Your Lying Eyes

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18 August 2008

Restraint

Should Russia actually end up honoring the cease-fire agreement arranged over the weekend, we can say she acted with restraint. Restraint sounds like some very noble quality, but it is anything but. Rather, it goes along with a keen sense of self-limitations and an acute devotion to self-interest. One who practices restraint is conscious of the consequences of certain actions and realistic about being able to handle them. On the other hand, failure to show restraint indicates that one is pursuing a higher - or at least different - goal than pure self-interest and is willing to take a real risk in this pursuit.

Take for example the guy just convicted in New Jersey of murder who stabbed his sister's boyfriend after the girl complained of abuse. He did not show restraint - and he certainly wasn't acting in his own self-interest nor did he carefully consider the consequences when he stormed over to the other fellow's apartment with a knife in his hand. Had he been more concerned about his own well being, he'd have told his sister to either take her lumps or find a new boyfriend. But he didn't and is now facing at least a couple decades behind bars.

What this reckless young man did is known as altruistic punishment, and is a bit of an evolutionary puzzle - why do people behave in ways that are against their self interest? In this case, the killer was defending his sister, who shares half his DNA, and so there's a greater motive than there would be with more distant relatives or just neighbors. But why would nations engage in this behavior? Whatever logic led the U.S. to bomb Serbs in Kosovo, self-interest was surely not paramount in the equation.

So by crediting Putin/Russia with restraint, I'm hardly slabbering them with praise. But it is an indication of self-interest at work, and this is a very important thing to know about a country. When you can be sure a country is merely acting in its self-interest, you've got something to work with and a basis for negotiation and diplomacy. One of the scary things about the old Soviet Union was that it appeared to have some very big goals in mind besides what was best for Mother Russia, such as International Socialism. It often over-reached internationally and in its devotion to socialism at home starved and enslaved its own people. We pretty much had to take it at its word that it sought world domination, and thus the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union is long gone. Russia no longer shows any interest in fomenting revolution abroad and imposing totalitarian rule on its neighbors. It does not threaten the United States or Western Europe or even the non-Soviet Iron-Curtain nations of Eastern Europe. It would clearly like to have less hostile countries on its immediate border. Imagine Chavez's Venezuela bordering the U.S. - I don't think we'd put up with that, quite frankly (as, for example, with Cuba). Yet both Ukraine and Georgia are openly hostile and pro-American, yet both remain independent. This is hardly the behavior of a reckless, dangerous, rogue state.

In its actions in Georgia, Russia is clearly making a statement about Western influence on its borders, and appears willing to back off provided this message is heard and respected. Thus the restraint. Putin doesn't want trouble with Europe or America, but he's not willing to be boxed in by an expansionist NATO, either. It is critical that the U.S. not escalate tensions with continued talk of NATO membership and anti-missile installations*. We have nothing to gain from an antagonistic relationship with Russia, and very little to gain from friendly relations with her neighbors. Self-interest and self-assessment suggest one thing is required on our part: restraint.

* Back in the Cold War, the weenie left used to talk this way all the time about the Soviet Union. But their assessment of the Soviets was naive. The Soviets were not all about narrow self interest - they were a powerful nation bent on world domination. The Soviets supported Marxist insurgencies all over the globe. The best evidence for this is the impotence of these supposed "indigenous movements" since the Soviet breakup. Also, not only did the U.S.S.R. control puppet governments in Eastern Europe, but ruthlessly enforced totalitarian socialist rule in these lands as well. We had much to fear in those days, and only through our persistence and dedication to this struggle were we able to prevail. Failing to appreciate our victory by continuing to behave like the Soviet threat still prevails is as delusional as the claims on the left that the Soviet threat was an illusion.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This verbiage:

"But the Soviet Union is long gone. Russia no longer shows any interest in fomenting revolution abroad and imposing totalitarian rule on its neighbors. It does not threaten the United States or Western Europe or even the non-Soviet Iron-Curtain nations of Eastern Europe. It would clearly like to have less hostile countries on its immediate border. Imagine Chavez's Venezuela bordering the U.S. - I don't think we'd put up with that, quite frankly (as, for example, with Cuba). Yet both Ukraine and Georgia are openly hostile and pro-American, yet both remain independent. This is hardly the behavior of a reckless, dangerous, rogue state'"

......is exactly what Ive been thinking. Russia isn't expansionist anymore and with her birthrate dilemma really cant be. Her fertility is "about to fall off a cliff". Spengler, who I take with a great big grain of salt, has mentioned that Putin probably wants to induce the 22 million expat Russians in former Republics to come back to Russia and BREED for crying out loud.

