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27 April 2015


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David Habakkuk

Imagine, readerOfTeaLeaves, Charles I,

Thanks for those comments – a lot of food for thought.

On 'Business School Logic', I very much agree.

I think Patrick Bahzad's remarks, on another thread, on the problems of getting accurate information from people are germane, and, although in weaker form, they apply to the difficulties of making sense of what is happening in one's own society as well as in unfamiliar ones.

Finding out how social organisations work has its own distinctive problems not simply relating to lack of candour, but to the fact that the basics of a system are precisely those which people operating in it take for granted. Ferreting out what is going on requires intellectual skills very different from those one learns in business school.

Where candour is an issue, in my experience, the two most fatal mistakes one can make are to condescend to people and to allow them to think one a fool. With Nuland and her like, I think they commonly do both.

David Habakkuk


In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are scholars who, in my view, have a deep grasp of Ukrainian realities – and they have an interesting diversity of backgrounds. So in the United States Stephen F. Cohen, who comes of Lithuanian Jewish origins, has been a fount of illumination about Soviet and post-Soviet affairs for many years.

In Britain, Richard Sakwa, the child of Polish refugees, is an invaluable source of incisive commentary. Unfortunately, among refugees from Eastern Europe, and their descendants, there often seems to be a kind of inverse correlation between insight – and also generosity of spirit – and political influence.

Those whose views carry weight are commonly those who saw the retreat and collapse of Soviet power as an opportunity to get their own back.

Partly as a result, as Cohen has repeatedly pointed out, we have the bizarre situation that, while in the Eighties the views of people like him, although in a minority, could get a hearing, now he finds himself marginalised and smeared.

(An an example, see a March 2014 article about him by one Isaac Chotiner in the 'New Republic', entitled 'Meet Vladimir Putin's American Apologist', available at

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116820/vladimir-putin-defended-american-leftist .)

The now common practice of claiming that everything that the Russian authorities or the Donbass rebels claim should not be taken seriously, because it is self-evidently 'propaganda', and of smearing those like Cohen who think differently, is beyond belief dangerous.

If there is one thing which recent events should have taught us is that in dealing with all kinds of regimes it is wise to avoid prejudgements as to what parts of what they claim is propaganda and what are not.

Distinguishing between genuine belief, deliberate attempts to obscure the truth, and the kind of 'bullshit' where what counts is the effect of a statement, and its truth or falsity is immaterial, is commonly difficult.

Anyone who simply takes for granted that they have sufficient grounds for assuming that a regime that they dislike is lying and can accordingly prudently simply ignore what they say is either a fool or a knave, or more probably both.

There is here, an irony relating to the endemic propensity for Americans to denounce 'appeasement'. What seems not to be generally realised is that interpretation of European politics which animated Chamberlain's policy at Munich involved a reading not just of Hitler but of Stalin.

In essence, this was that one could discount the claims by the Soviet Foreign Minister, Maxim Litvinov, that Soviet policy was defensive. These were simply 'propaganda', and its real agenda was to exploit the naïve delusions of Western liberals to spread disunity in the West, and hopefully finesse Germany and the Western powers into a new disastrous war.

In this respect, at least, the true heirs of Chamberlain are the neoconservatives. And one of the consequences is that once again we see Western governments completely incapable of anticipating how Russia is likely to react to their policies.

While people like Cohen can see the possibility – not great in the immediate future, but non-negligible now and serious in the long-term – of escalation to nuclear conflict, the likes of Anne Applebaum are blithely unaware.

Just as much as similar figures in the Thirties, she cannot grasp the extent to which Russian policy is driven by fear – and understand that the results of fuelling this fear might not be entirely congenial from our point of view.

David Habakkuk

Professor Brenner,

As with your discussions of 'narcissism', I find this fascinating and very much to the point.

What I have difficulty understanding is why, over the last generation, there has been such a patent weakening of respect for truth, and in belief in the virtues of free debate, among very significant elements of those one might call the 'tutored', alike in the United States and Britain.



Well there's a nice justification for looting, whether with a brick trough the CVS window or a well padded urban renewal contract. Police oversight by elected civilians, like Governor O'Malley for years on end? That also is an individual who failed to 'system' of representative democracy. Maybe the registered voters of Baltimore will fire a few more of his ilk.


BTW is that Chernobyl forest fire getting much coverage on MSM? Judging from Google News it is not.

William R. Cumming

The cost and effort of the second attempt to encapsulate the core-melted reactor is placing a huge strain on Russia. Yet it must be done!

Babak Makkinejad

Chernobyl is in Ukraine.

Babak Makkinejad

Chamberlin and the UK establishment, in my view, were desirous of a war between USSR and the NAZI Germany.

That Litvinov - a Jew himself - would be uttering Stalin's propaganda was only an excuse for the feeble minds - in my opinion.

I think UK leaders miscalculated and miscalculated catastrophically when they deliberately sabotage Litvinov's mission through malignant neglect.

Yet no one was forced to fall on his sword or commit Hara Kiri - no matter how deserving they were.

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