Thursday, March 06, 2014

False Equivalence Alert

This morning I read this:
In Moscow, especially in the not-so-good old days, the question almost always asked is kto vinovat: “Who is to blame?” The American capital now finds itself engaged in that very Russian exercise ever since President Vladimir V. Putin’s troops entered Ukraine.

Many on the right maintain that Moscow’s land grab is President Obama’s fault for pursuing a foreign policy of weakness. Some on the left contend that it is former President George W. Bush’s fault for invading Iraq and providing a precedent.
 "Wait," thunked I, " who on the left contends that the Crimean crisis is President Bush's fault?" I follow politics rather closely and while I have seen a lot of people on the right claiming that Obama somehow allowed Russia to move into Crimea, I have not seen anyone (and I mean anyone) claim that Russia's actions were caused by President Bush. I read on in the article to find out.

It explains that in the "blame Obama" corner are Senator John McCain, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Lindsay Graham, Congressman Howard McKeon, and Congressman/rocket scientist Paul Ryan,

In the "blame Bush" corner, the article cites TV personality Rachel Maddow, TV personality Chris Matthews, and Congressman Adam Smith.

See the problem? Prominent Republican members of Congress are claiming that Obama's actions as president caused Putin to seize the Crimea. The only people on the left that the reporter could find saying that Bush caused Putin to seize the Crimea were two television personalities and one member of Congress that few have ever heard of (although they might mistake him for someone else).

But it gets worse. The quotes from McCain, McConnell, and Ryan actually drew a causal connection between the President's policy "projecting weakness" and Russia's action in Crimea. The quotes from Maddow, Matthews, and Smith do not make the claim that anything that Bush did while he was president caused the current crisis. Maddow only made the point that because the U.S. invaded Iraq on a false pretense, it makes it "awkward" for the U.S. to currently criticize Russia. (An accurate point, IMHO). Matthews made a similar point, that "the same people" who supported the Iraq war are now complaining when Russia "did something a little bit like it." Representative Smith made a different point; he rebuts the Republican claim that the current cuts to the U.S. military budget encouraged Russian actions in Crimea by pointing out that our Bush-era budget did nothing to deter Russia from intervening in Georgia.

So the article doesn't quote a single person on the left who claims that former President Bush or the Republicans are "to blame" for the current crisis in Crimean. Which undermines the article's "both sides do it" framing of the "who is to blame?" question.