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Michael McFaul's memoir: Yesterday's man rages against the dying of the light

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SAINT PETERSBURG - As Theresa May might say, it’s “highly likely” that Michael McFaul, given he’s a professional scholar, is familiar with the work of George Berkeley. For the uninitiated, or those who couldn’t care less, he was a philosopher from Kilkenny, Ireland, famous for advancing a theory now known as “subjective idealism.”

Whether he knows it or not, McFaul has spent decades channeling Berkeley, except he’s substituted the Irishman’s mystic optimism for a messianic devotion to his own “higher calling:” that of “democracy promotion.” Yet, in reality, the former US ambassador to Russia has mostly indulged in pretty selective idealism.

McFaul isn’t interested in just any form of democracy: he only considers those which mimic the American ‘liberal’ system legitimate. Thus, just as the late bishop of Cloyne couldn’t imagine a world without the presence of God, our hero can’t envisage a planet where the United States is not calling the shots everywhere.

However, McFaul is offering readers a romanticized version of the American order, a system which often sees its custodians behave in the manner of a compromised preacher exulting his flock to do as he suggests rather than what his church does in practice. And that’s where Berkeley’s most famous observation, "esse est percipi (to be is to perceived)," comes into play.

Because, make no mistake, either the ex-ambassador genuinely lacks the self-awareness to understand why he is so poorly regarded in Moscow, or he’s playing what the English would call “silly buggers.” Meaning the question is which Peter Sellers character McFaul most resembles: Chauncey Gardner (Being There) or Inspector Clouseau (The Pink Panther). And it’s clearly the latter because this author is far more inept and incompetent than naive or stupid.

McFaul’s academic speciality encompasses transitions from authoritarianism to democracy. An early supporter of pro-Western post-Soviet Russia, he’s angry with Vladimir Putin for ending the country’s transformation towards an orientation subservient to Washington. One assumes........

© RT.com