A reader puzzles about Putin

He writes

So I read Putin’s Op Ed piece. You can read it in full here.

This guy may well be a super villain. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he vacations (shirtless) in his volcanic lair, feeding his sharks with laser beams on their heads. But the only point in his entire piece that I disagreed with is that I thought he should have capitalized “Pope” out of respect. He’s calling for diplomacy and pointing out that adding violence to the violence will only breed more violence. He’s being — dare I say it? — sensible. He’s behaving like a leader.

Meanwhile, Obama and Kerry and several prominent members of Congress are making complete buffoons of themselves.

What’s going on????

Well, there are two perspectives. 1) The prayer of a righteous man availeth much and an awful lot of people prayed last Saturday. That’s the heavenly perspective. It includes the proposition that God frequently writes straight with crooked lines and uses all sorts of knotty timber to build his House.

2) When your political enemy is destroying himself, don’t interfere. Putin can be the Voice of Sweet Reasonableness and let Obama and the crazy neocons bay for war while the whole world opposes them because, hey!, it makes him look great! Why wouldn’t he? That’s the earthly perspective.

My sole interest is in our not launching this stupid stupid war and killing a bunch of innocents while helping the monsters. I could not possibly care less which rich and powerful twit in our Ruling Class loses face, nor that Putin gains some political advantage from this. If he’s using his clout to back an agenda that coincides with the Holy Father’s here (for the moment) that’s good enough for me. The real people I care about are the innocents on the ground in Syria, not the geopolitical Planners (who should all be strapped to Tomahawks and fired into Antarctica).

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  • kirthigdon

    The capitalization of Pope may have been lost in translation. Many if not most languages use less capitalization than English and perhaps this is the case with Russian. Putin had enough respect for the Pope to mention his views approvingly and that is what counts. I don’t see why Putin has ever gotten a reputation as a “super villain”. I guess a lot of Americans were raised in Cold War times to see Russian leaders as always villainous. Putin protects Russian interests and his own but those interests are quite modest compared to the universal reach (if not yet quite grasp) of America’s rulers. By Russian standards, he’s not especially authoritarian and some of the authoritarianism he’s taken to task for (e.g. outlawing of homosexual propaganda aimed at minors and jailing of sacrilegious Pussy Rioters) is quite justified. He’s no Corazon Aquino or Oscar Arias, but if you’re looking for supervillains, Mordor-on-the-Potomac is well stocked with them.
    Kirt Higdon

    • If you don’t understand Putin’s reputation, you haven’t read any biographies of him. Being a KGB officer makes you, at best, morally complex. The wars he has pursued have tended towards the brutal. The assassinations he is likely to have signed off on really take him off the list of the good guys if nothing else had to that point.

      Putin is a transitional figure, a bad man seeking redemption in my read but every once in awhile he gives off the vibe that he’s a white cat away from a Bond villain. He backslides.

      • kirthigdon

        Putin has indeed waged a brutal war against terrorists and insurgents in the Russian Caucasus, but these terrorists have brought their war to the Russian heartland including Moscow itself on several brutal occasions. With far greater brutality, the US has waged war against foreign terrorists, insurgents, and even recognized governments who have never attacked or threatened the US. And when the US was actually threatened by an insurgency, the rebels were put down in a bloodbath which killed hundreds of thousands. This was done by Abe Lincoln, the most revered president in US history, though not revered by me. And Putin’s war against Georgia, far from being exceptionally brutal, was an almost classically clean example of a low casualty, limited objective punitve expedition. There was no attempt at regime change or to radically change Georgian society. The objective was only to confiscate and/or destroy the US provided weapons which the Georgians had used to kill Russian peace keeping troops and attack civilians who were Russian citizens. In and out in three weeks with minimal casualties on both sides – mission truly accomplished. The US rulers with their unbridled arrogance are incapable of even attempting anything so limited and so consistently fail in their grandiose attempts at conquest.

        Yes, to his discredit, Putin has probably signed off on some assassinations, though US presidents have done the same and Obama does so routinely. As I’ve said, I wouldn’t compare Putin with Corazon Aquino, a mild, merciful, and just Catholic ruler who probably deserves to be canonized. But Americans should clean out the lumberyard of 4x4s in Mordor-on-the-Potomac before reaching for that speck in the eye of Mother Russia.

