How to Start a War and Lose an Empire

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (October 21 2014)

A year and a half I wrote an essay on how the US chooses to view Russia, titled The Image of the Enemy {1}. I was living in Russia at the time, and, after observing the American anti-Russian rhetoric and the Russian reaction to it, I made some observations that seemed important at the time. It turns out that I managed to spot an important trend, but given the quick pace of developments since then, these observations are now woefully out of date, and so here is an update.

At that time the stakes weren’t very high yet. There was much noise around a fellow named Magnitsky, a corporate lawyer-crook who got caught and died in pretrial custody. He had been holding items for some bigger Western crooks, who were, of course, never apprehended. The Americans chose to treat this as a human rights violation and responded with the so-called “Magnitsky Act” which sanctioned certain Russian individuals who were labeled as human rights violators. Russian legislators responded with the “Dima Yakovlev Bill”, named after a Russian orphan adopted by Americans who killed him by leaving him in a locked car for nine hours. This bill banned American orphan-killing fiends from adopting any more Russian orphans. It all amounted to a silly bit of melodrama.

But what a difference a year and a half has made! Ukraine, which was at that time collapsing at about the same steady pace as it had been ever since its independence two decades ago, is now truly a defunct state, with its economy in free-fall, one region gone and two more in open rebellion, much of the country terrorized by oligarch-funded death squads, and some American-anointed puppets nominally in charge but quaking in their boots about what’s coming next. Syria and Iraq, which were then at a low simmer, have since erupted into full-blown war, with large parts of both now under the control of the Islamic Caliphate, which was formed with help from the US, [and] was armed with US-made weapons via the Iraqis. Post-Qaddafi Libya seems to be working on establishing an Islamic Caliphate of its own. Against this backdrop of profound foreign US foreign policy failure, the US recently saw it fit to accuse Russia of having troops “on NATO’s doorstep”, as if this had nothing to do with the fact that NATO has expanded east, all the way to Russia’s borders. Unsurprisingly, US–Russia relations have now reached a point where the Russians saw it fit to issue a stern warning: further Western attempts at blackmailing them may result in a nuclear confrontation.

The American behavior throughout this succession of defeats has been remarkably consistent, with the constant element being their flat refusal to deal with reality in any way, shape or form. Just as before, in Syria the Americans are ever looking for moderate, pro-Western Islamists, who want to do what the Americans want (topple the government of Bashar al Assad) but will stop short of going on to destroy all the infidel invaders they can get their hands on. The fact that such moderate, pro-Western Islamists do not seem to exist does not affect American strategy in the region in any way.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the fact that the heavy American investment in “freedom and democracy”, or “open society”, or what have you, has produced a government dominated by fascists and a civil war is, according to the Americans, just some Russian propaganda. Parading under the banner of Hitler’s Ukrainian SS division and anointing Nazi collaborators as national heroes is just not convincing enough for them. What do these Nazis have to do to prove that they are Nazis, build some ovens and roast some Jews? Just massacring people by setting fire to a building, as they did in Odessa, or shooting unarmed civilians in the back and tossing them into mass graves, as they did in Donetsk, doesn’t seem to work. The fact that many people have refused to be ruled by Nazi thugs and have successfully resisted them has caused the Americans to label them as “pro-Russian separatists”. This, in turn, was used to blame the troubles in Ukraine on Russia, and to impose sanctions on Russia. The sanctions would be reviewed if Russia were to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Trouble is, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine.

Note that this sort of behavior is nothing new. The Americans invaded Afghanistan because the Taleban would not relinquish Osama Bin Laden (who was a CIA operative) unless Americans produced evidence implicating him in 9/11 – which did not exist. Americans invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein would not relinquish his weapons of mass destruction – which did not exist. They invaded Libya because Muammar Qaddafi would not relinquish official positions – which he did not hold. They were ready to invade Syria because Bashar al Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people – which he did not do. And now they imposed sanctions on Russia because Russia had destabilized and invaded Ukraine – which it did not do either. (The US did that.)

The sanctions against Russia have an additional sort of unreality to them, because they “boomerang” and hurt the West while giving the Russian government the impetus to do what it wanted to do all along. The sanctions infringed on the rights of a number of Russian businessmen and officials, who promptly yanked their money out of Western banks, pulled their children out of Western schools and universities, and did everything else they could to demonstrate that they are good patriotic Russians, not American lackeys. The sanctions affected a number of Russian energy companies, cutting them off from Western sources of technology and financing, but this will primarily hurt the earnings of Western energy companies while helping their Chinese competitors. There were even some threats to cut Russia off from the SWIFT system, which would have made it quite difficult to transfer funds between Russia and the West, but what these threats did instead was to give Russia the impetus to introduce its own RUSSWIFT system, which will include even Iran, neutralizing future American efforts at imposing financial restrictions.

The sanctions were meant to cause economic damage, but Western efforts at inflicting short-term economic damage on Russia are failing. Coupled with a significant drop in the price of oil, all of this was supposed to hurt Russia fiscally, but since the sanctions caused the Ruble to drop in tandem, the net result on Russia’s state finances is a wash. Oil prices are lower, but then, thanks in part to the sanctions, so is the Ruble, and since oil revenues are still largely in dollars, this means that Russia’s tax receipts are at roughly the same level at before. And since Russian oil companies earn dollars abroad but spend rubles domestically, their production budgets remain unaffected.

The Russians also responded by imposing some counter-sanctions, and to take some quick steps to neutralize the effect of the sanctions on them. Russia banned the import of produce from the European Union – to the horror of farmers there. Especially hurt were those EU members who are especially anti-Russian: the Baltic states, which swiftly lost a large fraction of their GDP, along with Poland. An exception is being made for Serbia, which refused to join in the sanctions. Here, the message is simple: friendships that have lasted many centuries matter; what the Americans want is not what the Americans get; and the EU is a mere piece of paper. Thus, the counter-sanctions are driving wedges between the US and the EU, and, within the EU, between Eastern Europe (which the sanctions are hurting the most) and Western Europe, and, most importantly, they drive home the simple message that the US is not Europe’s friend.

There is something else going on that is going to become more significant in the long run: Russia has taken the hint and is turning away from the West and toward the East. It is parlaying its open defiance of American attempts at world domination into trade relationships throughout the world, much of which is sick and tired of paying tribute to Washington. Russia is playing a key role in putting together an international banking system that circumvents the US dollar and the US Federal Reserve. In these efforts, over half the world’s territory and population is squarely on Russia’s side and cheering loudly. Thus, the effort to isolate Russia has produced the opposite of the intended result: it is isolating the West from the rest of the world instead.

In other ways, the sanctions are actually being helpful. The import ban on foodstuffs from EU is a positive boon to domestic agriculture while driving home a politically important point: don’t take food from the hands of those who bite you. Russia is already one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and there is no reason why it can’t become entirely self-sufficient in food. The impetus to rearm in the face of NATO encroachment on Russian borders (there are now US troops stationed in Estonia, just a short drive from Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg) is providing some needed stimulus for industrial redevelopment. This round of military spending is being planned a bit more intelligently than in the Soviet days, with eventual civilian conversion being part of the plan from the very outset. Thus, along with the world’s best jet fighters, Russia is likely to start building civilian aircraft for export and competing with Airbus and Boeing.

But this is only the beginning. The Russians seem to have finally realized to what extent the playing field has been slanted against them. They have been forced to play by Washington’s rules in two key ways: by bending to Washington’s will in order to keep their credit ratings high with the three key Western credit rating agencies, in order to secure access to Western credit; and by playing by the Western rule-book when issuing credit of their own, thus keeping domestic interest rates artificially high. The result was that US companies were able to finance their operations more cheaply, artificially making them more competitive. But now, as Russia works quickly to get out from under the US dollar, shifting trade to bilateral currency arrangements (backed by some amount of gold should trade imbalances develop), it is also looking for ways to turn the printing press to its advantage. To date, the dictat handed down from Washington has been: “We can print money all we like, but you can’t, or we will destroy you”. But this threat is ringing increasingly hollow, and Russia will no longer be using its dollar revenues to buy up US debt. One proposal currently on the table is to make it impossible to pay for Russian oil exports with anything other than rubles, by establishing two oil brokerages, one in Saint Petersburg, the other, seven time zones away, in Vladivostok. Foreign oil buyers would then have to earn their petro-rubles the honest way – through bilateral trade – or, if they can’t make enough stuff that the Russians want to import, they could pay for oil with gold (while supplies last). Or the Russians could simply print rubles, and, to make sure such printing does not cause domestic inflation, they could export some inflation by playing with the oil spigot and the oil export tariffs. And if the likes of George Soros decides to attack the ruble in an effort to devalue it, Russia could defend its currency simply by printing fewer rubles for a while – no need to stockpile dollar reserves.

So far, this all seems like typical economic warfare: the Americans want to get everything they want by printing money while bombing into submission or sanctioning anyone who disobeys them, while the rest of the world attempts to resist them. But early in 2014 the situation changed. There was a US-instigated coup in Kiev, and instead of rolling over and playing dead like they were supposed to, the Russians mounted a fast and brilliantly successful campaign to regain Crimea, then successfully checkmated the junta in Kiev, preventing it from consolidating control over the remaining former Ukrainian territory by letting volunteers, weapons, equipment and humanitarian aid enter – and hundreds of thousands of refugees exit – through the strictly notional Russian-Ukrainian border, all the while avoiding direct military confrontation with NATO. Seeing all of this happening on the nightly news has awakened the Russian population from its political slumber, making it sit up and pay attention, and sending Putin’s approval rating through the roof.

The “optics” of all this, as they like to say at the White House, are rather ominous. We are coming up on the 70th anniversary of victory in World War Two – a momentous occasion for Russians, who pride themselves on defeating Hitler almost single-handedly. At the same time, the US (Russia’s self-appointed arch-enemy) has taken this opportunity to reawaken and feed the monster of Nazism right on Russia’s border (inside Russia’s borders, some Russians/Ukrainians would say). This, in turn, makes the Russians remember Russia’s unique historical mission is among the nations of the world: it is to thwart all other nations’ attempts at world domination, be it Napoleonic France or Hitleresque Germany or Obamaniac America. Every century or so some nation forgets its history lessons and attacks Russia. The result is always the same: lots of corpse-studded snowdrifts, and then Russian cavalry galloping into Paris, or Russian tanks rolling into Berlin. Who knows how it will end this time around? Perhaps it will involve polite, well-armed men in green uniforms without insignia patrolling the streets of Brussels and Washington, DC. Only time will tell.

