Musings on McCain and Chechnya
Just saw John McCain on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I was astonished by how the arguments he uses, and those offered by many in the Bush administration, parallel the welfare liberal sociology that we heard for several generations as an explanation for why kids go into a life of crime: that when people have no hope and no opportunity, they are prime candidates for becoming criminals. McCain simply uses that as a rationale for why young people in the Middle East become terrorists. No hope, no opportunity. So the US must simply go in there and provide them with hope and opportunity. The Great Society Goes Global! Bring in HUD!
Something else I found curious: McCain has long understood that brutal Russian policies toward Chechnya are fueling the spread of lethal terrorism there, resulting this past week in the horrific deaths of over 300 people, many of them children. Indeed, Chechen terrorists are not at war with the Russian"way of life"; they are at war, McCain understands, with Russian policies,"blowback" leading to terrible tragedies like the one at Middle School No. 1 in Beslan.
Likewise, as I have argued, here and elsewhere:
the history of US policy in the Middle East has provided, at least partially, the context for the current problems with Islamic terrorists. That is not a justification for Islamic terrorism against innocent American civilians; but it does provide, at least partially, an understanding of the context within which such terrorism has taken root and flourished. There is a difference between explanation and justification. I say"partially" because the vast array of problems in that region cannot simply be reduced to a pure product of US intervention. There are tribal, ethnic, and religious conflicts fomenting in the Middle East, which long predate US intervention—and which have now become deeply intertwined with the US presence. The US has stepped into a minefield of historical complexities, which can only generate explosive unintended consequences over the long-term.
The phenomenon of unintended consequences is equally applicable to the current Russian-Chechen situation. As George Will observed on"This Week," the current context represents a collision of nationalism, ethnicity, and religion, complicated now by the fact that the long nationalist war for Chechen independence is drawing power from Muslim separatists. But none of these factors can be abstracted from the context of policies pursued. In the long run, different policies will be necessary. In Chechnya. And in the Middle East.