Red Hook, NY
Thanks to Katha Pollitt [“Subject to Debate,” July 17/24] for a smart and sophisticated review of my ideas, but no thanks to the implication that I took my ideas from Rhona Mahony without crediting her. (“This crucial insight [that early decisions make later choices inevitable] was not originally Hirshman’s but Rhona Mahony’s, in her brilliant 1995 Kidding Ourselves, on which Hirshman rather heavily relies.”) Thankfully for Western culture, the concept of causation did not actually originate in Mahony’s late-twentieth-century book Kidding Ourselves. Nonetheless, the book was brilliant and an important inspiration to me. Accordingly, not only do I explicitly cite Mahony on page 57 of my book for the one idea that is truly and clearly no one’s but hers (find a sharing spouse by marrying down), but in my second reference to her in the bibliography, I say, “Nothing in my book would have been possible without the groundbreaking work of this book.” If you’re out there, Rhona, know that you were properly acknowledged. Abrasive, Caitlin Flanagan clone and all the rest I can take. But I would never knowingly take someone else’s ideas.
Katha Pollitt once again reminds us that women’s choice is not in a vacuum, that there are social pressures and biases and, in reality, a lack of real choices for women who want to be full human beings and parents. Linda Hirshman, on the other hand, used the New York Times Styles section to find her pool of educated married women, which formed the basis of her tirade against mommies retreating back home. Any idiot would tell you that the socioeconomic group depicted in that column is not representative of educated women. In a move reminiscent of Newsweek‘s 1980s report on women over 30 snagging a spouse, Hirshman’s notoriety-grab proves once again that slanted sensationalism obscures tougher truths every time. Thank goodness Katha Pollitt gets it: There are no sides to take here. Families with children and without trust funds face a set of lousy choices in an unsupportive world.
COLD WAR, WARM WORDS
Thank you very much for Stephen F. Cohen’s “The New American Cold War” [July 10]. I am very much impressed by the high level of understanding of Russia’s social and political life from a foreign author and by such a comprehensive and deep analysis of modern Russia. Reading other Western mass media materials about Russia regularly, I can say that most of them repeat the same overused journalese–“former KGB colonel,” “backsliding on democracy,” etc.–recalling the best examples of Soviet propaganda. Dr. Cohen’s article is an excellent exception to this.
From many Russians, I thank Stephen F. Cohen for his professional manner and noninsular vision of the current problems of our country, as well as the issues of international policy in historic context. The prejudgments that we see throughout the Western press about the Russian people, economic issues and policies are very offensive. I came a long way from being scared of and hating America in the 1980s, through liking it till the mid-1990s, to understanding US and Russian interests, and back to fear and dislike of US policies toward Russia. I am glad that free-minded out-of-the-box thinkers do exist in the United States and Europe.
Stephen F. Cohen’s article about the new cold war gives us in Russia a different view of what is going on in American society and the press concerning my country. Dr. Cohen shows a very high level of understanding of problems between the USA and Russia. What I read in US newspapers has very little to do with our everyday reality and the problems we face. We have had enough of revolutions, wars and fear. I want to live in peace with all the neighbors and other nations, including the USA.
Palo Alto, Calif.
As an occasional Nation reader and someone who thinks of himself as antiauthoritarian and anticapitalist, I read Stephen F. Cohen’s analysis with mounting disbelief. This disbelief turned to incredulity when Cohen mentioned “the Baltics” as part of an “encirclement” of what Cohen wishes the reader to believe is the poor, pitiful Russian Federation, a victim (and only a victim) of the current (and I would agree that it is real) projection of American power into the Eurasian continent. And as someone who spent two weeks in Estonia recently and a full year living in post-Soviet Latvia, I can assure Nation readers that the “encirclement” of Russia looks very different in the three Baltic countries, which have been in the not-so-distant past victims themselves of forcible annexation by Russia and the Soviet Union.
Stephen F. Cohen’s article probably is not a paid propaganda piece, but unfortunately it reads like one and will be so regarded from Finland to Romania, where 100 million people know firsthand what Russia’s “legitimate” interests mean to them.
Menlo Park, Calif.
Stephen F. Cohen accurately diagnoses US schizophrenia and opportunism toward Russia. “First do no harm” is good advice. However, the root of the problem is the criminalization and complete gutting of the Russian state, which is incapable of ruling effectively within its own borders, let alone expanding its influence worldwide. It is impossible to have normal relations with this freaky, Nigerian-style kleptocracy that is barely in control of a nation too exhausted to develop any civil institutions that could challenge it.
