Saturday, September 04, 2004

The New Frontier

President Putin of Russia made an address to his bereaved countrymen in the wake of this week’s infanticidal attack in Beslan---Putin Says Russia Faces Full 'War' to Divide Nation:
In a rare address to his nation at a time of grave crisis, President Vladimir V. Putin said on Saturday that the school siege in the southern city of Beslan was an attack on all of Russia and called for the mobilization of society to resist what he called "a total and full-scale war" to splinter the country.

"This is challenge to all of Russia, to all our people," he said. "This is an attack against all of us."
All of us indeed. It is an attack against civilization---Russians, Europeans, Americans, Israelis, Australians---all of the secular world. Russia’s problems with Chechnya are our problem too; our problem with Iranians is Russia and Europe’s problem too. While each country responds to an attack under the code of sovereignty, the attackers launch strikes from the nether regions beyond borders and laws. Our world of carefully constructed rules within geographic borders is dueling with a world of no rules.

Frontiers usually are fraught with lawlessness and the rule of the sword. Beating back anarchy is not a new task---the old west has many examples of how the wild frontier days slowly gave way to the sheriff and the judge, the stockade and the noose.

Today’s frontier is not a place, but rather, it is a mindset. This New Frontier is simply a way of seeing the world from a fixed view, shared by likeminded people unified by global communication. It is as though the attackers in Ossetia came from another world, appearing from the sky. Their nationalities were irrelevant to their murderous cause. They need only share a common purpose, and a common enemy to strike.

Putin’s self-criticism of the Russian system is telling:
Calling the siege "a horrible tragedy," he sought to answer the seething anger that many here have expressed after a series of terrorist acts that in 10 wrenching days have killed more than 500 people.

Speaking of the sweep of Russia's post-Soviet history, he criticized corruption in the judiciary, the inefficiency of law enforcement and the difficult transition to capitalism that he acknowledged had left few resources to secure Russia's borders in a changing and dangerous epoch.

For Mr. Putin, who projects the image of unswerving leadership, it was a striking acknowledgement that not all was well under his watch.
Blow up a few hundred children, get a regime change in Russia. Blow up some trains in Spain, get a regime change there too. Threaten the lives of a few Filipino hostages, and The Philippines withdraw from Iraq. The civilized world will have no shortage of doubt and revisions to its laws in the face of unspeakable atrocity. Laws are the foundation of our civilization. Putin is on the defensive because killers from the New Frontier killed women and children and he couldn't stop them. Ironic, since the attackers' motives were to destroy Russia’s laws. Yes---we hear that the Chechens have a legitimate beef with Moscow over the sovereignty of Chechnya, and that they simply want to build their own Shari’a civilization in the Caucuses. To accomplish their political goal, they will pursue Armageddon if they don’t succeed.

How will the citizens of the New Frontier handle the proverbial Red Button when it is, at long last, at their disposal? Even diametrically opposed cultures like the Soviet Union, the United States and the People’s Republic of China apparently played by the rules of civilization when it came to nuclear weapons. Sovereign nations---even Communist empires---maintained a very high threshold for unleashing Armageddon. Bombs coming from the New Frontier will be smuggled under a low bar, not launched over a high one. Such a scenario should be avoided at all costs.