Further Thoughts on Mr. Strobe Talbott, by Political Cynic

I posted this on August 21, 2014:

Political Cynic on Strobe Talbott

Mr. Strobe Talbott is an historian who writes history made to self-serving ideological
measure. His long paraphrases of the war mongering William Safire, in his opening paragraph serves two purposes, one the appeal to the more conservative readership at Politico and to rhetorically frame his casting of Putin as the New Stalin, in the New Cold War. Identifying Putin’s rapprochement with China and protecting his borders from American political adventurism, just like that of Black Widow Victoria Nuland and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Ukraine, allied with Right Sector and Svoboda! Mr, Talbott confects out of this ‘Putin’s Evil Plan’: nothing sells like fear mongering and political melodrama, after all Mr. Talbott is an experienced Cold Warrior.
On the question of ‘spheres of influence’ American can take no backseat to any other country in our ruthless exercise of our self-given permission of hemispheric hegemony i.e. The Monroe Doctrine, forgive the alliteration!
‘Putin’s aggression’ is a mirror of that exercised by America in this hemisphere, but that fact escapes Mr. Talbott’s attention due to a pressing ideological agenda, again that New Cold War set the standard for his historical revisionism: the twin virtues of concision and brevity are cast aside in favor of an historical re-write that challenges the readers patience and if you are old enough your own memory of the ‘historical facts/examples’ he very carefully cites as corroboration of his fear mongering propaganda/historical revisionism. And I’m only at the first two words of the third paragraph: so much more to say, yet I fear I’ll commit the same error that Mr. Talbott commits, although I don’t need to rescue my lost credibility as a one time Kremlinologist by a self-serving re-write of history.
Political Cynic

Having finally reached the end of Mr. Talbott’s essay. It took some time and a great deal of patience to read through this ‘history’ of Putin and the end of the first Cold War: Gorbachev and the ill fated transition of the former Soviet Union’s command economy to the ‘Free Market’ Neo-Liberal model, the rise of Yeltsin and of the evil doer Putin: Mr. Talbott is enamored of political melodrama, with a penchant for repeating the propaganda of the American National Security State,  as if it were true/actual. No wonder Mr. Talbott has managed to assume the leadership of a major America think tank, the prerequisite being a slavish conformity to that ever shifting party line.

A good deal of time is spent tracing the implosion of the Soviet state, the rise of Putin and a self-laudatory description of the part Mr. Talbott played in various negotiations with the Soviets. Under the title, not exactly a title but typeface in bold letters, of The backstory begins in the late 1980’s which takes up almost two full pages. One gets the distinct impression that this essay was destined for Foreign Policy or Foreign Affairs  or another specialist periodical but was adapted to fit the looser standards of Politico.A glaring example of this is this long quote, unattributed, on page 5(page 4 of internet post) of my printed copy of the essay:

Just before flying back to Washington, Clinton paid a call on Yeltsin at his retirement dacha. “Boris,” Clinton said, “you’ve got democracy in your heart. You’ve got the trust of the people in your bones. You’ve got the fire in your belly of a real democrat and a real reformer.  I’m not sure Putin has that. Maybe he does. I don’t know. You’ll have to keep an eye on him and use your influence to make sure that he stays on the right path. Putin needs you. Whether he knows it or not, he really needs you, Boris. Russia needs you. You really changed this country, Boris. Not every leader can say that about the country he’s led. You changed Russia. Russia was lucky to have you. The world was lucky you were where you were. I was lucky to have you.  We did a lot of stuff together, you and I. We got through some tough times. We never let it all come apart. We did some good things. They’ll last. It took guts on your part. A lot of that stuff was harder for you than it was for me. I know that.”

Yeltsin was now clutching Clinton by the hand, leaning into him. “Thank you, Bill,” he said. “I understand.”

The re-working of the essay is glaringly obvious, at least to these eyes. Also Mr. Talbott mentions but two American political intellectuals in his essay, William Safire, a Neo-Conservative in all but name, and Richard Pipes a rather notorious member of that political coterie. In the ever shifting American political landscape, one is tempted to view Neo-Conservatism, Neo-Liberalism and it’s R2P ‘humanitarian’ allies as part of a political whole rather than as separate, they all share core beliefs, the points of contention are about means and methodology, not about a debate on the core principles of American hegemony, and it’s moral rightness.
Political Cynic 





About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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