For those of you new to SEO, you may be wondering what a backlink is, and why they are important. Backlinks have become so important to the scope of Search Engine Optimization, that they have become some of the main building blocks to good SEO.
What are “backlinks”? Backlinks are links that are directed towards your website. Also knows as Inbound links (IBL’s). The number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of that website. Backlinks are important for SEO because some search engines, especially Google, will give more credit to websites that have a good number of quality backlinks, and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query.When search engines calculate the relevance of a site to a keyword, they consider the number of QUALITY inbound links to that site.
For example, if a webmaster has a website about how to rescue orphaned kittens, and received a backlink from another website about kittens, then that would be more relevant in a search engine’s assessment than say a link from a site about car racing. The more relevant the site is that is linking back to your website, the better the quality of the backlink.
There are 2 methods for geting backlinks
For this method you are going to be building the backlinks yourself. There is basically one piece of software on the market right now that can effectively do this, and it is called Traffic Travis TM is a backlink building tool with a ton of features including:
Have a friend with a website? What about a friend with email contacts? Great! Buy them lunch in exchange for mentioning your website to their contacts (or linking from their website to yours). (Again, don’t spam, and don’t ask others to spam for you.)
Be A Good Guest
HitLeap is a traffic exchange service. It hooks up people who want to promote their sites with other people who also want to promote their sites. The idea is a mutual exchange of viewers; you show me yours I’ll show you mine, in a website sense.
As a HitLeap user, you can submit a URL into their network. Then nothing happens, because you don’t have any accrued minutes. In order to earn hits to your website, you need to acquire minutes. In order to acquire minutes, you need to browse through the HitLeap network and click on existing links to other sites. You have to do this through their browser, in order for the clicks to count.
Once you have earned minutes, you can spend them to put your link into the public awareness for a certain number of hits. Once you’ve gained that traffic, you’ve spent your minutes, and you must accrue more in order to earn more traffic.
At the outset, this sounds like a viable means of generating traffic. Indeed, a traffic exchange is a real and useful service, as long as it’s moderated and regulated properly. When it’s not, well, you end up with something like HitLeap.
The Problems with HitLeap
HitLeap has a few problems, and that’s the core of this review. There are problems on both sides of the service.
On the side of earning minutes, you have automated tools designed specifically to work with HitLeap’s browser, such as HitLeap Viewer. This automated tool runs on an idle computer and browses through links in the background, earning you minutes. As a client, this means you’re able to freely rack up minutes you can spend for traffic. A pretty good deal, right?
When you’re browsing, you’re going to find that a lot of the links you see are affiliate links, often run through a money-earning service like AdFly. This means the person posting the link earns when you click it, and earns again when the site loads through AdFly. You’re giving money to the people posting their links. Chances are good that the sites in question are going to be selling products or displaying ads you don’t care about, which is why you turn to the automatic viewer. It’s faster and you don’t have to waste your own time with it.
On the side of bringing in traffic, you have the problem of the exact person you became to earn minutes. The traffic heading to your site is coming from people who don’t care about your site or your products. In fact, chances are very high that they’re using something like HitLeap Viewer to begin with. Therefore, most of the traffic that ends up on your site is coming from bots.
Making Money with HitLeap
The lofty ideals of a traffic exchange are corrupted through HitLeap. They proudly display how 90+ billion links have been exchanged through their service, but they say nothing about the quality of their traffic. That’s because most everyone on the site is using this routine to make money.
- First they set up an account with a referral payment service, which earns them money when a user clicks to their page. Payment for display ads is the typical source of income here.
- Second, they run the link through AdFly to shorten it and earn them extra money whenever a user comes through.
- Third, they submit their affiliate AdFly link to HitLeap. Once the system approves it, their link is in the system.
- Fourth, they run HitLeap Viewer to automatically rack up minutes, typically overnight while their computers are otherwise idle. Some people will even run the viewer on a dedicated machine or in the background 24/7.
