How Did I Miss This?

Those of you who like to follow US protestant fundamentalism will get a kick out of this. Apparently, last year tax-evader, conspiracy theorist, KJV-Onlyist, and young earth creationist Kent Hovind published a second “dissertation” while in prison. His 1991 “dissertation” for a PhD in Christian Education from the diploma mill Patriot Bible University was a smash hit on the internet, but this one takes the cake! This time around it’s for doctorate in Ministry and is entitled What On Earth Is About To Happen… For Heaven’s Sake?. What is Dr. Dino’s hypothesis? The second coming of Jesus Christ will occur in the year 2028.  It’s pretty much amazing. Here are some screen shots. Enjoy!

 

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Since when can you use emoticons in a paper? I totally want to use some in my master’s thesis.

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A product placement.

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Apparently Kent Hovind likes the Matrix movies.

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Easily my favorite.

What Conservatives Have Wrong About Ukraine

Conservative republicans have started a campaign to call the Obama administration weak on foreign policy. Obama’s foreign policy, these republicans claim, is not aggressive enough in Eastern Europe and, as a result, Putin has the bravado to intervene in Crimea. In perfect timing for Hagel’s declaration that the United States defense budget would decrease to pre-WWII levels, conservatives are pointing to this as proof that a non-interventionist foreign policy would be folly to pursue. To quote the neoconservative Senator John McCain:

“This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

This narrative of what is going on in Ukraine is completely misleading since it places what is unfolding in Ukraine outside of its historical context. This is far from the first Russian intervention into Eastern Europe and it is unlikely that it will be the last. To call the Obama administration “weak” for not automatically militarily intervening in Eastern Europe ignores the fact that several other presidents took the same approach. Secondly, it ignores the power of negotiation. Despite what republicans claim about the Russian Federation, we already have precedence for believing that dialog can handle the dispute.

The Hungarian Uprising

How did past presidents respond to similar conflicts in Eastern Europe? Eisenhower did not intervene in Hungary in 1956, even though some 3000 civilians had died in the popular civil disobedience uprising against the Soviets. Raegan did not intervene in Poland in 1981, even though the country had declared martial law and the Soviets were threatening to invade. George H.W. Bush did not intervene in the Singing Revolution (Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania), even after the January Massacre. George W. Bush did not intervene Georgia, even though the Russian Federation had deployed troops into the country.

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Martial law in Poland

What is the case for negotiations in Ukraine? As mentioned in a previous article, the Baltics states represent the best precedence we have for dialog. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all experienced four qualifiers that make them useful for comparison. (1) A mass civil disobedience movement based on nationalism (2) Large ethnic Russian minority populations. (3) Russian/soviet security forces within their country. (4) Negotiation being used as a tool to handle the conflict.  As mentioned in the last article, The Albert Einstein Institution has a wealth of information on these revolutions. Please see Nonviolent Resistance in Lithuania: A Story of Peaceful Liberation by Grazina Miniotaite, Civil Resistance in the East European and Soviet Revolutions by Adam Roberts and Nonviolent Action in the Liberation of Latvia by Olgerts Eglitis.

Selected quotes from Eglitis on Latvia:

On ethnic Russian minorities: “There are fears in Latvia that if the economic crisis in Russia is aggravated further, a dictatorial, openly aggressive, Nazi-like regime could come to power there. That would be an extremely dangerous development for the Baltic nations, and especially for Latvia, since its enormous Russian minority (34%) could easily be used as a pretext for a Russian attack.”

On the use of force by Russia: “On January 2, 1991, the Soviet ‘black berets’ captured the Press Building in Riga, where until then the principal newspapers and magazines of the Republic were edited and printed. The ‘black beret’ troops threatened, humiliated, and physically beat people working there, some of them severely.”

Selected quotes from Miniotaite on Lithuania:

On negotiation: “US President George Bush stated on March 23 that his country supported Lithuania’s right to self-determination: ‘We have repeatedly urged the Soviet Union—Soviet government—to enter into immediate negotiations with the Lithuanian government, which has itself called for those talks.’ President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia called for a political dialogue between Lithuania and the USSR and offered his good offices for the negotiations”

On intervention against draft resistant: “USSR Defense Minister Yazov ordered a special paratroop division from Pskov to enter Lithuania ostensibly to search for Lithuanian deserters. On January 10 Gorbachev threatened the introduction of direct presidential rule and demanded that the Supreme Council ‘immediately and completely reestablish the validity of the constitutions of the USSR and the Lithuanian SSR, and revoke the anti-constitutional acts which have been adopted.’”

