Zone of Insanity

In his last interview with a journalist the late Shimon Peres gave a wide-ranging impression of his life and times.  In it was a  sketch of the current Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, who he described in an illustrative anecdote.

I am very good friends with Putin. And I shall give you, in brief, the content of one of our recent discussions.

I told him, “You’re 63 years old, I’m 93 years old. Tell me, what do you want to achieve in the coming 30 years? What are you fighting for? Are you hoping to piss off America?”

He says, “No.”

“America wants a piece of Russia? No. You have trouble discussing things with Obama?”

He says, “Why do you ask?

I said, “Look, I am not a spy, whatever, tell me.”

He says, “What do you think?”

And I said, “America will win no matter what you do.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because they are lucky, and you are not.”


Peres' argument “America will win no matter what you do,” however many concessions Obama might grant -- “because they are lucky, and you are not”  is a gentle rebuke of authoritarianism.  From this and his earlier views on China the Israeli evidently believed it was the character of nations rather than the edicts of leaders which determined the course of events. While Putin might get everything he wanted out of Obama, America would win every competition with Russia.  While Putin had the personal skills and the land area: "20  million square kilometers. My God. But what you don’t have are people."

"But what you don't have is the people", as in 'We the People' is a crucial point. The last eight years have been one unending liberal search for the Great Man of history, the belief that "history can be largely explained by the impact of 'great men', or heroes ... who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill utilized their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact."

Liberals thought they had it in Obama 2008.  They think they have it in the historic First Woman, Hillary in 2016.  They may even think they have it in Kerry. Steve Clemons of the Atlantic asked America's top diplomat in the context of his diplomatic record: what exactly is the "John Kerry secret sauce?"  And Kerry patiently explained that it was coming to an agreement with rival negotiators. "You have to figure out whether you can find in the adversaries a meeting of the minds on any of the interests and/or values."

The 'giving away the store' approach was echoed by another Great Man, Barack Obama at Peres' own funeral: he asserted that "the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own".  You need chutzpah to think that way.  But only a Titan can boldly make secret concessions to Iran without wondering whether he was doing the right thing just as only a man sure of his place in the pantheon can declare that the near-unanimous override of his veto of a bill allowing Americans to sue Saudi Arabia for supporting the 9/11 attacker was a "mistake".