When it comes to arguing in favor of a particular point of view, it is important to keep the would-be deployed line of argumentation free of logical fallacies. The reason for this is apparent – the fewer of these flaws can be found in the written/orally delivered rhetorical piece, the more likely will it be for the audience to recognize the author’s argumentative stance fully credible. Unfortunately, many authors appear incapable of adhering to the mentioned provision, especially when expounding on the politics-relates subjects.
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The 2014 article Tougher sanctions now: Putin’s delusional quest for empire (by Aurel Braun) can be seen as a perfect example that substantiates the validity of this suggestion. In it, the author aimed to convince readers that Vladimir Putin is obsessed with the thoughts of world domination and that the West should continue enacting the ever-tougher economic sanctions against Russia, which according to Braun will result in isolating this country from the ‘civilized world’ and bringing about the eventual fall of ‘Putin’s regime’. Nevertheless, the concerned article is filled with so many logical fallacies that one cannot help wondering as to how it was allowed for publishing in World Affairs (a well-established academic journal) in the first place. In this paper, I will outline three of the most notable of them.
Explanation of the Flaws
Even a glance at the article in question will reveal that Braun did strive to ensure that it would emanate a strong emotional appeal to readers – something that explains the abundance of the emotionally evocative terms and notions in it. However, it appears that while taking practical advantage of the appeal to pathos rhetorical principle, the author remained unaware of what accounts for the logical fallacy of ‘damning the source’. To illustrate the suggestion’s soundness, we can refer to the article’s second sentence, “As the leader of an economically weak and vulnerable country with a corrupt governing class, the Russian President acted with brazen disregard for international law and norms, while the democratic West played a totally reactive role” (Braun, 2014, p. 34).
Given the fact that Braun’s ‘damning’ reference to Russia/Putin takes place before the audience had a chance to be exposed to her rationale-based arguments, in support of the claim of Russia’s ‘vulnerability’, readers will be likely to regard it as the indication of the author’s ideologically driven biasness. In its turn, this will result in undermining the legitimacy of the article’s overall discursive premise in the audience’s eyes. After all, one’s tendency to condemn a whole country as ‘evil’ and ‘backward’ without backing the concerned claim with any supporting evidence, whatsoever, can be deemed as anything but the proof of his or her perceptional objectiveness.
As one proceeds reading through the article, there will emerge more and more indications that the line of the author’s argumentative reasoning is innately fallacious. Yet another proof that this is indeed the case can be deemed Braun’s predisposition to shift the argumentation’s actual focus on numerous occasions throughout the article’s entirety. For example, through the initial paragraphs, Braun continues to refer to the ongoing geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the US as having been triggered by the process of Vladimir Putin becoming increasingly inadequate, in the mental sense of this word. According to the author, this explains Putin’s presumed obsession with trying to conquer ‘democratic Ukraine’, “Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has characterized Putin’s current actions as delusionary” (Braun, 2014, p. 35).
However, on the very same page Braun comes up with the suggestion that refutes her earlier claim of ‘Putin’s insanity’, “Rather than carefully blueprinting a realistic Russian future, it seems that he (intents on)…restoring Russia’s great-power status” (2014, p. 35). Given the sentence’s context, the author’s reference to a ‘realistic Russian future’ appears strongly euphemistic. Braun has in mind Russia’s would-be willingness to remain America’s yet another ‘client-state’, just as it used to be the case during the nineties. Having grown powerful enough under Putin’s leadership, however, Russia naturally aspires to restore its greatness – especially given the fact that Russia has always been considered one of the world’s most powerful countries ever since the 17th century (Kanet, 2015, p. 507). What this implies is that Putin’s alleged ‘madness’ has very little to do with the West’s willingness to punish Russia – Braun unintentionally revealed this country’s ‘guilt’ originating from its refusal to take commands from the self-proclaimed ‘beacon of democracy’(the US). It is understood, of course, that this effectively shifts the article’s argumentative emphasis – something that accounts for the classical ‘fallacy of equivocation’, on the author’s part.
The credibility of the discussed article is also greatly undermined by the author’s inability to refrain from indulging in the so-called ‘fallacy of bifurcation’ – especially when she interprets the significance of Russia’s suggestions as to what should be done to put an end to the ongoing civil war in Ukraine. For example, according to Braun, “He (Putin) continues to insist on ‘federalism’ in Ukraine, which… is a prelude to annexation (of Ukraine by Russia) slice by slice” (2014, p. 40). What is particularly notable about this statement is that it denies the possibility that there may be any other effects to such a development (federalization of Ukraine) but the country’s eventual occupation by Russia. While coming up with this suggestion, the author tactfully avoided mentioning the fact that 80% of people in Ukraine consider Russian their native language and that they certainly do not enjoy having been turned into the second-class citizens in the aftermath of the US-endorsed seizure of power by the Ukrainian nationalists/neo-Nazis in February 2014 (Mearsheimer, 2014, p. 83).
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It is no wonder that many of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking citizens in the country’s eastern part have taken to arms as a way to address the prospect of being subjected to ethnic cleansing. For them, having to put up with the nationalists being in power is the same as it would be for the majority of Americans having been forced to live under the rule of the Ku-Klux-Klan. Therefore, transforming Ukraine from being a unitary state into a federation would help to restore peace in this country. Braun, however, deliberately refuses to acknowledge the viability of such a scenario while trying to mislead readers into believing in the realness of ‘Russian aggression’ against Ukraine. Fortunately enough, most Americans have proven themselves smart enough not to be persuaded by the peddlers of anti-Russian propaganda, such as Aurel Braun – the Presidential victory of Donald Trump can be seen as the best proof in this respect.
In light of what has been said earlier, Braun’s article is best referred to as such that does not have what it takes for people to even consider reading it – all due to the sheer fallaciousness of most argumentative claims contained in it. I believe that this conclusion is consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
Braun, A. (2014). Tougher sanctions now: Putin’s delusional quest for empire. World Affairs, 177(2), 34-42.
Kanet, R. E. (2015). The failed Western challenge to Russia’s revival in Eurasia? International Politics, 52(5), 503-522.
Mearsheimer, J. J. (2014). Why the Ukraine crisis is the West’s fault: the liberal delusions that provoked Putin. Foreign Affairs, 93(5), 77-89.