Dec 14, 2022Liked by Robert Wright

Kudos for engaging respectfully with a critic of your work! It was illustrative to see how you tried to broaden the perspective and introduce some cognitive empathy into the analysis — and the resistance to it. But also how you were able to keep your equanimity despite the hyperbolic language Åslund used at times. It's almost like cognitive empathy is an applied metta meditation towards your interlocutor, as well as a tool to understand decisions of world leaders.

My favorite hyperbole? When Åslund says Putin is an “enemy of democracy and freedom in all its forms.” In all its forms?! It would almost be funny, if language like that didn’t lead to justifications for escalation.

Expand full comment

I know you don’t want to be labeled a “Putin apologist” but it truly is easy for the casual listener to be confused.

Almost every point you make defends Putin’s actions as somewhat rational and places as much blame as possible for this war at the feet of the West.

And what I assume to be your solution (surrender currently occupied land) is perfectly synonymous with Putin’s desires.

Without hearing the 5 second disclaimer that "what Russia is doing is wrong" - which is delivered with all the enthusiasm of Trump's aside that "some (Mexicans), I assume are good people" -- the mistake is easy to make.

Expand full comment

Bob, I was thinking about this given his resistance to your larger contextualizations. Is there a nonzero rubric for determining when a totalitarian leader is a "lost cause." If so, how does this play into the considerations about how our actions affect the people on the ground? That might be a thorn we need to figure out how to integrate into the larger theory.

Expand full comment