No, We Don’t Need To Become More Like Putin To Contain Him

Anne Applebaum is an author who shares my Central European view and long-standing aversion towards Russian revanchism. She has a comically pessimistic piece. AtlanticThe argument is that “unless democracies defend their self, the forces autocratic will destroy them.”

The essay serves as a useful reminder that civilizational apocalypticism is hardly limited to the right-populist Flight 93 Election set and that the centrist/interventionist fun-house-mirror image has not learned the post-9/11 lesson that wise policy does not automatically tumble forth from mashing the Do Something button.

Applebaum states that Russia isn’t the only country in the world to covet its neighboring territories, and that it seeks out the destruction of entire populations. This warning comes in an untrue statement, which has been in place since the birth of nations. North Korea is able to attack South Korea any time it pleases and also has nuclear weapons which can be used against Japan. China wants to eradicate the Uyghurs, a separate ethnic group. It has also declared its imperial intentions on Taiwan.

It sounds quite scary. Rewrite the passage by landing on any other year from history. This is a rough sketch of 1948. 3 million deathsThe 54,000 Americans are included. China could be on the brink of communist revolution. Soviet Union recently orchestrated a coup and blockade in West Berlin, as well as a coup of Czechoslovakia. This was while it began the Stalinist trial process across its entire imperial holdings. Israel is under attack by five Arab states, Mahatma Gandhi was just assassinated. India and Pakistan continue to be at war. South Africa just established apartheid. The Greek Civil War continues, much of Europe lies still in disarray. What are you going to do?

It is always possible to be one bad breath away from an entire thermonuclear warfare. That’s why I understand that it can cause some anxiety in 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not help these anxieties. He has created headlines such as “Russian aircrafts ‘armed to nukes’ chased away from Swedish airspace.”

However, it is shocking to see a lack of faith in wealth, power and institutions in the free world. To gaze at Putin’s military impasse against a significantly outgunned nuclear power without any usable security guarantee and proclaim that Asia’s brutal and behemoth backwaters are not only going to continue killing people in their localities, but “destroying” the entire planet.

As political apocalypticism is everywhere, this rhetorical device aims to make people fearful and support choices they would not have made in more calm times. Applebaum’s have a lot of government-led mobilizations and force, much like the panicked (or opportunistic), proposals that followed 9/11. didn’tTwenty years ago, work.

Unpromisingly she wrote that the Department of Homeland Security was formed from disparate agencies in the aftermath of 9/11. “We now need to gather the parts of U.S. Government that think about communication. Not to make propaganda, but rather to reach more people with better information to help stop the autocrats distorting this knowledge.”

What should I do? J.D. Tuccille wrote the following in 2019, based on an inspector general’s report. Actually, the piece was written by a senior DHS official. ReasonIn 2015, it was “Why should we eliminate”

And though it’s largely been memory-holed, 9/11, too, saw the creation of a bunch of new government-funded, foreign-language, please-don’t-call-it-propaganda media outlets. These outlets went where? We have compiled our 2011 results:

In the last ten years you have paid for the Al-Hurra TV network, the Sawa radio network and the teen magazine HiThis is among many other State Department media ventures within the Arab states. The TV network has failed to gain viewers and its costs have been going up. The State Department’s inspector general says the radio station has failed to fulfill its mandate. At least the teen magazine was allowed to go out of business.

Applebaum wants to “stop autocracies from distorting…knowledge,” but democracies do plenty of distorting on their own, as anyone who has followed Washington’s COVID-related messaging can attest. Disinformation can easily be attributed to government efforts to quell disinformation.

Applebaum and American populists, who often despise Applebaum, share a surprising commonality: they both believe that trading with China is a bad idea.Trade with autocrats is a promotion of autocrats, not democracyShe italicizes. Russia’s invasion and subsequent expulsion from the liberal trade order suggests a different conclusion: Perhaps autocratic nations will be more concerned about the consequences of aggressive and murderous imperialism after seeing the hardships inflicted on Russia by not only members of the World Trade Organization, but also individuals.  

Scott Lincicome (Director of General Economics and Trade at Cato Institute) said that the literature about trade and peace was very good. This doesn’t mean that commerce and economic interconnectedness are not possible. AvoidArmed conflict is a reduction in the likelihood of it. There are many reasons why this is so.

Reasonable liberals are able to agree to disagree with (or be ambivalent about) trading with autoritarians. Applebaum, however, has fire in her eyes.

[W]You can do more, as there’s no reason to keep any trust, company or property anonymous. Each state in the United States and every democracy should make ownership immediately transparent. It is illegal to operate tax havens. Crooks and tax cheats are the only ones who should keep their income, houses and businesses secret.

It is an act of illiberal autoritarianism to fight illiberal authorityrism. It’s simply nuts. Hungary is a democracy (albeit one that Applebaum claims is “at war with us,” which is an awkward move from a NATO ally)—does she really believe that only crooks in Budapest have cause to keep some of their assets out of the prying eyes of Viktor Orbán’s government? The Calvinists who fled religious persecution founded financial privacy. It is an important bulwark against despotic governments as well as against liberal democratic governments that can behave despotically.

Applebaum’s government-imposed, radical transparency plan is not working, thank goodness. It is, however, a pervasive vice. If a situation becomes too difficult or an actor is not being a good person, it’s tempting for those who are sympathetic to the victim to allow their emotions to overwhelm intelligence and drive a bulldozer to every bureaucratic or legalistic obstacle.

Applebaum claims that these obstacles are key elements of the liberal order he is trying to defend. They make liberalism less worthwhile to defend.

These past five weeks have seen many acts of inpatience, private and government-related. Deplatforming RT, canceling performances by Russian musicians, indicating that due process niceties might be dispensed with in the seizing of Russian oligarchs’ property—none of this is helpful. Agrotesque ways to protest a lawless ruler imposing deadly collective punishment are to lower judicial standards.

Even though our hearts are breaking, it’s possible and preferable to maintain our liberal-democratic sense of humour. Russia has a history of inflicting violence and authoritarian regimes on those who live near bears. Over a century, that history has left Russia weakened and disregarded. However, it is now surrounded with examples of true independence from Moscow’s wealth, democracy and resolve. These atavistic outliers are not to be afraid. We should acknowledge them as the Potemkin bullies that they are, and protect the liberalism that they too blindly embrace.