Thomas Ricks has spawned an interesting discussion about whether Edward Snowden should denounce Russia. (Full disclosure - while I usually avoid discussing the "Snowden: Hero or Traitor?" sideshow, I find this discussion more interesting and worthwhile because, in many ways, it applies to us all).
Representative of the general response to Ricks, is Joshua Blanchard's post:
In defense of the claim that he, Snowden and other Americans are not morally obligated to denounce Russia or any other non-U.S. policy, Greenwald often cites this statement by Noam Chomsky, which says,I think the principles are, in some degree, distinguishable from the present case. For example, I think a statement from Snowden condemning Russian behavior certainly would be newsworthy, though it is questionable that the Putin government would alter its behavior. Perhaps as importantly to Snowden, it could impact Russian behavior towards Snowden himself. I don't point this out to denigrate Snowden's choices -- he certainly has shown much more courage than I ever have or could. But it is a reality it seems to me.
My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.[...] these principles and arguments are so simple that it’s almost impossible to believe that an intelligent person doesn’t understand them. Now, perhaps there are ways to challenge these principles, and presumably Ricks would want to. Lucky for him: the principles are very easy to understand, so he should have no trouble addressing them clearly and directly.
But I do think that folks taking on Ricks (who hasn't done a particularly good job of articulating or defending his position here) should accept a point, one I make often: the United States, especially with regard to freedom of speech, is superior to almost every other country in the world and is no way comparable on this front to Russia. This, I submit, is a good thing and something to be proud of and to fight to maintain.
Unlike Chomsky, and perhaps Greenwald and Snowden, I think the United States has largely been superior to the rest of the world on freedom of speech and many other freedoms. Implicit in what Chomsky argues is that the United States can be shamed into behaving better at times. This is not true for many, if not most nations, and it seems especially not true for Russia.
I openly accept that, in many ways, I am an American Exceptionalist in that I expect better from the United States. As an American, I demand better from the United States. I think Snowden, Greenwald, Chomsky, et al, should demand more and better from the United States.
That said, the rest of us, Greenwald and Chomsky included, do not suffer under the restrictions Edward Snowden suffers from, and we all can condemn Russia (and any other foreign country) for whatever that's worth (imo not much. Russia does not care.) I personally would not ask it of Snowden, for the reasons stated. YMMV.
Post Script - I would note that denunciations of Russia by citizens of the world is not, per se, a foreign policy consideration. The reality of what the United States can do about Russian behavior in the Crimea, for example, is largely nil. I certainly would not demand US "action" on Crimea. Mostly because there is little the US can do. The EU can do much more. Whether they should is another matter.