The Catholic Thing
Memo to Putin Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 16 September 2013

To:    V. V. Putin
From: Acme Ad Agency, NYC
Re:     New York Times op-ed and the future

Mr. President, we’re pleased that you’re pleased about the generally good reception our PR efforts have had in recent days. The piece “you” wrote for the NYT admonishing President Obama and the United States in ringing moral terms was, if we may say so ourselves, a smashing success.

Don’t let the carping of a few politicians about “wanting to vomit” make you doubt our effectiveness in the least. If Americans became nauseous every time a public figure dressed up an insincere argument in high-toned moral phrases, they’d all be on permanent disability. As would the White House staff, whichever party is in power.

And they know it. So do we. The difference this time: we grabbed the verbal high ground before they figured out what they wanted.  Even now, they can’t decide whether they’ve been lucky or been taken to the cleaners – or both.

Let’s do everything we can to prolong that state of indecision.

The key is to keep them hovering between conflicting moral principles. Yes, we’re aware it’s not your usual mode of operation, President Putin, but trust us on this. There’s no better way to paralyze the United States and, by extension, the whole Western world than by appealing to their idealism. Please let us explain.

During the Cold War, you worked for an officially atheist regime and had to use economic justice to cover for your actions. There’s still some usefulness in keeping those arguments close by. (You may want to brush up on your old KGB disinformatsya too.) But the world has moved on. So must you.

“You” were right to close with the words, “God created us equal.” It plays on a confusion that exists in the post-Christian societies of the West. The first proponents of equality knew it meant equality in fundamental rights – and duties. The things God really made equal.

But we have to encourage Westerners to think that many acts, once believed worthy of severe moral judgment and forceful action, are now merely “different” or a “perspective.” President Obama thinks a lot about differing perspectives. We want to keep him doing that.

But we must be more careful. “You” claimed, “From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” There’s a different perspective, to say the least. But you took a chance. Some people – fewer and fewer to be sure – remember facts beyond the immediate news cycle. This claim didn’t hurt much because there’s a lot of relief out there that military action won’t happen now. But in future, avoid claims that could be disputed or proved false. We don’t want attention to facts. We want conflicted moral appeals. And paralysis.

For instance, in the NYT, we made good use of the pope’s condemnation of war. All Western governments already feel guilty about using force, even to protect the innocent.

       Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

Our research department has been combing the Vatican archives for other useful ideas. We just found this, which Pope John Paul II said on World Day of Peace 2000:

John Paul II was a shrewd cookie, as we say in America. He’d faced your Communist predecessors and paid more attention to facts than words. You see the danger of facts?

Fortunately, he continued:  

These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome of armed intervention alone.
John Paul II wanted reason – in the form of international law – to keep one country from attacking another on the pretext that it was engaged in “humanitarian intervention.” But he didn’t want to protect thugs. So if we want room to maneuver, we have to make sure international institutions are not reformed so as to make them effective.  

“You” had a moment of inspiration, therefore, when you turned the truth upside down:

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
Keep to that line. Recommend U.N. leverage while making sure that the Security Council, where you have a veto, is as useless as the General Assembly.

“You” also hit a strong note in denying that America is “exceptional.” In trying to make his case, President Obama surprisingly appealed to “American exceptionalism,” which he has otherwise denied during his whole presidency.

He must have been desperate for any moral argument he could find, and that’s exactly what we want. “You” gravely warned: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.”

That’s perfect. Obama talks about American ideals as exceptional. You change the subject, as if he’s the Führer encouraging the Volk. Many Americans and Westerners will just hear – holding on, as they do, to mere bit and pieces of the old Christian ethos – that someone’s claiming to be better than someone else.

They wouldn’t make an outright argument for humility, which is not modern. But numbers of them are ready to dispute that anything American is better than something in other societies. They’ll pull down American ideals out of resentment, disguised as modesty.

Really, this has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Our creative team is putting together a campaign and we’ll shoot you another proposal before the chemical weapons negotiations are done.

Good show, Vlady. Na zdorovie, tovaritch.

 Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (14)Add Comment
written by Randall, September 16, 2013
Rather in the spirit of Screwtape and A.F. Christian. Nice.
written by DeGaulle, September 16, 2013
written by Jack,CT, September 16, 2013
Putin is known to study the "Diction"
of others and 'Attack",accordingly.
I do not find it noble.
I just am amazed how a probable
Athiest could lecture about the Lord!
written by Manfred, September 16, 2013
During the Cold War in the 1950s, the U.S. inserted the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. This was to make clear that the Soviets were ATHEISTS and we were RELIGIOUS. There is a quiet movement to remove that phrase now with the admission that its insertion was a fraud. Our leadership knew then that they were secular and agnostic. Putin has demonstrated with the sodomite/lesbian issue, e.g., that the Russians have no tolerance for this behavior, while in America we allow them to "marry" and other Americans better damn well take their photos, bake their wedding cakes and provide inns for their celebrations or the Feds will drive you out of business.
It is rumored that Putin has returned to his Christian roots. He has been able to seize the moral high ground on both the homosexual issue and the intended missile strikes into Syria. Recall Pope JP II twice sending Vatican envoys to Pres G W Bush to warn that an invasion of Iraq would be "illegal and immoral". The US invaded and destabilized further the entire Middle East. Even bright high schoolers know that war was a fraud from the beginning.
How many Syrian lives has Putin just saved? It may be hard for some to admit but Atheistic Communism collapsed and it has been replaced by Atheistic Democracy.
written by Grump, September 16, 2013
I think Vlad made a lot more sense then Obama and by invoking God suggested that he is a closet believer or at least has moved from atheism to agnosticism, leaving room for conversion. Putin also can claim a higher moral ground than Obama when it comes to society's attitude toward promoting homosexuality.

Stylistically, it's no contest as evidence by girly-man Barry riding a sissy bike wearing a helmet, crosses his skinny legs on The View, surrounded by feminists, while Vlad poses in a Formula One race car, hunts tigers and is a much better chess player.

As a dinner companion or a bar mate, I'd rather spend the evening with Vlad.
written by Bill Hocter, September 16, 2013
American exceptionalism, from my perspective, stemmed from the abundant liberties we enjoyed which permitted a flourishing way of life at home. This exceptionalism, in the face of the various totalitarian ideologies we have encountered over the last century or so has justified an assertive foreign policy. We had something to offer the world by example that was better than the usual sludge being served up.
Recent events and trends, often noted at The Catholic Thing have rendered us much less free at home. Our way of life, while not barbaric, presents less and less to offer to the world. This makes our extensive foreign military involvements much less justifiable, and, to me less supportable. Our exceptionalism is dying. In this context, the awkward strutting of our leaders on the international stage represents an embarrassment. Mr. Putin may not be an honest broker but he held up a mirror to us and the view wasn’t very flattering.
written by Henry, September 16, 2013
Old Vlad accomplished at least two things. He striked a much needed fighting blow in the culture wars, and he no doubt helped with an up-tick in Stolichnaya sales. Na Zdrowie.
written by Steven Walker, September 16, 2013
Mr. Obama is weak and ineffective but that does not make it necessary to fall in love with Mr. Putin.
written by Randall, September 16, 2013
@Grump - I'd have to agree with you that Putin would be a much more interesting dinner companion. But he's a very enigmatic figure. I honestly don't know what to make of him. I currently reside in Poland and he worries the Poles. Unfortunately the only real alternative for Poland is Germany and the EU since the US is too feckless to trust. But regarding Putin and his motives, I just don't know. He's a no nonsense national leader and I guess that's the key to trying to understand him - he's a national leader. Russia's interests come first and foremost and I think he recognizes that the homosexual agenda is lethal to a nation's health and that religion and respect for religious authority is important in holding a nation together. Now whether he's a believer himself or simply recognizes the importance of religious belief for the masses is the question I have.
written by Chris in Maryland, September 16, 2013
Bill Hocter is right that the USA is degrading into a country that doesn't stand anything worth fighting for. Samantha Powers, John McCain and POTUS look pathetic in trying to appeal for support. Did you see the POTUS when he appealed to "my friends on the right" to support his plan for the pro-rebel 90-day counter-offensive? Greg Gutfeld hit the nail on the head - POTUS appealed for conservative support because: "...remember - you like to kill people!"
written by Jack,CT, September 16, 2013
Today we lost more victums
to violence,God Bless the
lost souls and all the
written by Henry, September 18, 2013
Forgotten in our sometimes frivolous take on Vladimer Putin is the natural assumption we can safely make that, He recently up-lifted the moral and spiritual morale of his people. This is no small thing since the Russians have been so viewed as in the spiritual doldrums. That's one of the most important job a leader has. "Na Zdrowie"
written by Jack,CT, September 20, 2013
Tell me your joking Henry about
this war criminal!
written by Henry, September 27, 2013
Sorry Jack, maybe I should have thought about it more. In this world though, there are good people doing bad things and visa-versa----and hopefully confessionals--redemption are still there someplace.

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