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Assange, Correa and the Belarus Imbroglio: Hard Questions Which the Left Must Answer
Sep 08, 2012 6:20 AM EDT
"I am basing my remarks on what seems to me a moral truism: the moral evaluation of what we do depends on the anticipated consequences – in the cases we are discussing, human consequences. If I publish a paper here reviewing and condemning the crimes of Genghis Khan, the human consequences are approximately zero; I’m joining in universal condemnation, and adding another pea to the mountain certainly doesn’t help his victims, or anyone else for that matter.
Suppose in some part of the world, say Mongolia, his crimes were being suppressed or praised or even used as a model for current actions. Then it would be of great moral value to condemning his crimes there, because of the human consequences. Take your other example: condemnation in Pakistan of the impact of US corporate and state power in Pakistan. There is great moral value to condemn that in ways that affect the exercise of that power, which means mostly here, in the US. For Pakistanis, if the condemnations have no effect on the exercise of that power, then in that respect the moral value is slight; if they have an effect in raising the level of understanding of Pakistanis, to enable them to act more constructively, then the moral value could be great. In all cases, we are back to anticipated human consequences.
Let’s take a concrete case. For intellectuals in Russia in the Communist days, condemnation of US crimes had little if any moral value; in fact, it might have had negative value, in serving to buttress the oppressive and brutal Soviet system. In contrast, when Eastern European dissidents condemned the crimes of their own states and society, it had great moral value. That much everyone takes for granted: everyone, that is, outside the Soviet commissar class. Much the same holds in the West, point by point, except with much more force, because the costs of honest dissidence are so immeasurably less. And exactly as we would expect, these utterly trivial points are almost incomprehensible to Western intellectuals, when applied to them, though readily understood when applied to official enemies.
That’s why, for example, I was critical of Pakistan’s policies concerning Kashmir when speaking in Pakistan, and of India’s policies there when speaking in India. But I cannot – and no one else should – have a great deal of confidence in what I say as a concerned outsider. And there isn’t much that I can do about the very severe problems. In contrast, there is a great deal I can do about problems within the US, and about policy decisions of systems of power there. And for just that reason, that’s my primary responsibility.
Of course, it is not quite that simple. Outsiders can sometimes have useful advice and influence, and should try to use such opportunities. Nonetheless, the moral truism remains just that: a truism.
Quite apart from moral truisms, it is generally a mistake to expect outsiders to have valuable advice as to how to deal with one’s problems. That requires intimate knowledge and understanding. It’s sheer arrogance for those who lack that knowledge and understanding to offer solutions. And it makes little sense to wait for rescue from outside. That’s often just a way to evade responsibility.
Again, one shouldn’t exaggerate. Sympathy and support from friends is of enormous importance in personal life, and solidarity and mutual aid are of comparable importance over a broader sphere, including international affairs. Nonetheless, we ultimately have to take our fate into our own hands, not wait for salvation from somewhere else. It won’t come."- Noam Chomsky
- Ben Langan
Sep 09, 2012 7:20 AM EDT
Go live in Belarus a few years and we will see if you still write b.s. like this again. You're just a theorician with no concrete knowledge of what's going on there. Shame on you.
- Someone who knows Belarus for real.
Sep 10, 2012 12:41 PM EDT
I read your Chomsky quote. Here is my problem: he is writing essentially for the choir. As such, he's entitled to write 90% to his audience, but in my view you need to have some balance, if only 10% of the time, in an effort to counteract leftist dogma.
Sep 10, 2012 12:43 PM EDT
Dear anonymous person from Belarus (if indeed that is where you are from):
Specifically, tell me how I am wrong. At this point, you lack specifics.
Sep 15, 2012 2:10 AM EDT
Hasn't the Belorussian dude been freed though? That's what I get from this: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/ecuador-judge-rejects-extradition-bid/story-fn3dxix6-1226460602298
Sep 15, 2012 8:22 AM EDT
Yes, he has, and Correa deserves credit for that. But I think as my article makes clear, Ecuador was wavering and, arguably, Correa might have succumbed to Belarus pressure if it weren't for unfavorable press. This reveals that Correa doesn't have the best instincts.