The contretemps between Russia and the United States over Viktor “Merchant of Death” Bout has a surreal, theater-of-the-absurd quality, one that highlights the core philosophical divide between the two countries in just about everything. Russian officials are outragedthat notorious arms-dealer Bout was successfully extradited from
A little background: In 2008 Bout was caught in a sting operation in
To this question, the American mind responds rather unimaginatively with, huh?! This guy sold arms to the Taliban, and to the worst genocidal regimes in
Well, no, not quite. That's where the Russians don't get us, and why we keep miscuing each other. Sure, the
We can cite a long track record of successes in that endeavor (how's
In the end, the
One can imagine the Russian attitude to this: nudge-nudge-wink-wink, you're just like us. They can't fathom why we won't accept the equivalency. But we don’t: The United States refuses to be corrupted for good by realpolitik. Idealism keeps bursting through. What seems mysteriously hypocritical to the Kremlin mindset is actually very simple: regeneration and renewal are an integral part of a properly functioning democracy.
Maybe there was a moment when we had to do business with Viktor Bout, but that does not mean we have to like him or be like him. It doesn't make him one of us, one of the gang close to a permanent power center akin to Putin's. Anyone offering that would soon be unmasked, fired, prosecuted or voted out. Critics in the media would have a field day—and live to do so again. This is not