A common refrain among the Left can be summarized as “moral equivalence” – i.e., comparing the negative events that the US is involved with (i.e., Abu Ghraib) or the inherent difficulties involved with attempting to turn a despotic state such as Iraq or a “failed state” such as Afghanistan into a functioning democracy with the horrors of the Russian invasion of Chechnya or the Chinese armed suppression of Tibet and then concluding that “we are all the same”.
While the individuals here at Chicago Boyz never bought into the “moral equivalence” model it is true that the US had to prop up and stand by some odious regimes for quite a while in order to win the Cold War. While South Korea today is a vibrant democracy and certifiably free country it wasn’t always this way and while that is the ideal there are other countries that are at varying steps along this path.
With the “Arab Spring” the US is looking at things differently. While we supported Egypt and Tunisia it was clear that we weren’t giving them unlimited support against their people; our contacts (the military) in fact minimized the violence in the overall situation and now at least these countries have an opportunity to have a democratic society.
On the other hand you can see how the former Soviet “client states” are treating the uprising – with unimaginable brutality against unarmed civilians protesting peacefully. Libya and Syria behaved (and are still behaving, in the case of Syria) with insane behaviors such as opening fire with anti-aircraft weapons and tank fire against peaceful citizens which is a slaughter. This type of behavior of course is perfectly acceptable to a Russian style client state trained military, which use all means of oppression available to preserve the power of the ruling class against the will of the people. There is no “state” or “populace” of value; there is only the power of those in control (Gaddafi or Assad’s clique, or Putin’s clique, for example) and thus an ever escalating chain of violence is OK in their interpretation of events if that is what it takes to control power.
As a country the US certainly has made mistakes but we LEARN from mistakes and are now on the side of freedom and voices for the people. And it isn’t only the US; France and Britain led the Libyan intervention much to the dismay of THEIR left wing.
And yet Russia today shows why moral equivalence was NEVER correct; they are fundamentally anti-freedom and supporting regimes with the same core values of their own. One of the best description of the former USSR was that they were just “third generation gangsters” and it is clear that Assad is just a “second generation gangster” (Gaddafi’s second generation were mostly hunted down and killed or about to stand trial, something Gaddafi would never have done for his opponents).
Russia continues to veto resolutions that would support unarmed citizens against Assad; their logic is clear – the goal of a regime is to CONTINUE TO EXIST and all means necessary to do this are OK. The will of their own populace is irrelevant, and the doctrine of “do not interfere in country’s affairs” provides the justification. There are obvious parallels to the situation in Putin’s Russia in that he will do everything to retain power (stuff the ballot box, threaten violence, blame foreign powers, or actually deploy violence in ever escalating levels if needed).
Whatever the sins of the US in the modern era there are no equivalents of using anti-aircraft weapons and tanks against unarmed citizens, and using scorched earth tactics against civilians. This never happened. Instead the US took great pains to shield civilians and grow nascent democratic institutions, although the outcome of this is never certain.
China too waits in the wings; the “third generation gangster” label could be applied there but they are more circumspect in the use of violence and do seem to believe that their goal as a regime does include raising the overall standard of living and giving people freedom (except to criticize the government, of course). Since Russia will block all effective sanctions against Syria, China has an out. This doesn’t stop China from crushing dissent where it suits them (Tibet) in a way that Western nations could never pull off; and a Beastie Boy concert or two obviously hasn’t dissuaded them a bit from their activities.
And yet there are no protests outside Russia or China’s embassies by the Left; this isn’t a battle that concerns them (Syria or Libya), because it doesn’t fit their narrative that all the governments are oppressive and of moral equivalence. There are no angry posts on left wing blogs about these issues. It doesn’t fit their pre-defined agenda that the US is an oppressive place since birth and that we are all the same.
That is the definition of moral bankruptcy.