You’d think that Obama has already overplayed his hand, and should behave accordingly. His popularity at home is roughly the inverse of Putin’s, which is to say, Obama is still more popular than Ebola, but not by much. He can’t get anything at all done, no matter how pointless or futile, and his efforts to date, at home and abroad, have been pretty much a disaster. So what does this social worker turned national mascot decide to do? Well, the way the Russians see it, he has decided to declare war on Russia! In case you missed it, look up his speech before the UN General Assembly. It’s up on the White House web site {2}. He placed Russia directly between Ebola and ISIS among the three topmost threats facing the world. Through Russian eyes his speech reads as a declaration of war.

It’s a new, mixed-mode sort of war. It’s not a total war to the death, although the US is being rather incautious by the old Cold War standards in avoiding a nuclear confrontation. It’s an information war – based on lies and unjust vilification; it’s a financial and economic war – using sanctions; it’s a political war – featuring violent overthrow of elected governments and support for hostile regimes on Russia’s borders; and it’s a military war – using ineffectual but nevertheless insulting moves such as stationing a handful of US troops in Estonia. And the goals of this war are clear: it is to undermine Russia economically, destroy it politically, dismember it geographically, and turn it into a pliant vassal state that furnishes natural resources to the West practically free of charge (with a few hand-outs to a handful of Russian oligarchs and criminal thugs who play ball). But it doesn’t look like any of that is going to happen because, you see, a lot of Russians actually get all that, and will choose leaders who will not win any popularity contests in the West but who will lead them to victory.

Given the realization that the US and Russia are, like it or not, in a state of war, no matter how opaque or muddled, people in Russia are trying to understand why this is and what it means. Obviously, the US has seen Russia as the enemy since about the time of the Revolution of 1917, if not earlier. For example, it is known that after the end of World War II America’s military planners were thinking of launching a nuclear strike against the USSR, and the only thing that held them back was the fact that they didn’t have enough bombs, meaning that Russia would have taken over all of Europe before the effects of the nuclear strikes could have deterred them from doing so (Russia had no nuclear weapons at the time, but lots of conventional forces right in the heart of Europe).

But why has war been declared now, and why was it declared by this social worker turned national misleader? Some keen observers mentioned his slogan “the audacity of hope”, and ventured to guess that this sort of “audaciousness” (which in Russian sounds a lot like “folly”) might be a key part of his character which makes him want to be the leader of the universe, like Napoleon or Hitler. Others looked up the campaign gibberish from his first presidential election (which got silly young Americans so fired up) and discovered that he had nice things to say about various cold warriors. Do you think Obama might perhaps be a scholar of history and a shrewd geopolitician in his own right? (That question usually gets a laugh, because most people know that he is just a chucklehead and repeats whatever his advisers tell him to say.) Hugo Chavez once called him “a hostage in the White House”, and he wasn’t too far off. So, why are his advisers so eager to go to war with Russia, right now, this year?

Is it because the US is collapsing more rapidly than most people can imagine? This line of reasoning goes like this: the American scheme of world domination through military aggression and unlimited money-printing is failing before our eyes. The public has no interest in any more “boots on the ground”, bombing campaigns do nothing to reign in militants that Americans themselves helped organize and equip, dollar hegemony is slipping away with each passing day, and the Federal Reserve is fresh out of magic bullets and faces a choice between crashing the stock market and crashing the bond market. In order to stop, or at least forestall this downward slide into financial/economic/political oblivion, the US must move quickly to undermine every competing economy in the world through whatever means it has left at its disposal, be it a bombing campaign, a revolution or a pandemic (although this last one can be a bit hard to keep under control). Russia is an obvious target, because it is the only country in the world that has had the gumption to actually show international leadership in confronting the US and wrestling it down; therefore, Russia must be punished first, to keep the others in line.

I don’t disagree with this line of reasoning, but I do want to add something to it.

First, the American offensive against Russia, along with most of the rest of the world, is about things Americans like to call “facts on the ground”, and these take time to create. The world wasn’t made in a day, and it can’t be destroyed in a day (unless you use nuclear weapons, but then there is no winning strategy for anyone, the US included). But the entire financial house of cards can be destroyed rather quickly, and here Russia can achieve a lot while risking little. Financially, Russia’s position is so solid that even the three Western credit ratings agencies don’t have the gall to downgrade Russia’s rating, sanctions notwithstanding. This is a country that is aggressively paying down its foreign debt, is running a record-high budget surplus, has a positive balance of payments, is piling up physical gold reserves, and not a month goes by that it doesn’t sign a major international trade deal (that circumvents the US dollar). In comparison, the US is a dead man walking: unless it can continue rolling over trillions of dollars in short-term debt every month at record-low interest rates, it won’t be able to pay the interest on its debt or its bills. Good-bye, welfare state, hello riots. Good-bye military contractors and federal law enforcement, hello mayhem and open borders. Now, changing “facts on the ground” requires physical actions, whereas causing a financial stampede to the exits just requires somebody to yell “Boo!” loudly and frighteningly enough.

Second, it must be understood that at this point the American ruling elite is almost entirely senile. The older ones seem actually senile in the medical sense. Take Leon Panetta, the former Defense Secretary: he’s been out flogging his new book, and he is still blaming Syria’s Bashar al Assad for gassing his own people! By now everybody else knows that that was a false flag attack, carried out by some clueless Syrian rebels with Saudi help, to be used as an excuse for the US to bomb Syria – you know, the old “weapons of mass destruction” nonsense again. (By the way, this kind of mindless, repetitive insistence on a fake rationale seems like a sure sign of senility.) That plan didn’t work because Putin and Lavrov intervened and quickly convinced Assad to give up his useless chemical weapons stockpile. The Americans were livid. So, everybody knows this story – except Panetta. You see, once an American official starts lying, he just doesn’t know how to stop. The story always starts with a lie, and, as facts emerge that contradict the initial story, they are simply ignored.

So much for the senile old guard, but what about their replacements? Well, the poster boy for the young ones is Hunter Biden, the VP’s son, who went on a hookers-and-blow tour of Ukraine last summer and inadvertently landed a seat on the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest natural gas company (which doesn’t have much gas left). He just got outed for being a coke fiend. In addition to the many pre-anointed ones, like the VP’s son, there are also many barns full of eagerly bleating Ivy League graduates who have been groomed for jobs in high places. These are Prof. Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep” {3}.

There just isn’t much that such people, young or old, can be made to respond to. International embarrassment, military defeat, humanitarian catastrophe – all these things just bounce off them and stick to you for bringing them up and being overly negative about their rose-colored view of themselves. The only hit they can actually feel is a hit to the pocketbook.

Which brings us all the way back to my first point: “Boo!”

Links:

{1} http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2013/01/the-image-of-enemy.html

{2} http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly

{3} https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%22Excellent+Sheep%22

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2014/10/how-to-start-war-and-lose-empire.html

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The ‘Medicine’ of the Trans-Pacific Partnership …

… as Bitter as Ever

by Systemic Disorder (October 23 2014)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is as dangerous as ever. Denying access to medicines, increased surveillance of Internet usage and mandatory patents at the behest of multi-national corporations are some of the corporate goodies stashed in the TPP’s intellectual property chapter, revealed by WikiLeaks this month. Journalism could even be criminalized.

The more we know about the TPP, the worse it gets, which is why the governments of the twelve countries involved, led by the Obama administration, continue to negotiate in unprecedented secrecy. The latest text of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter shows very little change from an earlier draft also published by WikiLeaks. In a press release accompanying this month’s publication of the revised text, WikiLeaks says:

[T]here are significant industry-favouring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.

An analysis by Public Citizen explains:

A rule [would] require the patenting of plant-related inventions, such as the genes inserted into genetically modified plants, putting farmers in developing countries at the mercy of the agriculture industry, including seed manufacturers such as Monsanto, and threatening food security in these countries more broadly.

Monsanto, already attempting to gain a stranglehold over the world’s food supply, is hardly in need of yet more favorable treatment. Proprietary seeds and genetically modified organisms are Monsanto’s routes to control what you eat and what farmers grow. Once under contract, farmers are required to buy new genetically engineered seeds from the company every year and the Monsanto herbicide to which the seed has been engineered to be resistant.

Stealth ‘Fast-Track’ Process Needed to Sneak TPP through Congress

Concomitant to the secrecy shrouding the TPP is the stealth needed to pass the “free trade” treaty. The Obama administration is seeking to be given “fast-track” authority by Congress. Under the fast-track process, Congress cedes its right to make any changes, limits its time to debate, and must schedule a straight yes-or-no vote (no amendments allowed) in a short period of time. Some of the worst “free trade” deals have been approved in this manner, and the importance of fast-track is shown in that the last US trade pact approved, with South Korea, was approved in 2007 – literally one minute before fast-track authority expired!

A fast-track bill, known as Camp-Baucus for its two sponsors, was essentially dead on arrival early this year due to widespread opposition in Congress, mostly by Democrats but also some Republicans. That this arose was because of organized activist work by groups across the United States. But Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, last April, signaled his intention to introduce a new fast-track bill, which he rebranded “smart track”. US activists widely speculate that either Senator Wyden’s thinly disguised “smart track” bill or a more openly fast-track bill, perhaps written by Republicans in the House of Representatives, will be introduced in Congress following the November election with the intention of ramming it through a lame-duck session.

US activists for the past year and a half have focused on stopping fast-track in Congress because it will be virtually impossible to pass the TPP otherwise. Other countries have signaled their reluctance to agree to a final TPP text unless Congress grants the Obama administration fast-track authority. Without such authority, Congress would retain the right to make changes to an agreed-upon treaty, potentially unraveling any deal. The Canadian government, in late September, made this reluctance explicit.

Washington Trade Daily recently reported that the Canadian ambassador to the US, Gary Doer, said Canada and other negotiating countries won’t conclude negotiations until the Obama administration has the “political muscle” of trade-promotion authority (the formal name for fast-track). Thus, activists advocate no lessening of vigilance against new attempts to introduce fast-track legislation. A Week of Action Against Fast Track is being organized for November 8 to 14 in the US. In Australia, a series of rallies opposing the TPP are taking place this week in Sydney and Canberra.

These efforts come against a renewed push for a completed deal; negotiators are meeting this week, to be immediately followed on October 25 by a ministerial-level meeting in Sydney.

