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Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference

The “categorical imperative” is the central concept in the ethical philosophy of Immanuel Kant. It refers to  an unconditional moral obligation binding in all cases and not dependent on someone’s inclination or purpose.

It refers to things you have to do. So (just for example) if you have water and you’re with someone dying of thirst, you share the water.  No matter who the other is. Because it is right to do so.

It also refers to things you can’t do. So (just for another example), if it is wrong (as a matter of principle) for a government in one country to interfere in the elections of another, the rule against it applies universally. It would be wrong for a foreign country to help a candidate in the U.S. to win.

But see this:

“Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.”

Jesus! That almost sounds like interference in the Russian election of 1996. And it looks like the U.S. was  practically shouting it from the rooftops at the time, with glee. Why not? Russia under Yeltsin was bleeding horribly, no threat to the U.S. surely.

In fact, this electoral interference is the U.S. norm.  U.S. NGOs finance political groups and try to organize “color revolutions” all over the place. The U.S. has been far more inclined to such interference than Russia or the former Soviet Union over many decades.

In all the media discussion of the—scandalous, outrageous—alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election, there has been almost no reference to U.S. meddling in political processes in Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia in recent years. Or reference to the fact that the State Department’s Victoria Nuland was able to orchestrate the Ukrainian coup of February 2014.

Washington has zero respect for other countries’ democratic institutions and cherishes ties with countries that have none (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, etc).

To those whining about Putin: spare me your indignation. As Hegel says, “The truth is the whole.” And when you look at the whole thing, you realize that the U.S. ruling class topples governments by overt or covert means relentlessly, much, much more incessantly than Moscow. And the U.S. media is virtually instructed not to talk about it, or problematize it. It indeed celebrates successes, when they occur, as when $ 5 billion invested result in a coup in Kiev.

I have been skeptical about the Russian election interference charges throughout. Now I am seeing some substance. But now more than ever the question should be: how does such “interference” compare with that conducted by the U.S. in many countries? And why is it right for one and not the other?

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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