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US hypocrisy on display again

So now that Russia is sending its troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine, it is time for the US to once again conveniently forget the past and its own actions and discover international law and express outrage at the very idea of a big power sending its forces into another country. And the western media will follow its lead and the public will be none the wiser, except for those who do not suffer from long-term political memory loss syndrome, a serious affliction that is endemic among the western government and media elite.

John Kerry is first out of the block, telling CBS News’ Face the Nation that “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text” and following that with “It’s an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning willful choice by President Putin to invade another country.”

It should be noted that Kerry voted for the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution in 2002 that enabled George W. Bush to claim justification for the US to invade Iraq, similar to the authorization that the Russian legislature just gave Russian president Putin. As the Guardian reporter says of Kerry’s newfound sensitivity to 21st century norms, “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation that is a statement likely to be flung back at him given what happened in Iraq.”

And of course, no foreign policy hypocrisy would be complete without senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain grandstanding. Graham, who is always happy to have the US invade other countries, especially Arab ones, now inveighs against a country trying to impose its will on another. And McCain says that the world should hold Russia “responsible for these acts of aggression”. All that remains is for former senator Joe Lieberman to be taken out of mothballs to join his two buddies and give his usual sanctimonious and unctuous soporifics.

The posturing is all so predictable.

Kevin Drum gives his predictions on how the Ukraine situation will play out and it sounds reasonable to me.


  1. colnago80 says

    The difference is that Russia is a nuclear power and that direct intervention against a nuclear power is not a safe thing to do. Iraq and Afghanistan were not nuclear powers so intervening against them is more or less relatively safe.

  2. says

    I have no problem with your post, but I do note that your post is an example of “Tu Quoque” normally considered a logical fallacy.

    Yet here you, just like so many people do, just like I do, use a charge of hypocrisy.

    To prove what?

    I don’t think that “tu quoque” is the logical fallacy so many people make it out to be. Especially in a world where logical propositions are often value judgments based on uncertain and fuzzy information and where we have to rely on proxies to get that errorful information.

    What does it mean about us if “tu quoque” is both a logical fallacy and a necessary part of living in the modern world?

  3. says

    Yet here you, just like so many people do, just like I do, use a charge of hypocrisy.

    Charging someone with hypocrisy is not a fallacy; they either are practicing what they preach, or they aren’t. The “tu quoque” logical fallacy is the attempt to dismiss an accusation based on the other person’s doing the same thing. You are correct that is an ad hominem argument, but you are incorrect that it applies in this situation. In this situation, it would be “tu quoque” if Putin responded to Kerry by saying “nyaaa nyaaa nyaa Columbia, Iraq, Afghanistan!” It would not dismiss the argument against Putin, but it would (correctly) point out that Kerry was a hypocrite.

    Where I think you made your mistake was conflating a charge (hypocrisy) with an attempt to dismiss someone’s argument (tu quoque) via an ad hominem. Mano’s pointing out that people are hypocrites does nothing to dismiss (or enhance) anyone’s argument regarding what either the US or Russia has done wrong.

  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    That’s why I asked “to prove what?”

    What is Mano trying to say?

    That a politician is a hypocrite? (nothing new)
    That governments act hypocritically? (Is that new or classic “tu quoque”)

    As the Guardian reporter says of Kerry’s newfound sensitivity to 21st century norms, “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation that is a statement likely to be flung back at him given what happened in Iraq.”

    Who is going to fling this? Is Kerry going to run for President? No.

    Are conservatives going to mention that Kerry voted wrongly about Iraq and thus its okay for the Russians to invade Ukraine? No.

    It will be used by diplomats and foreign leaders in the UN and at NATO to cast doubt on US alarms and make US demands for intervention disreputable, unbelievable, and inflated.

    And I think they will basically (real world based) though not logically (T/F) correct to do so.

    So if there are three parties A, B, and C, and A & B are in conflict, is Tu Quoque only when A or B note B or A’s hypocrisy, or does Tu Quoque include third party C flipping both of them off and walking away after noting each are hypocrites and a holes?