- Fifth, they spend their minutes on HitLeap, knowing full well the traffic coming in is from bots. They don’t care, because bot traffic hitting their AdFly link is making them money, and bots clicking through to their main display site is earning them money. Even if no one ever buys their affiliate products, they still earn cash, a penny at a time.
- Sixth, they start it all over again when HitLeap removes their link, AdFly blocks their account or their affiliate drops them for using bot traffic.
HitLeap claims to be AdSense safe, meaning you could potentially plug in your legitimate Google links into the system. They are able to cloak their traffic to appear as though it’s coming from legitimate sites. Is it actually, or is it cloaked? That’s a question only the insiders could answer.
Does it Work? Is it Valuable?
Well, HitLeap does work. You can certainly earn money, and traffic, through the site. Once again, however, it all comes down to traffic quality. By itself, the traffic you’re getting from HitLeap is largely in the form of bots. Therefore, you’re only earning what your affiliates pay per view, which is typically pennies per thousand views. If you have a bank of computers set up running this system full time, you could make a reasonable amount of money, but chances are you’re not going to be pulling in real commissions or real sales from HitLeap traffic.
In general, you’re much better off buying traffic from a more reputable source, one that isn’t riddled with bots with no actual human interaction.
What could be more dangerous than a man who confesses his assassinations! A 78-year-old retired officer of the CIA, Normand Hodges, has made surprising confessions while he was admitted to Sentara General Hospital on Monday. He declares he committed 37 assassinations for the American Government between 1959 and 1972, including the actress and model, Marilyn Monroe.
He claims that he was often employed as a hitman by the organization, to assassinate individuals. Source He claims that he killed scientists and artists whose ideas represented a threat to the interests of United States.
“We had evidence that Marilyn Monroe had not only slept with Kennedy, but also with Fidel Castro” claims M. Hodges. My commanding officer, Jimmy Hayworth, told me that she had to die, and that it had to look like a suicide or an overdose. I had never killed a woman before, but I obeyed orders… I did it for America! She could have transmitted strategic information to the communists, and we couldn’t allow that! She had to die! I just did what I had to do!”
He also has significant experience with more unconventional methods of inflicting harm upon others, like poisons and explosives. Mr. Hodges said Monroe was the only female he ever assassinated and has no regrets.
She died between midnight and 1 AM, on August 5, 1962. He claims that he entered his room while she was sleeping and injected her with a dose of chloral hydrate resulting her death. Later he was placed under custody by the FBI. Read more at:
At this point, we should all really be aware of the damage that smoking can do to our bodies. There’s health warnings slapped on the front of cigarette packets, frequent TV adverts, and NHS campaigns popping up here, there and everywhere. And while we’re probably all guilty of a cheeky cigarette after a few too many beers, it’s the regular smokers who really need to worry about what they might be doing to their health. Even so, although there’s plenty of information out there about how smoking hurts you, it’s probably more effective to instead consider the benefits that quitting can have on your body. Now, this handy infographic tells you exactly what happens to your body in the minutes, hours and days after you stub out that last cigarette. And you might be quite shocked at how quickly your life can change after giving up. Remarkably, within less than half a day after quitting, you’ll already sleep better and be generally healthier than before. After just several months, your breathing will have dramatically improved and, a year on, your risk of developing heart disease will have been cut in half! Click here for a larger version of the image. In full, the timeline after quitting plays out like this: 20 Minutes Blood pressure and pulse will return to normal and the temperature in your hands and feet will increase. 8 Hours In the blood, Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels will reduce by half. Oxygen levels increase and return to normal, making you feel more alert, sleep better and be stronger. 48 Hours Carbon monoxide and Nicotine is eliminated from the body. The lungs begin to clear out mucus and other smoking debris. The nerve endings being to regrow and your sense of smell and taste will return. 3 Months Lung function and circulation will have significantly improved. Walking and exercise will be easier, and you will cough less.
We’ve all heard the story of Sampson and Delilah. In it, one of God’s great servants, Sampson was a man possessed of superhuman strength. He was eventually betrayed by the love of his life, Delilah, who figured out that he could be defeated by cutting off all of his hair.
