It cost some labor to put these musings of mine together because I am not a scholar on Russian history or the Cold War, but an obsessive reader who turns to books to try and figure out what is happening in certain areas of the world. And it seems to me that the suspicious superiority with which we greet Russian pretensions today is not new, unique or surprising.
John Dewey once said that “habits are conditions of intellectual efficiency,” but when reactions to something new is habitual, we are in a lot of trouble. There have been many warnings by distinguished historians who claim that failures in international diplomacy are chiefly due to a certain national willfulness in pushing ahead idealistic conceptions to save the universe, combined with an inability to see events from another’s point of view. We see this today in the Ukraine crisis. We Americans don’t see other countries for what they truly are, because when a conflict comes, we look for similarities where we should be looking for differences. When we don’t find similarities, we become bitter. We Americans believe that if other nations had made more strenuous efforts to adopt our priceless values, our structures, and worshipped our innovation and hard work, their countries would have turned out to be more like ours -- not good to be equal to us, but sufficient enough for history. There is only way to salvation in the world, we have taken it.
What lies at the base of many of our attitudes of judgment is national conceit. We don’t see others as being different from us. We don’t attempt to see events of another’s history objectively, but through the narrow lens that idolizes our national self image, an image that has never truly existed, but which never gets repudiated by U.S. public opinion because it is so flattering to us and to our pretensions of virtue. In our eyes, the events of our history seem just another testimony of our unique success in the world.