Posts Tagged ‘Albert Camus’

REPRISE: August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

From August 20, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The original article, from 2010, is reproduced below.

***

Alexander Dubcek

Personal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self-defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

Ukraine attacks Russian armored column which entered Donbass Thursday night; August 8 (2014) Security Council meeting on Ukraine — Trancript (U.N. Doc. S/PV.7239) and links to webcast

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Ukrainian military forces have engaged the Russian armored column which entered the Ukraine near Luhansk Thursday evening, and according to Kiev destroyed at least part of it.

See Michael Birnbaum, “Ukraine forces destroy most of a column of Russian military vehicles, president says, Wasington Post, August 15, 2014 (2:02 p.m.).

Overt Russian military intervention, as occurred Thursday night when a column of Armored Personnel Carriers and related equipment crossed over the border into the Ukraine near “separatist” controlled areas including Luhansk, represents an overt act of war.

The incursion constitutes a flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the U.N. Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Russian military intervention in the Ukraine was discussed at the U.N. Security Council meeting on August 8, 2014. The statements of the representatives (see links to Transcript and Webcast, below) are quite revealing in terms of what is going on in the Donbass, and the illegality of Russian military intervention under the U.N. Charter and international law.

See the minutes of the U.N. Security Council meeting on the Ukraine, August 8, 2014, here.

Links to the Webcast of the meeting, in both English and the original language of the speaker, as well as the Press Release on the meeting, are found here.

The Security Council should reconvene in emergency session immediately.

Delegates should set forth clear evidence regarding Russian military intervention in the eastern Ukraine, both by irregular and by regular forces, and table a resolution condemning the Russian invasion.

While Russia will surely veto the resolution, a vote on it will force other members to take a position. China should be lobbied very hard by EU, NATO and other civilized countries to at least abstain on the vote.

Defending Russian aggression in the Ukraine is not in the long-term interests of China, a rising global power with important responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Just because Russia has trashed its “brand” through its overt policies of aggression is no reason for China, which has an increasingly attractive “brand” throughout the world, to do likewise.

In the meantime, Western countries should actively press countries which abstained on the last General Assembly resolution on the Ukraine, including the other BRICS countries besides China, to vote in favor of a new General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s military intervention in the country.

Once this lobbying has lined up the votes in the General Assembly, the Security Council resolution can be put to a vote. Following the Russian veto of that resolution, a similar resolution should be taken up for consideration and put to a vote in the General Assembly.

In the meantime, the U.S. and the EU should adopt further “stage 3″ sanctions (including a ban on all existing defense contracts), and begin supplying serious military training, arms and equipment to the Ukraine.

The “containment” of Russia’s xenophobic nationalism and aggression must begin now, in earnest.

All declarations and promises from Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials should simply be ignored, unless promises can be specifically monitored and verified as they are implemented, in real time.

Russian war propaganda should likewise be ignored, except that investigations into whether such “propaganda for war” constitutes an international crime should be opened and vigorously pursued.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Russian military vehicles violate territorial integrity of Ukraine, crossing into Donbass near Luhansk; Whether invasion follows may depend on immediate response of the West

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Developing

A column of Russian miltary vehicles including Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) have crossed the border into the Donbass area of the Ukraine near Luhansk.

This action constitutes an open and flagrant violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter. Members of the U.N. Security Council should convoke an immediate emergency meeting of the Council to lay out evidence of the border violation, and table a resolution condemning this act of war.

In the past, Vladimir Putin has probed for weaknesses and pulled back when he encountered strong opposition. Whether a full invasion follows the current incursion may depend on the force with which the West reacts and the strength of the actions they immediately take.

See

(1) By Roland Oliphant, Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and Tom Parfitt (in Kharkiv), “Russian armoured vehicles and military trucks cross border into Ukraine
Exclusive: Telegraph witnesses Russian armoured vehicles and military trucks cross the border from Russia into Ukraine, ” The Telegraph, August 14, 2014 (8:15 PM BST).

“A column of armoured vehicles and military trucks crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine on Thursday night, in the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists.”

(2) Shaun Walker (on the Russia-Ukraine border), “Russian military vehicles enter Ukraine as aid convoy stops short of border; Column of 23 armoured personnel carriers and support vehicles approach the border, while 280 trucks come to halt separately,” The Guardian, August 14, 2014 (15.38 EDT).

The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.

After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border. Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine. Kiev has lost control of its side of the border in this area.

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

Could the Russian truck convoy be a feint? Watch carefully the rest of the border, and what is coming with the convoy. After Putin, when the Maidan comes to Red Square.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Developing

What will remain of Putin’s current glory, built on the invasion and “annexation” of part of a key European country and rejection of the bedrock principles of the U.N. Charter, when the Maidan comes to Red Square?

Social media report a New York Times reporter has been allowed to look inside trucks in the convoy of his own selection, and that he found only goods for humanitarian assistance.

What was striking about the pictures that have emerged is that the trucks are not fully loaded. Not more than 20-25% of the space within the truck was filled.

If this truck was representative, that means one of two things:

(1) either far fewer trucks were necessary to transport the “humanitarian assistance” in the convoy;

(2) or additional cargo may yet be added to the trucks before they reach the separatists.

Moreover, given Putin’s cunning tactical brilliance as a KGB man, the Ukraine and the West should be looking very closely at what is passing into the Ukraine at other points along the border.

Also, at least one photograph on social media shows a tank being transported by a military vehicle alongside the “humanitarian aid” truck convoy. So special care should be taken to monitor what else enters the Ukraine, alongside or behind the “humanitarian aid” convoy.

The West Should Act Now

The U.S., the EU, and NATO should not hesitate one minute longer to take very strong additional measures against Russia and Vladimir Putin, the Russian clown with nuclear missiles. These measures should include harsh sanctions with immediate effect, and significant military aid to the Ukraine beginning at once.

Trashing the Russian “Brand

Putin and the Russians who have given him their support have trashed the “Russian brand” in the short space of six months. As long as Russia occupies the Crimea, Russia will become increasingly isolated from the West and the other civilized nations of the world.

Only the departure of Putin will open the road toward a rapprochement with the West, and the development of arms control, confidence-building, military and economic ties with the Western democracies.

The latter, in the coming years, should and probably will work much more energetically and successfully to secure backing for sanctions against Russia, for its aggression against the Ukraine and continuing occupation of the Crimea, by the other nations of the world, including the BRICS countries.

This is the way they can safeguard their access to Russian markets once Putin is gone.

When the Maidan Comes to Red Square

Albert Camus wrote in his famous “Letter to a German Friend” the following:

“And you who were already conquered in your greatest victories, what will you be in the approaching defeat?” – Albert Camus, First Letter to a German Friend(1943)

What will remain of Putin’s current glory, built on the invasion and “annexation” of part of a key European country and rejection of the bedrock principles of the U.N. Charter, when the Maidan comes to Red Square?

The Trenchant Observer

Der Scharfsinniger Beobachter
L’Observateur Incisif
El Observador Incisivo

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The Trenchant Observer

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Alexander DubcekPersonal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

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