The Great Debate
Twenty-five years ago Sunday, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev refused to use force when thousands of people from East and West converged to pull down the Berlin Wall. He taught us all a great lesson: No wall can hold back democracy. Since then, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taught another lesson: If a country’s people don’t want democracy enough, no Berlin Wall is needed to keep it out.
from Nicholas Wapshott:
Suddenly, it seems, the world is at war.
In Iraq, armed and angry militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are at the gates of Baghdad. In Pakistan, government forces are mounting a ferocious campaign against the Taliban in North Waziristan. In Syria, the civil war drags on. These are “hot wars” involving the clashing of troops and weapons. Having escaped such “hot” conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, these are the sort of war Americans have made it plain they are not prepared to fight.
When it comes to the mounting crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama is stuck playing an old role. Since World War Two, U.S. presidents have steadfastly held to the same course when it comes to Russia.
What’s wrong with central casting? It’s a virtual truism: The United States always seems to pick the wrong guy to star as George Washington in some faraway civil war. We sell him weapons for self-defense against his despicable foes — and then, sometimes before the end of the first battle, we find we are committed to a bad actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to Genghis Khan.
Key parties to the conflict in Syria are meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday. The participants have been downplaying expectations that the “Geneva II” peace conference — which will bring together for the first time representatives from the Assad government and various rebel groups along with major international players — will resolve the conflict, or even bring about a ceasefire.
This essay is adapted from Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals, which was recently published by Delphinium Books.