Putin, Obama, and Alinsky
Vladamir Putin made some good points in his recent op-ed for the New York Times. However, those points being made by Putin added a large element of ridiculousness to the article. Putin is a proud Russian and authoritarian. He’s an ex-KGB agent who as President has armed rogue regimes around the world and waged war on Chechnya for almost ten years, until the resistance was effectively defeated and Russia’s territorial claims were once again enforced.
Therefore, I was poised to write this off as just an attempt by a liar and hypocrite to sway public opinion in America and to weaken our resolve to take military action, the unlikeliness of which already appeared to me to be a foregone conclusion. And indeed, Putin’s op-ed was that. However, the op-ed appears to be more significant than I had originally considered.
First of all, the op-ed caused a sensation around the world and quite a bit of agitation here at home, which itself made this article more important than it otherwise would have been. As I said, the attack on Syria appeared to already have been taken off the table. The administration was in full face-saving mode, as they backed away from their war stance. So Putin’s article seemed gratuitous and possibly even counter-productive insofar as it might have had a unifying patriotic effect for many people falling on different points among the American political spectrum.
Then a September 12, 2013article in the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto called ‘Rules for Russians:Putin takes a page out of Alinsky,’ caused me to think about the article within the context of Obama’s hero on the subject of outsider warfare tactics, Saul Alinsky. On September 10, 2013, Obama said America is different and exceptional. However, Karl Marx believed that nationalism was a bourgeois construct and that communism was an international ideology, a belief in which would be consistent with Obama’s actions throughout his life and as president. He has deliberately weakened America abroad while undertaking a silent socialist coup here at home.
Growing up, Obama’s primary influences believed America was a central cause of many of the world’s problems. They taught him that America’s arrogance and capitalist system exploited people and perpetuated war around the world. And in Obama’s 2008 debate with Hillary Clinton on CNN, he clarified that America does not stand above anybody else and that it was his intention to put America into its proper place, which was on equal footing with all other nations.
But how can you inspire a nation to fight for a nation which is indistinguishable from all others? This is why the communist dictator, Joseph Stalin, invoked Russian nationalism in his November 7, 1941 speech to the Red Army. He closed his speech with “For the complete destruction of the German invaders! Death to the German invaders! Long live our glorious Motherland, her liberty and her independence! Under the banner of Lenin, forward to victory!”
Similarly, Obama attempted to appeal to the patriotism of a large swath of conservatives by saying America doesn’t let innocent women and children get gassed, which is what makes us different and exceptional, an “essential truth” of which we should never lose sight. While he may have been attempting invoke international values, he still managed to say that America was indeed exceptional as the world’s primary defender of noble human values.
Alinsky’s fourth rule for radicals and tactic for undermining the opposition is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” Conservatives are always Obama’s enemies, and he was once again using Alinsky tactics to win a political victory, this time to guilt patriots into living up to their self-image as Americans who believe that as Americans they represent a force for good in the world.
However, as Taranto pointed out, Putin can play the game as well. The man, who had been a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet secret police and a practitioner of judo for fifty years, knows how to both take the measure of a man and leverage that man’s own force against him in battle. And this is how Putin used Obama’s own use of Alinsky’s fourth rule to outmaneuver Obama. Putin, as insincere as he is making Obama live up to Obama’s own set of values that America is equal with all other nations, perhaps even less so. And he is mocking Obama by throwing his own copy of ‘Rules for Radicals’ right in Obama’s face.
This round goes to Putin. The president of the superpower has been forced back into his self-imposed weakness and the president of a regional power is now in control of international events.
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