February 19, 2014

"It is called the tactic of scorched earth," said a protester in Kiev, Ukraine.

Quoted in the NYT report that begins:
With hundreds of riot police officers advancing from all sides after a day of deadly mayhem here in the Ukrainian capital, antigovernment protesters mounted a final desperate and seemingly doomed act of defiance late on Tuesday evening, establishing a protective ring of fire around what remained of their all-but-conquered encampment on Independence Square.

Feeding the blazing defenses with blankets, tires, wood, sheets of plastic foam and anything else that might burn, the protesters hoped to prolong, for a while longer at least, a tumultuous protest movement against President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a leader who was democratically elected in 2010 but is widely reviled here as corrupt and authoritarian.
Democratically elected in 2010...

Another quote from a protester:
"We have no other way,” said Lena Melniko, a 33-year-old accountant who joined a team of protesters digging up paving stones and passing them on to fighters to throw at the police, “We have been protesting for three months but are stuck in dead end."
I can't speak to the details in Ukraine, but in a democracy, the results of an election are not overturned by protests, no matter how long and fervent, and your "other way" is the next election (and whatever other mechanisms, such as impeachment, that you have within the system). If you think you don't have enough of a real democracy, because the elected leader is vile, corrupt, and authoritarian, why would you imagine that violence would get you closer to leadership that is not vile, corrupt, and authoritarian?

56 comments:

Humperdink said...

The citizens are protesting President Viktor Yanukovych desire to strengthen ties to Russia and Putin. The citizens apparently have long memories (Ukrainian famine, orchestrated by the Soviets in 1932/33).

http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/ukraine_famine.htm

Mark said...

The Orange Revolution was peaceful, yet the prior leaders have used corruption to regain power.

Expecting another peaceful revolution is overly optimistic. Ukrainian leaders made their bed, now it is time to lay down.

surfed said...

Speaking directly to the questions posed - It hasn't, it can't and it won't.

Ann Althouse said...

To answer my own question as a protester might answer it: We know the leaders will always be vile, corrupt, and authoritarian, but what we want is our vile, corrupt authoritarian.

Mark said...

Are all administrations vile and corrupt? Is that a guaranteed end game?

Is Ukraine doomed to forever repeat its past?

Your whole argument here supposes yes. As mentioned above, any Ukrainian with a sense of history isn't going to smile and accept going down that road again. It sure seems like they are trying to avoid a repeat, trying for a chance at something better.

CStanley said...

The opposition has been using all legal and constitutional means possible to get rid of Yanukovich for over a decade. I don't see that they have much choice but to resort to violence. That's not to say it will be effective, but I don't see an alternate path for them.

Rick Caird said...

What Ann has said is not particularly true. I can think of multiple reasons for why a violent revolution would be necessary to remove a democratically elected government.

Egypt is a prime example with the election of the Muslim Brotherhood. Once elected, they changed from democratic to autocratic and moved to destroy any vestiges of democracy in order to increase their own power and control.

A second reason is a government that gets elected by promising once thing, but then dramatically changes it direction and promises. While reality may change some of what is promised prior to the election, a complete 180 degree change is simply symbolic of a dishonest, untrustworthy, lying government. Venezuela is an example of that.

In essence, Ann is making the assumption that a democratically elected government will remain democratic. But, when it does not, a violent over throw may become necessary.

Go back to the Declaration of Independence, which gives us exactly an example of political conditions which support a violent revolution.

Ann Althouse said...

"In essence, Ann is making the assumption that a democratically elected government will remain democratic. But, when it does not, a violent over throw may become necessary."

Actually, I am not making that assumption. Don't lay that on me.

surfed said...

The most apt comment was by Lena when she said they were "stuck in a dead end".

Ann Althouse said...

Obviously, I understand the concept of a democratically elected leader ending democracy once he gets in.

In fact, Meade and I were just talking about that subject yesterday, in connection with a quote I have presented on this blog many times: "It's not over until we win."

Ann Althouse said...

Let me get the quote exactly right: "This game's not over until we win."

CStanley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rusty said...

Does the Ukrainian constitution ensure a citizens right to bear arms?
I know in this country it is a subtle moderating influence on the body politic.
It must be. Otherwise democrats wouldn't be working so hard to find a way around it.

cokaygne said...

