This is a couple of days old, but I penned a response to a speech given about a week ago in Kiev by neocon (or neocon fellow traveler, at any rate) Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of Even The Liberal New Republic. Wieseltier has never met a military action that he wasn’t happy to send other people off to fight, and as you might expect he’s pretty miffed that America hasn’t airlifted the Second Cavalry Regiment into Donetsk so we could start WWIII and assuage Leon’s jealousy at those lucky duckies who got to be around for WWII.
He’s got a rather, let’s say, creative, interpretation of what’s been happening in Ukraine:
Wieseltier talks about four principles that guide the Ukrainian “revolution”: liberty, truth, pluralism, and moral accountability, but in each case his remarks obscure what is really happening in Ukraine. He talks about liberty, “the right of individuals and nations to determine their own destinies and their own way of life,” but ignores the fact that, for many Crimeans and Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, the Euromaidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych took away their rights, as individuals, “to determine their own destinies.” This was not a democratic or electoral transfer of power; it was a coup against what was by all accounts a legitimately elected government. Weiseltier seems unconcerned that Ukraine’s revolution effectively disenfranchised vast numbers of Ukrainian citizens by short circuiting their electoral process. He also criticizes Russian propaganda that calls the Kiev government “fascist” without acknowledging that there are fascist or soft fascist elements involved with Euromaidan who have been given a significant role in the government.
But it is on the principle of “pluralism” where Wieseltier is most confounding. He says that “[t]he crisis in the Ukraine is testing the proposition that people who speak different languages can live together in a single polity. That proposition is one of the great accomplishments of modern liberalism. Putin repudiates it.” But Putin’s geopolitics aside, it was, in fact, the new Ukrainian parliament installed by Euromaidan that initially repudiated that proposition; its very first act was a repeal (passed but not signed into law) of a 2012 law that allowed regional languages to attain semi-official status in parts of Ukraine with sizable non-Ukrainian populations. The impact of this action in terms of stoking the fears of Ukraine’s Russian population about the intentions of the new government probably can’t be overstated.
I’m not going to defend Russia or Vlad Putin in this whole mess, but I’m also not prepared to swallow a neoconservative reinvention of history that helps them beat the war drum a little harder. I remember what happened the last time that crowd got to define its own reality.