Wednesday, March 12, 2014

George Was Wrong

(Cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 3/5/14 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Click on image to enlarge.)

So, what's the deal with Putin?  Is he crazy?  Taking a page from the Hitler playbook?  Masha Gessen, a Russian American who wrote a political biography of the Russian leader, says "no" to both questions in a column written for the Los Angeles Times.

From Masha Gessen's op-ed piece:

[Putin's] graduation to dictator took years. In that time, he dismantled Russia's electoral system, took over its media, saw many of his opponents killed, jailed or forced into exile, created one of the most ruthlessly corrupt government systems in history, made peaceful protest punishable by jail time, waged a long and brutal war on his own country's territory and a short one against a neighboring country, Georgia, a piece of which Russia bit off in 2008.

But it was only after he invaded Ukraine last month that Americans' image of him took another drastic turn. ...

...Putin was acting the way he always has, like a playground bully. It was the last thing an American audience expected. The dramaturgy of war would seem to dictate that Putin issue a rousing call to arms. But bullies do not aspire to lead through rhetoric; they dominate by intimidation. When confronted, they either lash out or they obfuscate.

Putin said the troops occupying Crimea weren't Russian, then promised to deploy the Russian military to protect civilians in Ukraine, then disowned deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. ... This is a tried-and-true intimidation strategy: Bald-faced lies render opponents helpless. ...

The political culture Putin has created in Russia is based on the assumption that the world is rotten to the core. ...

...the Putin world view: He believes that all governments would like to jail their opponents and invade their neighbors, but most political leaders, most of the time, lack the courage to act on these desires. ...

This belief that everyone, without exception, acts solely out of base self-interest is what has led Putin to ratchet up the aggression, meanness and vulgarity of both his public statements and political actions over the years.  [Emphasis added.]

In my opinion, that's a pretty solid analysis, one that certainly explains Mr. Putin's behavior in the Ukraine and earlier in Georgia.

What occurs to me, and this is quite discomfiting, is that this analysis also tends to fit various other non-governmental leaders.  Certain of our oligarchs also share some of these characteristics and behavior patterns, which would certainly explain a lot about this country's recent history.

And now the question becomes, "What do we do with these bullies?"

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