Thursday, August 21, 2008

Moral Standing

Posted by Teresa at 2:05 PM
I sense a hint of moral equivalence in Sen. Obama's comments today:

We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,”
Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge
into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by
example
on that point.

I've also seen late night comics like Jon Stewart basically make the same
arguments in their jokes. Let me just say this as clear as I can: What Russia
is doing in Georgia is not the same as Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a brutal
dictator and no one denies that. He used WMD's on the Kurds. He invaded
neighbors. He paid money to families of suicide bombers. Is there any
evidence of anything like this going on in Georgia to say make a moral
equivalence argument? No. The United States also went into Iraq with allies,
I know that is a surprise to some. Guess what: We even had Georgian troops
in Iraq
and they had to be sent back home when Russia invaded.

I read this op-ed piece explaining why the "moral standing" and equivalence
argument is absurd. And it's coming from someone who says opposed the
Iraq War:

First, the moral issue. No matter what mistakes Bush made in Iraq,
they don't excuse Russia's brutal behavior in Georgia or toward its
other neighbors, behavior that began long before Bush took office.
America's "moral standing" is irrelevant in judging Russia's actions.


I opposed Bush's broad doctrine of preemption - the right to invade
another nation on the assumption that it might threaten us sometime
in the future, even if it poses no threat in the short term. I also criticized
Bush policy on Iraq. But there is no parallel between the cases of Iraq
and Georgia.


Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant under U.N. sanction for invading
Kuwait and using weapons of mass destruction against his own people
(not to mention against neighboring Iran). He was a continuing threat
to his neighbors. Saakashvili may have acted rashly, and he may have
flaws as a leader, but he's the elected president of a tiny nation next
to a giant nuclear power.


As for Kosovo, I believe it was a mistake, in principle, for the United
States and Europe to recognize the independence of this breakaway
region of Serbia. Given the number of ethnic ink spots within European
and other states, I thought this endorsement was an invitation to
more civil wars. This move infuriated Vladimir Putin, an ally of the
Serbs, who made clear he would retaliate.


Now, however, Russia presents itself as a champion of Ossetian
self-determination. That's absurd. Russia has brutally repressed
separatist movements inside its territory, particularly in Chechnya,
where Russian artillery and bombs have killed untold thousands of
civilians.


Equally off-base are Russian charges that Georgia indulged in
"ethnic cleansing" of South Ossetia. (No evidence has emerged to
back up Moscow's claim that Georgian troops killed 2,000 Ossetians;
a Human Rights Watch report indicated the number is probably
under 100.)


Yes, Saakashvili sent troops into South Ossetia, but this followed a decade
of Russian provocations and military occupation of the enclave. Moscow
used the enclave as a weapon against Georgia.


Putin has been clear about wanting to restore the Kremlin's
former empire, calling the Soviet breakup the "greatest
geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century."


Given what has happened to Georgia, other former Soviet Republics
now have good reason to worry. Putin has threatened to target Russia's
nuclear weapons against Ukraine if that country continues efforts to
join NATO (and a Russian general just warned that Poland could face
attack over a missile-defense deal with Washington)

The moral equivalence argument has always struck me of lacking critical thinking
skills because it doesn't take account all the facts. It just paints things in black and
white, which is funny because George W. Bush is often been accused of doing that.
The United States has no moral standing because we aren't perfect. Here's some
news from you: The United States wasn't perfect during WWII but we still had the
moral gumption to face evil and defeat fascism.
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