Slug: forbes-one-dimensional-paul-johnson-column Date: 2005-02-22 Title: “Forbes: One-Dimensional Paul Johnson column” layout: post

Forbes magazine Why Millions Say, Softly, God Bless America, by writer and historian Paul Johnson:

In Ukraine voters took to the streets to reverse a crooked election. Thanks to the backing of the U.S., Ukrainians won their point, and their true, democratically elected president took office. But even though it has tasted the sweets of democracy itself, Ukraine is also withdrawing its troops from Iraq a case of cowardice compounded by selfishness that bodes ill for the country’s future.

Spain and Ukraine expect to enjoy democracy but will not lift a finger to help the Iraqis, who have never had such a luxury.

I’ve heard this argument before, particularly about Ukraine. However, Ukraine is a fledgling democracy that needs to first work on the “democratic dynamic” - the people vote for their representatives, who then lead the nation according to the will of the people. The people then vote again, making course corrections by way of the government they elect. Yushchenko has been elected by a population that was very much opposed to sending troops to Iraq, and he promised, if elected, to respect that sentiment. The fact that he kept that promise is testament to his desire to represent his people. To call this “cowardice” to make it fit this writer’s thread (“most other democratic nations have looked the other way”) is a one-dimensional take on the situation at best, and a good example of the “with us or against us” attitude that garners so much criticism.

Discoshaman is an expat living in Kyiv, and he says it better than I do:

Ukrainian troops ended up in Iraq as a bid by Kuchma to buy his way back into American good graces after the Gongadze murder and the allegations of radar sales to Iraq. The Ukrainian people were overwhelmingly against it, and the government itself did everything it could to undermine support for the war – the anti-American drumbeat on the TV was relentless. It’s understandable if public opinion is now firmly entrenched against the war.

People were overwhelmingly opposed – I spent the months before the war constantly defending American policies to friend and stranger alike. If any country matches the critics’ attacks on the coalition as mercenary and coerced, it’s Ukraine.

In the meantime, Yushchenko has been democratically elected by a people who want the troops home. Many of the readers here support the freedom of the Iraqi people to choose their destiny, but can we then ignore the freedom of Ukrainians to do the same?