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article imageOp-Ed: An alternative American letter to Vladimir Putin

By Michael Krebs     Sep 20, 2013 in World
In the fallout from Russian President Vladimir Putin's open letter to Americans and U.S. Senator John McCain's response, I would like to offer an alternative letter to President Putin.
President Putin:
I would like to thank you for your recent letter, and I would like to also thank The New York Times for publishing it so pointedly on September 11. I found your positions to be valid and measured — in stark contrast to the postures my government has taken on the matter of Syria and on foreign policy in general — and I apologize for the letter that was addressed to you by Senator John McCain.
One of the side effects of living in an American-modeled free republic is that the luxury of choices can deliver an ironic immobility of thoughts, a sort of reptilian-brain glee in pursuit of the items and services that bring immediate pleasure but that offer so little fruit. I say this is ironic because the breadth of themes discussing democracy and freedom all thread the needle when it comes to the notion that freedom is a precursor to higher intellectual awareness, and yet historical knowledge and awareness of the wider world's present-day troubles are not attributes found in the majority of the American population.
Very few Americans know that a White Russian is something more than a mixed drink or that Western involvement in support of the Mensheviks during their struggle against Lenin's Bolsheviks prolonged an armed conflict and yielded many more dead; few think about the profound impact of the Nazi drive east and of the more than 30 million Soviets killed at the hands of the Nazis, while the 7 million Holocaust figure is driven home again and again in our schools; few understand that Hitler's game plan was a decidedly anti-Slav obsession, and that his position all along was to eliminate the communist threat that almost engulfed Germany after World War I (therefore establishing Slavs as less than human) — and that the United States and Britain shared Hitler's concerns over communism and did not move to quell the eastern slaughter.
These historical moments of involvement and of deliberate neglect have helped shape Russia's perspectives of the United States, as American words did not equal Russian reality — very much like the manner in which the 19th Century American government's treaties and promises with the American Indian nations across the western plains states did not yield any pleasantries for the Indian populations. These moments have yielded the ugly face of American intention, and these intentions have been dampened in American historical text books — so there may be some excuse in our general lack of historical awareness.
But even now, only some Americans are aware that our largest line item in the federal government's budget is attributed to our bloated military; that the United States maintains huge military bases in Germany, South Korea, and Japan; that America has designed elaborate anti-missile systems that curiously sit just outside of Russia's western borders; that America is presently building a disturbingly violent footprint in Africa and in the Middle East — attempting to hold sovereign states like Syria and Iran accountable to measures of subjectivity that are not held for states like Israel and Egypt; that America's definition of empire is determined by the volume of it's greatest export: death.
However, there is a curious awakening happening in America. The nation is very much split into two nations politically, and both sides are getting it wrong. The general population is increasingly looking at the White House and at congress with derision. We are done with war. We are done with empire. We are eager for common courtesy, and we are hungry for cultural and economic growth that can only come through partnership and mutual respect.
Some of us get it. American Exceptionalism can best be defined in our pursuit of curiosity.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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