As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, it looked as if a near century of poisonous ideologies had come to an end. The people of the world could breathe easier since no force would be trying to control their lives. International politics would be more a matter of diligent tinkering by leaders of limited ambition sharing a rather similar outlook. They would look out for themselves and their countries without demanding the rest of the world conform to their views – something perhaps like 19th century Europe which managed to avoid a general war or the best years of the Roman Empire when a general peace prevailed. People had finally learned suitable lessons from their violent past.
How wrong we were. It goes to show that much neglected Sigmund Freud was right when he said the violence in man will always out. It can emerge for all kinds of reasons or none at all – a permanent condition in need of constant attention. It’s astounding that relatively minor issues involving the U.S., China, Russia, Iran and many others can be considered worthy of outright war, even a nuclear one. Have people or their leaders taken leave of their senses or are they clinging to atavistic habits dating back to the stone age from which they cannot escape?
The form of government doesn’t seem to matter. Autocratic rule is expected to be cold and calculating. Its interests come first; others are an afterthought. But what about democracies? Since 9/11 the U.S. has engaged in one war after another without declaring war or having a clear goal in mind. It’s as if democratic rule alonejustifies these actions. Who can find fault with democracy?
Under autocratic rule, a strong man’s word, likePutin’s – is law. Other opinions need not be considered. Invade Ukraine, he says. It’s done.No such power exists in democracy. The will of the people prevails but which people under which circumstances? Democracy is open to all with money a factor above all. Use money as freely as words, say various U.S. Supreme Court decisions. That has been done to the damage of democracy. Billionaire currency trader George Soros has used his wealth to undermine a crucial part of U.S. law enforcement. It’s hard to imagine a Putin allowing that along with his suppression of more salutary ventures.
Advocates of an exceptional nation say the U.S. should set an example for the rest of the world. Indeed. One example might be the use of restraint in crises or simulated ones. Skillful negotiation is more to be prized than the blunderbuss of war. Yes, Putin invaded Ukraine, but who has shown more skill In the aftermath –Putin or Biden, who defying all geopolitical advice against a two-front war, is now facing wars on several fronts with a U.S. record of notbringing a single war to a satisfactory conclusion since 9/11. Democracy can do better than this and has to.