If You Want Out of the Conversation You’ll Need a Better Excuse

If the New York Times is correct the Left has already reached a verdict on the conversation. Here I still am trying to sort out what to talk about next, a difficult thing to do when there are so many possibilities, and it’s taken these worthies about two years to decide that this conversation is not worth having! I guess I forgot for a moment that the Left is permanently locked with the Right in The-Most-Banal-Party-contest.

I assume the female ordination thing is just an excuse. After all, it’s not as if the Left has any intention of inviting women into its own priesthood. The sad truth is that the leading lights of both parties stopped thinking a long time ago. Worse, they apparently assume the rest of us have stopped thinking too. Maybe the Left is afraid that If they were to actually engage in dialogue everyone would find out they haven’t anything to say.

The excuse of female ordination is doubly ridiculous in my view because it ignores the real kicker in the conversation with the Church—the secretive policy of Catholic hospitals regarding their pregnant patients. In my opinion this will eventually have to be dealt with but it hasn’t changed my mind about the importance of the Christian viewpoint to the conversation.

While I’m on the subject of politics it seems that the Right would also like to end the conversation. If certain people have their way there will be war with Russia. There is no excuse for Americans to be contemplating such a thing. For that matter, there was no excuse for the Cold War. It was concocted from the recommendations of George Kennan by a hysterical press and the ‘thinkers’ of RAND Corporation, whose enormous brains worked their magic at the behest of the Air Force. Unfortunately Kennan tried but never succeeded in living down his famous ‘X Article’ in which he said ominous things about the Soviet Union. However, when he talked about containment he thought he was recommending the political containment of a political threat, not some ‘doctrine’ of perpetual military containment. More importantly, he thought containment should apply to the Americans as well.

Kennan expressed concern about the ascendance in the United States of an ‘idealistic and pretentious lack of genuine foreign policy’ that focused on the American Dream—in other words, on appearances—and he thought the U.S. must put its own house in order first.

Kennan argued that the Soviets were part of an historical tradition of the Third Rome, which although it is a rival religion, is still Byzantine. On the other hand, he could already see similar totalitarian tendencies at work in the United States. The Americans had taken up a form of existence that does not recognize limits, a result of unconditional acceptance of the logic of the marketplace, and this had led to the loss of a sense of what should not be done.

So instead of a political containment lasting for 10-15 years the doctrine was transformed into an ‘indestructible myth’:

“There emerged one of those great forbidding apparitions to the credence in which mass opinion is so easily swayed: a monster devoid of all humanity and of all rational motive, at once the embodiment and the caricature of evil, devoid of internal conflicts and problems of its own, intent only on bringing senseless destruction to the lives and hopes of others.”

The symptoms of our decay go beyond politics. They include ‘overpopulation, urbanization, hyper-intensity of communication, and destruction of the environment’. However, for Kennan the nuclear arms race was the clearest indication of spiritual decline. It was a ‘spiritual and philosophical derangement of the last order’, a madness, a death wish, a lack of faith, ‘wrong in the good old-fashioned meaning of the word.((Rossbach, Stefan, GNOSTIC WARS: The Cold War in the Context of a History of Western Spirituality, Edinburgh University Press, 1999))

I can only imagine what he would say about America’s current dealings with the Russians. We need a change of direction. We need to talk.

Putin Must Restore Harmony in Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine has alternated between rhythm and discord. The music began when Ukraine decided to pursue an Association Agreement with the EU. The first discordant note sounded when the Ukrainian president was told that he must end relations with Russia. His decision not to sign the AA resulted in local protests, which culminated in Victoria Nuland’s phone call. In retrospect, this phone call was probably misleading. Unfortunately, it’s given credence to Putin’s focus on the United States. Conflict between Russia and the United States is certainly safer for Putin in the short term than conflict with the EU. However, he seems to be using the U.S. to avoid dialogue with his closer neighbors. In my opinion, Putin is on the line to respond appropriately to Keiv’s latest attempts to restore harmony.

Ukraine’s leaders have responded to his concerns in two ways: by addressing the radical right, and by indicating a willingness to discuss the federalization of Ukraine. These things should have the potential to end the crisis, but at this time the pro-Russian groups in Eastern Ukraine are out of step. Regardless of whether Russia is supporting them, if Putin fails to call them to order he is at fault.

Some are now saying that the United States’ presence in Poland is part of the problem. However, the American strategy has clearly been defensive so far. The administration probably wants to demonstrate support for Central Europe, as has been stated. The reason: if these countries believe they have been left on their own to face Russia, they might decide they have no choice but to make peace with Putin. NATO can’t handle Central Europe’s requests for help because NATO is cash-poor and divided. Therefore, the United States has to take up some of the slack. [ref]From Estonia to Azerbaijan: American Strategy After Ukraine. Stratfor Global Intelligence. March 25, 2014. available:http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/estonia-azerbaijan-american-strategy-after-ukraine?topics=286[/ref]

All things considered, it’s difficult to make the case that this is another Cold War as some on the Left would like us to believe. It’s not a conflict between the United States and Russia, except perhaps for purposes of propaganda. The U.S. has clearly been playing a supporting role to the EU and Obama’s continuing restraint supports this view. Harsh retaliation has been ruled out because it would damage the EU as much as Russia.

No one is forgetting that Russian security was threatened, but Russia is not under threat from the United States at this time. Putin must work with his neighbors in the EU and Ukraine. Perhaps he believes his focus on the U.S. will win support for his personal agenda. Too bad Obama hasn’t taken his bait.

It’s Putin’s turn to strike a chord. He should end this.