Sunday, December 20, 2015

Paul Robinson reviews Gary Kasparov's Winter Is Coming

Kasparov’s book has one great value – it shows how unhinged his view of international politics truly is. He is, without doubt, an out-and-out true believing neoconservative, who sees the world in simple terms of good and evil, and who believes that the West has such overwhelming power that if it just had the will to use this power, it could bend the world to fit its desires. Indeed, Kasparov admits his neoconservative leanings, by showering praise on one of the idols of the neocon movement – the late Senator Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson – as well as on Senator John McCain, the uber-hawk of contemporary America, whom Kasparov lauds for his ‘moral clarity’ (p. 196). ‘Can anyone … not believe that the world would be a safer, more democratic place today had John McCain been elected? ‘ writes Kasparov, adding that, ‘In the universe where McCain is president, Putin does not invade Ukraine’ (p. 197).
Kasparov’s view of Russia is extremely simplistic. It is all ‘Putin, Putin, Putin’. He denies that the Russian leader or his policies have any popular support, and ignores entirely the possibility that Putin is a product of his country’s system as much as he is the creator of it. It is certainly the case that Russian politics and government leave a lot to be desired, but they are hardly ‘totalitarianism of one person’, ‘a full-blown dictatorship’, ‘an all-powerful single-party state,’ or ‘outright despotism’. Political competition is limited, but it exists; state media channels dominate, but there are alternatives; the president’s power is substantial, but it is not unrestricted. Russia is just not ‘a modern one-man dictatorship spreading fascist propaganda’.
Equally simplistic is Kasparov’s view of the wider world. Some governments are indeed more oppressive than others, but it isn’t a sharp contrast; between black and white there are many shades of grey. World politics aren’t simply a matter of democracy versus dictatorship. The West may have some legitimate grounds for complaint against Russia. But Russia also has some grounds for complaint against the West. If we are to live in peace together, we need to take each other’s perspectives into consideration. As its failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, the West doesn’t have the unfettered power that Kasparov seems to think that it has. There are limits to its powers which no amount of will or ‘moral clarity’ can overcome. Consequently, we have no choice. We have to engage. We have to compromise. And it is simply not true that any compromise is a signal of weakness, which will encourage aggression. Deals can be struck. Engagement can make the world a better place.
Winter is Coming is a dangerous book. Were Western leaders to follow its advice, the result would be unnecessary, prolonged, and costly conflict between Russia and the West. We must hope that saner counsels prevail.
Putin. Hitler. Dictator. Evil.
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

1 comment:

John said...

Grandmaster of Political Imbecility Kasparov has been parading this unbelievable stupidity for years.

Not content with embarrassing himself by claiming that Deep Blue didn't in fact beat him and that there was a conspiracy of grandmasters working behind the scenes to defeat him (at best paranoia befitting Bobby Fischer but more likely idiotic arrogance), he now informs the world John McCain is a man of vision and peace!

He's such a political simpleton that at this rate he'll be given a column at the New York Times or the Washington Post.