Dictators have never looked so good.
Vladimir Putin is saving the United States from another Mideast military intervention. Bashar al-Assad promises to ‘thin the herd’ of jihadists and hold Syria together. And Egypt’s new strongman, General Abdal Fattah el Sisi, says he is sorting out the Muslim Brotherhood. With each passing month in the Middle East, it seems, authoritarianism grows more attractive.
Leaders described as “repressive” sound eminently reasonable. They promise to bring order to chaos without dirtying American hands. Putin’s op-ed article in the New York Times on Wednesday was the latest example.
Written with the help of the American public relations firm Ketchum, the piece provoked a dizzying array of reactions. Here’s one fact check by Max Fisher of the Washington Post. Here’s a take down from Human Rights Watch. And the New Yorker posted this hilarious Andy Borowitz mock Modern Love column by the macho former KGB officer.
The views Putin expresses are seductive. Some of his criticisms of American power are legitimate. American unilateralism — from Iraq to drone strikes to National Security Agency surveillance — undermines President Barack Obama’s credibility on striking Syria.
But in the end Putin’s opinion piece matches his Russia. It is appealing on the surface but hollow at its core. Throughout, Putin lies by omission. In other spots, he lies flat-out. Here are two examples that would make Orwell proud.