Stephen F. Cohen’s piece on US/Russia relations was incredibly sobering. As an investor in the Russian stock market but, more important, as an American citizen, I have been deeply troubled by the lack of a rational approach in our dealings with Russia. Russia has been bending over backward to accommodate US policies for fifteen years and never got anything in return but criticism and more demands. Russia’s economic decline is over and in its ascendance will not tolerate US duplicity and double standards any longer.
The author shows ultimate knowledge of Russian reality, and reveals himself as a man of honor. I used to hate America entirely, but now I do not know what to think. Now I realize that the nation shouldn’t be blamed for the crimes of its government. I’m 24 and all my life I lived in Russia. I’m Russian and very proud of it. I hope that because of the author our relationship will become a little bit warmer. The author softens the situation a bit. Yeltsin was really hated by 99 percent of Russians. Unfortunately, most Americans do not really understand how deep and serious the problem is. Now every American is an enemy in the opinion of simple Russian people–mostly people are not fond of Putin now just because of his soft policy about the States. And they are not to be blamed for that. Our people have an interesting feature–the ability to analyze. Otherwise we would have been already ruined. And the result of this analysis is the following: America is a liar and enemy. I’m sorry for these words–they cut me deep as well–but it’s the truth. The word “democracy” has become a swearing. And the word “liberal” has become a bloody one. Nobody believes America anymore, nobody has any illusions. They all died in the 1990s. I saw many opinions about the article on the Russian I-net. The main tone is: Bravo, Bravissimo!!! That’s the America we would like to be friends with. Greatly surprised,
Stephen F. Cohen takes issue with how the West and in particular the United States have behaved toward Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He goes on to vividly describe the devastating economic and social problems that continue to afflict the population, including a rising HIV/AIDS epidemic, widespread official corruption, demographic decline, spreading homelessness and a shrinking life expectancy, especially for adult males. But reading the article, I wonder if the increasing authoritarian bent of President Vladimir Putin, with constraints on the press, an ominous new law that “regulates” nongovernmental organizations and attacks on what remains of an independent political opposition could possibly be nurturing the kind of institutions that would help Russia deal with these pressing economic and social problems. The West may not be acting with wisdom in its relations with the Russian Federation, but if the current Russian government chooses to veer increasingly away from genuinely democratic reform–on the rubble of the old system–how will that nurture hope for a better life for Russia’s citizens?
Amnesty International USA
East Lansing, Mich.
Apropos Stephen F. Cohen’s fine hard-hitting article, I am pleased to report after spending several weeks in Moscow that the main response of the Russian media to Washington’s misguided policies seems to be to ignore them. There was very little news about the United States at all, whereas Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and events in the “near abroad” (e.g., Ukraine, Belarus) were covered extensively. How refreshing!
LEWIS H. SIEGELBAUM
Stephen F. Cohen is the best Russia hand, bar none. I spent two years in Roosiya as the empire collapsed and have been horrified at the NATO encirclement, denial of legitimate Russian interests in its neighbors and the insane hostile rhetoric from Dick Cheney. Although I’m depressed by Putin’s thuggish authoritarianism, Cheney has emerged as a danger to the world, attacking Russia for trying to influence oil lines on its own border while we’ve schemed to deny them.
LEFT & RIGHT PULL TOGETHER
Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith [“The Pincer Strategy,” June 26] are right about the need for a Constitutional Protection League, with “high-profile personalities to speak and organize on behalf of constitutional restoration.” Such an organization already exists: The Constitution Project (www.constitutionproject.org) creates working committees of prominent Americans from the right and left to protect the Constitution.
Brecher and Smith suggest, for example, broadening the Iran debate to address the limits of executive branch war powers authority; our War Powers Initiative’s recommendations in “Deciding to Use Force Abroad: War Powers in a System of Checks and Balances” do just that. Our Coalition to Defend Checks and Balances highlights both the risk of permanent and unchecked presidential power and the accompanying failure of Congress to exercise its responsibility as a separate branch of government.
The people who work with the Constitution Project–from Edwin Meese, President Reagan’s Attorney General and a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, to John Podesta, President Clinton’s Chief of Staff and head of the Center for American Progress–may disagree about much, but they put differences aside to protect the Constitution.
VIRGINIA E. SLOAN
The Constitution Project