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Vladimir Putin as Robert E. Lee
Paul Craig Roberts

As readers know, I often make reference to Putin’s forbearance, that is, to his tolerance, patience, and self-control. I admire Putin’s forbearance which persists despite Putin never receiving any recognition or credit for it.  My concern is that Putin’s forbearance does not serve him or Russia well.  The reason is that the Western world no longer recognizes or values the moral code that once defined Western civilization. Today in the Western world there are only two values–money and power.

It has been a long time since any American or European military leader said anything resembling what Robert E. Lee told the soldiers who comprised the Army of Northern Virginia:

“We make war only upon armed men, and we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all those whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against God to whom vengeance belongs.”

Many of the Union soldiers, especially those under command of the generals, Sherman and Sheridan, who hated Southerners, subjected civilian populations in the South to rape and looting.  They would burn down the homes and slaughter the livestock, leaving the women and children unprotected from winter and starvation.  The entire purpose of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was to create a slave rebellion in the Confederacy that would cause the Confederate troops to leave the war to return home to protect their women and children.  As Lincoln’s own Secretary of State said, the President has “freed” the slaves only in those areas where we have no presence and left them in slavery where we are in command.  As no slaves rebelled, Lincoln’s effort to inflict rape and murder on Southern women and children failed.

In those past years when the US still had historians, instead of today’s 1619 Project propagandists, Lee’s forbearance was the basis of his high reputation among US military officers. During Eisenhower’s presidency, Lee’s portrait hung on the walls of the Oval Office. The collapse of American morals has been so total that today Robert E. Lee’s statue has been removed from Richmond, Virginia, the city he protected from rapine and destruction.

World War II as conducted by Roosevelt and Churchill was a war against civilians. The British air force was constructed and used for bombing German residential areas.  Once Washington entered the war, the US air force followed the same practice.  The British/US bombing of Dresden is one of the worst war crimes in history, as were the atomic bombs dropped on the civilian populations of two Japanese cities while the Japanese were trying to surrender.  In the early months of WW II, Hitler prohibited the German air force from bombing civilian areas in Britain. It was the relentless bombing of German civilians that forced Hitler to reverse his policy.

When one considers the massive war crimes the US committed against German and Japanese civilians, it is amazing that these people are so firmly committed to Washington’s will.

Recall Vietnam, the napalm and Agent Orange dropped on villagers, the picture of the naked little girl fleeing the flames, the relentless bombing of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, weddings, funerals, children’s soccer games, the shelling by Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, with support from the American liberal press, of civilians in Donbass.  The West conducts war by terror.

Putin told the Russian soldiers before sending them into Donbass that Russia does not fight this way.  He prohibited them from using heavy weapons in civilian areas.  It was the cowardly Ukrainian military and the Neo-Nazi Azov thugs who took refuge among civilians where they could fire heavy weapons and not be targeted by Russian heavy weapons.

Like Lee, for Putin forbearance is a virtue, a moral principle that you don’t sacrifice for war. Like Lee, Putin told the troops that “we make war only upon armed men.”

Putin has stuck to this policy despite the narrative’s portrayal of him as a war criminal murdering women and children.  In other words, Putin is not restraining the use of violence against civilians  because he expects credit for his forbearance, but because it is a virtue to which he holds.

When one looks honestly, one sees clearly that the virtue the West claims does not exist.

My problem with Putin’s forbearance is that it is not only no longer an admired virtue in the West but also so foreign to the modern Western mind that it is interpreted as indecision and weakness.  Consequently, the provocations of Russia multiply and worsen.  In brief, Putin’s forbearance is resulting in red lines being crossed that will end in nuclear war.

Putin’s problem is unique in the modern world.  His virtue of forbearance is what is driving the world to nuclear war.  His virtue is seen as weakness against which more threatening pushes can be made. The question is real whether Putin’s forbearance will bring on Armageddon.

This is the reason, not bloody-mindedness, that I have said that the Kremlin’s use of military force in Ukraine needed to be awesome and quickly concluded in total success in order to establish in Washington and the capitals of Europe that the policy of poking the bear is a fools game that brings certain death and destruction.  

If Russia had delivered blitzkrieg to Ukraine, the governments of Europe would be disengaging from NATO, not trying to join it. Washington would gain recognition that the neoconservatives’ policy of American hegemony was extremely costly.  It would be possible for voices to speak in favor of a more restrained policy.  

Instead, what we have is a narrative of Russian loss and defeat, and not a single country the least bit scared of offending Russia.  Weapons, money, diplomatic support for the Ukrainian Nazis is flowing in from the Western World.  Yesterday the national newspaper in the capital of the Western World, the Washington Post, editorialized:  “The world must not forget Mariupol’s defenders.  They are heroes.”

The “heroes” are the Neo-Nazi Azov thugs, a collection of war criminals, many of whom are likely to be tried in Russian courts for war crimes.  This editorial should tell us all we should know about the depraved West.  Does it tell Putin anything?



Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles and a columnist for Investor's Business Daily. In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists.

He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department's Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy." From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.

In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor.

Dr. Roberts' latest books are The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with IPE Fellow Lawrence Stratton, and published by Prima Publishing in May 2000, and Chile: Two Visions - The Allende-Pinochet Era, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen Araujo, and published in Spanish by Universidad Nacional Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, in November 2000. The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen LaFollette Araujo, was published by Oxford University Press in 1997. A Spanish language edition was published by Oxford in 1999. The New Colorline: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, was published by Regnery in 1995. A paperback edition was published in 1997. Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, co-authored with Karen LaFollette, was published by the Cato Institute in 1990. Harvard University Press published his book, The Supply-Side Revolution, in 1984. Widely reviewed and favorably received, the book was praised by Forbes as "a timely masterpiece that will have real impact on economic thinking in the years ahead." Dr. Roberts is the author of Alienation and the Soviet Economy, published in 1971 and republished in 1990. He is the author of Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974.

Dr. Roberts has held numerous academic appointments. He has contributed chapters to numerous books and has published many articles in journals of scholarship, including the Journal of Political Economy, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law and Economics, Studies in Banking and Finance, Journal of Monetary Economics, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Choice, Classica et Mediaevalia, Ethics, Slavic Review, Soviet Studies, Rivista de Political Economica, and Zeitschrift fur Wirtschafspolitik. He has entries in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Economics and the New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. He has contributed to Commentary, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Harper's, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, London Times, The Financial Times, TLS, The Spectator, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Figaro, Liberation, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.

Dr. Roberts was educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S.), the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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