There are situations where violent overthrow of a democratically elected government might be warranted. For example, what if an election is decided on demographic grounds such as when the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland, an entity that did not exist until the British carved it out to ensure a Unionist majority, denied rights to the Nationalist majority? What if the disenfranchised minority tries peaceful protest, as did the civil rights movement in this country, and nothing changes? Do we know enough about Ukraine to have an opinion on this?

On the other hand, the professor's point is well taken. Few are the governments that come to power through violence that turn out to be democratic. Does the Ukrainian opposition have a leader like George Washington or Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King? If Ukraine had such a leader, would the opposition follow that person, or would they turn to a demogogue?

CStanley said...

Obviously, I understand the concept of a democratically elected leader ending democracy once he gets in.

How is this not a situation where that has happened?

Since he regained power after the reform government faltered, Yanukovich has jailed at least four former ministers for political "crimes", has reversed his position on the question most central to Ukraine's future (turning back to Russia rather than continuing pro-western alliance with EU) and has changed the constitution to consolidate his power.

What further evidence would you need?

SGT Ted said...

Democratic elections don't guarantee democratic governance. One man, One vote, One time is how the oligarchs think things should go in a "democracy".

The Egyptians and their Army understood that and tossed Morsi because of it.

Millions of Ukrainee despise Russia and Russians, seeing it as an occupying power. Imagine a group of Nazis in Poland desiring closer ties to Hitler. That's how a lot of Ukrainee they feel about Russia.

CStanley said...

On the other hand, the professor's point is well taken. Few are the governments that come to power through violence that turn out to be democratic. Does the Ukrainian opposition have a leader like George Washington or Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King? If Ukraine had such a leader, would the opposition follow that person, or would they turn to a demogogue?

A valid point but probably not the relevant one here. It doesn't seem that demagoguery is the problem with the opposition. Rather, the problem is that Russia can and will crush them by turning off the energy tap if they ever get in power again, just as they did in the mid 2000's.

SGT Ted said...

Violent revolution is a valid and necessary solution to true tyranny.

That's why it is in our Constitution.

Basil said...

The Professor is advocating the one person, one vote, one time scenario. The preferred way to dictatorship in all of the progressive and religious tyrannies of the world. Worked in Iran, worked in the USSR, working now in Venezuela. Heck, even the N. Korea nut has elections. Tyranny can come from a vote. It is still tyranny.

RecChief said...

so, by your analysis, America would still be a colony.

Ann Althouse said...

"so, by your analysis, America would still be a colony."

How do you figure that?

We were ruled by a monarch at the time of the revolution.

Ann Althouse said...

"That's why it is in our Constitution."

Care to cite the clause?

You are mistaken.

SGT Ted said...

Althouse,

When discussing legitimate revolution to regain or secure individual rights, you seem to have an adherence to the primacy of what are sham democratic processes, over having a Government that is actually protecting and securing those rights.

stlcdr said...

This is the failing of democracy, when it is backed by
, essentially, another form of authoritarian ruling body. A democratic ruling body that gets to decide when and where elections are held can still be legally democratic in process, but is no less authoritarian.

If the government states that they have been democratically elected, do you believe this to be true?

There is a certain amount of fairness with a democracy, but ultimately democracy is used to fuel evil and vile actions.

Democracy only works in small enclaves, where those who have things go against them (the 49%) can freely and readily leave. Barring that, a democracy becomes an oppressive society.

In this case, unless we understand what democratic process they have, we cannot judge a democracy by our own beliefs on how democracy [should] work.

CStanley said...

The comparison to the American Revolution is inaccurate, as the professor has pointed out. But the comparison of the current regime in the Ukraine to a democratic republic like ours with vigorous protections against tyranny, is equally inaccurate.

Larry J said...

There is precedent for violent revolution when the existing government no longer represents the will of the people. This is something the people in DC should keep in mind.

The precedent begins:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

SGT Ted said...

Its in the Declaration of Independence.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...

The Military swears an oath to protect the Constitution above all, against enemies foreign and domestic.

That includes any politician or elected official that seeks to usurp the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Sure, the CINC is our boss, but if he gives an illegal order, we are duty bound to disobey it. We DON'T swear any oath to any one person.

SGT Ted said...

Progressives, like all authoritarian/totalitarian movements, rely on blind adherence to democratic processes to gain access to the power they need to then work to subvert the Constitution and the Will of the People.

That's how we get ObamaCare, when the vast majority of citizens didn't want it and had made their will known. That's how we get endless attempts to subvert the 1st, 2nd Amendment, 4th, 5th and 10th Amendments. That's how we get courts packed with unconstitutional ideologues that ignore the actual Constitution, while looking at Foreign law to make their judgments.

