Sunday, April 02, 2006

Gorbachev: America Drunk on its own Power

If a person were asked to compile a list of the most influential people of the 20th century, any list would surely be incomplete without Mikhail Gorbachev. The father of Glasnost and Perestroika (openness and economic restructuring), Gorbachev looked at one of the most powerful nations in history, and restructured it based on his own views of the society. The true beauty of Gorbachev’s philosophies were that they were tied closely enough to the roots of Soviet life to appeal to Soviet on the street This popular support led to the acceptance by the power structure, transformation of the society, and a new age of security throughout the world.

Gorbachev has always been a hero to me. He is a true example of a man with ideas making a difference in the world. Yes, I know these ideas were shared by many, and contributed to by others as well. But somehow Gorby was at the heart of reform in the Soviet Union. He was a master at analyzing what was in front of him, and used his analysis to better his world. Of course I wasn’t alone in seeing this; the world saw it too, and rewarded Gorbachev with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. And to me that’s no surprise, as there are few similarly worthy candidates that I have seen during my lifetime.

Thus, I valued the words provided today by the ex-Soviet leader. He was interviewed by Sally Donnelly in Time, as he prepares to release a book on the 20th anniversary of introducing Perestroika to Soviet society, predominantly talking about the state of Russia today, and the long-term effects of Perestroika. But when he moved to the work being done today to correct the mistakes of the Yeltsin administration, he was openly critical of a Bush administration that does not treat Russia as an equal by any sense of the word.

Donnelly: Is Putin on the Right track?

Gorbachev: Putin is trying to move toward more social-democratic policies--to improve health care, education and the like. But just as Russia is beginning to rise again, the West doesn't accept it. America is intoxicated by its position as the world's only superpower. It wants to impose its will. But America needs to get over that. It has responsibilities as well as power. I say this as a good friend of America.

Donnelly: The U.S. seems worried about some antidemocratic developments in Russia, such as Kremlin control of the media.

Gorbachev: The U.S. should be concerned about Russian domestic issues if Russians are concerned. Yes, the media are under some assault. There are some authoritarian methods being used. That is not in the interests of the people. Democracy is fragile.

Gorbachev is perfectly in line with my philosophies. He knows how fragile the democracy Russia is trying to create is, but he also knows that in any country, including the U.S., there are instances you do what you have to for the country’s good. Now I believe that democracies need to maintain their basic freedoms, as they define a society. But I can say that from within my own society, and there is no sense trying to analyze a society I’m not part of. Only the Russians can decide the line between those basic, unalienable rights that can’t be broken and rights that need to be sacrificed for the public good. My opinion doesn’t count.

Gorbachev then goes on to talk about the direction we’re heading, and he makes some very poigniant statements:

Donnelly: Do you think we are moving back toward a cold war?

Gorbachev: I think some people may be pushing President Bush in the wrong direction. I don't think the U.S. can impose its will on others. This talk of pre-emptive strikes, of ignoring the U.N. Security Council and international legal obligations--all this is leading toward a dark night.

Sorry, but he is so damn smart! Gorbachev quickly boils down the rhetoric so we see the root of the problem; the problem is not the level of democracy being practiced in Russia, nor is it the spread of American values through the media and increase communication that is increasing the rift between Russia and the US, but instead it is the U.S. imposing its will on Russia, as a bully more than a super-power, that is leading us towards conflict.

This is the same issue brought up by the Muslim world. They speak of American imperialism, and we snicker and call them evil. But I have spoken here before about a very real American imperialism, felt throughout the world, and pushing us towards the “dark night” Gorbachev alludes to. While the Bush administration points fingers, the world grows increasingly irritated with the US’ holier-than-thou attitude, as demonstrated by the number of people who spoke about these aspects while I covered the 10 Dangers to the Western World. Indeed, perhaps the US is its own worst enemy.

My bias says that this situation may not be unique to the Bush administration, but it is more pronounced during this administration than it has been at any time during my life. But Gorbachev points out that there is at least one voice of reason in this administration, that being Condoleezza Rice, who I wrote about Friday.

Donnelly: Is Condoleezza Rice one of these people?

Gorbachev: Oh, I don't think so. She is a knowledgeable person, a person who knows Russia, a cultured person. She is one who is committed to political and diplomatic solutions. But she is having a difficult time. So did Colin Powell.

I have actually been reading some Rice statements this weekend, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that, should she run for office in 2008, she might be a very good candidate. I know that there are many voices of dissent out there, people who have written here that they object to Rice on every level. But the more I read of her public statements, the more I wonder how much of that comes from being associated with a Bush administration that has often forced her to backtrack over statements she obviously believed in. Guilt by association would not dissuade me from voting for her if Rice did turn out to be the leader this country so desperately needs.

As for Gorbachev, I’m glad to see his statements, and I hope that that somewhere in our government they see that these statements came from a true voice for democracy, and take heed. I doubt it will happen, but I can be hopeful. When his book comes out, I will read it. And I will continue to remember that Gorbachev really stands for the power of ideas, and the ability for one person to make a huge difference in this world.

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Posted by Scottage at 10:56 PM / | |