Once upon a time, there was no doubt about the answer to that question. Of course, we (the US, and more generally the West) were the Good Guys. The US had twice – at great cost to ourselves – rescued idiot Europeans from their in-fighting, even to the extent of clasping the hand of Stalin in cooperation to end World War II.
So it is a surprise to find that, back in 2019, the US Army charged the RAND Corporation with analyzing how to best to arrange for “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia”.
Overextending and Unbalancing Russia: Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options | RAND
The report identifies Russia’s vulnerabilities, including “deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack.” The report then goes on to discuss how the US, with the cooperation of its allies, could turn those anxieties into realities.
Three years ago, 2019, RAND concluded “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability.” They were also enthusiastic about sanctions, and about reducing European purchases of Russian gas.
When RAND wrote that “Creating the perception that the regime is not pursuing the public interest could focus on widespread, large-scale corruption and further challenge the legitimacy of the state”, apparently they were discussing Russia – not a US where an incredible 81 Million citizens supposedly “voted” for an obviously corrupt senile placeholder.
The dispassionate Man from Mars looking at this 3-year old report and comparing it with what is happening today might conclude that the West has implemented a carefully prepared plan to deliberately provoke a war in the Ukraine, regardless of the consequences for Ukrainians today – and maybe all of us in the not too distant future. Would that neutral Man from Mars conclude that, yes, we are still the Good Guys?
One “simple rule” I’ve learned a long time ago is that whenever an article’s title ends with a question mark, odds are the answer is “No”. Or “Nyet”, irrespective of what other words precede the question mark.
Happy to see the rule applies outside of the mainstream publications as well
There have never been any “Good Guys” in the field of international politics (and probably not many intranationally either). Less bad, maybe, but the history of nations is a sordid tale filled with dishonorable deeds. The only real change in our circumstances is the greater access to information afforded by global telecommunications. Sadly, that increased access has also provided the opportunity for greater narrative control and centralization of authority than in the slow analog world of the past.
There are a handful of historical personages who seem to have been “Good Guys”. George Washington and the late Sheik Zayed of Abu Dhabi come to mind. And there are a lot of Good Guys in normal life – for which we all have to be very thankful! Maybe the kind of person who seeks political power is not likely to be one of those Good Guys we meet almost every day. And democracy as practiced today seems to be incapable of weeding out the “Not So Good Guys”.
This creates a dissonance. We all want Our Team to be the Good Guys. It is disheartening when we are forced to accept that the individuals who control Our Team have feet of clay.
This is called “Betteridge’s law of headlines” and it works almost all the time. As one who writes a lot of headlines for posts on this site, I am acutely aware of how it can be used (and misused for amusement).
To my mind the only “good guys” in international politics are those who realise that the only way to win is not to play the game. In other words, as much as you may approve or disapprove of stuff going on outside your borders, leave it to the furriners to sort it out and don’t get involved, as that almost always ends up badly and may cast a shadow that can last for generations. This doesn’t mean you can’t be armed to the teeth and say, “One step over the border and you’re toast”, but otherwise it’s treating everybody else as a potential trading partner, not a friend or enemy.
Henry Kissinger, that great non-interventionist, once, in a lucid moment, said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”. This was cribbing from British prime minister Lord Palmerston who said in the House of Commons in 1848, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”