Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gorbachev speaks

Mikhail Gorbachev is back.

Back in the news, that is, with blunt comments on Bush and Putin, the U.S. and Russia, peace and democracy, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

I'll let him speak for himself (before I respond directly to his comments):

On Bush: "He's very determined. You can't say he does not have character." Who knew you could be so sarcastic? Well done.

On Putin: "Vladimir Putin is walking on a razor's edge. Putin has used and he will continue to use authoritarian measures, but Russia will form a democracy. I know Vladimir Putin. He is a moral person." (I hope you know Putin better than Bush does. Have you looked into his soul?) Putin may be "moral," but is he really a democrat? Come on -- really? Some "authoritarian measures" may be required to establish a political culture in which democracy can grow -- just read Machiavelli, which perhaps you have -- but just how far will Putin go? Do you know? I mean, you yourself lament that there have been "[n]o elections [in Russia] like there used to be in '89 and '90". That's a bit worrying.

On Cheney and Rumsfeld: "They are just hawks protecting the interests of the military — shallow people." Chickenhawks, some might say. I would just add, Mr. Gorbachev, that Cheney's crusade for presidential supremacy isn't shallow, it's deep, very deep -- and very, very dangerous for American democracy.

On America: "Americans have a severe disease — worse than AIDS. It's called the winner's complex." AIDS may not be the best analogy, but Gorbachev's diagnosis is right on the mark. The idea of American exceptionalism has a long history, but its latest incarnation as righteous arrogance, a willingness to push the world around with military might even as the international community is roundly shunned, has taken it to a new extreme. But, Mr. Gorbachev, don't mistake Americans for their leadership. However Bush may fashion himself, he isn't America. A majority of Americans voted against him in 2000, and last time, well, let's not even go there. And look at Bush's approval ratings now. That's a good sign, isn't it? Many, many Americans have patriotically opposed what Bush has done, and is still doing, to their great country. Their number is growing. They've had enough. The disease can be fought from within. Just give it time.

On America and Russia: "We have made some mistakes. So what? Please don't put even more obstacles in our way. Do you really think you are smarter than we are?" Yes, Mr. Gorbachev, some of them do. They're the ones running the country right now. Hopefully that will end soon. "You want an American style-democracy here. That will not work." And it won't work in Iraq either. But, as you may know, they haven't quite figured that out yet. Much to our continuing distress. Like I said, though, Americans may soon put an end to their rule. If it's been bad for you, think what they've done to America. It hasn't been pretty. Not pretty at all.

Thank you for your comments. It's always good to hear from you. Please don't hesitate to let us know what you think more often. It's always illuminating.

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