02 October 2008
I was astonished upon reading your account of a recent panel discussion of the crisis in the Caucasus, sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (“Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine on their minds,” Sept. 11). My amazement concerns two topics, Russia and Iraq.
Three panelists complained that American policy “has served to isolate and humiliate Russia.” One of them added: “We now have a very long history of ignoring Russian interests and explicit preferences.” In fact, Russia is torn by a dilemma. On the one hand it is not capable of playing a leading part in international affairs. Its economy is not sufficient in spite of its natural resources, its governmental structure is more old-fashioned than responsive, and discipline in its army is poor. What it can achieve is obstruction. But it looks back with longing to the glory of the days when it exercised power through the Soviet Union. Nothing we can do can deter Russian obstruction because we cannot assuage Russian nostalgia.
In Iraq we have overthrown a cruel and arbitrary dictator, who had invaded Kuwait in 1990 and afterwards avoided complying with the U.N. Security Council’s requirement of inspection for more than 10 years. General Petraeus has been successful against a difficult insurgency. The legitimate government of Iraq now controls virtually the whole territory; the prospect is that we will be able to withdraw our forces in 2009. Yet one of the panelists dismisses this as “foreign policy run according to the principle of machismo.”
— Raphael Sealey, Professor Emeritus of History
Wendy Edelstein’s Sept. 18 “It’s My Job. . .” profile of Karyn Houston, who manages the ASUC Lecture Notes Online service, was fabulous. Just a suggestion: Let us know what background your “It’s My Job” subjects bring to their jobs. And are they Cal graduates?
I appreciate these enlightening stories. It’s especially heart-warming to read the Berkeleyan from faraway Chicago. Makes me feel like I’m back at Cal again.
— Richard Rott, M.L.I.S. ’81