Criminalizing Your Right to Know

There is much to oppose in the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself. A trade-secrets provision in the leaked intellectual property chapter is written in a way that makes it possible for reporting the contents of a future trade deal to be prosecuted. The article in question states:

In the course of ensuring effective protection against unfair competition … each Party shall ensure that natural and legal persons have the legal means to prevent trade secrets lawfully in their control from being disclosed to, acquired by, or used by others (including state commercial enterprises) without their consent in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices.

Criminal penalties would be mandatory for:

… the unauthorized, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system; the unauthorized, willful misappropriation of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system; or the fraudulent (or unauthorized) disclosure of a trade secret, including by means of a computer system.

WikiLeaks’ publication of this text would be a criminal matter under this provision. This provision would make it mandatory for signatory governments to enact strict laws protecting undefined “trade secrets”. The text of the TPP itself is classified as a secret! Legislators and the public are excluded from seeing the text. In the United States, the only people other than negotiators to have access to the text are 605 “advisers”, who are almost all executives of multi-national corporations or corporate lobbyists.

The Age newspaper of Melbourne summarizes the threat to journalism this way:

The leaked treaty text shows that in an effort to deal with ‘unfair competition’, largely from Chinese industrial espionage, the United States has pushed ahead with proposals to criminalise disclosure of trade secrets across the Pacific Rim. The draft text provides that TPP countries will introduce criminal penalties for unauthorised access to, misappropriation or disclosure of trade secrets, defined as information that has commercial value because it is secret, by any person using a computer system.

There are no public interest or free speech exemptions. Criminalisation of disclosure would apply to journalists working for commercial media organisations or wherever the leak was considered harmful to the ‘economic interests’ of any TPP country.

Barriers to Cheaper Generic Medications

Other rules in the TPP intellectual property text would raise barriers to generic medications becoming available and mandating that the terms of patents be extended on demand by patent holders. The United States and Japan even propose language that would require intellectual property enforcement to be elevated above any other legal consideration! The US is also seeking the criminalization of copyright infringement, even in cases where there is no attempt to gain financially, such as a fan posting a work, and would also mandate that Internet service providers remove content upon a corporation’s demand to avoid legal penalties.

The linchpin to enforcement of draconian rules – the worst of which are put forth by the United States with Japan often seconding – is the “investor-state dispute mechanism”. That is a requirement that governments submit to binding arbitration in secret tribunals when an “investor” wants a law changed; the judges in these tribunals are corporate lawyers.

The dispute mechanism is not directly mentioned in the intellectual property chapter, but the one article that purports to uphold national sovereignty is contradicted by another article that mandates that multi-national corporations be given the same rights as national corporations. That clause, standard in “free trade” agreements, is a battering ram used by the secret tribunals to order the withdrawal of laws safeguarding environmental, safety, health or labor standards. These rulings, in turn, become precedents that are used to hand down future harsher decisions.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, however, is far from the only danger to working people. There is also the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU; the Trade In Services Agreement that would eliminate the ability of governments to regulate the financial industry (fifty countries are in on this one); and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Each of these are designed to elevate corporations to the level of a country, although in practice, because of tribunal precedents, they would elevate corporations above national governments.

“Free trade” agreements have little to do with trade, and much to do with imposing the domination of capital in as many spheres of life as possible. They are massive failures for working people in all countries. They offer, and can offer, nothing but a race to the bottom. Attempting to reform a race to the bottom is a fool’s errand. The TPP and its equally vile cousins must be defeated, and a complete re-conceptualization of trade and who should benefit from trade, substituted. That in turn requires directly challenging prevailing economic systems, otherwise we will be shoveling against the tide.

http://systemicdisorder.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/medicine-of-tpp-bitter/

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The Absurd Illusions of a Shining City on a Hill

by Mark Weiser

Dissident Voice (October 16 2014)

The average natural born citizen in any country is continuously indoctrinated into the national culture starting about the time they begin understanding the meaning of words. There’s one country in particular where reality is staring the public in the face, but the truth has been grossly distorted for decades by government, and mass media, bias and propaganda. If the citizens would suddenly see the truth, instead of what they’ve been conditioned to believe, they would find themselves in a strange and bizarre foreign land that’s contrary in many ways to their personal beliefs regarding home. For those who experience this sudden revelation, as soon as the truth is realized, it’s likely to provoke a profound and immediate sense of disbelief. Like emergency room personnel making insensitive jokes, laughter at some point becomes a self-defense mechanism for offsetting continuous parades of the absurd realities and outright horrors. This is all happening while the general population takes great pride in having a capitalist-democracy as their social-economic model for the stated purposes of providing equal rights, freedom, justice for all, and an all-inclusive participation in the political system. While in all truth, the capitalist-democracy in question has been corrupted directly by the legislation in place and the collective society’s inability to keep the system working for its stated and intended purposes.

Imagine being brought to a place without having any say in the matter, then being charged an exorbitant fee for the transportation costs and administration fees. Once at this location you’re required to work and sacrifice for the privilege of eating and paying your incurring debt while the rate of pay is set by your captors. There’s no escape, and the path of least resistance is to submit. Resisting the power structure in immediate terms would make life difficult to say the least. This is no imaginary scenario; for many this is reality in “the land of the free and home of the brave”, the United States of America, where natural citizens are born with the country’s debt already hanging over their heads, and from there on out, they’re indoctrinated as slaves to serve the dictates of the ruling-class when the time comes. The irony, and major absurdity, is that the populace believes theirs is the greatest capitalistic-democracy ever on earth, while the country has actually been moving further from the true workings of a capitalistic-democracy for decades and the percent of those being trapped in the indentured-servant class just keeps right on growing.

In cases where the US government appears to act deceptively on its own behalf, we have the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO as prime examples of programs designed specifically to manipulate public opinion and illegally interfere with the people’s rights to free speech and assembly. With writers and editors of influential “news” sources on the government payroll as operatives, there is no better way to wage a propaganda war against the public’s “constitutionally guaranteed” democratic rights. The CIA and FBI do not distort the truth and subvert Constitutional rights just for kicks; they are directly aiding and abetting those behind the scenes who have an agenda which is pure and simple –  corporate profits. Our government representatives are essentially screened, groomed and “voted in” by huge campaign contributions derived from corporate profits, and ultimately the press is financed by those same corporations. And for their “investment in capital”, the corporations are getting what they want in return. So when corporate and special interests influence the government and news media directly, while the US government also influences news networks directly on behalf of corporations, then public opinion regarding any important issue is essentially being manufactured and controlled to a very large degree by corporate and special interests. The plain truth is the government, news media, corporate and special interests are all in a symbiotic criminal relationship with the absolute bottom line being they are willingly and knowingly denying Constitutional rights to the American citizenry which, in some of these instances, makes all those in violation willing traitors as defined by US law. And no, a group of conspirators does not need be prosecuted and found guilty in a court of law to be living and breathing traitors …

To maintain corporate profits and our status as world champion capitalists requires the US to undemocratically wage wars for “protecting our self-interests” of continually acquiring and consuming resources. Capitalism demands resources, and in our case, “democratically” waged wars to obtain those resources, require a willing public to sacrifice blood and treasure towards that goal. It’s all part of modern capitalism as practiced today –  convincing the public, through deception, to sacrifice their blood and treasure to keep the whole system going for maximizing the bottom line of corporate profits. The beloved political-economic system keeps us addicted, enslaved and condemned to languish in a continuous cycle of acquisition through any means, including military aggression.  After being manipulated by unpatriotic government officials and news networks to serve unpatriotic corporations and special interests, we believe we’re being patriotic when waving our flags while we’re actually throwing truth, freedom and democratic principles into the bin of the “Unnecessary and too Risky” for the powers that be. The entire system of control and manipulation is being run by less than one percent of the population for their guaranteed advantages, while on the other end, the system is rigged to keep the majority in perpetual servitude. And because American citizens are part of the system and contributing to it, in that sense they are an accessory to the crimes being committed against themselves.

The truth being known in all of this presents a danger for those who pull the strings keeping the slave camp operating, but so far, the propaganda campaigns have been successful in keeping the general public from recognizing the truth. When this reality is presented to the average America born citizen, chances are high they’ll reflexively and automatically deny the truth as a form of self-defense. They simply don’t want to accept the reality of their governments’ betrayal, and many believe they’re being patriotic by defending what they think America is, but again, they’re defending lies when the truth is told. When people are held captive and trapped, hope and dignity can be cultivated through planned or spontaneous rebellion of one flavor or another –  which might be the closest America will ever come to pulling itself up by the boot straps. But because roughly seventy percent of the general population doesn’t think independently, they’ll look to someone else or society in general when determining how to think and react; this fact is literally being banked on by those who mislead us through “our government” and “news media” while profiting at our expense and that of the entire world. If the prevailing winds, prevaricated by the government and news media, say there’s no reason to rock the boat, then the majority will bow their heads and continue on as compliant slaves, just as we’ve seen over recent decades.

When it comes to obtaining foreign resources, America’s “interests” often come at the expense of someone else. Converting a socialist leaning country, creating and aiding developing countries, or propping up dictators “friendly to western interests” can all work to enhance corporate profits with “privatizing the world” being part of the agenda. Under the table deals, coercion and outright military intervention, in any combination, are all being used to gain control of the world’s resources. This is often done under the guise of the IMF, and World Bank, making loans to “help” developing countries. In all reality the IMF and World Bank are there to secure the rights to a country’s natural resources, with the bottom line purpose again being corporate profits while having no concern for the indigenous people or anything else.

Corporate America is actively seeking to control water, farmland, mineral and energy rights all over the world. This all comes at the expense of human rights and lives, domestic and foreign. Very few, if any, of the ruling-class personally risk anything other than their personal integrity in these gambits. But everyday Americans, through propaganda, are persuaded to sacrifice their lives and tax money for use in the arsenal of weapons to beguile and wrestle the resources away from people in foreign lands. The powers that be are currently trying to tell the world we’ll all be better off with rain water being corporately owned so they can charge human beings for being alive. Next on the agenda is privatizing sunshine which probably sounds absurd to everyone –  just as the concept of owning land was incomprehensible to native Americans. Judging by the actions of the ruling-class and not their words, as long as they have enough slaves to manipulate, they don’t care if American citizens or others must die so they can accomplish their primary goal of enriching themselves while controlling everything and everyone to that end. The wealthy and politically influential in the US are perfect examples of success in our overall corrupt capitalistic-democracy; while the rest of us are the epitome of failed dupes, having failed to exercise our democratic rights while being exploited. When summed up, the fact that Americans go along with all of this in the direction it’s going, is ludicrous when considering the impact all of this is having on the earth’s ecosystem (which can no longer be denied) –  the ruling-class agenda is completely out of touch with reality –  if the human race doesn’t get it together soon, all those corporate profits will all be for naught anyway, and could possibly end up being what ends it all for the human race. We do enjoy our self-deceptions though, and denials of the truth, while as master escape artists acknowledging a destiny beyond our control we turn on our favorite televised entertainment as absolute proof.