In relation, the Native American tradition has long held that hair is an outward projection of the nervous system, acting much in the way of ‘human antennae.’
Our hair is responsible for transmitting pertinent information to the rest of the nervous system. According to this line of thinking, our hair also transmits an energy from the brain to the our environment.
Kirlian photography has shown the difference in energy fields between those with long and short hair.
A Study From Native Code Talkers in Vietnam
There is actually a declassified bit of information from the Vietnam War that related to this phenomenon regarding Native American code talkers.
It would appear that during this conflict, special envoys of the war department were sent to Native American reservations in search of tough, young, talented scouts who were adept at moving through and sniffing out especially rough terrain.
Men with a reputation of having seemingly supernatural tracking abilities were held at a premium for recruitment.
Once the men were convinced to enlist, however, all prior evidence of scouting and tracking skill seemed to disappear completely.
New recruit after new recruit consistently failed to perform as anticipated, and mass failures and casualties caused the U.S. armed forces to conduct a study to get to the bottom of the issue.
The tests on the Native men would go something like this:
The new recruit would be instructed to commence an overnight training operation. When they fell asleep, an armed ‘enemy’ would attempt to sneak up on him.
The man would be awakened by a strong ‘fight or flight’ response long before the supposed attacker was even close, even before the ‘enemy’ was close enough that his movements could be heard.
The new recruit would often follow some sort of sixth sense and pretend to sleep rather than flee. When the ‘attacker’ was close enough, the recruit would grab and overcome him.
However, after basic training, the same man would consistently fail the tests he passed before with flying colors.
When the privates were asked about why they would fail to perform as before, they would consistently answer that their required military haircuts left them unable to harness the sixth sense that was previously very natural to harness. They could no longer sense an enemy approach, and felt as if their natural intuition was no longer reliable.
After this was uncovered, further tests involving privates who were allowed to keep their hair against those who had received the required military haircut commenced.
As you might guess, those Native privates who were allowed to keep their hair performed exactly up to the standards that they had performed prior to recruitment. As a result, this leaked document recommended that Native American recruits be allowed to keep their long hair.
Over millions of years of evolution, mammals have adapted to their surroundings. Survival under the harshest of circumstances can be viewed as somewhat supernatural in the right context.
What we know is that each body part is interlinked into a beautiful whole that works as a complete system. The modification of even a seemingly small aspect of this system can interrupt the entire process.
If the hair is cut, the emitting and receiving of energetic transmissions is dampened.
In Native thought, the cutting of the hair is a contributing factor in environmental degradation, problems in relationships and even sexual frustrations.
When we search for solutions to our problems in the world, we often look outwardly at what is being done to nature. But perhaps we should look into the mirror as well.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Pakistan on an official visit in April 2015, he brought with him a $46 billion gift that potentially could have very significant benefits for that country, as well as have a major impact on the region. And although there remain a number of unknowns on how this massive Chinese investment package will be implemented over the next 15 years or so, it is certain that it will pull Pakistan even deeper into Beijing’s geostrategic orbit. Even though China and Pakistan have had a long and fruitful relationship for well over 50 years, if all the projects associated with this deal are ultimately implemented, it will be a game-changer for the region—equal to all the foreign direct investment inflows into Pakistan since 1970 combined and dwarfing the $7.5 billion US aid package passed by Congress in 2009.
This $46 billion deal, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is essentially a package of major projects that fall into two domains: transportation and energy. On the transport side, there are about $12 billion in plans to build, among other things, a rail link connecting Gwadar, a Chinese-built deep-sea commercial port on Pakistan’s southern coast, to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, some 2,000 miles to the north. Other projects include widening the treacherous Karakoram highway, itself previously built with Chinese help; upgrading Gwadar airport; building a 125-mile tunnel linking the two countries; and upgrading a number of existing highways, including the critical Karachi-Lahore section.
A number of energy projects, about $34 billion in total, are also on the drawing board, including pipelines to transport oil and gas to Kashgar; the completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline; and a number of coal, wind, solar, and hydro energy plants that would add some 10,000 megawatts to energy-starved Pakistan by 2018.
