Bush and the Risks of Idealism
Big Three @ Yalta
Italian newspaper columnist Vittorio Zucconi reminds us that on occasion cruel cynicism and cold manipulation have saved the world from nuclear conflict. One of this instances was the Conference of Yalta which, while dividing Europe in recognition of harsh realities on the ground (the western advance of Soviet forces), both prevented nuclear war and left the space for the West to regain its democratic footing.
The impetuous George Bush is an idealistic and dangerous risk-taker. For Bush, America's power is his moral compass and where he takes us, we know not. [But most of us have a bad feeling].
"With the coherence which is both his hallmark and his bane and with the certainty of a providential messiah of the New Age, Bush has consigned to the dustbin of history one-half century of grim, harsh reality which the world knew as the Peace of Yalta. The agreement, which tacitly divided Europe, corresponded to the advance of Soviet and Anglo-American forces and which was accepted in Stalin’s Crimea by Churchill and Roosevelt was, according to Bush, not only a mistake but an extension of the secret agreement between Berlin and Moscow initialed by Molotov and Ribbentrop.
Bush imagines Yalta to be the offspring of one of the most abominable acts of political and military violence carried out by the worst tyrannies of the 20th century. The fact that the Peace of Yalta immobilized a looming conflict into a frosty equilibrium of mutual nuclear blackmail does not seem to trouble this President, who, in the cultural tradition of the United States, possesses the deepest and most optimistic of convictions—that history only started yesterday and that the past is ballast to be jettisoned overboard in order to guarantee smooth sailing.
The underlying cause of Bush's recent exploit in hyper-historical revisionism is the ever more difficult and embarrassing visit to Moscow to see his ex-friend Vladimir, to whom the tragic dilettantes of policy and strategy had promised entry into Europe and NATO, and who now openly reveals his true nature as Once a Chekist, always a Chekist in his public yearning for the Soviet Empire and the methods employed in running the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
For the tripartite understanding between the USSR, the USA and Great Britain reached in February 1945 was the keystone upon which the inviolable temple of the Soviet Empire resided until 1991. The demolition of its historical and moral underpinnings is a unmistakable and brutal way of telling the ex-Major of the Secret Police to forget about his ambition to resurrect and reconstitute of the Soviet sphere of influence.
But in Bush’s thrust there is much more than a justifiable challenge to the revanchiste illusions of Vladimir, whom the President misread as he looked the man in the eye and understood that he could trust him. In the President’s jab, there was necessarily the relentless continuation of the doctrine of “exporting democracy” as the only real and lasting antidote to war which informs the vision and the actions of a President whose charge is to guarantee the primacy of the United States around the world and global peace. In a moment in which democracy woefully tries to plant its roots into the daily bloodshed of Iraq and when North Korea brazenly puts on display the “weapons of mass destruction” which Saddam never possessed, Russia and the nations freed from the grasp of Russian domination have become the prime focus of a feasibility test of neoconservative interventionism.
The dreadful price at which Iraq is being democratized, coupled with bombs and missiles procured by a miserable Asian dictator and the decline of the largest nation on earth, Russia, into imperialism and authoritarianism, have combined to produce a classic Pyrrhic victory for the Bush doctrine. Any notion of invading Russia to impose regime change in Moscow is entirely moot after the terrible lesson of Iraq.
Against this backdrop of debacle, President has chosen to engage in verbal personal challenge extending all the way back to the Yalta Pact, which represented the exact opposite of Bush’s vision for the world and of role played by America--a role which is in fact neo-revolutionary. If US remains the sole superpower, absent any nation which possesses the military might to balance its war-fighting potential (Washington spends more on its defense that of the 25 of the world’s most developed nations combined), the temptation of identifying America’s strength with moral purpose will remain irresistible to this president as well as to future presidents. By tossing Yalta into the dustbin along with its pitiless logic and cynical but practical abandon of bordering states like East Germany, the Baltic Republics, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania to the “fraternal” domination of Stalin and Brezhnev, Bush overlooks the state to which Europe was reduced and the strategic realities of 1945.
Bush's “idealism”, which is a sanitized and politically correct version of the White Man’s Burden, can stretch itself across the global horizon because Stalin’s armored divisions around Berlin and a million Red Army soldiers one step away from the borders of Western Europe have vanished. Bush overlooks the terrible yet practical necessity of finding an accommodation with an enemy who not only possessed a devastating nuclear arsenal but who had the will to use it. Bush, who has consumed and internalized Neocon formulas, detests prudence and pragmatism. Bush prefers the risk of idealism. For him, the concession of a Soviet protectorate over Eastern Europe was a mistake which “we shall not repeat”
But what of other errors? What will be the consequences if the world refuses to democratize itself according to the formulas of Pax Americana? The mistake of Yalta—if indeed it was —contained conflict in a pitiless and Machiavellian fashion to internal repression within East Germany, Hungary, in Czechoslovakia while permitting western European nations to mature towards consensual democracy. This fact does not give President Bush pause to reflect, nor could he, being the man of ideals and of action that he is.
The cynicism which guided Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, that held back the hand of Kennedy, tempted by an invasion of Cuba, and that suggested to Johnson and to Nixon not to pursue the conflict of Vietnam beyond its borders does not mark to this obstinate and impetuous Texan, who considers all that took place before his time an error and who is leading his nation, and along with it the world, on a course through uncharted waters, with no compass other than the conviction that he is the most powerful, and therefore, the most moral."