Thursday, December 02, 2004

"It's not really a party until someone mentions Bretton-Woods"
-overheard recently at what was, in fact, a pretty good party

Speaking of real estate, sometimes it bugs me that Internet domain names just go to whoever buys them first, regardless of merit. Tony tells me that he lost respect for the anti-globalization movement when he tried to engage a demonstrator about Bretton Woods, and he didn't know what it was (to be fair, some of the organizers do). Something similar is going on at the enviably named Antiwar.com, where somebody acted quickly to buy the domain, only to turn it into a forum for bizarre, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. I was disappointed to find this piece by Justin Raimondo soiling the good name of antiwar activism. Raimondo presents an explanation of the stolen election ruckus in Ukraine as a dispute between Ukraine's ruling oligarchs having nothing to with democracy, as part of an unfair conspiracy on the part of Western captialists against poor, poor Vladimir Putin.

There are several major problems with this line of thinking. The first and most obvious is that he's implicitly dismissing as irrelevant the fact that the election was blatantly stolen as ballots were thrown in the trash while Western observers were standing their watching. This rankles a bit, working in a neighborhood where old Ukranians are walking around with orange ribbons pinned to their lapels in support of the challenger Viktor Yushchenko, which leads me to my larger point - he doesn't know anything about Ukraine. This is the only possible explanation for someone believing that pipelines or shady deals with the IMF are more important in interpreting the Ukranian situation than the longstanding ethnic, political, and geographical issues dividing East from West.

In a nutshell - Ukraine, once part of the Polish Empire, fell difinitively under Russian rule with the partition of Poland in the late 1800. After WWI and the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Western Ukraine became part of the reconstituted state of Poland, while the East remained part of the new Soviet Union. What happened next in the Russian part of Ukraine? Stalin killed everybody. After which, a lot of Russians moved into the fertile farmland and depopulated cities to solidify the Kremlin's control. Today, Eastern Ukranians of any ethnicity tend to speak Russian and look to Moscow for leadership.

After WWII, Poland's borders were shifted west to include much of what used to be eastern Germany and Prussia. At the same time, Western Ukraine was reincorporated into the Soviet Union. These Western Ukranians were spared the genocide of the 30s and their descendents still speak Ukranian and continue to keep alive their own culture. These people tend to look to Poland more than Russia for kinship - Nato or EU membership are simply tools to accomplish these social ends.

I am disturbed that I keep running into a Left that seems to be as irrational, faith-based and ignorant of history as the Right. Anther "antiwar" article I heard recently claimed the West should not intervene in Darfour because this would advance the cause of imperialism and somebody might make a profit on it. Look, I don't like Bush either, but just because he says he's for freedom and against genocide doesn't mean I have to come out for genocide against freedom. And I'm certainly not about to embrace the actions of Putin and his allies in Chechnya or the Ukraine just because he opposed Bush's boneheaded war. Wrong is wrong when anybody does it, not just when it's the United States.

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