Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I recently ran across this article written by the now deceased George Kennan about American-Soviet relations. It was written in 1951 and titled "America and the Russian Future." As it happened to turn out, the article was prophetic is predicting the demise of the Soviet Union. The reason I am writing about it in this blog is that it had an interesting passage regarding the future of the Soviet Union and how to deal with the collapse that Kennan correctly believed to be inevitable. Here is the passage:

"Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities. There is great good in the Russian national character, and the realities of that country scream out today for a form of administration more considerate of that good. Let us hope that it will come. But when Soviet power has run its course, or when its personalities and spirit begin to change (for the ultimate outcome could be one or the other), let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of 'democratic.' Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which peoples advance toward dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign interference can do less good."

I wonder if this passage might have some relevance for the future of the war that is being waged in Iraq. Perhaps the ultimate outcome of the Iraqi state will look nothing like out governmental system but will still be able to solve problems in its own way. It has been my experience with Americans that we generally believe in universal principles that have application everywhere. It has also been my experience as a traveller that each culture solves problems differently. This is not to say that all methods of solution are equal- often they are not. Generally, systems that protect freedom of the individual and have strong legal systems in place to guard that freedom produce better intellectual discourse on government and, thereby, devise smarter solutions. It should be understood, however, that to judge any other governmental system one needs to take into account the people that produced the system. Nothing is more dangerous for foreign policy than to assume that our way is the only way and that all peoples should emulate US according to our own criteria.

Is their good in the Iraqi national character? I believe there is good but it needs time and peace to be brought out. Can the US provide that time and peace? I believe it is our duty as the country that overturned their previous government to provide Iraq with a chance for self-government.

1 comment:

DoctorGonzo10 said...

This is a very interesting concept that you have brought up. I would like to address the questions but first I want to give my two cents on the ideas Kennan had: First off, I was reading the Time magazine from July 2nd of this month, this had an article about JFK's dealings with the Russians. I would like to draw the attention to one quote from this article. This from JFK himself:

"We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, that we are only 6% of the world's population, that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94% of mankind, that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity, and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem."

This backs your argument of "Nothing is more dangerous for foreign policy than to assume that our way is the only way..." Which I agree with. We can not play world police any longer. We should not be using our citizens to stop injustices around the world. But Iraq, I feel, is different. An Iraq without Saddam Hussein is a better Iraq. Now, the problem that persists is our further involvement in the foreign nation. The stubborn idea that the nations we conquer must switch to democracy is one that needs to be eliminated. Because, let's face it, democracy does not work for everyone. I understand that a civil war is inevitable once a leader is extracted from office. But we should not fight this civil war, nor should we fund it. This civil war should be fought by their own citizens, for their own ideas, and for their own personal freedoms. They should decide their fate, not us. Eventually, when the battle is over and the sides have been chosen, the people will be in a much better state.

The next point I would like to make is how Kennedy wanted the Cold War to be fought. He thought that if communism was going to be brought down, it should be brought down by capitalism. Just letting the systems work themselves out would show America's might. The ideas that our country was founded on would prevail in the long run, due to hard work and determination.

Now on to the questions: There is good in the Iraqi national character. I am certain. They are a very religious people. And although they differ from us it doesn't mean it won't work for them. If it doesn't they will work it out. If there's one thing I believe in it is that humans will change their ways if they are unsatisfied. And if they ever need help, all they gotta do is ask. The peace in Iraq will only come once we leave.

Good article though, and finally a good blog that is not worried about what Paris Hilton is doing now that she isn't in jail.