On Ethnic Russian Minorities: “Reactionary and separatist opposition was predictable. The Soviet policy of mass settlement of Russians in the Baltic states created a large social stratum dependent on the Soviet economic structure, socialist ideology, and the secret police. The explosive growth of Lithuanian national consciousness explicitly challenged this stratum. Further, as the Lithuanian language became official, some Russians and Poles experienced the transition of their status to that of a national minority.”

A Lithuanian protester demonstrating in-front of Soviet tank during the January Massacres.

“In the Baltic republics there was, naturally, a much stronger sense of external threat, including a well-founded fear that Soviet military units (either those already stationed there or new ones from outside) would intervene massively. Lithuania, which faced such threats most directly, partly because by March 1990 it had put itself at the forefront of the independence drive, was also the subject of a three-month economic blockade in 1990.”

Conservative criticisms of the supposed “weakness” of the Obama administration’s foreign policy are completely baseless in the case of Ukraine. The non-military approach taken so far is more or less the historic US response to similar situations. The controversy has more to do with finding arguments against Hagel’s call to skrink the armed forces to pre-WWII levels than anything.

The Cost of Opposition Violence in Ukraine

The past several weeks have been tenuous for Ukraine. From armed clashes between protesters and riot police officers in Kiev to Putin’s recent move to deploy troops to Crimea, the world is watching Ukraine to see what will happen next. Will NATO respond to Russia’s move with sanctions and/or military intervention? Will the new government in Kiev be strong enough to carry out the will the people? Will Ukraine go the way of Czechoslovakia and split in two? The situation, regardless of how it turns out, provides a good opportunity to explore the nature of violence and why non-violent discipline is critical.

The protests in Ukraine give insight into why opposition movements may choose violent instead of non-violent means to achieve their goals. Namely, there may be some short-term benefits to violence. The opposition has managed to force Yanukovych out of the country and the creation of a new government is well underway. Also, violence allows for the “strategic leninization” of a movement. This entails the creation of elitist vanguards or parties to head the movement. Non-violence allows large parts of the population to be involved, but violence shifts the power to those organizations that have the capability to do battle. Thus, it was well within the short-term rational self-interest for battle-ready organizations like Svoboda to fight the riot police in the streets. Violence shifts the ownership of the revolution from the populace and into the hands of elitist structures.

The problem with this line of thought is obvious. Violence ups-the-ante in a conflict. Would Putin have sent troops into Crimea if protesters had not fought the police in Kiev? The violence in Kiev (real and perceived) also provided a perfect opportunity to shift the discussion away from the ground in Ukraine. Instead, the discussion is focused on actors like the Russian Federation and NATO. Given the history of revolutions in that part of the world, it seems likely that Putin would have not intervened if there were not medieval style battles in western Ukraine.

This is not the first time that the issue of significant Russian populations being in a revolutionary country has been dealt with. What comes up to mind first is Russia’s 2008 intervention in Georgia and Russian international lawyers are pointing to it as precedence. However, this situation is hardly comparable to that of Ukraine. As of now, the new government has not actually attacked Crimea. As Chris Borgen over at Opinio Juris says in his analysis of the Russia’s legal argument for intervention:

“As in the Georgian intervention, Putin focuses the need to protect Russian nationals and the importance of self-defense of Russian troops. But, as mentioned above, I have seen no credible reports that either the Russian naval base in Sevastopol or the majority ethnic Russian population of Crimea was ever threatened by the Ukrainian government.”

The situation on the ground prior to Putin’s intervention is probably more comparable to the revolutionary Baltic States.  Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all had significant Russian minority populations and even Soviet troops within their borders. For the most part, the situations were handled non-violently and negotiations were key. The Albert Einstein institution has a number of monographs examining these revolutions in detail.

Hopefully, the western response to Putin’s intervention will take lessons from the past and not worsen the already escalated conflict. As for the movement in western Ukraine, the structures created by the violent portion of the movement (“strategic leninization”) may continue to gain more power as their non-violent compatriots become more marginalized. So what is the cost of violence in Ukraine? The focus of the discussion has moved anyway from the Ukrainian people.