Liberal column: does Putin have a point?

BY JOSH MERLO

LIBERAL COLUMNIST

Why are Russians always the bad guys in old movies? Well, maybe because of something called the Cold War. The U.S. has never been above making a good propaganda film. However, there is something more to this culturally conditioned dislike.

 

Over the years Americans have formed an image of the ideal man: tough, blue-collared, sensible, independent and a “rugged individualist.” Americans have also formed an opinion – born of the struggles against communism and the war against the U.S.S.R. – of the typical Russian, one just as simplistic and caricatured.

He is cold, aloof, arrogant and too smart for his own good. Vladimir Putin would be, for most people, an excellent example of this stereotype. Therefore it is in the United States’s best interests to simply ignore this former KGB agent and carry on with invading the Middle East every year or so, yes?

No! Ladies and gentlemen, the Cold War ended before most of today’s generation was born. There is no Great Russian Bear waiting in the wings to paint the world’s map red anymore. So why is Putin suddenly the cinematic “bad guy,” the horrid Soviet dictator of the 21st century? If it is only because he said America is the same as the rest of the countries in the world, perhaps the U.S. and her inhabitants need to reexamine something known as “reality.”

What is so wrong with an international leader asking for international law to be respected on the basis of equality among nations? To take an excerpt from Putin’s publication:

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Russia’s president invokes God while asking the U.S. to not consider themselves more competent judges of correct action then the rest of the civilized world. Cue outrage from, well, everyone. This entire incident has been overblown. America needs to realize she is part of a globalized world.

She is no longer the burgeoning cradle of liberty she was at her founding. She is no longer the supreme voice in the western hemisphere as she was at the turn of the 20th century. She is no longer the industrial titan she was during World War I and World War II. She is no longer the vanguard of capitalism, free market economics, and freedom she was during the Cold War. She is no longer the sole remaining superpower as she was after the fall of the U.S.S.R.

The world has changed, evolved. America needs to catch up; her role in international politics is not what it once was.

There’s an irony in what has defined the U.S. in the past; all the above examples were from times of strife and conflict. Whether you take for example the Revolutionary War, the Rooseveltian policing of Central and South America, world wars, or the containment doctrine, foreign policy has largely been defined by fighting. Syria would be a continuation of this.

What is it about this tradition that makes America “exceptional?” To go back one more time to the idea of Putin being the big, bad Russian: Think what you will about him, but if even the bad guy is calling you a bully, maybe one should consider that picking fights with the little kids down the block isn’t seen as advancing peace anymore.

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