America, Israel and Russia
Genuine decadence is not the refusal to meet previous, and often putative, standards of excellence, but the refusal to do the things necessary to survive.
By that standard, Russia is not decadent, it is enormously serious about its survival, at times far too much so in the past, and it has paid a horrendous human price for that unnecessary degree of seriousness. Russia survived two unprovoked German invasions between 1914 and 1945, the second specifically to enslave and exterminate. Not to speak of the Napoleonic and, previously, Swedish unpleasantnesses. Of course Russia will not let Chechnya go because if it lets Chechnya go, anyone who wishes to leave–may. No nation can tolerate that, no more than a nation can tolerate a neighbor, much less a small, weak one, firing upon its people: to do so is to permit open season upon your people and your land. Americans, reviewing their own civil war, ought to know this.
As for Israel, any state that wants peace with Israel can have it with a few phone calls. For that matter, the Palestinians, who as a group failed not only to fight for their homes in 1948 but also to establish a state between 1948 and 1967, could still have their own state. Of course, then the world would then be treated to the edifying spectacle of a 3-way Palestinian civil war with the Syrians and Iranians backing Hezbollah–not that the world would care anymore than it cared about the civil war in Gaza. But no matter how much land Israel gives up, it will not get peace: the issue is not land, it is Israel’s existence in a Muslim region.
Thanks, no, Israelis aren’t interested in learning to breathe underwater in a few weeks, no matter how many Americans and Europeans think they should. Just as President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are no more interested in their land being dismembered than President Lincoln was America’s dismemberment.
Therein lies the rub. We Americans have never been honest about ourselves. Not about our Civil War, possibly the least of which was set-piece battles at slaughterhouses like Antietam or Gettysburg, for the issue was not really the Slave South, but Bleeding Kansas and the rest of the western territories being admitted to the Union as Free States. Not about the current loss of control of our own Southern border, to such a significant extent that the Southwest is in many ways de facto Mexican–and not for the better. And not about the fact that Islamicism or Islamofacism or the jihadi regards anywhere Muslims live as part of the umma: the issue is far less Israel, it is Austria (the Ottomans were stopped at Vienna in 1529) Spain (from which Muslims were expelled in 1492), or France (Charles “The Hammer” Martel stopped them at Tours-Poitiers in 732) or for that matter, America, which permits Muslim recruiting in its prisons.
Thus we have seemingly intelligent Americans, including the President and Vice-President, who think that Israel should not build 1400 units of housing in one of its own cities, that of Jerusalem. Or otherwise rational people making the demented argument that for some $2 billion of aid a year, the vast majority of which does not leave the Pentagon’s computers–about what Afghanistan gets in a week–Israel should be obedient to America because Israel is, after all, a security risk to America. Given that Afghanistan funnels huge quantities of American aid to Pakistan and Iran and also kills and maims Americans (as does Iraq), America should have more security risks like Israel. Israel, after all, kills some of our enemies and would be a bargain at Afghanistan’s price–much less Wall Street’s.
Then there is our attitude towards Russia. Apparently, Russia, which has quietly provided tremendous anti-terrorist cooperation–including bases in former Soviet republics–is less of an ally than…Georgia, two of whose best-known sons are the monstrous Josef I. Stalin and head of his secret police Lavrenti P. Beria. Don’t think the Georgians aren’t proud of them. Beyond the troops we paid them to send to Iraq as members of the coalition of the billing, Georgia’s contribution to America’s security is an open question. So you have people like Robert Pape, Lindsey O’Rourke and Jenna McDermott of the University of Chicago writing such nonsense as, “Because the new wave of Chechen separatists see President Kadyrov as a puppet of the Kremlin, any realistic solution must improve the legitimacy of Chechnya’s core social institutions. An initial step would be holding free and fair elections.” Elections are not going to solve the problem of Caucasian separatism: that is a festering wound going back centuries, and only two things are going to resolve it. Killing separatists–all of them that can be found–while behaving with as much decency as possible towards those who are not. Kadyrov’s real problem is not that he’s a puppet of the Kremlin–if he were, his policies would be wiser–it’s that he often engages in counter-productive violence. (He is said to be personally a sadist, but he also appears to be the best the Kremlin has to hand.) Or the Chechens renouncing separatist ambitions and deciding to live as part of Russia. The two are not mutually exclusive.
The truth is, America can’t face the fact that since 1982, when we intervened in Lebanon, we have been fighting on behalf of Muslims in an attempt to make their lives better–and it’s not appreciated. Israel and Russia are serious about surviving the rising wave of Islamism. America (and Europe) is not.
We are three nations who need each other, who have lost our ways in very different manners, who sometimes make things far harder than they need to be. And until America accepts that about itself, its relationships with two nations it needs desperately, for many, many reasons, will suffer. Indeed, they may survive. Unless America accepts that it is staring into an abyss, an abyss of our own making and hugely magnified by waging war on behalf of Muslims, it may not.