Follow weekly commentary in Gordon G. Chang’s World Affairs blog.
But the jewel in the crown for China is the development of Gwadar, which would give Beijing a firm and reliable long-term beachhead in the Indian Ocean and close to the Persian Gulf, effectively making it a two-ocean power.
The CPEC deal grants the Chinese 40-year operation rights to the port. This is hugely significant for Beijing because it will allow China to ship some of its oil coming from the Persian Gulf to that port and pump it through the pipelines to western China. Accordingly, with a transport route some 6,000 miles shorter, China will be able to save billions in transport costs and saved time. Indeed, Pakistan in general and Gwadar in particular will be playing a critical role in China’s joint plans for a Silk Road Economic Belt and a Maritime Silk Road linking China to Europe and beyond.
At the moment, Gwadar is being developed as a commercial port and not as a facility for the Chinese Navy—yet it could potentially be made into one in the future. Such a development would without any doubt exponentially increase Sino-Indian maritime competition in the Indian Ocean, in keeping with China’s first official defense white paper, published in early 2015, which makes quite clear that the “traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests.”
In a move that will strengthen the defense of Gwadar, Pakistan is negotiating with China the purchase of eight diesel-powered, conventionally armed attack submarines. This acquisition, which is reportedly part of the CPEC package, would be one of Pakistan’s biggest weapons purchases ever, at about $6 billion. Pakistan’s possession of such submarines, which are very quiet and lethal, would seriously complicate any Indian attempt in blockading Karachi or Gwadar. This sale would also further entrench China as Pakistan’s principal arms provider. In 2010 alone, Pakistan was the destination for 60 percent of China’s total arms sales.
China’s economic and military involvement in Pakistan began in the wake of the short 1962 Sino-Indian war, when Pakistan felt that the US had been too quick to sell arms to India without getting any concessions from the Indians on the Kashmir issue. That is when Pakistan started to look elsewhere for international support, notably to China. But the bilateral Pakistan-China relationship really took off during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war when the US terminated all military aid to Pakistan (and India), while China openly sided with Pakistan and threatened military action against India. Although China’s support for Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war was lukewarm at best, the relationship nevertheless continued to grow in the 1970s, especially in the wake of India’s 1974 underground nuclear test. In the 1980s, China’s relationship with Pakistan deepened with its significant financial support for the Pakistan-based, anti-Soviet Afghan fighters, the mujahedin. In the 1990s, the bilateral military relationship significantly deepened, especially in the field of nuclear weapons and missiles. Today, among other things, China and Pakistan jointly manufacture the JF-17 fighter jet, which will eventually become the Pakistan Air Force’s main combat aircraft.
This steadily developing bilateral relationship has been intensified by the effective end of major Western, and in particular American, military presence in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Beijing has quickly seized this opportunity to bolster its long-term economic and strategic interests in Pakistan, making it more than ever the critical land bridge in the development of China’s Silk Road. Accordingly, Chinese leaders have been willing to invest substantially in the development of Pakistan’s decrepit infrastructure, particularly in its roads and energy sector.
Beijing knows that because of Pakistan’s domestic instability, the CPEC is a huge gamble. But if the project does not come to complete fruition—and there are a number of reasons why it may not—the bilateral relationship will nevertheless be more solid. And if the CPEC does meet all its targets, then China will have opened a cornucopia of advantages, including a link to its already very significant economic interests in neighboring Afghanistan, particularly in copper and oil.
The election of President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in September 2014 has also influenced the timing of the Pakistan proposal. Since the departure of President Hamid Karzai from the political scene, Afghanistan has turned away from India and has instead embraced China and Pakistan. Significantly, the first capital that the new president of Afghanistan visited was Beijing, not Washington, let alone New Delhi. Under Karzai, who had very poor relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan was drawn more and more into India’s orbit. By the time he left office, Afghanistan had signed the Bilateral Security Agreement with New Delhi, Afghan military cadets were being trained in India, and India was about to provide weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces. To Karzai’s deep chagrin, Ghani put a stop to all these India-friendly activities and instead turned to Islamabad and Beijing.