I hate to harp on walls, but if the Osseitians would have built a big wall around their breakaway province in 1992 when they broke away...................I imagine none of this would have happened. Open borders leave nations in contention. Who achieves the most power within the nation politically ends up holding sway. So its either be a super market dominant minority buying the policital process (and media) or just outbreeding the "other" to win at the ballot box in fair elections for your side. Preferably its both.


Russia is looking at having a Muslim majority in 50 years dead in the face if they cannot convince ethnic Russians to breed more often and earlier. I just dont see Islam secularizing anytime soon to the point to which they will not seek to instill Islam legality in any host nation once the obtain political majority power. I dont see any paper documents and constitutions restraining this "will to dominate".

Its really amazing to me that "diversity" which was a dying gasp of the Marxiscatti left when the inevitable demise of the Soviet Union was imminent and obvious, is the one tool that the Frankfurt-Schoolers came up with that REALLY REALLY WORKED to CRIPPLE Western Civilization (along with the debauchery of our youth, which is killing our birhrates and women being practically forced to work---doing the same). It wasn't the big military of the USSR, it sure as hell wasn't the socialized economy, it wasn't getting John Smith of Iowa to get a CPUSA card by convincing him it was better. It was by endlessly calling John racist for not abiding allowing third world hordes in and getting Joan to look for hook-ups in dance clubs instead of seeking out a husband in the traditional ways.


We would do well to look at the Soviet Union's intended foreign policy meddling and financial/military support and how it bankrupted her and compare it with neo-con foreign policy ideas. But then again.............maybe thats much the same thing as they love Trotsky more than Stalin did.

August 19, 2008 11:49 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

After a tense couple days, Russia does appear to be actually withdrawing. The Times indicates that despite prodding from the U.S., NATO could only offer a "tepid response." This should help ease tensions.

As far as the Ossetians building a wall, they don't strike me as the wall-building type, but now they probably don't have to worry. I would guess Russia itself is not going to get any stronger, partly due to the demographics you cite. I think it will not be a big challenge to keep them quiet in the future if we just calm down a bit and act like we don't care (like how you deal with an obstreperous child looking for attention).

August 19, 2008 11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[i]"Failing to appreciate our victory by continuing to behave like the Soviet threat still prevails is as delusional as the claims on the left that the Soviet threat was an illusion."[/i]

How true!

I see the Russians as a nation
and a people with more in common
culturally, with Europe and America than with their own eastern and middle-eastern allies.
(the same applies to the USA).

I don't believe that Georgia, the Ukraine or the Crimea are worth a drop of American blood. It's not in our national interest.

--Esmerelda Pearl

August 28, 2008 11:57 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Russia is looking at having a Muslim majority in 50 years dead in the face if they cannot convince ethnic Russians to breed more often and earlier.

No, they aren't. Look, I'm as bothered by the demograhpic situation in Europe and America as anyone, but you don't do anyone any favors when you throw out alarmist predictions like this without taking a minute to look at the numbers. Yes, Russian muslims have higher fertility rates than Russian Christians on average, but the differences aren't that marked.

Tatars are the largest Muslim group in Russia. They represent 3% of the population. Their tfr in 2002 was 1.7. The second and third largest Muslim groups in Russia are the Bashkirs and the Chechens, respectively. Together they make up an additional 2.10% of the Russian population. Their tfrs averaged out to be about 2.05 in 2002. Since Muslims are 10 - 15% of all Russians, these three groups together make up about 1/3 to 1/2 of all Muslim Russians. Their total fertility rates are pretty typical of those of muslims in Russia as a whole, which ranged from a low of 1.69 (Balkars) to a high of 2.33 (the Ingush) for major ethnic groups in Russia. So let's be generous and give the Muslims in Russia a tfr of 1.95 in 2002.

Ethnic Russians, who represent 80% of the population, had a tfr in 2002 of 1.45. Now you tell me how 21 million muslim Russians, with a tfr of around 1.95, can outbreed 115 million ethnic Russians with a tfr of 1.45 in 42 years. How is half a child more, on average, going to close a gap of almost 90 million in two generations?

August 28, 2008 5:36 PM  

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