Savages can only be beaten by throwing away the rules.
What both men have in common is a hard left background which has taught them that the only defining principle in politics is Lenin’s “Kto-Kovo”. Kto-Kovo or Who-Whom reduced all interactions to warfare. The Bolsheviks ushered in the end of rules, decency or honor. All that mattered was who would be able to destroy whom. It didn’t matter whether you had justice on your side, but what you would do about it.
Obama and Putin have the same message for America. “Kto-Kovo.” “Sue me.” “So what?” “I won.”
Both men are mocking the impotence of their opponents who by failing to stop them have shown that they are weak and worthless. Instead they use them to divert attention from their own crimes.
In a Kto-Kovo world, there are no compromises and no morals. There are no laws and no limits.
If you can do something, you do it. If your opponents can’t stop you, then you have the right to do it. The true radical, the man of destiny, will do anything he wants because that is what makes him great. Lies are constant and utterly shameless. No lie can ever be exposed because the liar moves on to the next lie and then the one after that. Truth is as meaningless in a Kto-Kovo world as law.
Words and laws are just means to power. And in a Kto-Kovo world, power is all that matters.
A Kto-Kovo leader, whether in the 7th century or the 21st century, operates by rallying his followers through bold acts that expand their power and humiliate and destroy the morale of their enemies.
Whether it’s Putin invading Ukraine or Obama unilaterally running his amnesty, a Kto-Kovo leader attacks and challenges his enemies to stop him. He ignores any authority not under his control and does what he wants and by doing so he demonstrates that his power is the only authority that counts.
Kto-Kovo leaders are barbarians. Their actions challenge the framework of civilization. Their coming is a warning that civilization is on its last legs.
Civilization limits power by creating rules, whether in the realm of political power or the realm of ideas. There are means of limiting individual power and collective power and testing ideas and agendas. Kto-Kovo breaks all these limits. It says that if I want to punch you in the face, I will. If I want to force you to buy health insurance, I will. If I want to invade your country, I will. If I want to open your borders to invaders, I will. If I want to lie about everything, I will.
Don’t like it? So sue me.
In a Kto-Kovo world, the most lawless wins. Obama can beat up Republicans who still follow the rules. Putin however can smack around Obama because he follows even fewer rules.
Obama abuses executive power. Putin is executive power. When there are no laws, the dictator beats the abusive elected official.
Meanwhile in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is still winning the Kto-Kovo game because it follows no rules at all. There is nothing that its terrorists won’t do. And that puts them ahead of both Putin and Obama.
When Michelle Obama offered one of the hashtags that work so well against Republicans, Boko Haram laughed in her face. Social media bullying can take down the unarmed. It isn’t a threat to men who have no jobs, lots of guns and who aren’t part of your society’s extended cultural peer group.
Their Kto-Kovo comes down to naked force. Either you kill them or they kill you.
Kto-Kovo is a journey to the jungle floor of barbarism and there is always someone willing to be more of a barbarian. Obama daringly uses executive orders, starts wars and smuggles guns to terrorists. Putin skips right to shooting down planes. Boko Haram and ISIS cut to the suicide bombers and the genocide.
Don’t like it? So sue them.
Terrorism is the final Kto-Kovo. That is the bloody lesson that confronts Israel in Gaza. Fighting an opponent that will commit any crime and tell any lie is impossible except by Kto-Kovo rules. Terrorists use rules to immobilize their opponents while they themselves obey no rules.
Alinsky’s Rule Four, “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”, is also the credo of Hamas, Putin and Obama. Kto-Kovo attackers have the most contempt for those who follow rules that weaken them. Their favorite tactic is accusing you of something they know to be false, “You are just like Hitler”, “You are a racist”, “You don’t care about human rights”… and then forcing you to disprove their accusations which limits your mobility and makes you predictable, neurotic and vulnerable.
Eventually you begin to turn on your own people at the first sign that they might embarrass you by proving the enemy’s accusation right. Meanwhile the Kto-Kovo enemy is a racist, doesn’t care about human rights and thinks that being compared to Hitler is a compliment.
What the Kto-Kovo enemy fears most is that his opponents will stop playing by the rules. Rules are a consensus, but the habits of civilization teach us that they are inviolable laws. That is why we insist on treating terrorists like prisoners of war even though the codes for the treatment of prisoners were part of a mutual reciprocal arrangement. We bend over backward to protect enemy civilians even when those civilians openly support terrorists whose goal is to kill as many of our civilians as possible.
We act as if Russia is a legitimate state that can be reasoned with when there is extensive evidence that its current leaders, just like in Soviet times, operate only under Kto-Kovo rules and don’t respond to anything else. And we still like to think that Obama’s Kto-Kovo politics can be neutered by the right Supreme Court decision or lawsuit when the only thing he responds to are direct threats to his power.
Obama isn’t worried about being sued. He isn’t afraid of any court. He isn’t even all that worried about losing the Senate. What he fears is another populist wave, like the one that created the Tea Party, swamping his agenda with mass protests and government disruption that even his media can’t ignore.
Putin isn’t afraid of another international investigation or limited sanctions. He’s terrified of losing power in a domestic uprising or of being forced to back up his threats with a shaky military.
Kto-Kovo fights can’t be won by playing by the rules. They can only be won by directly challenging the enemy’s power base and by going outside the rules to create your own power base.
It’s a power struggle that has no rules except that the side that blinks first loses.
In the memory of every civilization is the knowledge that barbarians can only be beaten by being as willing to throw away the rules as they are. Otherwise you end up on the wrong side of Kto-Kovo.
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