        Kirt Higdon

        • The Moscow apartment building bombings of 1999 that catapulted Putin to power have long been a mystery. Russian officialdom has never dug very deep into who exactly did them with credible evidence pointing to a frame up. Absent those 293 dead, the 2nd Chechen war would likely have taken place later if at all and would likely have been pursued differently.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      The only thing Putin lacks to finalize his Bond villainization is a furry cat.


  • capaxdei

    The concern I have about Obama losing face is the risk it induces of really bad decisions. Other countries or non-state actors might reweigh the consequences of certain actions contrary to the common good, while the Obama Administration may jump at the first chance to regain face.

    As for Putin gaining political advantage, I suppose that’s a don’t-care as long as he surrenders it once the Syrian crisis is resolved.

    • The Deuce

      The concern I have about Obama losing face is the risk it induces of really bad decisions.

      That ship has sailed, and will continue to sail for the next three years at least. Bad decisions is what bad decision-makers do. Heck, that’s how we got here in the first place. Personally, I think what Obama needs is to be brought down a few pegs and cowed out of his false confidence, so that he learns some fear and hesitation, since no leaders on this side of the pond are willing to puncture his ego bubble for him.

    • jroberts548

      It isn’t, has never been, and will never be Obama’s job to police other countries from taking certain actions contrary to the common good.

  • entonces_99

    I suspect that the lower-casing of “pope” would have been dictated by the Times’s style sheet, regardless of whether Putin capitalized it in the manuscript he sent them.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    Pope in my dictionary is *papa*, lower cased.

  • AquinasMan

    OR, maybe we can finally put to rest the notion that the Church never consecrated Russia to Our Lady of Fatima and these are, at last, some fresh buds on a long-dead bit of shrubbery (just sayin’/just hopin’)

  • jaybird1951

    How is a war in Syria ‘launched’ only when the United States gets involved? An actual war with over 110,000 dead has been waged in that poor country for several years now. As one Catholic writer noted yesterday, why was there a peace vigil in St. Peter’s Square only when it looked like this country might get involved but none in the prior years as thousands perished there? I personally am torn between the need to punish Assad for his crimes and concern that we would only helping our enemies and the oppressors of Christians in that country by intervening.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      The war in Syria wouldn’t have launched with US involvement, but it certainly would have escalated things. The prayer for peace was for peace in Syria regardless of intervention, but US involvement right now would set the Middle East on fire.

      • meunke

        “But US involvement sets everything on fire.”

        Fixed that for ya. 😉

  • meunke

    Mark Steyn said it best:

    “This is what happens when you elect someone because he looks cool
    standing next to Jay-Z. Putin is cool mainly in the sense that Yakutsk
    in February is. … the celebrities
    he attracts are like some rerun channel way up the end of the dial:
    Goldie Hawn was in the crowd when Putin, for no apparent reason, sang “I
    found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” which Goldie seemed to enjoy. In
    reality, Putin finds his thrill by grabbing Obama’s blueberries and
    squeezing hard. Cold beats cool.”

  • fats

    the innocents on the ground are being slaughtered as we speak ( I mean the Christians)

  • astorian

    Jaybird asks an excellent question. Why is the US accused of “starting a war” when there hasn’t BEEN any peace in Syria in ages?

    There are all kinds of excellent arguments for the US butting out and minding its own business. “We don’t have a dog in this fight.” Absolutely true. “We MIGHT make things worse.” Again, absolutely true. “The costs in money and lives might far outweigh any possible good we might accomplish.” Valid point. “There aren’t any good guys in Syria for us to form alliances with.” No argument here.

    But what you CAN’T argue is that Syria is at peace, and that we’d be “starting a war.” Syria is already at war! The only question is whether we have any good reason to take sides.

    Vladimir Putin is most assuredly NOT a peacemaker in this situation. He is not a neutral third party telling everyone to act carefully and responsibly. He’s an active participant in this war, a man who arms and funds Assad. He does not want peace in Syria- he wants his guy, Assad, to WIN the war!!!

    Anyone who treats Putin as a peacemaker is delusional.

    • I’m not disagreeing, but I wish to point out that we squandered all our moral authority by arming the rebels. If you’re big enough to be the world’s policeman, you’re big enough not to try backing what you perceive to be your own interest in every fight.

  • tz1

    Russia was consecrated to Mary. Perhaps we should ask for the magisterium for a similar blessing?