There is brouhaha in the media these days about the Russian invasion of the Crimea and the subsequent referendum in that territory. Western governments call the invasion unjust, and the subsequent referendum invalid; Putin is labelled a blackguard – a throwback to Hitler, they say. By whose standards are these incursions into sovereign territories judged? By whose standards are referendums that are put together with obscure questions that deliver confused answers considered just?
I’m going to flip the coin to other “invasions”; Iraq by the USA and its allies on the hunt for mythical weapons of mass destruction comes to mind. The trail of destruction and the political vacuum created in that country has still not been accounted for. The Quebec referendum of 1995 asked a vague question: “Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?” – Joe Q Public was left wondering whether voting “Yes” or “No” would still end up in Quebec going its own way. So how just were these western invasions and referendums? Is there some western hypocrisy at work in the latest accusations on the Russians?
Winston Churchill is accredited with the quote “history is written by the victors.” There is an adjunct to this: “The other guy is always wrong.” While I am not a fan of Putin, who is trying to return Russia to the Rule of One, I question our home team’s profit-seeking end runs during this latest Crimean debacle. For example, how much would our Canadian PM like to see Canadian oil and gas replace Russian exports to the European Union? Is that why he is playing David in front of the Russian Goliath while the rest of his G7 counterparts are playing lambs?
The unfortunate fact is that most regimes that have fallen in recent times, be it Egypt, Libya and now Ukraine, in these “spring- like” civilian uprisings were corrupt; that much is clear from the economic wreckage left behind when their leaders fled or were killed. The populations of these countries were left liberated but confused, angry but unaware of how to chart their lives. To arbitrarily walk into a country and take over, create a vacuum, or prop up equally inept replacement regimes just because they show support to either the West or the East does not help; these places will sink into dysfunction and failed statehood in no time. And then East and West will look at each other and ask, “What happened?” Just ask a poor Afghan who in this lifetime saw Russians followed by Westerners run over his country and leave with their tails between their legs having accomplished only what their propaganda machines made us believe, just ask him whether he is better off today, whether the invasions from the East or the West were just?
Perhaps what is needed is that the people of these hot spots decide for themselves, in however crude a manner, and over however long a period of time, how they wish to govern their lives, and all do-gooders from the outside need butt-out. Isn’t that How The West Was Won?