Big, Important Writers Embarrassing Themselves

Robert W. Merry is Political Editor at the ‘realist’ web site The National Interest. He has written an article, The Ghosts of World War I Circle over Ukraine, posted to the site today. Here is a screen grab of the first paragraph:

MerryScreenShot

Any introductory college geography course would have explained to Mr. Merry that “accretion” as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a gradual process in which layers of a material are formed as small amounts are added over time: something that has grown or accumulated slowly: a product or result of gradual growth.”

In the interest of using a big, fancy-sounding word, Mr. Merry has written exactly the opposite of what he meant. One good thing about the internet though, you can fix it before too many people notice. The pertinent line now reads “World outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin to such an extent that Putin has suffered a huge loss of moral authority.”

Pompous: “Accretion.” Better: “Loss.”

Then there’s Robert D. Kaplan.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History by Robert D Kaplan was essential reading during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s for Americans like me (and then-President Clinton) to whom the region was foreign, distant and exotic (It opened up a world of further great books, like Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Gray Falcon and The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, all of which would be timely and absorbing reads in this centennial summer of the outbreak of the Great War – in the Balkans).

Mr. Kaplan has his critics (1234 et al, but especially Tom Bissell), but he has been prolific and influential ever since Balkan Ghosts, traveling widely – and often to frightening places – and publishing more than a dozen books.

Too bad though, maybe that ‘The President Read My Book’ thing got too far into Mr. Kaplan’s head. Take a look at a column from July 10th by RDK headlined Why Moldova Urgently Matters. It begins this way “NATO’s Article 5 offers little protection against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Iulian Fota, Romania’s presidential national security adviser, told me on a recent visit to Bucharest.” Right. Got it. Nowadays RDK meets with the Romanian Foreign Minister.

Next RDK quotes the Foreign Minister and then tells us what the Foreign Minister meant. In case the Foreign Minister isn’t capable of making his meaning clear, RDK will: “‘Article 5 protects Romania and other Eastern European countries against a military invasion. But it does not protect them against subversion,’ that is, intelligence activities, the running of criminal networks, the buying-up of banks and other strategic assets, and indirect control of media organs to undermine public opinion.”

A couple sentences down the road he mentions, “As Romanian President Traian Basescu told me….” Got it. RDK met the President, too.

Shortly we learn that RDK met the county council president in Iasi, Moldova and that “Alone with me in the empty theater, Adomnitei (the council president) declared, “Here is Europe, here is its history and culture, its artistic values, and maybe soon its political values. Here is the borderland of the Habsburg Empire. We need your help to defend us.” These days, politicians plead with RDK for help.

It doesn’t take long for this: “Moldova’s very identity is still somewhat an issue, the prime minister, Iurie Leanca, admitted to me in a long interview.” Natch. The Moldovan PM confides in RDK too. He admits things. In long interviews.

“I cannot help but recall the dark political landscape in Yugoslavia while reporting there in the 1980s in advance of the violent break up of that country in the 1990s.” RDK reminds us of his war cred.

“My writing apparently helped influence a White House policy of inaction from 1993 to 1995.” RDK is good at reminding us about stuff.

We come to the end and good, thoughtful stuff: “For weeks I traveled around Moldova. Indeed, the common theme everywhere was that Russia is a reality while the West is only a geopolitical concept.” THIS is worth knowing.

Let us stipulate that you are a very important and wise man, RDK. Then you only need write the good stuff.

 

 

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