Toward the end of WWI, in the face of a resurgent Germany whose armies were winning great victories in both the West and the East, Lenin said:
“True, revolutionaries must face the probability that the imperialist war, if continued unchecked, might lead to the real annihilation of civilization and the end of the possibility of any kind of progress.” (S.F. Cohen, “Buckhorn and the Russian Revolution.”)
Say what you will, Lenin was a brilliant thinker, even a visionary. Because of the Cold War, its beginnings dating back to WWI, we’ve fallen into the unhelpful habit of demonizing all Russian leaders, including President Putin, of course. Lenin, as a matter of historic fact, looked to the United States as the world’s only progressive nation, a model to emulate.
President Wilson, of course, in formulating his agenda of Fourteen Points for establishing worldwide democracy, was to propose “self-determination — geographic, linguistic, religious” as democracy’s cornerstone.
No matter how we choose to describe them, our seemingly perpetual wars, chivvied along by CIA mischief, always have an economic basis: of course, oil in the Middle East, coal, iron and manganese in Eastern Ukraine. During the recent coup in Ukraine, which overthrew a democratically elected government (in a UN-supervised election), the right-wing, openly pro-Nazi “Right Sector” part was visited by war hawk Sen. McCain, CIA Director Brennan and their exuberant protégé, Saakashvili of Georgia. In WWI, imperial Germany set up puppet governments in both Ukraine (grain) and Georgia (measly oil).
Perhaps in a hundred years, Shia and Sunni will have found common ground, with even radical fighters shaving their beards. As yet — and it is late in the day — no real “give and take” negotiation has taken place. Self-determination? It’s their land, not ours. Will the memories of their children be only of drone terror and carpet bombing? Our grandchildren will see.