Destiny is inevitable and unstoppable just like the need to show the world how powerful we were in 1945, by dropping atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima when the US had already known the Japanese were preparing to surrender. With special interests in mind, the US recognized ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as being legitimate starting before 1948 and continuing to this day. We can’t leave out the CIA’s roll in overthrowing democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 Iran, only to install a murdering tyrant so the corporation now known as British Petroleum would benefit at the expense of the Iranian people. We had the Vietnam duo, with Henry Kissinger aiding Nixon’s treason, which ultimately cost one million Vietnamese lives, twenty thousand American lives and one hundred thousand Americans wounded. For authorizing the Watergate scandal, Nixon later received a pardon from his personally designated successor. The overthrow of democratically elected Salvador Allende in 1973 Chile was backed by Nixon’s CIA which supported the brutally repressive regime of Augusto Pinochet. Another illegal Kissinger duet with Gerald Ford started in 1975 East Timor. Then came Ronald Reagan and the arms for hostages’ deal which circumvented Congress to supply weapons to Reagan’s murderous Contras. There was the “just say no to drugs” when Reagan’s CIA aided importing crack cocaine with the profits also illegally supporting the Contras’ killing machine. The Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s was our largest wealth redistribution up to that time, with many of the well-connected, including the Bush family, profiting at the expense of tax payer dollars. With the 2003 Iraq war being part of the neocon strategy for “securing the realm”, America was led to war through lies and deceit while the defense contractors made huge profits from the death and destruction at tax payers’ expense, which we’ll still be paying for decades from now. The 2008 economic meltdown resulted from the biggest financial rip-off and redistribution of wealth in the entire history of mankind, and while there was plenty of criminal activity on record, there were no prosecutions among the Wall Street ring leaders who orchestrated those crimes. Ultimately, after the 2008 economic collapse, the redistribution of wealth to the well-connected banks and their already wealthy stock holders, was again put on the tab of tax-paying slaves.

Our government escapes the consequences of these realities by manipulating the truth with the well-oiled propaganda machine. And by allowing Wall Street bankers to keep what they stole, and the press having no interest in holding anyone accountable, it all works out to continue bribing politicians with more “investment capital” in the form of “campaign contributions” from those same banks –  and the US keeps right on moving toward the goal of lording over the entire world. It’s all just part of America doing business as usual, served up by corporate and special interests influencing the unpatriotic duo of US government and main-stream media networks to manipulate the American public into unwitting support for corporate fascism. By all means the illusion of equality, liberty and justice through a disingenuous capitalistic-democracy must be kept alive by our government and news media. If not for the illusion, who or what would run the show?

Links: The original version of this article, at the last URL below, contains many links to further information not included here.

_____

Mark Weiser was thrown into this world without any say as to when, or where, and to whom I would be born. My story is the same as all others in that respect as we all come from this same earth and began the same way. There is absolute truth in all matters among human kind, even if it’s that truth we’re afraid to acknowledge or don’t yet know. The truth where I’m concerned is preferable to anything else; it’s where my search began and where it never ends. Mark can be reached at: lonngfello@yahoo.com

Read other articles by Mark at http://dissidentvoice.org/author/markweiser/.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/10/the-absurd-illusions-of-a-shining-city-on-a-hill/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Western Model is Broken

The west has lost the power to shape the world in its own image –  as recent events, from Ukraine to Iraq, make all too clear. So why does it still preach the pernicious myth that every society must evolve along western lines?

by Pankaj Mishra

The Guardian (October 14 2014)

“So far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the western model”, according to a new book, The Fourth Revolution, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. This seems an extraordinary admission from two editors of the Economist, the flag-bearer of English liberalism, which has long insisted that the non-west could only achieve prosperity and stability through western prescriptions. It almost obscures the fact that the 20th century was blighted by the same pathologies that today make the western model seem unworkable, and render its fervent advocates a bit lost. The most violent century in human history, it was hardly the best advertisement for the “bland fanatics of western civilisation”, as the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called them at the height of the cold war, “who regard the highly contingent achievements of our culture as the final form and norm of human existence”.

Niebuhr was critiquing a fundamentalist creed that has coloured our view of the world for more than a century: that western institutions of the nation-state and liberal democracy will be gradually generalised around the world, and that the aspiring middle classes created by industrial capitalism will bring about accountable, representative and stable governments –  that every society, in short, is destined to evolve just as the west did. Critics of this teleological view, which defines “progress” exclusively as development along western lines, have long perceived its absolutist nature. Secular liberalism, the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen cautioned as early as 1862, “is the final religion, though its church is not of the other world but of this”. But it has had many presumptive popes and encyclicals: from the 19th-century dream of a westernised world long championed by the Economist, in which capital, goods, jobs and people freely circulate, to Henry Luce’s proclamation of an “American century” of free trade, and “modernisation theory” –  the attempt by American cold warriors to seduce the postcolonial world away from communist-style revolution and into the gradualist alternative of consumer capitalism and democracy.

The collapse of communist regimes in 1989 further emboldened Niebuhr’s bland fanatics. The old Marxist teleology was retrofitted rather than discarded in Francis Fukuyama’s influential end-of-history thesis, and cruder theories about the inevitable march to worldwide prosperity and stability were vended by such Panglosses of globalisation as Thomas Friedman. Arguing that people privileged enough to consume McDonald’s burgers don’t go to war with each other, the New York Times columnist was not alone in mixing old-fangled Eurocentrism with American can-doism, a doctrine that grew from America’s uninterrupted good fortune and unchallenged power in the century before September 2001.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 briefly disrupted celebrations of a world globalised by capital and consumption. But the shock to naive minds only further entrenched in them the intellectual habits of the cold war –  thinking through binary oppositions of “free” and “unfree” worlds –  and redoubled an old delusion: liberal democracy, conceived by modernisation theorists as the inevitable preference of the beneficiaries of capitalism, could now be implanted by force in recalcitrant societies. Invocations of a new “long struggle” against “Islamofascism” aroused many superannuated cold warriors who missed the ideological certainties of battling communism. Intellectual narcissism survived, and was often deepened by, the realisation that economic power had begun to shift from the west. The Chinese, who had “got capitalism”, were, after all, now “downloading western apps”, according to Niall Ferguson. As late as 2008, Fareed Zakaria declared in his much-cited book, The Post-American World, that “the rise of the rest is a consequence of American ideas and actions” and that “the world is going America’s way”, with countries “becoming more open, market-friendly and democratic”.

A World in Flames

One event after another in recent months has cruelly exposed such facile narratives. China, though market-friendly, looks further from democracy than before. The experiment with free-market capitalism in Russia has entrenched a kleptocratic regime with a messianic belief in Russian supremacism. Authoritarian leaders, anti-democratic backlashes and rightwing extremism define the politics of even such ostensibly democratic countries as India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey.

The atrocities of this summer in particular have plunged political and media elites in the west into stunned bewilderment and some truly desperate cliches. The extraordinary hegemonic power of their ideas had helped them escape radical examination when the world could still be presented as going America’s way. But their preferred image of the west –  the idealised one in which they sought to remake the rest of the world –  has been consistently challenged by many critics, left or right, in the west as well as the east.

Herzen was already warning in the 19th century that “our classic ignorance of the western European will be productive of a great deal of harm; racial hatred and bloody collisions will develop from it.” Herzen was sceptical of those liberal “westernisers” who believed that Russia could progress only by diligently emulating western institutions and ideologies. Intimate experience and knowledge of Europe during his long exile there had convinced him that European dominance, arrived at after much fratricidal violence and underpinned by much intellectual deception and self-deception, did not amount to “progress”. Herzen, a believer in cultural pluralism, asked a question that rarely occurs to today’s westernisers: “Why should a nation that has developed in its own way, under completely different conditions from those of the west European states, with different elements in its life, live through the European past, and that, too, when it knows perfectly well what that past leads to?”

The brutality that Herzen saw as underpinning Europe’s progress turned out, in the next century, to be a mere prelude to the biggest bloodbath in history: two world wars, and ferocious ethnic cleansing that claimed tens of millions of victims. The imperative to emulate Europe’s progress was nevertheless embraced by the ruling elites of dozens of new nation-states that emerged from the ruins of European empires in the mid-20th century, and embarked on a fantastic quest for western-style wealth and power. Today, racial hatred and bloody collisions ravage the world where liberal democracy and capitalism were expected to jointly reign.

This moment demands a fresh interrogation of what Neibuhr euphemistically called “the highly contingent achievements of the west”, and closer attention to the varied histories of the non-west. Instead, the most common response to the present crisis has been despair over western “weakness” –  and much acrimony over what Barack Obama, president of the “sole superpower” and the “indispensable nation” should have done to fix it. “Will the West Win?” Prospect asks on the cover of its latest issue, underlining the forlornness of the question with a picture of Henry Kissinger, whose complicity in various murderous fiascos from Vietnam to Iraq has not prevented his re-incarnation among the perplexed as a sage of hardheaded realism.

Robert Kagan, writing in the Wall Street Journal at the start of September, articulated a defiant neoconservative faith that America is condemned to use “hard power” against the enemies of liberal modernity who understand no other language, such as Japan and Germany in the early 20th century, and Putin’s Russia today. Kagan doesn’t say which manifestation of hard power – firebombing Germany, nuking Japan, napalming Vietnam – the United States should aim against Russia, or if the shock-and-awe campaign that he cheerled in Iraq is a better template. Roger Cohen of the New York Times provides a milder variation on the clash of civilisations discourse when he laments that “European nations with populations from former colonies often seem unable to celebrate their values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law”.

Such diehard believers in the west’s capacity to shape global events and congratulate itself eternally were afflicted with an obsolete assumption even in 1989: that the 20th century was defined by the battles between liberal democracy and totalitarian ideologies, such as fascism and communism. Their obsession with a largely intra-western dispute obscured the fact that the most significant event of the 20th century was decolonisation, and the emergence of new nation-states across Asia and Africa. They barely registered the fact that liberal democracies were experienced as ruthlessly imperialist by their colonial subjects.

