In a 1988 ebook, La connaissance inutile (Ineffective Data), the French thinker Jean-François Revel analyzed a basic paradox: by no means have we, the decision-makers specifically, had a lot data, however this data typically hardly fertilizes the general public resolution. All the things occurs as if it had been put apart and as if, on this place abandoned by information, disinformation within the strict sense had all of the leisure to prosper. Evidently this has been verified within the very tough apprehension of many governments of the Russian regime.
Listening to Vladimir Putin’s televised deal with on February 21, 2022 and his announcement of the popularity of the Donetsk and Luhansk puppet republics, my first response was chilly anger. This anger was definitely aimed on the common propagandists of the Kremlin, on the many bastards who whitewash its crimes and in any respect these, identified or much less identified, who profit from its generosity. But it surely additionally involved those that had refused to listen to, to know and to just accept to be contradicted of their certainties — in brief, all those that had made information a ineffective precept of their motion.
This marginalization of data in public decision-making is a topic in itself that goes far past the Russian case alone, but it surely finds right here a dramatic and, to say the least, very important dimension. Certainly, the analyses of Putin’s regime are a number of, definitely typically divergent and wealthy in nuances — a whole lot of books and 1000’s of articles attest to this. They offer, finally, a convergent picture on one level: the mafia-like, harmful, revisionist and “irregular” nature of this regime with regard to the requirements of freedom, rationality in worth and dignity in pressure within the “free world”. The very concept that one may set up a relationship with it primarily based on ideas of “stability” and “belief” has lengthy been disproved by the info. The actual fact that one can consider not solely the phrase, but additionally the perceptions claimed by this regime—particularly by way of safety—displays a radical misunderstanding. The duvet-up of its conflict crimes additionally solely strengthens the opposing propaganda, however it’s a part of the crushing of primary norms that’s the very substratum of the regime in Moscow.
The dramatic reinforcement of the aggression towards Ukraine by the Russian regime may due to this fact not be a shock. It was not solely foreseeable, but it surely was additionally foreseen, regardless that nobody may have anticipated the precise type and timing of it. In spite of everything, it is just the continuation of what Putin has all the time managed to do for the final 22 years with out encountering any critical and credible opposition from the Western world. I’ve written it 100 instances: Putin has, till now, gained all his wars and, regardless of the sanctions put in place and the safer unity of the Western world, it can’t be excluded that he can be allowed to win the following one.
It’s in all probability not acceptable responsible the newest diplomatic makes an attempt, notably by america and France, to keep away from a large-scale conflict. Maybe it was certainly acceptable to strive, even when these discussions with the top of the Kremlin had little likelihood of succeeding. It was essential to attempt to keep away from, as a lot as attainable, a large-scale assault which might once more trigger a massacre of which the Ukrainian inhabitants can be the primary sufferer. Furthermore, allow us to always remember that, behind the basic phrases of “geopolitics”, it’s kids, men and women who’re, in truth, being murdered. Warfare isn’t an abstraction. The acknowledged goals of “de-escalation” are by no means greater than instant goals, however they don’t clear up the underlying issues. In different phrases, allow us to not denigrate the efforts of the final three months to attempt to stop the worst, however allow us to additionally admire them over the long run.
“This time, no appeasement. Putin, palms off Ukraine!” : demonstration in Prague. // Jakub Janda’s Twitter account
However the worst that this huge conflict would signify, we will need to have the lucidity to acknowledge, is simply ever the consequence of our previous errors. If we had acted in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, and many others., we might not be on this state of affairs and Moscow wouldn’t have made the state of affairs much more intractable nor bolstered its military. Nor would it not have prolonged its maintain on many international locations to such an extent, nor would it not have had the leisure to develop its affect and corruption in Western Europe. There too, now we have allowed it to take action with impunity and haven’t had the need to develop counter-fires, together with authorized ones. Confronted with the actions of this regime, Westerners have typically regarded like chickens in entrance of a knife or novice troopers in entrance of a grenade with pins pulled. We’ve wasted valuable time imagining probably the most matted schemes or architectures which might be supposed to control our relationships with the Russian regime sooner or later, and now we have typically gotten drunk on phrases, with out understanding that, whereas we had been fiddling, Putin was fanning the flames. And to cite Leo Strauss’ well-known remark, we didn’t know that it was the lyre we had been taking part in or that Rome was in flames. However this will hardly be seen as an excuse.
I can’t return right here to the mental sources of our errors: confusion between the nation and the regime, concentrate on the notion of pursuits, presumption of rationality, lack of notion of the hyperlink between repression at residence and aggression overseas, lack of information of what the Kremlin’s historic revisionism meant because it culminated within the “liquidation” of Memorial, inattention to the scope of its repeated and big violations of worldwide regulation, and many others. Right here too, a minimal of studying would have made it attainable to know. The truth that the circles near the Western powers have locked themselves in a classical imaginative and prescient of “geopolitics” to take care of Russia has had a substantial affect within the underestimation of the leaders of the basic forces of the Russian regime. This has prevented them from understanding the correct weight of its ideology and has led them to be, for probably the most half, insensitive to its propaganda discourse, and even to unwittingly take up sure tales.
So now we have definitely sinned by lack of resolve and we’re not but absolutely cured of this fault—simply take a look at what number of international locations within the European Union, the UK much more so and america proceed to welcome Putin’s interior circle and their investments. The brand new sanctions determined by america, the UK and the European Union—though these are “framed” by extra authorized constraints than the others—may look like too timid, even when they represent simple progress. Lastly, there may be a lot uncertainty in regards to the operational army help, past the provision of deadly weapons to Ukraine, that america and the European Union will present within the occasion of a large-scale assault on Kyiv.
Nonetheless, we can not absolve ourselves too simply from this partly deliberate lack of intelligence. It’s mandatory for the leaders within the West to acknowledge this and to have the ability to consider it, each by way of substance and by way of the decision-making course of. This lack of intelligence might certainly be each a private downside and an institutional flaw that has to do with the best way during which political leaders are equipped with correct evaluation — and positively additionally with their willingness to be so. It’s possible that what has occurred over the previous few months has helped to open their eyes. However to know will not be solely to have a look at the conjunction of occasions that has introduced a scathing denial to their methods; it’s also to know by the causes. One can concern that they’re nonetheless solely in the midst of the highway and that the information they’ve accrued will nonetheless appear ineffective, bearing the promise of a renewal of their errors.