Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sullivan - I

From Andrew Sullivan on Russia invading Georgia vs. the U.S. invading Iraq:
Just imagine if the press were to discover a major jail in Gori, occupied by the Russians, where hundreds of Georgians had been dragged in off the streets and tortured and abused? What if we discovered that the orders for this emanated from the Kremlin itself? And what if we had documentary evidence of the ghastliest forms of racist, dehumanizing, abusive practices against the vulnerable as the standard operating procedure of the Russian army - because the prisoners were suspected of resisting the occupying power?...It seems to me that, in these circumstances, the question of moral equivalence becomes a live one. When an American president has violated two centuries of civilized norms, how could it not be, for any serious person with a conscience?
I wrote about this a couple of days ago, and I have found it interesting to follow the discussion in the blogging world. There are two basic camps: those who feel as I do that the U.S. has lost all standing in making comments about this, and those who feel that the U.S. is still better because of its principles and needs to keep speaking out.

Now, I keep up enough to know that Russian troops have backed off, that the crisis is essentially over. So you may think that the issue is moot, that this post and Sullivan's are superfluous.

But this will come up again and again, and it's going to be important to figure out where we stand on this. Maybe the change in president will allow us to reset, to engage the world relatively free of the Iraq baggage...but I doubt it.

I don't know what we have to do to regain our moral standing, but I am very uneasy lecturing the rest of the world about anything given our willingness to interfere with other countries and our unwillingness to change anything we do. I do believe that my country has still been, over the years, a force for good in the world, and we should be proud of that, but recent events (almost everything that has happened at home and abroad during the Bush administration) has made me wary about our ability to act as a moral exemplar. Sullivan:
The point here is not that the invasions are obviously morally equivalent. The point is that the line between American actions in the world and Russia's are no longer as stark as they once were. Once you trash the international system, declare yourself above the law and even the most basic of international conventions against war crimes, you have forfeited the kind of moral authority that the US once had. Bush and his cronies speak as if none of this has happened. Their rigid, absolutist denial even of the bleeding obvious allows them to preach to the world about international norms that, when they would have constrained American actions, were derided as quaint and irrelevant. You really cannot have it both ways.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics