Sullivan Goes off on Russia and Snowden

Regarding Russia’s decision to allow Edward Snowden to leave the airport, Andrew Sullivan lets loose a series of ridiculous statements.

According to Sullivan, what’s important is not whether two countries can work together on matters of mutual self-interest, but rather whether one is a “sincere partner” with the world community (read: the United States).

That the “flawed NSA spying program…looks in political danger in the Congress already” is a foolhardy assertion with no real evidence at this point. Is the entire “program” in jeopardy yet, or only parts of it? Anyone who’s paying attention knows that, at best, there is only real political support in Congress for rolling back extremely limited elements of the surveillance state.

Sullivan argues that “It’s preposterous to see [Russia’s actions] as anything but a piece of geo-political theater.” If so, why at all does it matter?

Also, Sullivan “cannot see how it benefits Snowden.”

He will be easily portrayed by his enemies, in classic fashion, as a defector to Russia after exposing secret information from the US government.

And the alternatives for him? Come back to the U.S. and likely face a sentence nearing life in prison? All because of a little “geo-political theater?”

Naturally, his motivation couldn’t be anything other than “pure anti-American animus.” Sullivan is either Charles Xavier or of extremely limited imagination.

Just as bad, Snoweden is “allowing himself to be used as a means of further humiliating and taunting his own government.” The horror! For shame! By all means please do go blame the victim.

Continues Sullivan, “And whatever the US government’s failings, it’s not a reasonable moral or political position to prefer Russia’s authoritarianism.” This is the most disingenuous part–that any of this has anything to do with a comparison between the U.S. and Russia. Russia is a side-show, a “geo-political” blackout sketch between the main acts. Snowden’s own concern for self-preservation is not a rhetorical hole in his protesting the U.S.’s spying regime. Though it heartens me to know that Sullivan is more concerned with what the Russians are doing than his adopted government.

Still, president Obama “should not signal that this kind of mischief is no big deal.” Because it’s not mischief, and it is a big deal, because this is “geo-political theater” folks! The stuff that matters! The stuff that counts!

Sullivan admits to having mixed feelings about the young leaker. “In his defense, he has clearly exposed something to wider public view that has resulted in a healthy and overdue debate in the public and Congress.”


he broke the law to do it; and Russia’s embrace of him is a provocation that requires a proportionate response. That’s the only language Putin understands anyway. Time to reverse the pressure.

He broke the law to do a good thing, but what’s more important than what he did is that he broke the law, mostly because Russia is now humiliating the U.S. government by pointing at our hypocrisy.

Which is why Sullivan ends his post by calling for all defectors to the U.S. to be returned to their countries of origin, because even though their actions might be beneficial and good and true, they still broke the law, and we must do everything we can not to humiliate other countries like Russia humiliated us.

Oh wait, he didn’t.

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14 thoughts on “Sullivan Goes off on Russia and Snowden

  1. Russia is using Snowden for their own PR. Our humiliation at Russia having him is weak sauce. Its embarrassing at most but not really significant. So Russia says bad stuff about us or uses Snowden to make us look bad. How is that different from a million other things we have done or were accused of doing during the Cold War. What Snowden does do is discredit democracy, a West that is quite a bit more free than Russia and the Russian opposition who want a less oppressive Russian gov. How is that good?

    While i’m glad S put most of this info out holding out in a far more repressive country does hurt his message. He has given ammo to the people who want to shut him up.

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  2. Is Excitable Andy getting excited again? Quelle surprise!. The Hausa have a proverb: that which is a perfect secret will become perfectly obvious in ten lunar months, or nine months by our calendar. They speak of human pregnancy but it’s applicable to any secret.

    Does anyone around here think our enemies are so naive as to have been shocked by the revelation that the NSA was monitoring the Internet and phone traffik pipes? Osama bin Laden used to have a satphone back in the day. It was widely reported that he had one and he used to do interviews with it.

    The Bush43 administration started in with a gigantic set of lies and exaggerations, squirting squid ink about this satphone, claiming some jamoke in the press had leaked that little titbit of information and OBL stopped using it. This squid ink was just a diversion. Bush43 had been listening to American phone traffik without warrants — he just wanted people to stop talking about that and Get All Excited about those Fifth Column nosy free press types (saboteurs and haters of our freedoms, all of ’em) revealing important secrets.

    Excitable Andy, if you’re reading this, I’m laffing at you.

    When we did raid OBL’s compound, we found a big pile of USB thumb drives. He adapted. All our enemies have adapted.

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  3. Considering Russia’s recent crack down on homosexuals, I find it kind of rich that they are offering Snowden asylum. This largely does seem to be aimed at jeering at the United States and scoring easy anti-American points.

    Though my ideal solution would be for the United States to offer asylum to Russian homosexuals and their allies. That would be a proper and appropriate response.

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    • Right. Russia isn’t the sideshow issue for Sullivan in that particular post (see the subsequent entries in the title sequence: “Cancel That Moscow Summit, Mr President, Ctd”); Snowden and the p.r. hit the U.S. takes vis-a-vis Russia is. The main issue is what ND points to: the persecution of gays, in the context of multiple upcoming prestigious international exhibitions in which Russia gets to revel, despite that behavior. Granting Snowden asylum just pushed Sullivan over the top on the issue (perhaps).

      Sullivan’s really wasn’t a treatment of the merits of Snowden’s case at all (though, to avoid the embarrassment of having Russia give him asylum, one thinks the U.S. would practically have to take pursuing any consequences for the disclosure at all off the table; is that reasonable?); it was a reaction to Russia’s multiple ongoing p.r. coups in the context of Russian behavior that has Sullivan up in arms. Think what you will of that, Russia isn’t a sideshow to that topic. It is the topic.

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    • ND:

      Make that offer and Putin will do to Obama what Castro did to that buffoon Carter, empty out the jails and asylums. We already got Cuba’s trash, why do we need Russia’s? Does Obama need to look anymore foolish in this episode than he already does?

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