That's how we get Rule by Decree, suing Executive orders to bypass the Legislature.

And, if the peaceful means of guarding and securing our rights is subverted, we have the means to correct it, and the 2nd Amendment is that guarantee.

You asked Care to cite the clause?

You are mistaken.


You are the mistaken one, Althouse. Here it is:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And you, a law professor. You should be embarrassed.

SGT Ted said...

The reason Progressives have to deny the 2nd Amendment is because that is the Constitutional Right that allows us to remove them from office by force if need be.

Hagar said...

It is not just about "politics," but more about nationalism. The Soviets took a page from the Roman rule book and deliberately tried to move whole populations around in the empire to create a sort of artificial "melting pot." As became apparent when the USSR broke up, they were not all that successful. Nationalism is a powerful force around the world, which is not so well understood her in the USA, which is more of a real "melting pot."
In the Ukraine, what is left of the 19th century Ukrainians - or "Little Russians" - are also joined by a lot of the inmovers from other regions in the Soviet era, who quite agree that though they may not exactly be Ukrainians, "Great Russians" they definitely do not want to become.

Hagar said...

And none of these people are going to understand or have much patience with whatever the Americans are babbling about; The "American experience" is not their experience.

Bob Boyd said...

"why would you imagine that violence would get you closer to leadership that is not vile, corrupt, and authoritarian?"

Looking at Ukraine, Egypt, Venezuela, etc. I would ask supporters of our current leadership: 'why would you imagine that making our democracy more authoritarian would not lead to vile corruption and eventual violence?'

madAsHell said...

Paving stones?

This is the beauty of the 2nd Amendment.

William said...

A democratically elected government can put down dissent with such brutality that it loses legitimacy. Similarly a protest can be carried out with such indiscriminate violence as to also lose legitimacy......I think the Chechens have legitimate grievances, but holding those schoolchildren hostage was such a despicable act, that annilhate the brutes seems like a valid response......Right now my sympathies are more with the protestors than their opponents.......Can't the victims of Russian and Soviet imperialism have the same sense of historical grievance as, say, a Kenyan nationalist.

Oso Negro said...

Althouse said
"If you think you don't have enough of a real democracy, because the elected leader is vile, corrupt, and authoritarian, why would you imagine that violence would get you closer to leadership that is not vile, corrupt, and authoritarian?"

This is an interesting query. If you are jaded, you might conclude that there is no point in violence, because any leadership will tend towards vileness, corruption, and authoritarianism over time. If you are more optimistic, you might see a place for clarifying violence that slaughters the would-be authoritarians as a warning to others. I suspect we will never be done with authoritarians. I hope we will also never be done with people capable and willing to bring clarifying violence when it all gets to be too much.

Brennan said...

Yanukovich won. The opposition is fractured. The primary opposition party is declining. The rising opposition parties are split between Communist and "Freedom" parties. I suppose this is maybe like the Tea Party.

Street protest is the last resort. Yanukovich will crush this and support will fall in behind him.

The opposition should focus on long war and ditch this short one.

Hagar said...

"We were ruled by a monarch at the time of the revolution."

Not.
Farmer George (the British one, not ours) had more direct powers than Elizabeth II, but not that much.
Parliament ruled.

gerry said...

If you think you don't have enough of a real democracy, because the elected leader is vile, corrupt, and authoritarian, why would you imagine that violence would get you closer to leadership that is not vile, corrupt, and authoritarian?

See Karl Marx, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, Che Guevera, Angela Davis, Bill Ayers, etc., etc.

John Lynch said...

There won't be another election. That's what they're protesting.

What else can they do?

oleh said...

Ann hit it on the nose. The protesters, at the basic most, prefer that if there must be vile bastards in power, that they be their vile bastards, not, for instance, the Russian Eagle's claws.

That's a reasonable view.

Thus the fructured oppsition, composed of pro-European Western Ukrainians, Uniate-Catholics and some nationalist Orthodox Ukrainians, "Right-wing" nationalist groups including footbal Ultras, has managed to unify around one key point:

"Enough Russification. Enough of the 100s of years of attempts to crush Ukrainian identity."

I am watching the live feed from the square, listening to protester propaganda. Fundamentally, it concerns patriotism and nationalism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_LFrMcoEm4&feature=share

(Also no "Tea-Party" movement. I am not sure that ideologuy tansfers in any way that far east.)