For people luxuriating at a high level of abstraction, and accustomed to dealing during the cold war with nation-states organised simply into blocs and superblocs, it was always too inconvenient to examine whether the freshly imagined communities of Asia and Africa were innately strong and cohesive enough to withhold the strains and divisions of state-building and economic growth. If they had indeed risked engaging with complexity and contradiction, they would have found that the urge to be a wealthy and powerful nation-state along western lines initially ordered and then disordered first Russia, Germany and Japan, and then, in our own time, plunged a vast swath of the postcolonial world into bloody conflict.

History’s Long-Term Losers

The temptation to imitate the evidently triumphant western model, as Herzen feared, was always greater than the urge to reject it. For many in the old and sophisticated societies of Asia and Africa, chafing under the domination of western Europe’s very small countries, it seemed clear that human beings could muster up an unprecedented collective power through new European forms of organisation like the nation-state and the industrialised economy. Much of Europe had first learned this harsh lesson in political and military innovation from Napoleon’s all-conquering army. In the century after the Napoleonic wars, European societies gradually learned how to deploy effectively a modern military, technology, railways, roads, judicial and educational systems and create a feeling of belonging and solidarity, most often by identifying dangerous enemies within and without.

As Eugen Weber showed in his classic book Peasants into Frenchmen (1976), this was a uniformly brutal process in France itself. Much of Europe then went on to suffer widespread dispossession, the destruction of regional languages and cultures, and the institutionalisation of hoary prejudices like antisemitism. The 19th century’s most sensitive minds, from Kierkegaard to Ruskin, recoiled from such modernisation, though they did not always know the darker side of it: rapacious European colonialism in Asia and Africa. By the 1940s, competitive nationalisms in Europe stood implicated in the most vicious wars and crimes against religious and ethnic minorities witnessed in human history. After the second world war, European countries – under American auspices and the pressures of the cold war –  were forced to imagine less antagonistic political and economic relations, which eventually resulted in the European Union.

But the new nation-states in Asia and Africa had already started on their own fraught journey to modernity, riding roughshod over ethnic and religious diversity and older ways of life. Asians and Africans educated in western-style institutions despaired of their traditionalist elites as much as they resented European dominance over their societies. They sought true power and sovereignty in a world of powerful nation-states –  what alone seemed to guarantee them and their peoples a fair chance at strength, equality and dignity in the white man’s world. In this quest China’s Mao Zedong and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as much as Iran’s democratically-elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh followed the western model of mass-mobilisation and state-building.

By then European and American dominance over “the world’s economies and peoples” had, as the Cambridge historian Christopher Bayly writes in The Birth of the Modern World, turned a large part of humanity “into long-term losers in the scramble for resources and dignity”. Nevertheless, the explicitly defined aim of Asia and Africa’s first nationalist icons, who tended to be socialist and secular (Ataturk, Nehru, Nasser, Nkrumah, Mao, and Sukarno), was “catch-up” with the west. Recent ruling classes of the non-west have looked to McKinsey rather than Marx to help define their socioeconomic future; but they have not dared to alter the founding basis of their legitimacy as “modernisers” leading their countries to convergence with the west and attainment of European and American living standards. As it turns out, the latecomers to modernity, dumping protectionist socialism for global capitalism, have got their timing wrong again.

In the 21st century that old spell of universal progress through western ideologies – socialism and capitalism – has been decisively broken. If we are appalled and dumbfounded by a world in flames it is because we have been living – in the east and south as well as west and north –  with vanities and illusions: that Asian and African societies would become, like Europe, more secular and instrumentally rational as economic growth accelerated; that with socialism dead and buried, free markets would guarantee rapid economic growth and worldwide prosperity. What these fantasies of inverted Hegelianism always disguised was a sobering fact: that the dynamics and specific features of western “progress” were not and could not be replicated or correctly sequenced in the non-west.

The enabling conditions of Europe’s 19th-century success –  small, relatively homogenous populations, or the ability to send surplus populations abroad as soldiers, merchants and missionaries –  were missing in the large and populous countries of Asia and Africa. Furthermore, imperialism had deprived them, as Basil Davidson argued in The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State, of the resources to pursue western-style economic development; it had also imposed ruinous ideologies and institutions upon societies that had developed, over centuries, their own viable political units and social structures.

Recklessly exported worldwide even today, the west’s successful formulas have continued to cause much invisible suffering. What may have been the right fit for 19th-century colonialists in countries with endless resources cannot secure a stable future for India, China, and other late arrivals to the modern world, which can only colonise their own territories and uproot their own indigenous peoples in the search for valuable commodities and resources.

The result is endless insurgencies and counter-insurgencies, wars and massacres, the rise of such bizarre anachronisms and novelties as Maoist guerrillas in India and self-immolating monks in Tibet, the increased attraction of unemployed and unemployable youth to extremist organisations, and the endless misery that provokes thousands of desperate Asians and Africans to make the risky journey to what they see as the centre of successful modernity.

It should be no surprise that religion in the non-western world has failed to disappear under the juggernaut of industrial capitalism, or that liberal democracy finds its most dedicated saboteurs among the new middle classes. The political and economic institutions and ideologies of western Europe and the United States had been forged by specific events – revolts against clerical authority, industrial innovations, capitalist consolidation through colonial conquest –  that did not occur elsewhere. So formal religion – not only Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Russian Orthodox Church, but also such quietist religions as Buddhism – is actually now increasingly allied with rather than detached from state power. The middle classes, whether in India, Thailand, Turkey or Egypt, betray a greater liking for authoritarian leaders and even uniformed despots than for the rule of law and social justice.

But then western ideologues during the cold war absurdly prettified the rise of the “democratic” west. The long struggle against communism, which claimed superior moral virtue, required many expedient feints. And so the centuries of civil war, imperial conquest, brutal exploitation, and genocide were suppressed in accounts that showed how westerners made the modern world, and became with their liberal democracies the superior people everyone else ought to catch up with. “All of the western nations”, James Baldwin warned during the cold war in 1963, are “caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and the west has no moral authority”. The deception that an African-American easily divined has continued, nevertheless, to enjoy political support and intellectual respectability long after the end of the cold war.

Thus the editors of the Economist elide in The Fourth Revolution the history of mass slaughter in the west itself that led to the modern nation-state: the religious wars of the 17th century, the terror of French revolutions, the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian war and the wars of Italian unification, among others. Mainstream Anglo-American writers who vend popular explanations of how the west made the modern world veer between intellectual equivocation and insouciance about the west’s comparative advantage of colonialism, slavery and indentured labour. “We cannot pretend”, Ferguson avers, that the “mobilisation of cheap and probably underemployed Asian labour to grow rubber and dig gold had no economic value”. A recent review in the Economist of a history explaining the compact between capitalism and slavery protests that “almost all the blacks” in the book are “victims”, and “almost all the whites villains”.

Understandably, history has to be “balanced” for Davos Men, who cannot bear too much reality in their effervescent prognoses of “convergence” between the west and the rest. But obscuring the monstrous costs of the west’s own “progress” destroys any possibility of explaining the proliferation of large-scale violence in the world today, let along finding a way to contain it. Evasions, suppressions and downright falsehoods have resulted, over time, in a massive store of defective knowledge –  an ignorance that Herzen correctly feared to be pernicious –  about the west and the non-west alike. Simple-minded and misleading ideas and assumptions, drawn from this blinkered history, today shape the speeches of western statesmen, thinktank reports and newspaper editorials, while supplying fuel to countless log-rolling columnists, TV pundits and terrorism experts.

The Price of Progress

A faith in the west’s superiority has not always been an obstacle to understanding the tormented process of modernisation in the rest of the world, as the French anti-communist Raymond Aron demonstrated in books like Progress and Disillusion (1968) and The Opium of the Intellectuals (1955). Aron believed the west made the modern world with its political and economic innovations and material goals, but did not flinch from examining what this fact really augured about the modern world. As he saw it, the conflicts and contradictions thrown up by the pursuit of modernity had been hard enough to manage for western societies for much of the last century. Industrial societies alone had seemed able to improve material conditions, and bring about a measure of social and economic equality; but the promise of equality, which staved off social unrest, was increasingly difficult to fulfill because specialisation kept producing fresh hierarchies.

Some parts of the west had achieved some reduction in material inequalities, due to a market economy which produced both desirable goods and the means to acquire them; organised labour, which made it possible for workers to demand higher wages; and political liberty, which made the rulers accountable to the ruled. And some western countries had also, however brutally, got the sequencing broadly right: they had managed to build resilient states before trying to turn peasants into citizens. (“We have made Italy; now we must make the Italians”, the Italian nationalist Massimo d’Azeglio famously proclaimed in 1860.) The most successful European states had also accomplished a measure of economic growth before gradually extending democratic rights to a majority of the population. “No European country”, Aron pointed out, “ever went through the phase of economic development which India and China are now experiencing, under a regime that was representative and democratic”. Nowhere in Europe, he wrote in The Opium of Intellectuals, “during the long years when industrial populations were growing rapidly, factory chimneys looming up over the suburbs and railways and bridges being constructed, were personal liberties, universal suffrage and the parliamentary system combined”.

Countries outside the west, however, faced simultaneously the arduous tasks of establishing strong nation-states and viable economies, and satisfying the demands for dignity and equality of freshly politicised peoples. This made the importation of western measures and techniques of success in places that “have not yet emerged from feudal poverty” an unprecedented and perilous experiment. Travelling through Asia and Africa in the 1950s, Aron discerned the potential for authoritarianism as well as dark chaos.

There were not many political choices before societies that had lost their old traditional sources of authority while embarking on the adventure of building new nation-states and industrial economies in a secular and materialist ethos. These rationalised societies, constituted by “individuals and their desires”, had to either build a social and political consensus themselves or have it imposed on them by a strongman. Failure would plunge them into violent anarchy.

Aron was no vulgar can-doist. American individualism, the product of a short history of unrepeatable national success, in his view, “spreads unlimited optimism, denigrates the past, and encourages the adoption of institutions which are in themselves destructive of the collective unity”. Nor was he a partisan of the blood-splattered French revolutionary tradition, which requires “people to submit to the strictest discipline in the name of the ultimate freedom” – whose latest incarnation is Isis and its attempt to construct an utopian “Islamic State” through a reign of terror.