This was an intelligent and pragmatic move that made much more sense geostrategically than looking to India for protection. By snuggling up to Islamabad, Kabul is putting pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban and their allies, who are far from a spent force in Afghanistan. Put differently, Ghani is calling Islamabad’s bluff about its repeated declarations that the Pakistan military would pursue all terrorists without exception or compromise. Ghani knows that Beijing, too, will be putting pressure on Pakistani leaders to deliver on that promise because terrorism, a lot of it originating from Pakistan, is now an issue also affecting China.
While obviously not publicly stated, the third reason for the CPEC project is to counter the US-Indian rapprochement, which has accelerated since Narendra Modi was elected as prime minister of India last year. It was a process that had already begun under President Bush, who had stated back in 2005 that the US wanted to help India become a great power. But now it has become more insistent. During his visit to India in January 2015, President Obama finalized the July 2005 US-India nuclear deal and renewed the 10-year military cooperation agreement of 2005. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also signed a defense framework agreement during his visit to New Delhi in June 2015. Much of this rapprochement between the United States and India is driven by China’s aggressive behavior in the South and East China Seas. And this latest Chinese venture in Pakistan will no doubt fuel concerns about China’s military intentions in the Indian Ocean.
In addition to the enormous construction, logistical, bureaucratic, and manpower challenges, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will require the two countries to address two significant security challenges. One is the activity of insurgents in Baluchistan, the large southwestern province where Gwadar is located, and the other is the continued presence of the Taliban and their allies in the country’s northwest. China will demand forceful action on both fronts.
Baluchistan has been in the throes of a low-level insurgency since the early part of this century. Chinese workers and other non-Baluch have increasingly been the targets of Baluch insurgents opposed to large development projects. For example, three Chinese engineers were killed by a car bomb at Gwadar in May 2004. Also, the insurgents regularly sabotage oil and gas pipelines. In addition to the several Baluch insurgent groups that seek greater autonomy from Islamabad, there is also a very active terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which targets principally, but not solely, Pakistani Shiites, especially the Hazaras. The group sometimes works with ethnic Baluch groups in coordinating attacks.
China shelved several Gwadar-related projects a few years back because of security concerns. Presumably Beijing has decided to go ahead now because it believes the Pakistan security forces will be able to contain these insurgents. Confirming Islamabad’s determination to prevent future attacks, the Pakistani government has promised to provide 10,000 troops, including 5,000 trained specifically in counterterrorism, to protect Chinese workers. And although there will be a lot of pressure on Islamabad to ensure that new pipelines are safe from sabotage—now that they will be transporting oil and gas to China—this will not be an easy task.
The second security challenge, the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northwest along the border with Afghanistan, will be even more difficult to address because of the number of disparate actors present and their differing political agendas. There are three broad groups hiding in that frontier region: the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, and all the non-locals, which include the Muslim Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang Province. The Chinese leaders have been putting pressure on Pakistan to ruthlessly pursue all these groups, in particular the Uighurs of the al-Qaeda–linked separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Many of the ETIM fighters fled to Pakistan along with other al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters following the ouster of the Taliban from power in Kabul in 2001. While the actual number of Uighur operatives in the tribal areas is probably not very high, they have managed to launch raids into Xinjiang Province from those lawless areas. This has deeply upset the Chinese leaders, and they have indicated their displeasure very publicly, especially after the deadly attack in the western city of Kashgar (future destination of those new pipelines) in July 2011. In the wake of these attacks, Beijing is reportedly interested in establishing bases either in FATA, which border Afghanistan in the northwest, or in the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) to the east, which border Xinjiang Province. This straw in the wind has drawn the close attention of an already edgy India, which is uncomfortable with the alleged presence of 7,000–11,000 Chinese soldiers in FANA.
