The Czar's Big Mistake

Tacitus has some sound advice for his Nader-sponsoring fellow-travelers on the right:

I don't think any of us on the GOP side actually want a thriving nutball movement led by the likes of Saint Ralph (to say nothing of the detestable Greens) and his assorted fringe fellow-travelers. We foster them on the assumption that they will remain forever on that fringe, or at least affect the policy debate so little as to not cause worry to those of us who like America more or less as it is. This is a dangerous and foolish assumption. History goes its own way, and it is replete with examples of manipulated forces that broke loose of the manipulators to the latter's eternal grief: perhaps it's a hyperbolic metaphor, but seeing the GOP sponsor Nader to beat the Dems calls to mind the Israelis sponsoring Hamas to beat the PLO. Sometimes you have to stop and think: Where is this going? What happens if my sponsorship, well, succeeds?

Indeed. The Czar in Russia, or at least his minions on the Okhrana, once got the bright idea that they really ought to give covert support to these nutty Bolsheviks. That gang of wreckers made more trouble for the other socialists (to say nothing of the constitutional liberals!) than they did for the regime itself. Besides which, their crazy antics would help convince the various aristocratic and business elites that the entire anti-regime movement was dangerous and insane. Last but by no means least, there was simply no way that gang of nutjobs was every going to take over the country. The real enemies, as everyone knew, were the Kadets and the Mensheviks, that was a threat to the regime. The Bolsheviks were just a threat to the other revolutionaries.

Needless to say, it didn't work out so well in the end, though in a sense the real blame lies with the Kaiser for whose (admittedly, rather clever) war strategy of shipping Lenin and a big box of gold from Switzerland into Russia hundreds of millions of people paid a heavy price over the years.

Now there's no moral equivalence between the Green Party and the Bolsheviks (or Hamas, for that matter) but the general point holds -- encouraging the extremists on the other side as a way of weakening your main enemy is a very shortsighted political strategy.