The State Under Siege

Applied to the many nation-states that emerged in the mid-20th century, Aron’s sombre analysis can only embarrass those who have been daydreaming since 1989 about a worldwide upsurge of liberal democracy in tandem with capitalism. Indeed, long before the rise of European totalitarianisms, urgent state-building and the search for rapid and high economic growth had doomed individual liberties to a precarious existence in Japan. Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea went on to show, after 1945, that a flourishing capitalist economy always was compatible with the denial of democratic rights.

China has more recently achieved a form of capitalist modernity without embracing liberal democracy. Turkey now enjoys economic growth as well as regular elections; but these have not made the country break with long decades of authoritarian rule. The arrival of Anatolian masses in politics has actually enabled a demagogue like Erdogan to imagine himself as a second Ataturk.

Turkey, however, may have been relatively fortunate in being able to build a modern state out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire. Disorder was the fate of many new nations that had been insufficiently or too fervidly imagined, such as Myanmar and Pakistan; their weak state structures and fragmented civil society have condemned them to oscillate perennially between civilian and military despots while warding off challenges from disaffected minorities and religious fanatics. Until the Arab spring, ruthless despots kept a lid on sectarian animosities in the nation-states carved out of the Ottoman empire. Today, as the shattering of Iraq, Libya and Syria reveals, despotism, far from being a bulwark against militant disaffection, is an effective furnace for it.

Countries that managed to rebuild commanding state structures after popular nationalist revolutions –  such as China, Vietnam, and Iran –  look stable and cohesive when compared with a traditional monarchy such as Thailand or wholly artificial nation-states like Iraq and Syria. The bloody regimes inaugurated by Khomeini and Mao survived some terrible internal and external conflicts –  the Korean and Iran-Iraq wars, the Cultural Revolution and much fratricidal bloodletting –  partly because their core nationalist ideologies secured consent from many of their subjects.

Since 1989, however, this strenuously achieved national consensus in many countries has been under siege from a fresh quarter: an ideology of endless economic expansion and private wealth-creation that had been tamed in the mid-20th century. After its most severe global crisis in the 1930s, capitalism had suffered a decline in legitimacy, and in much of the non-western world, planned and protected economic growth had become the chosen means to such ends as social justice and gender equality. In our own age, feral forms of capitalism, which after the Depression were defanged by social-welfarism in the west and protectionist economies elsewhere, have turned into an elemental force. Thus, nation-states already struggling against secessionist movements by ethnic and religious minorities have seen their internal unity further undermined by capitalism’s dominant ethic of primitive accumulation and individual gratification.

China, once the world’s most egalitarian society, is now even more unequal than the United States – one per cent of its population owns one-third of the national wealth –  and prone to defuse its increasing social contradictions through a hardline nationalism directed at its neighbours, particularly Japan. Many formally democratic nation-states, such as India, Indonesia, and South Africa, have struggled to maintain their national consensus in the face of the imperative to privatise basic services such as water, health and education (and also, for many countries, to de-industrialise, and surrender their sovereignty to markets). Mobile and transnational capital, which de-territorialises wealth and poverty, has made state-building and its original goals of broad social and economic uplift nearly impossible to achieve within national boundaries.

The elites primarily benefitting from global capitalism have had to devise new ideologies to make their dominance seem natural. Thus, India and Israel, which started out as nation-states committed to social justice, have seen their foundational ideals radically reconfigured by a nexus of neoliberal politicians and majoritarian nationalists, who now try to bludgeon their disaffected subjects into loyalty to a “Jewish state” and a “Hindu nation”. Demagogues in Thailand, Myanmar, and Pakistan have emerged at the head of populations angry and fearful about being deprived of the endlessly postponed fruits of modernity.

Identified with elite or sectarian interests, the unrepresentative central state in many countries struggles to compete with offers of stability and order from non-state actors. Not surprisingly, even the vicious Isis claims to offer better governance to Sunnis angry with the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. So do Maoist insurgents who control large territories in Central India, and even drug-traffickers in Myanmar and Mexico.

A Shattered Mirror

Fukuyama, asserting that the “power of the democratic ideal” remains immense, claimed earlier this year that “we should have no doubt as to what kind of society lies at the end of History”. But the time for grand Hegelian theories about the rational spirit of history incarnated in the nation-state, socialism, capitalism, or liberal democracy is now over. Looking at our own complex disorder we can no longer accept that it manifests an a priori moral and rational order, visible only to an elite thus far, that will ultimately be revealed to all.

How then do we interpret it? Reflecting on the world’s “pervasive raggedness” in the last essay he wrote before his death in 2006, the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz spoke of how “the shattering of larger coherences …  has made relating local realities with overarching ones …  extremely difficult”. “If the general is to be grasped at all”, Geertz wrote, “and new unities uncovered, it must, it seems, be grasped not directly, all at once, but via instances, differences, variations, particulars – piecemeal, case by case. In a splintered world, we must address the splinters”.

Such an approach would necessarily demand greater attention to historical specificity and detail, the presence of contingency, and the ever-deepening contradictions of nation-states amid the crises of capitalism. It would require asking why nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq failed catastrophically while decentralisation helped stabilise Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, after a long spell of despotic rule supported by the middle class. It would require an admission that Iraq can achieve a modicum of stability not by reviving the doomed project of nation-state but through a return to Ottoman-style confederal institutions that devolve power and guarantee minority rights. Addressing the splinters leaves no scope for vacuous moralising against “Islamic extremism”: in their puritanical and utopian zeal, the Islamic revolutionaries brutally advancing across Syria and Iraq resemble the fanatically secular Khmer Rouge more than anything in the long history of Islam.

A fresh grasp of the general also necessitates understanding the precise ways in which western ideologues, and their non-western epigones, continue to “make” the modern world. “Shock-therapy” administered to a hapless Russian population in the 1990s and the horrific suffering afterwards set the stage for Putin’s messianic Eurasianism. But, following Geertz’s insistence on differences and variations, the ressentiment of the west articulated by nationalists in Russia, China, and India cannot be conflated with the resistance to a predatory form of modernisation – ruthless dispossession by a profit-driven nexus of the state and business – mounted by indigenous peoples in Tibet, India, Peru and Bolivia.

In any case, the doubters of western-style progress today include more than just marginal communities and some angry environmental activists. Last month the Economist said that, on the basis of IMF data, emerging economies –  or the “large part of humanity” that Bayly called the “long-term losers” of history – might have to wait for three centuries in order to catch up with the west. In the Economist’s assessment, which pitilessly annuls the upbeat projections beloved of consultants and investors, the last decade of rapid growth was an “aberration” and “billions of people will be poorer for a lot longer than they might have expected just a few years ago”.

The implications are sobering: the non-west not only finds itself replicating the west’s violence and trauma on an infinitely larger scale. While helping inflict the profoundest damage yet on the environment –  manifest today in rising sea levels, erratic rainfall, drought, declining harvests, and devastating floods –  the non-west also has no real prospect of catching up with the west.

How do we chart our way out of this impasse? His own discovery of the tragically insuperable contradictions of westernisation led Aron into the odd company of the many thinkers in the east and the west who questioned the exalting of economic growth as an end in itself. Of course, other ways of conceiving of the good life have existed long before a crudely utilitarian calculus – which institutionalises greed, credits slavery with economic value and confuses individual freedom with consumer choice –  replaced thinking in our most prominent minds.

Such re-examinations of liberal capitalist ideas of “development”, and exploration of suppressed intellectual traditions, are not nearly as rousing or self-flattering as the rhetorical binaries that make laptop bombers pound the keyboard with the caps lock glowing green. Barack Obama, who struggled to adhere to a wise policy of not doing stupid stuff, has launched another open-ended war after he was assailed for being weak by assorted can-doists. Plainly, Anglo-American elites who are handsomely compensated to live forever in the early 20th century, when the liberal-democratic west crushed its most vicious enemies, will never cease to find more brutes to exterminate. The rest of us, however, have to live in the 21st century, and prevent it from turning into yet another rotten one for the western model.

Links:

The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains links to further information not included here.
_____

This article was amended on 17 October 2014. An earlier version stated that “No less than the World Bank admitted last month that emerging economies … might have to wait for three centuries in order to catch up with the west”. In fact it was the Economist, analysing IMF data, which said that last month.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/14/-sp-western-model-broken-pankaj-mishra

Categories: Uncategorized

Dark Age America: The Hour of the Knife

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (October 15 2014)

Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society

It was definitely the sort of week that could benefit from a little comic relief. The Ebola epidemic marked another week of rising death tolls and inadequate international response . Bombs rained down ineffectually on various corners of Iraq and Syria as the United States and an assortment of putative allies launched air strikes at the Islamic State insurgents; since air strikes by themselves don’t win wars, and none of the combatants except Islamic State and the people they’re attacking have shown any inclination to put boots on the ground, that high-tech tantrum also counts in every practical sense as an admission of defeat, a point which is doubtless not lost on Islamic State. Meanwhile stock markets worldwide plunged on an assortment of ghastly economic news, with most indexes giving up their 2014 gains and then some, and oil prices dropped on weakening demand, reaching levels that put a good many fracking firms in imminent danger of bankruptcy.

In the teeth of all this bad news, I’m pleased to say, Paul Krugman rose to the occasion and gave all of us in the peak oil scene something to laugh about {1}.  My regular readers will recall that Krugman assailed Post Carbon Institute a couple of weeks ago for having the temerity to point out that transitioning away from fossil fuels was, ahem, actually going to cost money. His piece was rebutted at once by Post Carbon’s Richard Heinberg and others, who challenged Krugman’s crackpot optimism and pointed out that the laws of physics and geology really do trump those of economics.

Krugman’s response – it really is a comic masterpiece, better than anything I’ve seen since the heyday of Francis Fukuyama – involved, among other non sequiturs and dubious claims, assailing mere scientists for thinking that they know more than economists. Er, let’s see: which of these two groups of people is expected to test their predictions against hard facts and discard a theory that produces inaccurate predictions? That’s what scientists do every working day, while economists apparently have something else to occupy their time. This may be why, when it comes to predicting macroeconomic conditions, economists these days are rarely as accurate as a tossed coin: consider the IMF’s continued advocacy of austerity programs as the road to prosperity when no country that has ever implemented them has ever achieved prosperity thereby, or for that matter the huge majority of economists who insisted the housing bubble wasn’t a bubble and wouldn’t crash, right up until the bottom dropped out.