In the wake of a terrorist attack on Karachi’s international airport in June 2014, Islamabad ended its unsuccessful negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, and ordered its armed forces to launch a military operation in North Waziristan and later in the Khyber Agency in FATA. Reportedly, Beijing—like Washington—had been pushing for this course of action. While the Pakistani military has successfully hunted down many of the terrorists, including the members of the ETIM, many of them have found refuge across the border in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the year-long operation, which has brought the total number of Pakistani troops in FATA to some 200,000, has managed to degrade, disperse, and disrupt the terrorists’ capabilities and networks.
Importantly, following the horrendous terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 148 people, principally children, in December 2014, the military has repeatedly stated that it was targeting allterrorist groups. Presumably, this means that the military no longer differentiates between the “good” Taliban, who do not attack the Pakistani state and who could potentially be useful to have as a bargaining chip in Afghanistan, and the “bad” Taliban, who attack everyone, including Pakistani targets.
If the CPEC deal becomes a reality, it would be very good news for Pakistan. It would certainly help the country deal with some of its major developmental issues, including upgrading some of its decrepit infrastructure and correcting its significant energy shortage.
Reportedly, Pakistan’s economy loses up to 6 percent of GDP because of power and infrastructure bottlenecks. That well over 1,000 people died in Karachi alone in June because of the lack of electricity to power air conditioners is an indication of how dire the energy situation is in Pakistan.
Beijing is keenly aware that Pakistan’s domestic problems make it a problematic ally and partner. However, China also knows that, unless something is done to very significantly assist Pakistan, this nuclear-armed country of 200 million could collapse as a functioning state in the near future. Beijing knows it would not be spared if such a nightmare scenario ever became reality. So, in addition to its potential economic benefits, the CPEC represents China’s best hope against regional chaos.
For CPEC to move forward, China will undoubtedly require that the Pakistani military continue to relentlessly hunt down the Taliban and all its ideological fellow travelers, including in particular the ETIM, in the tribal areas. Pakistan should undoubtedly have its own reasons for wanting this as well, having suffered some 50,000 dead and billions in lost revenue as a result of terrorist activity. The degrading of the Taliban et al. in the tribal areas would also hurt the Afghan Taliban’s ability to wreak havoc in Afghanistan, allowing the government to get on with the job of reconstruction after 30 years of war. If such a process does not occur, the Taliban will dominate Kabul and the ETIM would have a friendly rear base from which to potentially launch attacks into Xinjiang Province. This is why China hosted exploratory peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government, with Pakistani army intelligence present, in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in May.
But if the new economic corridor succeeds there will be losers as well as winners. Although India is protesting about CPEC because some of the infrastructure traverses contested Pakistan-administered Kashmir, it’s not making too much of a fuss about Gwadar, not just yet. That could change quickly, however, if Gwadar becomes a full-fledged facility for the Chinese Navy.
Nor would the US see its national interests served by such an upgrade, which would effectively make Beijing a two-ocean power. The big question for Washington is how will this huge Chinese investment affect the Obama administration’s “rebalancing” of American assets to the Asia-Pacific. Initially, it will probably be minimal, given that Washington’s “pivot” is really focused on the western Pacific and the South China Sea rather than South Asia and the Indian Ocean. However, if Gwadar does develop into a Chinese naval facility in the future, Washington will need to recalibrate its response accordingly, as this would have a direct bearing on China’s ability to deploy naval assets in the Indian Ocean.
US relationswith Pakistan today are good, and it is important they remain so in the future. Although the US has for all intents and purposes been displaced by China as Pakistan’s major patron, it is critical that Washington remain profoundly engaged with Islamabad. Pakistan is simply too important and too vital strategically to be shoved to the back or even to the side. Accordingly, Washington will need to be supportive of Islamabad’s counterterrorism efforts while at the same time monitoring closely China’s growing military and economic presence in Pakistan. Not to do so could otherwise lead to nasty surprises down the road—a road that will increasingly be paved with Chinese power and money.
Claude Rakisits is a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a director at PoliTact, a Washington-based advisory firm. Follow him on Twitter: @ClaudeRakisits.
