are complicit in atrocities against the remaining Serbs.

(P.S. The title may seem as lame as the last one, but it is a pun if you think about it)

6 comments:

  1. Yeah, the isolated Eastern European leaders who jumped into bed with Dubya and his missile defence system will be feeling a bit stupid now. That might be why they're sniveling that they thought Obama was their friend.

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  2. Hi Gareth
    Thanks for your comment; but isn't it interesting that they don't pretend to believe it was anything to do with Iran. Nor do they pretend to believe that the latest 'intelligence' that Ahmedinjad is not making 'intercontinental missiles' means anything.

    (Incidentally, has Ahmedinjad even threatened America before?)

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  3. The majority of people in Poland are breathing a sigh of relief that this thing has been put to bed.

    If you want to see some dummy-spitting, have a look at the comments on this thread, funny and disturbing in equal measure:

    http://www.polskieradio.pl/thenews/international/artykul116158__uss_clumsy_timing_for_anti_missile_announcement.html

    As you can see, although those in the corridors of power in Warsaw and Prague might be a bit miffed, most of the popular anger is coming from Americans upset at Obama's radical Socialist-Marxist-Putinist-Black Pantherism.

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  4. There is celebration in the Czech Republic. 60-70% were against the radar although I might be making the number too little.

    The neocons and havlists in Prague can say whatever they want. I simply don't understand why are people like Topolanek (former PM) given more room, in the Times for example, than average people on the street. Like my friends who gave me a petition against the radar to sign, the real grassroots.

    This is not about East Europeans but East European elites and I am glad they met their Watterloo.

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  5. @CK

    Pleased to see you are blogging again. Do you think that younger Poles are more pleaed than older ones?
    Unfortunately your link didn’t work, but I can guess the tone. From the ‘other side’ of red state intellectualism, there were some hilarious threads a while back on Stas Mishin’s site (http://mat-rodina.blogspot.com/). Conservative Americans were saying they wanted to move to Russia when they discovered there was a flat tax.

    I’m a staunch Russophile myself (Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Stravinsky) but am not so sure about moving there. There is also very bad pollution, serious crime and in real life they don’t speak English vees strongk accent but speak an inflected language with consonant clusters… beautiful to listen to but tricky to learn. Dunno if the red staters knew that. And there’s also conscription into an army where you can be tortured, murdered or raped BY YOUR OWN SUPERIORS.

    I think even Ayn Rand would concede that these factors weigh a bit against a flat tax.

    Ironically enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rush Limbaugh and Michael Weiner (hehehe… if anyone deserves that name…) who attracted attention to Stas’s comparison of Russian conservatism and American ‘socialism’ are currently denouncing Obama for not standing up to Adolf Putin.

    @Leos

    I’m not surprised. The Czechs seem to have a lot in common with more libertarian American conservatism, but do not seem so keen on American globalism.

    Do you think that pan-Slavism has any possibility of being resurrected, or was it just that they did not want to be tools of America?

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  6. The Czechs are Euro-socialist by large but they have one thing in common and that is the dislike of foreign armies and that runs across the political spectrum but leaves few neoliberals out. There were a lot of armies throughout our long history and quite a few in the living memory (I guess I am repeating the sentance from my blog). One of the common arguments is:

    The Soviets left so we invite Americans? -just as you said they do not want to be tools again.

    Pan-Slavism is only present in the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church which was resurected after the long [millenial] lull between the Latinisation of Great Moravia and the 19th century National Awakening of the Czechs and Slovaks and has links to the Serbian Church which became home to Orthodox refugees from Moravia in 10th century. I am a fan of spiritual Pan-Slavism because I don't see a future for this ideology in secular politics.

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