Like so much great comedy, though, Krugman’s jest has its serious side. He sees a permanent condition of economic growth as the normal, indeed the inevitable state of affairs; it has doubtless never occurred to him that it might merely be a temporary anomaly, made possible only by the reckless extraction and consumption of half a billion years of fossil sunlight in a few short centuries. That the needle on the world’s fossil fuel gauge is swinging inexorably over toward E, to him, thus can only mean that some other source of cheap, abundant, highly concentrated energy will have to be found to keep the engines of economic growth roaring on at full throttle. That there may be no such replacement for fossil fuels ready and waiting in Nature’s cookie jar, and that economic growth can thus give way to an economic contraction extending over decades and centuries to come, has never entered his darkest dream.

That is to say, Krugman is still thinking the thoughts of a bygone era when the assumptions guiding those thoughts are long past their pull date and a very different era is taking shape around him. That’s a common source of confusion in times of rapid change, and never more so than in the decline and fall of civilizations – the theme of the current series of posts here. One specific form of that confusion very often becomes the mechanism by which the governing elite of a society in decline removes itself from power, and that mechanism is what I want to discuss this week.

To make sense of that process, it’s going to be necessary to take a step back and revisit some of the points made in an earlier post in this series {2}. I discussed there the way that the complex social hierarchies common to mature civilizations break down into larger and less stable masses in which new loyalties and hatreds more easily build to explosive intensity. America’s as good an example of that as any.  A century ago, for example, racists in this country were at great pains to distinguish various classes of whiteness, with people of Anglo-Saxon ancestry at the pinnacle of whiteness and everybody else fitted into an intricate scheme of less-white categories below. Over the course of the twentieth century, those categories collapsed into a handful of abstract ethnicities – white, black, Hispanic, Asian – and can be counted on to collapse further as we proceed, until there are just two categories left, which are not determined by ethnicity but purely by access to the machinery of power.

Arnold Toynbee, whose immensely detailed exploration of this process remains the best account for our purposes, called those two the dominant minority and the internal proletariat. The dominant minority is the governing elite of a civilization in its last phases, a group of people united not by ethnic, cultural, religious, or ideological ties, but purely by their success in either clawing their way up the social ladder to a position of power, or hanging on to a position inherited from their forebears. Toynbee draws a sharp division between a dominant minority and the governing elite of a civilization that hasn’t yet begun to decline, which he calls a creative minority. The difference is that a creative minority hasn’t yet gone through the descent into senility {3} that afflicts elites, and still recalls its dependence on the loyalty of those further down the social ladder; a dominant minority or, in my terms, a senile elite has lost track of that, and has to demand and enforce obedience because it can no longer inspire respect.

Everyone else in a declining civilization belongs to the second category, the internal proletariat. Like the dominant minority, the internal proletariat has nothing to unite it but its relationship to political power: it consists of all those people who have none. In the face of that fact, other social divisions gradually evaporate.  Social hierarchies are a form of capital, and like any form of capital, they have maintenance costs, which are paid out in the form of influence and wealth.   The higher someone stands in the social hierarchy, the more access to influence and wealth they have; that’s their payoff for cooperating with the system and enforcing its norms on those further down.

As resources run short and a civilization in decline has to start cutting its maintenance costs, though, the payoffs get cut. For obvious reasons, the higher someone is on the ladder to begin with, the more influence they have over whose payoffs get cut, and that reliably works out to “not mine”. The further down you go, by contrast, the more likely people are to get the short end of the stick. That said, until the civilization actually comes apart, there’s normally a floor to the process, somewhere around the minimum necessary to actually sustain life; an unlucky few get pushed below this, but normally it’s easier to maintain social order when the very poor get just enough to survive. Thus social hierarchies disintegrate from the bottom up, as more and more people on the lower rungs of the latter are pushed down to the bottom, erasing the social distinctions that once differentiated them from the lowest rung.

That happens in society as a whole; it also happens in each of the broad divisions of the caste system – in the United States, those would be the major ethnic divisions. The many shades of relative whiteness that used to divide white Americans into an intricate array of castes, for instance, have almost entirely gone by the boards; you have to go pretty far up the ladder to find white Americans who differentiate themselves from other white Americans on the basis of whose descendants they are. Further down the ladder, Americans of Italian, Irish, and Polish descent – once strictly defined castes with their own churches, neighborhoods, and institutions – now as often as not think of themselves as white without further qualification.

The same process has gotten under way to one extent or another in the other major ethnic divisions of American society, and it’s also started to dissolve even those divisions among the growing masses of the very poor.  I have something of a front-row seat on that last process; I live on the edge of the low-rent district in an old mill town in the Appalachians, and shopping and other errands take me through the neighborhood on foot quite often. I walk past couples pushing baby carriages, kids playing in backyards or vacant lots, neighbors hanging out together on porches, and as often as not these days the people in these groups don’t all have the same skin color. Head into the expensive part of town and you won’t see that; the dissolution of the caste system hasn’t extended that far up the ladder – yet.

This is business as usual in a collapsing civilization.  Sooner or later, no matter how intricate the caste system you start with, you end up with a society divided along the lines sketched out by Toynbee, with a dominant minority defined solely by its access to power and wealth and an internal proletariat defined solely by its exclusion from these things. We’re not there yet, not in the United States; there are still an assortment of intermediate castes between the two final divisions of society – but as Bob Dylan said a long time ago, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

The political implications of this shift are worth watching. As I’ve noted here more than once, ruling elites in mature civilizations don’t actually exercise power themselves; they issue general directives to their immediate subordinates, who hand them further down the pyramid; along the way the general directives are turned into specific orders, which finally go to the ordinary working Joes and Janes who actually do the work of maintaining the status quo against potential rivals, rebels, and dissidents. A governing elite that hasn’t yet gone senile knows that it has to keep the members of its overseer class happy, and provides them with appropriate perks and privileges toward this end. As the caste system starts to disintegrate due to a shortage of resources to meet maintenance costs, though, the salaries and benefits at the bottom of the overseer class get cut, and more and more of the work of maintaining the system is assigned to poorly paid, poorly trained, and poorly motivated temp workers whose loyalties don’t necessarily lie with their putative masters.

You might think that even an elite gone senile would have enough basic common sense left to notice that losing the loyalty of the people who keep the elite in power is a fatal error.  In practice, though, the disconnection between the world of the dominant elite and the world of the internal proletariat quickly becomes total, and the former can be completely convinced that everything is fine when the latter know otherwise. As I write this, there’s a timely example unfolding at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where hospital administrators have been insisting at the top of their lungs that every possible precaution was taken when the late Thomas Duncan was being treated there for Ebola. According to the nursing staff – two of whom have now come down with the disease – “every possible precaution” amounted to no training, inadequate protective gear, and work schedules {4} that had nurses who treated Duncan go on to tend other patients immediately thereafter.

A few weeks ago, the US media was full of confident bluster about how our high-tech medical industry would swing into action and stop the disease in its tracks {5}; the gap between those easy assurances and the Keystone Kops response currently under way in Dallas is the same, mutatis mutandis, as the gap between the august edicts proclaimed in the capital during the last years of every civilization and the chaos in the streets and on the borders. You can see the same gap at work every time the US government trots out the latest round of heavily massaged economic statistics claiming that prosperity is just around the corner, or – well, I could go on listing examples for any number of pages.

So the gap that opens up between the dominant minority and the internal proletariat is much easier to see from below than from above. Left to itself, that gap would probably keep widening until the dominant minority toppled into it. It’s an interesting regularity of history, though, that this process is almost never left to run its full length. Instead, another series of events overtakes it, with the same harsh consequences for the dominant minority.

To understand this it’s necessary to include another aspect of Toynbee’s analysis, and look at what’s going on just outside the borders of a civilization in decline. Civilizations prosper by preying on their neighbors; the mechanism may be invasion and outright pillage, demands for tribute backed up by the threat of armed force, unbalanced systems of exchange that concentrate wealth in an imperial center at the expense of the periphery, or what have you, but the process is the same in every case, and so are the results. One way or another, the heartland of every civilization ends up surrounded by an impoverished borderland, scaled according to the transport technologies of the era.  In the case of the ancient Maya, the borderland extended only a modest distance in any direction; in the case of ancient Rome, it extended north to the Baltic Sea and east up to the borders of Parthia; in the case of modern industrial society, the borderland includes the entire Third World.

However large the borderland may be, its inhabitants fill a distinctive role in the decline and fall of a civilization. Toynbee calls them the external proletariat; as a civilization matures, their labor provides a steadily increasing share of the wealth that keeps the civilization and its dominant elite afloat, but they receive essentially nothing in return, and they’re keenly aware of this. Civilizations in their prime keep their external proletariats under control by finding and funding compliant despots to rule over the borderlands and, not incidentally, distract the rage of the external proletariat to some target more expendable than the civilization’s dominant minority. Here again, though, maintenance costs are the critical issue. When a dominant minority can no longer afford the subsidies and regular military expeditions needed to keep their puppet despots on their thrones, and try to maintain peace along the borders on the cheap, they invariably catalyze the birth of the social form that brings them down.

Historians call it the warband: a group of young men whose sole trade is violence, gathered around a charismatic leader.  Warbands spring up in the borderlands of a civilization as the dominant minority or its pet despots lose their grip, and go through a brutally Darwinian process of evolution thereafter in constant struggle with each other and with every other present or potential rival in range. Once they start forming, there seems to be little that a declining civilization can do to derail that evolutionary process; warbands are born of chaos, their activities add to the chaos, and every attempt to pacify the borderlands by force simply adds to the chaos that feeds them. In their early days, warbands cover their expenses by whatever form of violent activity will pay the bills, from armed robbery to smuggling to mercenary service; as they grow, raids across the border are the next step; as the civilization falls apart and the age of migrations begins, warbands are the cutting edge of the process that shreds nations and scatters their people across the map.

The process of warband formation itself can quite readily bring a civilization down. Very often, though, the dominant minority of the declining civilization gives the process a good hard shove. As the chasm between the dominant minority and the internal proletariat becomes wider, remember, the overseer class that used to take care of crowd control and the like for the dominant minority becomes less and less reliable, as their morale and effectiveness are hammered by ongoing budget cuts, and the social barriers that once divided them from the people they are supposed to control will have begun to dissolve if they haven’t entirely given way yet. What’s the obvious option for a dominant minority that is worried about its ability to control the internal proletariat, can no longer rely on its own overseer class, and also has a desperate need to find something to distract the warbands on its borders?

They hire the warbands, of course.