  5. wtfwhateverd00d says

    So if there are three parties A, B, and C, and A & B are in conflict, is Tu Quoque only when A or B note B or A’s hypocrisy, or does Tu Quoque include third party C flipping both of them off and walking away after noting each are hypocrites and a holes even if to D, E, F & G, A was actually correct in this instance and should have been supported.

    That’s why I tend to think that in the real world, “tu quoque” isn’t nearly the logical fallacy it is in the binary T/F world.

  6. says

    What is Mano trying to say?

    That the US is engaging in hypocrisy and exceptionalism and that it’s a bad idea.

    Meanwhile, you’re engaging in — um, whatever it is, it bores me to near unconsciousness so please don’t be offended if I stop following your comments.

  7. says

    @3 jacquescuze/wtfwhateverd00d

    Marcus Ranum has essentially addressed this already, but I’d still try to phrase it another way: For something to be a logical fallacy, you first need a logical argument. I don’t see Mano making a logical argument; he’s simply pointing out facts.

  8. richardrobinson says

    @Leo Buzalsky, I completely agree.

    Folks often make that same mistake when they complain about “ad hominem attacks,” failing to notice they are simply being insulted.

  9. kraut says

    But – what Russia does is always bad, what the US does is always good. So how can Kerry be a hypocrite?
    Inconceivable….(yes, on of my favourite movies).

    What Russia did was stupid, but understandable considering the attempt by the US to still encircle Russia with military basis and the possible loss of their harbour or the access to it at the Black Sea.
    Russia could have talked to the government in the Ukraine, but choose to use military option instead. Nothing the US ever did before, right?
    In contrast – what had the US to gain from invading Iraq illegally (Afghanistan was done with approval of the UN after all)? Easier access to oil? Did not happen. Transfer of billions to private industry from the public purse..yeah, that one happened. Other than that? No strategic interest were served, nothing but a waste of public funds and little to show for.

  10. rq says

    Also, I find it interesting that discussions about Ukraine and the current situation are often too narrow – as if Ukraine is the only former territory Russia is interested in regaining (or has attempted to regain or has forcefully regained). Russia has a history of such actions, which have received little to no international repercussions (Chechnya, Abkhazia…), and it will continue with such actions until there are greater international repercussions. Russia has also regained lost territories through softer actions, like refusing to abide by original border treaties, and redrawing borders for new treaties, giving itself significant territorial gains (Latvia comes to mind).
    Russia isn’t stupid; it’s aggressive and it doesn’t much care about international opinion, because international opinion has never been particularly harsh against Russia.
    But who am I kidding? It’s not Russia but its current leaders, all with fine and distinguished career skills honed and practiced in the USSR, with the expansionist mentality to go with it. Rebuilding the Russian Empire, indeed.

  11. raven says

    Rebuilding the Russian Empire, indeed.

    And former Georgian South Ossettia.

    Yeah, Putin is on record as calling the fall of the former Soviet empire, the USSR as a tragedy. It wasn’t.

    1. Empires are expensive. This is what doomed the Roman empire. They couldn’t pay for the upkeep which was mostly keeping the barbarians all around them from invading while keeping the conquered people, conquered. Between internal uprisings and external threats, they just ran out of money and arrow fodder.

    It didn’t do the British or French much good either. The British at least went more or less gracefully back to their islands, after losing the US and India. The French had to fight and lose in Algeria and Vietnam.

    The Soviet empire had the same problems. The US empire isn’t doing so well either.

    2. The other thing that doomed the USSR was their military. They had a First world military based on a Third world economy. Their military just took up too many resources.

    We have a similar problem but a larger economy so it isn’t quite as bad. But the military still takes up 20% of our budget, more if you net out Medicare and Social Security (40%) as self funded, which they more or less are.

    3. Ukraine could be like our Afghanistan. The good news is that we are there in Afghanistan. The bad news is that…we are in Afghanistan. Occupying countries that are perpetual problems and money drains is expensive and not worth it.

    The USSR saw that in…Afghanistan and Cuba. They just required lots of money, year in, year out.

    So why is Putin repeating the disastrous mistakes of the USSR? Got me, I’m not running Russia much less his advisor.

