With Vladimir Putin having bloodlessly annexed Crimea and hinting that his army might cross the border to protect the Russians of East Ukraine, Washington is abuzz with talk of dispatching U.S. troops to Eastern Europe. But unless we have lost our minds, we are not going to fight Russia over territory no president ever regarded as vital to us. Indeed, should Putin annex Eastern and Southern Ukraine all the way to Odessa, he would simply be restoring to Russian rule what had belonged to her from Washington’s inaugural in 1789 to George H.W. Bush’s inaugural in 1989.
This is not an argument for ignoring Russia’s conduct. But it is an argument for assessing what is vital and what is not, what threatens us and what does not, and what is the real deterrent to any re-establishment of the Soviet Empire. Before we start sending troops back to Europe, as we did 65 years ago under Harry Truman, let us ask ourselves: Was it really the U.S. Army, which never crossed the Elbe or engaged in battle with the Red Army, that brought down the Soviet Empire and dissolved the Soviet Union? No. What liberated the nations of Eastern Europe and the USSR was the determined will of these peoples to be free to decide their own destinies and create, or re-create, nations based on their own history, language, culture, and ethnic identity. Nationalism brought down the empire. And Mikhail Gorbachev let these nations go because Russia was weary of maintaining a coercive empire and because Russia, too, wanted to be part of the free world.
While Putin may want the Russians of Ukraine and Belarus back inside a Greater Russia, does anyone think he wants Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, or Slovaks back under Moscow’s rule? Putin knows that his own popularity, near 80 percent, is due directly to his being seen as a nationalist willing to stand up to the Americans and their claim to be sole architects of the New World Order. And it is nationalism, not a NATO full of freeloaders, that is America’s great ally in this post-Cold War world.
It was nationalism that liberated the captive nations, broke apart the Soviet Union, split Czechoslovakia in two and divided Yugoslavia into seven countries. Nationalism drove the Chechens to try to break from Moscow, the Abkhazians and South Ossetians to secede from Georgia, and the Crimeans to say good-bye to Kiev. And as nationalism tore apart the Soviet Empire and USSR, nationalism will prevent their recreation. Should Putin invade and annex all of Ukraine, not just Crimea and the East where Russians are in a majority, his country would face the same resistance from occupied Western Ukraine Russia faces today in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. Putin knows that.
But if Eastern Ukraine in the May election should indicate a will to secede and join Russia, or become a separate autonomous state, why would we automatically oppose that? Are we not ourselves the proud descendants of the secessionists of ’76? If we can view with diffidence the drive by Scotland to secede from England, Catalonia to secede from Spain, Venice to secede from Italy, and Flanders to secede from Belgium, why would the secession of the Donbass from Ukraine be a problem for us, if done democratically?
Nationalism is the natural enemy of empires, and it seems on the rise almost everywhere. An assertion of Chinese nationalism—Beijing’s claim to islands Japan has occupied for over a century—has caused a resurgence of a Japanese nationalism dormant since World War II. Japan’s nationalist resurgence has caused a rise in anti-Japanese nationalism in Korea. China’s great adversary today is Asian nationalism. India resents China’s hold on territories taken in a war half a century ago and China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. China’s claims in the South China Sea have revived anti-Chinese nationalism in Vietnam and the Philippines. In Western China, Uighurs have resorted to violence and even terror to break Xinjiang off from China, which they hope to convert into their own East Turkestan. Kurdish nationalism, an ally of America in Desert Storm, is today a threat to the unity of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
Elections for the European Parliament in May are almost certain to see gains for the Ukip in England, Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Geert Wilders Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and other nationalist parties that have lately arisen across Europe. These parties in a way echo Putin. Where he wants Ukraine to stay out of the EU, they want their countries to get out of the EU.
Secessionism and nationalism are growth stocks today. Centralization and globalization are yesterday. A new world is coming. And while perhaps unwelcome news for the transnational elites championing such causes as climate change and battling global economic inequality, it is hard to see any great threat in all this to the true interests of the American people.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Copyright 2014 Creators.com.
In films, signing a contract is a considered, deliberate affair. Pens are inked, notaries are summoned, and stamps thud down as witness. But, in the eyes of General Mills, rights could be signed away with the beep of a supermarket scanner or the click of a “Like” button.
With a new revision to its online terms of service, General Mills has informed its customers that redeeming a cereal coupon constitutes a binding agreement to give up their rights to sue the company. Instead, if they are unsatisfied with their Wheaties, they could only settle the complaint through private arbitration. In arbitration, the customer brings suit to a private court, chosen by the company, which is not bound by the ordinary legal system.
After a flurry of complaints, General Mills first clarified their policy, addressing concerns that their language was so broad, that it seemed like almost any interaction with the company, from a Facebook like to just purchasing their goods, might entail giving up rights to a day in court. In fact, according to the company, if you just plain like their products, and indicate as much on Facebook, you’re in the clear. But, if you receive a coupon in exchange for your “Like,” you’re out of luck in the case of a dispute.
When these statements failed to mollify consumers, General Mills dropped the new language completely. But although General Mills was forced to back down in less than a week, other companies have managed to make coercive contracts stick, even when the terms of the contract may be illegal.
In 2010, a British gaming company parodied the contractual creep of end user license agreements (EULAs) by adding a clause to theirs that stated that customers must sign over their souls in order to play; some companies have slipped in language almost equally absurd. Dentists using contracts from a company called “Medical Justice” inform their customers that, in order to have their teeth cleaned, they must surrender their ability to write bad reviews of the practitioner. As one Ars Technica reporter discovered when he went in for his checkup:
[I]t asked me to “exclusively assign all Intellectual Property rights, including copyrights” to “any written, pictorial, and/or electronic commentary” I might make about Dr. Cirka’s services, including on “web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence,” to Dr. Cirka. It also stipulated that if Dr. Cirka were to sue me due to a breach of the agreement, the loser in the litigation will pay the prevailing party’s legal fees.
Some banks have gone even farther than that dental contract, stipulating that the customer was responsible for all of the banks “losses, costs, and expenses” even if the customer wins the lawsuit. A 2012 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts (which I worked on while employed there) found that four of the 12 largest banks in the United States included these kind of “if you win, you lose” agreements.
Each of these provisions is about as unenforceable as the gaming company’s claim on your soul, but the legality of the language only matters if a customer actually plans to contest the contract in front of a judge. A suited representative from the company saying, “You did sign” can have a chilling effect on victims, who back away from a dispute and never learn that the provisions would have been voided.
It’s become harder for consumers to put companies to the test since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in AT&T v. Concepcion, in which the Court held that not only could AT&T bar its customers from going to court, but it could also forbid them from managing any arbitrated complaint as a class. Each customer’s claim had to be dealt with singly.
Barred from the economy of scale of a class action, many customers will forgo a possibly expensive complaint process. After all, even Ars Technica‘s reporter didn’t bother to contest his dentist’s new contract. Rather than spend thousands in legal bills to dispute the gag provision, he switched dentists, wrote his article, and relied on the court of public opinion, instead of a court of law.
It may be quicker to roll back abusive contracts by making them a matter of public scandal, but while General Mills was caught by this extrajudicial judgment, other companies have succeeded at evading controversy for terms just as onerous. The fickle attention of the court of public opinion only underscore the need for what General Mills aimed to preempt: recourse to the due process of the nation’s courts for every consumer.