We’ve all gotten very familiar with Vladimir Putin’s Orwellian logic, according to which peace is war, intervention is non-intervention, democracy is fascism, and fascism is democracy. His latest comments at the Valdai discussion club just reinforced, if any reinforcing were still necessary, the point that the man is a master of mendacity.
We generally don’t expect equally bizarre ethical or logical standards from Western commentators. And yet they do occur, especially with regard to Putin, Russia, and their war in Ukraine.
On October 20th, Professor Mark Galeotti of New York University argued that the “West has lost the right to lecture Putin.” According to Galeotti:
This is not simple “whataboutism,” that classic trick of deflecting criticism through raising the other side’s real or alleged flaws. Rather it is to note that Washington is currently seeking to have its cake and eat it. It can choose to base its foreign policy on strict moral principles or geopolitical pragmatism.
At present, it seems happy to act pragmatically but think morally. Thus it genuinely considers Putin not simply an antagonist, but an immoral one.
This is dangerous and foolish…. Castigating [Putin’s Russia] on moral grounds, without behaving in an unimpeachably moral way, is simply going to alienate Moscow, undermine Western credibility, and create a wholly false series of assumptions on which to base policy.
The uncomfortable truth is that in Syria, as in so many other ways, Putin is simply ruthlessly exploiting and expanding precedents already set by the West.
Galeotti’s suggestion that the choice before policymakers is either “strict moral principles” or “geopolitical pragmatism” is absurd. The fact is that Western democracies do indeed attempt to combine both principles; they do not just “act pragmatically but think morally.” True, Western democracies as often fail to combine both principles as they succeed. But 100 percent success is not the point. Instead, the point is to try to be both pragmatic and moral—no easy task.
In this respect, Western democracies differ fundamentally from authoritarian dictatorships, fascist states, and autocracies such as Putin’s Russia. Putin makes no effort whatsoever to combine morality with pragmatism. Indeed, he twists morality as need be in order to pursue his ends. A guilty conscience is thus impossible in Putin’s warped moral universe, while guilty consciences are built into the very fabric of Western thought. When the West criticizes others for their misdeeds, it effectively criticizes itself. Although the West is frequently hypocritical, its hypocrisy is testimony to the fact that it does have ethical standards, even, or especially when, it violates them. As a result, the West doesn’t just have the right to criticize Putin: It has the obligation to do so.
Take Galeotti’s argument to its logical conclusion, and you’d have to claim that no one but a saint should dare to express ethical reservations about anything or anybody.
Even more bizarre standards are found in a commentary by Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky, who believes that the recently released “MH17 crash report shows no side was innocent.” According to Bershidsky, while it’s true that “the Buk missile that destroyed the plane must have been launched from rebel-held territory,” Ukraine “failed in its duty by allowing passenger jets to fly over the conflict area.” To be sure, says Bershidsky, “while there can be no moral equivalency between arming or protecting the perpetrators of that crime, and failing to close the skies, the uncomfortable truth laid bare by the report is that both sides in the conflict were glaringly incompetent.”
Come again? The rebels or the Russians commit a heinous crime by deliberately shooting down a plane, and that’s mere incompetence? Even if they believed it was a military plane—which may be unlikely, given the high altitude at which MH17 was flying—the fact is that they deliberately decided to shoot it down. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians fail to imagine that the rebels or Russians would actually shoot down passenger planes and they, too, are as incompetent as the rebels or Russians who actually commit the crime?
Competence or incompetence is not the issue here, just as it is not the issue in any crime. The only relevant questions are: Was a crime committed and who committed it? And the answers to both questions are: Yes, a crime was committed because a plane was deliberately shot down, and the Russians or their proxies fired the missile that destroyed the plane.
Bershidsky doesn’t take his argument far enough. Logically, he should also accuse the pilot of MH17 and its passengers of being equally incompetent and hence indirectly complicit. After all, who but an incompetent would decide to fly over a war zone? Who but an incompetent would fail to determine beforehand whether the plane would be flying over contested territory?
The questions are as obscene as the moral standards of Putin and his apologists.