Garry Kasparov for Democracy | National Review

Garry Kasparov in October 2021 (Oslo Freedom Forum)

I would like to link to a couple of podcasts. Here is the latest episode of my Music for a While; and here is my latest Q&A, which is with Garry Kasparov.

The text accompanying the music podcast is as follows:

A piece he was writing about soccer, believe it or not, put Jay in mind of a song. So did the title of the latest Bond movie. There have been some passings in music recently: of Carlisle Floyd, Edita Gruberová, and Bernard Haitink. Jay pays tribute to these musicians, and, as usual, to music itself.

Garry Kasparov, as you know, is a chess champion and a democracy champion. He was the first-ever guest on Q&A, back in 2015. The second was John McCain.

For a total of 255 months, Kasparov was the No. 1 chess player in the world. By way of comparison, I looked up Tiger Woods: who, in his career, has been the No. 1 golfer for 158 months. No one else is close to Tiger; no one else is close to Garry.

Garry has authored many books, the latest of which are Deep Thinking, which is about machine intelligence and human creativity, and Winter Is Coming, which is about the challenge posed by authoritarianism to democracy.

Kasparov is the chairman of two organizations: the Human Rights Foundation, which hosts the Oslo Freedom Forum, and the Renew Democracy Initiative. RDI has a new project, Frontlines of Freedom. I will quote the relevant webpage:

The Renew Democracy Initiative is proud to present Frontlines of Freedom, a groundbreaking project bringing together 52 dissidents from 28 oppressive countries. As RDI Freedom Fellows, these activists have signed onto an open letter highlighting their hopes and fears for American democracy and reminding Americans of the US’s potential to serve as a global democratic inspiration.

In my podcast with Kasparov, I tell him that he reminds me of Peter Schramm, the late Hungarian-born American political scientist. Peter always said that his mission in life was to teach native-born Americans about their democracy and the blessings it brings — whether they know it or not. And the importance of American democracy to the entire world.

Garry is against radicalism on left or right. He is for “evolution, not revolution,” as he tells me. “Just don’t get crazy,” he wants to tell Americans. “Don’t turn self-criticism into self-flagellation.” “Take a deep breath and appreciate the greatness of your democracy.”

There is no perfection on earth, says Garry. What do we ask of intelligent machines? That they make fewer mistakes. They cannot be perfect. Neither can any country, composed as it is of human beings. But the United States has set a pretty good example for the world (and more than pretty good).

One thing Garry raises in our conversation is this business of “equality” versus “equity.” Garry is, of course, for equality under the law and equality of opportunity. Equity is something else entirely. “As someone raised in the Soviet Union,” he says, “I know what that means. It means a miserable outcome for everybody.”

He is very much for strong U.S. leadership in the world. He thinks it is good for the United States and the world — both. From World War II to the late 2000s, he says, every U.S. president assumed responsibility for world leadership, to one degree or another. The last three presidents, however, have not, as Garry sees it — and this has been good for no one.

With one exception: dictators.

For the last several years, Kasparov has said something that I have quoted a lot: “Dictators don’t ask ‘Why?,’ they ask, ‘Why not?’” When they see that no one will resist some misdeed — why not go ahead and do it? What’s stopping them?

The world abhors a vacuum, Kasparov notes: and when the United States walks away, bad actors walk in. Like who? Like Communist China, like ISIS, like malevolent, destructive others.

Another point, from Kasparov: The United States could use better propaganda — good propaganda, meaning, truthful propaganda. Why should it not be said, throughout the world, “China gave the world the pandemic, and the United States saved the world, with its vaccines”? Why are Americans so shy in this regard?

There is a lot more to our podcast, of course. At the end, I ask Garry about chess.

In the past, I have hailed him for getting his hands dirty, with politics and the fight for freedom against dictatorship. He could have lived out his life as the chess hero, with his feet up in some dacha, perhaps. He could have accepted accolades and signed autographs without breaking a sweat. Instead, he is in constant motion, working in behalf of freedom, democracy, and human rights.

He once replied to me as follows: “I never wanted to be a statue. That would be boring. Plus, you know what pigeons do to statues.”

Again, my latest Q&A with Garry Kasparov is here.

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