Clyde said...

There is not really one Ukraine, but two. The western part primarily speaks Ukrainian, the eastern part primarily speaks Russian. Ukraine has a long history of being dominated by Russia, going back hundreds of years, long before the Soviet Union came along. You'd find that the election results fell squarely along ethnic lines. The clashes that are occurring now are between a Russian-dominated government and a Ukrainian resistance. Who is right and who is wrong probably could only be determined by which ethnic group one belongs to -- it's an "us vs. them" thing, one where there really isn't much room for compromise. Not the sort of thing we see here in the U.S., because our arguments are based more on ideology ("big government" vs "small government," or more accurately "big government" vs. "bigger government") rather than ethnic identity.

Revenant said...

n a democracy, the results of an election are not overturned by protests, no matter how long and fervent

Actually, in a pure democracy the demos can abolish and replace the government whenever it wishes.

Scheduled elections are just a practical measure. They make government less democratic but, in theory, more stable and productive.

viator said...

A contrary viewpoint:

"The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Sure Ann, just like in Venezuela now.

"Don't lay that on me."

Bullshit.

Crimso said...

"I can't speak to the details in Ukraine, but in a democracy, the results of an election are not overturned by protests, no matter how long and fervent, and your "other way" is the next election (and whatever other mechanisms, such as impeachment, that you have within the system)."

I'm rather surprised that to this point no one has pointed out the obvious counter: while not elected per se, Hitler became head of state through entirely legal and proper mechanisms. I wonder how many people who voted for the Nazis expected that if it didn't work out, they would always be able to vote them out. And I can't speak to the details in Ukraine, either. But it is a fact that "democracies" aren't necessarily always self-correcting.

buwaya said...

We in the Philippines had a similar case, so they have sympathy from me. Our president was elected democratically in 1965, overthrew his own government in an arguably legal coup in 1972, ruled autocratically for some years, reset the consitution to suit himself, and then offered an election which he blatantly stole anyway. Hence our revolution in 1986.
I think the Ukrainians expect that any election held by their present government will be dishonest.

Charles Austin said...

Ok, and if you suddenly find yourself in a "one man, one vote, one time" scenario, what do you do?

Charles Austin said...

Ok, and if you suddenly find yourself in a "one man, one vote, one time" scenario, what do you do?

Birkel said...

I believe Revenant hits the mark.

In a true democracy a new government could be formed at any moment based on majority rules. Of course, that could be particularly unstable and likely oppressive to minorities. The idea that what people want or need is democracy seems misplaced.

What people need is institutional separation between those with power and absolute power. A government in which various parties are constantly competing for control without ever achieving it seems ideal by my lights.

But when one party -- no matter which it is -- achieves total power a democracy is impossible. So why should these protesters pretend at democracy when it doesn't exist for them?

Democracy is a long wait for a train won't come. It must be earned.

William said...

Can Ukranian nationalists protest with the same militancy as Algerians, Kenyans, and Vietnamese did in their struggle for independence and still retain the support of western intellectuals. The guess here is no.

Browndog said...

Can't cite Supreme Court case law/precedent?

No revolution for you!...and I'll take that soup, too--get out!

Zach said...

I don't follow your point. There is a long, long history of authoritarian regimes which are first elected, then proceed to consolidate power in an antidemocratic way. Look at Morsi. Look at Allende. Heck, look at Hitler and the Bolsheviks.

Launching a coup from a position of power is the standard power play in an immature democracy.

sdharms said...

yeah, and the guys at Concord when the first shot was fired were fighting oppression and violence with violence and something good came out of it.

sdharms said...

democracy does not necessarily
produce a good outcome. Democracy is two wolves and sheep deciding what to have for lunch. A republic is when the sheep has a gun.

gregq said...

No, Ann, how about: we don't want "one man, one vote, once."

A corrupt government that works to destroy the ability of the electorate to throw them out in the future forfeits any "democratic legitimacy" it obtained by winning in the past.

And that's what Yanukovych is doing.

John Lynch said...

It's not the Madison Capitol protests. This is real, bloody, revolution with independence and personal freedom as the stakes. If the government wins there will be no more elections and Ukraine will be a Russian satellite. It's not like the EU or NATO or the USA will save them.

It's not aging hippies crying about their pensions.

Sometimes street protest isn't stupid political theater. It's life or death.