  12. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Leo, I can accept ” I don’t see Mano making a logical argument; he’s simply pointing out facts.”

    But jeez. That’s a pretty low bar.

    What are the penalties then for being a hypocrite?

    From the “tu quoque” argument, there should be no penalty. Your behavior has nothing to say about the argument you advance.

    Over at Respectful Insolence though, Orac is discussing the need in real life for scientists to place conflict of interest disclosures on their papers and blog posts.

    Why are such disclosures needed in a world where “to quoque” is a logical fallacy and a charge of hypocrisy should not be used to diminish a person’s credibility?

    It’s because we don’t live in a binary world of T and F, but do live in a world where we have to determine T and F on our own and via 2nd and 3rd hand information given to us by unreliable proxies.

  13. kraut says

    “Russia isn’t stupid; it’s aggressive and it doesn’t much care about international opinion, because international opinion has never been particularly harsh against Russia.”

    Hm…didn’t you forget some history here, something like was called: the COLD WAR?
    “Uh, yeah, no.”
    Maybe Russia’s response is not understandable to you, but as a former residence of Germany and maybe a bit more aware of the Russian history: I can understand their effort to keep their ports open and resisting even more countries joining NATO in its effort for dominance.

    ” Brzezinski was not shy about bluntly stating the strategic objective of U.S. policy in his 1993 book The Grand Chessboard: “American primacy”. As for NATO, he described it as one of the institutions serving to perpetuate American hegemony, “making the United States a key participant even in intra-European affairs.” In its “global web of specialized institutions”, which of course includes NATO, the United States exercises power through “continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus, even though that power originates ultimately from a single source, namely, Washington, D.C.”

    “Time waits for no one, but apparently will wait for Crimea. The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, has confirmed there will be a referendum on greater autonomy from Ukraine on May 25.

    Until then, Crimea will be as hot and steamy as carnival in Rio – because Crimea is all about Sevastopol, the port of call for the Russian Black Sea fleet.

    If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a bull, this is the red flag to end all red flags.”

    “The history of the current Ukraine crisis didn’t begin with the Russian Duma’s authorization of Putin to use military force in Ukraine, if necessary. Kerry can easily check that out by asking his subordinate Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland whether she indeed discussed a road map for Ukraine’s color revolution on phone with the US ambassador in Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt during their famous “F**k-the-EU” conversation two months ago.
    In fact, that conversation took place on December 11 and the subsequent events in Ukraine, including the takeover by the new prime minister Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, have been ditto according to Nuland’s road map. Suffice to say, Kerry can’t say there is no blood on his hands. So much about UN Charter, international law, 21st century norms of inter-state behavior, blah-blah. ”
    “Most important, Russia will counter, no matter what it takes, any US move to hustle Ukraine into the EU or NATO. The point is, there is no consensus within Ukraine for such a co-option into the Western orbit. The domestic opinion is evenly divided — and more so today. If the US proxies in power in Kiev try to bulldoze a decision, the eastern region, which wants to preserve Ukraine’s age-old ties with Russia, will revolt.”

  14. MNb says

    “sending its troops”
    A couple of thousands. When Hitler invaded Belgium (just a bit larger than the Crimean) he send almost 3 million. Also note that these troops only occupy keypoints in areas where they are sure they have the support of the locals. What many media conveniently forget is that the majority of the Crimea and East-Ukraine (ie everything east of the Dnjepr) is thoroughly Russia oriented.
    Let’s not forget either that the western-oriented Ukrainians – ie our guys – violated the deal with the former, legally elected president Janukovitch.
    Poetin is a smart guy. He is going to win this, exactly like he won the Georgian crisis a few years ago.

  15. Kimpatsu says

    Mano, this hypocrisy is easily understood if you have an agent-based worldview. By which I mean, it is not the action that matters, but the actor. It’s OK for the US to invade other countries because the US is good and right and noble and motivated by justice, whereas Russia is motivated by imperialism and an outdated 19th-century Czarist mindset. Once you understand the difference, you will automatically fall in line to support the good ol’ godfearin’ US of A against them godless Putinites, amirite?

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