Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What Soviet Leaders Could Teach Andrew Sullivan

In 1980, the Soviet Union was to usher in a new era in human development and achievement, fulfilling a decades long quest to become a true communist state. As of that year, Soviet schoolchildren were taught in the 1950s and '60s, neither inequality nor injustice would persist. Economic, social and political exploitation of the proletariat masses by the bourgeois elite would cease, and a true worker's paradise would ensue, complete with freedom from want, subjugation and fear. The infallible logic of "from each according to his ability to each according to his need" would end the dangerous brinkmanship of unequal human frailty, bringing with it the final stroke of history itself.

Despite being well read on the Soviet Union, I'm not a Sovietologist. I couldn't tell you, for example, why the year 1980 was chosen as the end-date for the victory of Revolutionary Socialism over Capitalist Imperialism, or who it was that made the decision to enshrine that year in the receptive hearts of children in their millions. From the standpoint of the 1940s or 50s, perhaps 1980 seemed sufficiently far off as to be an abstract placeholder for the "not now, but still within our lifetime", much as 2050 seems to us today. Neither do I know at what point it became clear to the Soviet government that all that talk of "1980" should gently be purged from mass media and school textbooks. What is certain, however, is that 1980 came and went, and no one in the Soviet government pretended that a worker's paradise had been achieved, or was in any way closer to fruition than when Marx and Engels first birthed the notion.

The government of the Soviet Union was, in final judgment, composed of rational human beings who understood the value of propaganda, but recognized the exclusive primacy of reality. This is an important point, and one that I wish to impress on a certain Andrew Sullivan, for were he in the position of the Soviet regime, either we would all now be living in and praising our joyous socialist paradise at the point of a rifle butt, ala North Korea, or 1980 would simply not yet have arrived, owing to the impressive abilities of renowned Soviet astronomers laboring under starvation rations at gulag.

This is my impression of the man's faculties, having read Andrew Sullivan's recent summary of the Obama Administration's faltering two year old efforts at Mid-East peacemaking, which thus far have been aimed not at achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but merely at convincing the Palestinian negotiators to occupy the same room as their Israeli counterparts, and unsuccessfully at that.

That we should consider it a success that stubborn American diplomacy, costly for both the United States and Israel, could not, over the course of two long years, bring the Palestinians to direct negotiations - negotiations in which they had previously been engaged in without preconditions for nearly two decades - is truly a mind-boggling position to take, and requires an inordinate amount of innovative mental acrobatics to justify. Thankfully, Sullivan is in a position to oblige, having trademarked a peculiar distaste for reality in all things Israel, and learned to substitute a glorious, revolutionary narrative in its place.

Indeed, Andrew could teach Pravda a thing or two about duping the masses with such gems of doublethink as: "Failure leads to new terms for success." Yet, failure it is, it being the President's policy, and disguising it as "new terms for success" is truly a downright bizarre way of dealing with reality. What next? "Hunger leads to new terms for gastronomic satisfaction?" Or maybe: "Blindness leads to new terms for optical clarity?"

Failure is failure, and a responsible thinker, a rational government, would evaluate the conditions that brought about a failure in the foreign policy of the United States and recalibrate its diplomacy accordingly. Witness American policy rejecting the failed instrument of a unilateral Israeli abrogation of Jewish property rights in the West Bank and adjusting, however belatedly, but with a certain respect for reality.

On the other hand, an irrational thinker, an emotional basket-case who conflates his contemptuous antipathy for Israel's Prime Minister with a vindictive, punitive foreign policy towards a sovereign state which happens to be an integral strategic and ideological American ally and the sole non-"Arab autocracy" in the region, such a man need do no such thing.

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