The Parallax Brief

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Unrepentant Subjectivity on Economics, Politics, Defence, Foreign Policy, and Russia

Charles Krauthammer Nailed for Lying

Regular readers may remember the Parallax Brief’s exasperation with Charles Krauthammer’s wooly and wantonly disingenuous column for the Washington Post on missile defense. To use unsound reasoning is one thing, but the Parallax Brief is noticing that the Right is increasingly crossing the rubric into outright lies to pursue its ends.

Now, the Parallax Brief expects this from unhinged demagogues like Anne Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, but he holds intellectuals like Charles Krauthammer to higher standards. Yet here is Krauthammer, in his very next Washington Post column, “Obama’s Manifesto”, lying:

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Parallax Brief Savaged on Missile Defense

The Parallax Brief always hoped that his brazen subjectivity would incite some bare-knuckled debate, and his article on the US Anti-Ballistic-Missile shield seems to have done just that.

More Missile Shield Misunderstandings was forwarded by a reader to a former US Defense Department analyst, who has penned the following withering rebuke of the Parallax Brief’s argument. Although it was originally sent for approval for as a comment on the “About” page, the Parallax Brief believes it is too long for a comment, and well written and tightly argued enough for its own post. It is published in full and unedited. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

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Boris Nemtsov: The Gift to Putin that Keeps on Giving

When Vladimir Putin’s critics craft shrill op-eds about opposition parties being ruthlessly crushed in Russia, they often miss the salient point: really, the opposition in Russia is unsuccessful and unpopular because it isn’t very good and doesn’t have many popular policies.

Of course, it is true that the Russian media and society are not as free as in the West, but more often than not, Russia’s opposition simply does Putin’s job for him. The Parallax Brief is sure that even Robert Amsterdam would agree that Putin and Medvedev are preferable to Vladimir Zhirinovky’s comedy-fascist LDPR, Gennady Zyuganov’s communists, or the array of hapless or nasty nationalists, bolsheviks or white power groups raging at Russia’s political fringes.

But beyond this gallery of unelectable extremist halfwits, even the pro-west, pro-business, supposedly democratically minded group of former Yeltsin era Young Reformers that currently call themselves Solidarity offer little.

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Filed under: Economics, Politics, Russia, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Medvedev’s Visit to FDR Fireside Bodes Well for Russia

There are many reasons to believe the Kremlin’s policy to publicly obfuscate the severity and implications of the crisis afflicting the Russian economy is counterproductive.

First, denying the existence of the obvious doesn’t fool any of the people any of the time, and cultivates distrust. When officials do eventually need to appeal for calm, they will find they have diminished authority.

Second, a limited understanding of a situation enfeebles the population’s ability to make rational decisions and plans, leaving it likely to move in irrational, dramatic lurches rather than manageable shifts. Finally, news does not sit still simply because the Kremlin decides it won’t contribute. Refusing to admit the problem, simply allowes other, less responsible sources shape opinion and understanding.

However, it appears the Kremlin may be arriving at the conclusion that continuing on this track is inadvisable, and President Dmitry Medvedev’s television address Sunday was an important part of that process. Taking a leaf from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s now famous fireside chats, which acted as a reassuring, calming influence on the US populace during the Great Depression and Second World War, Medvedev appeared on national television to “speak the truth” and explain the economic problems “that the entire world is living through, and that our country is living through.”

According to Reuters, Medvedev said:

“I consider that the authorities are obliged to speak about this (crisis) frankly and directly, to speak about the decisions which the authorities are taking to overcome the crisis and about the difficulties with which we are faced… The forecasts really don’t make anyone happy… [and] We should expect our development to undergo a pretty tough scenario.”

This more honest approach will pay dividends by avoiding the issues outlined above; however, honesty in an unpleasent and politically difficult situation should not be seen as a sign of weakness. When Winston Churchill took over from Neville Chamberlain in the darkest hours of World War II, he did not gloss over the problems or tell the nation that victory was close. Instead, he painted a bleak picture:

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.”

By doing so, he gained respect. And stoicism in the face of suffering is something Russians admire.

Of course, Medvedev as Churchill is quite a step,  and whether Medvedev’s fireside chat was simply part of the wider propaganda mechanism (first, deny; second, claim only decadent, rotten Western economies will be affected; third, admit Russia will be affected, but blame the decadent, rotten US; fourth (now) admit the truth but reassure), or a genuine change in direction remains to be seen, but at first glance, it appears the Kremlin has finally accepted its role as a positive, reasurring and honest intermediary between the crisis and Ivan public.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Russia, , , , , , ,

Clinton Transcended Bush League

I have said many times before that defending the Bush administration is impossible. It was catastrophic on so many fronts, and plain abysmal on pretty much every other, that I think its fairly safe to say he was the worst president ever — if to say so isn’t already a ‘stating the obvious’ banality.

Here’s a stark measure of his economic performance from Paul Krugman’s sublime blog: unemployment rates from 1993 to 2009. So how do the Clinton and Bush administrations match up?

Filed under: Economics, Politics, , , , , , , ,

Balanced Analysis on Russia

Russia lost its empire and superpower status less than 20 years ago, and is still groping to find its new role on the world stage and in its former territories. Recently, that effort appears to have become more assertive and detached from western liberal ideals. But how can the West go about building a benign, mutually beneficial relationship with a resurgent and recalcitrant Russia? And how should Russia’s new role within its old sphere of influence develop?

These questions and more are explored by Timothy Garton Ash in a erudite and balanced article for the LA Times.

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