That’s what inspired the Roman-British despot Vortigern to hire the Saxon warlord Hengist and three shiploads of his heavily armed friends to help keep the peace in Britannia after the legions departed. That’s what led the Fujiwara family, the uncrowned rulers of Japan, to hire uncouth samurai from the distant, half-barbarous Kanto plain to maintain peace in the twilight years of the Heian period. That’s why scores of other ruling elites have made the obvious, logical, and lethal choice to hire their own replacements and hand over the actual administration of power to them.

That latter is the moment toward which all the political trends examined in the last four posts in this sequence converge. The disintegration of social hierarchies, the senility of ruling elites, and the fossilization of institutions all lead to the hour of the knife, the point at those who think they still rule a civilization discover the hard way – sometimes the very hard way – that effective power has transferred to new and more muscular hands. Those of the elites that attempt to resist this transfer rarely survive the experience.  Those who accommodate themselves to the new state of affairs may be able to prosper for a time, but only so long as their ability to manipulate what’s left of the old system makes them useful to its new overlords. As what was once a complex society governed by bureaucratic institutions dissolves into a much simpler society governed by the personal rule of warlords, that skill set does not necessarily wear well.

In some cases – Hengist is an example – the warlords allow the old institutions to fall to pieces all at once, and the transition from an urban civilization to a protofeudal rural society takes place in a few generations at most. In others – the samurai of the Minamoto clan, who came out on top in the furious struggles that surrounded the end of the Heian period, are an example here – the warlords try to maintain the existing order of society as best they can, and get dragged down by the same catabolic trap that overwhelmed their predecessors. In an unusually complex case – for example, post-Roman Italy – one warlord after another can seize what’s left of the institutional structure of a dead empire, try to run it for a while, and then get replaced by someone else with the same agenda, each change driving one more step down the long stair that turned the Forum into a sheep pasture.

Exactly how this process will play out in the present case is impossible to predict in advance. We’ve got warband formation well under way in quite a few corners of industrial civilization’s borderlands, the southern border of the United States among them; we’ve got a dominant minority far advanced in the state of senility described in an earlier post; we’ve got a society equally well advanced in the dissolution of castes into dominant minority and internal proletariat. Where we are now in the process is clear enough; what will come out the other side, which will be discussed in a future post, is equally clear; the exact series of steps between them is of less importance – except, of course, to those who have the most to fear when the hour of the knife arrives.

_____

In other news, I’m pleased to announce that my latest book from New Society Publications, After Progress: Reason, Religion, and the End of the Industrial Age {6} is now available for preorder, with a twenty percent discount off the cover price as an additional temptation. Those readers who enjoyed last year’s series of posts on religion and the end of progress will find this very much to their taste.

John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {7} and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

Links:

{1} http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/slow-steaming-and-the-supposed-limits-to-growth/

{2} http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/09/dark-age-america-cauldron-of-nations.html

{3} http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/09/dark-age-america-senility-of-elites.html

{4} http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20141015-in-statement-nurses-at-presbyterian-dallas-describe-confused-response-to-ebola-case.ece

{5} http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/what-would-happen-if-someone-got-ebola-in-america/375928/?single_page=true

{6} http://www.newsociety.com/affil.mvc?Affil=ARCH&Page=../Books/A/After-Progress

{7} http://www.aoda.org/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.jp/2014/10/dark-age-america-hour-of-knife.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The Russian Response …

… to a Double Declaration of War

by The Saker

Vineyard Saker (September 27 2014)

The Context: A Double Declaration of War

Listening to Poroshenko a few days ago and then to Obama at the United Nations General Assembly can leave no doubt whatsoever about the fact that the AngloZionist Empire is at war with Russia.

First and foremost, Putin was never elected to be the world’s policeman or savior, he was only elected to be president of Russia.  Seems obvious, but yet many seem to assume that somehow Putin is morally obliged to do something to protect Syria, Novorussia or any other part of our harassed world.  This is not so.  Yes, Russia is the de facto leader of the BRICS and SCO countries, and Russia accepts that fact, but Putin has the moral and legal obligation to care for his own people first.

Second, Russia is now officially in the crosshairs of the AngloZionist Empire which includes not only three nuclear countries (US, UK, France) but also the most powerful military force (US+NATO) and the world’s biggest economies (US+EU).  I think that we can all agree that the threat posed by such an Empire is not trivial and that Russia is right in dealing with it very carefully.

Sniping at Putin and Missing the Point

Now, amazingly, many of those who accuse Putin of being a wimp, a sellout or a naive Pollyanna also claim that the West is preparing nuclear war on Russia.  If that is really the case, this begs the question: if that is really the case, if there is a real risk of war, nuclear or not, is Putin not doing the right thing by not acting tough or threatening?  Some would say that the West is bent on a war no matter what Putin does.  Okay, fair enough, but in that case is his buying as much time as possible before the inevitable not the right thing to do?!

Third, on the issue of the USA versus ISIL, several comments here accused Putin of back-stabbing Assad because Russia supported the US Resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

And what was Putin supposed to do?! Fly the Russian Air Force to Syria to protect the Syrian border?  What about Assad?  Did he scramble his own air force to try to stop the US or has he quietly made a deal: bomb “them” not us, and I shall protest and do nothing about it?  Most obviously the latter.

In fact, Putin and Assad have exactly the same position: protest the unilateral nature of the strikes, demand a UN resolution while quietly watching how Uncle Sam turned on his own progeny and now tries to destroy them.

I would add that Lavrov quite logically stated that there are no “good terrorists”.  He knows that ISIL is nothing but a continuation of the US-created Syrian insurgency, itself a continuation of the US-created al-Qaeda.  From a Russian point of view, the choice is simple: what is better, for the US to use its forces and men to kill crazed Wahabis or have Assad do it?  And if ISIL is successful in Iraq, how long before they come back to Chechnia?  Or Crimea?  Or Tatarstan?  Why should any Russian or Syria soldier risk death when the USAF is willing to do that for them?

While there is a sweet irony in the fact that the US now has to bomb it’s own creation, let them do that.  Even Assad was clearly forewarned and he obviously is quite happy about that.

Finally, UN or no UN, the US had already taken the decision to bomb ISIL.  So what is the point of blocking a perfectly good UN Resolution?  That would be self-defeating.  In fact, this Resolution can even be used by Russia to prevent the US and UK from serving as a rear base for Wahabi extremists (this resolution bans that, and we are talking about a mandatory, Chapter VII, UNSC Resolution).

And yet, some still say that Putin threw Assad under the bus.  How crazy and stupid can one get to have that kind of notion about warfare or politics?  And if Putin wanted to toss Assad under the bus, why did he not do that last year?

Sincere Frustration or Intellectual Dishonesty?

But that kind of nonsense about the Syria is absolutely dwarfed by the kind of truly crazy stuff some people post about Novorussia.  Here are my favorite ones.  The author begins by quoting me:

“This war has never been about Novorussia or about the Ukraine”.

and then continues:

That statement is too vacuous and convenient as a copout. Do you really mean to say that the thousands of people murdered by shelling, the thousands of young Ukrainian conscripts put through the meat grinder, the thousands of homes destroyed, the more than one million people who have turned into refugees … NONE of that has anything to do with Novorussia and Ukraine? That this is only about Russia?  Really, one would wish you’d refrain from making silly statements like that.

The only problem being, of course, that I never made it in the first place :-)

Of course, it is rather obvious that  I meant that FOR THE ANGLOZIONIST EMPIRE the goal has never been the Ukraine or Novorussia, but a war on Russia.  All Russia did was to recognize this reality.  Again, the words “do you really mean to say that” clearly show that the author is going to twist what I said, make yet another strawman, and then indignantly denounce me for being a monster who does not care about the Ukraine or Novorussia (the rest of the comment was in the same vein: indignant denunciations of statements I never made and conclusions I never reached).

I have already grown used to the truly remarkable level of dishonesty of the Putin-bashing crowd and by now I consider it par for the course.  But I wanted to illustrate that one more time just to show that at least in certain cases an honest discussion is not the purpose at all.  But I don’t want to bring it all down to just a few dishonest and vociferous individuals.   There are also many who are sincerely baffled, frustrated and even disappointed with Russia’s apparent passivity.  Here is an excerpt of an email I got this morning:

I guess I was really hoping that perhaps Russia, China The BRICS would be a counter force. What I fail to understand is why after all the demonisation by the US and Europe doesn’t Russia retaliate. The sanctions imposed by the West is hurting Russia and yet they still trade oil in euros/dollars and are bending over backwards to accommodate Europe. I do not understand why they do not say lift all sanctions or no gas. China also says very little against the US, even though they fully understand that if Russia is weakened they are next on the list. As for all the talk of lifting the sanctions on Iran that is farcical as we all know Israel will never allow them to be lifted. So why do China and Russia go along with the whole charade. Sometimes I wonder if we are all being played, and this is all one big game, which no chance of anything changing.

In this case the author correctly sees that Russia and China follow a very similar policy which sure looks like an attempt to appease the US.  In contrast to the previous comment, here the author is both sincere and truly distressed.

In fact, I believe that what I am observing are three very different phenomena all manifesting themselves at the same time:

1. An organized Putin-bashing campaign initiated by US/UK government branches tasked with manipulating the social media.

2. A spontaneous Putin-bashing campaign lead by certain Russian National-Bolshevik circles (Limonov, Dugin & Company).

3. The expression of a sincere bafflement, distress and frustration by honest and well-intentioned people to whom the current Russian stance really makes no sense at all.

The rest of this post will be entirely dedicated to try to explain the Russian stance to those in this third group (any dialog with the two first ones just makes no sense).

Trying to Make Sense of an Apparently Illogical Policy

In my introduction above I stated that what is taking place is a war on Russia, not hot war (yet?) and not quite an old-style Cold War.  In essence, what the AngloZionists are doing is pretty clear and a lot of Russian commentators have already reached that conclusion: the US are engaged into a war against Russia for which the US will fight to the last Ukrainian. Thus, for the Empire, “success” can never be defined as an outcome in the Ukraine because, as I said previously, this war is not about the Ukraine.  For the Empire “success” is a specific outcome in Russia: regime change.  Let’s us look at how the Empire plans to achieve this result.

The original plan was simplistic in a typically US Neocon way: overthrow Yanukovich, get the Ukraine into the EU and NATO, politically move NATO to the Russian border and militarily move it into Crimea. That plan failed. Russia accepted Crimea and the Ukraine collapsed into a vicious civil war combined with a terminal economic crisis.  Then the US Neocons fell-back to plan B.

Plan B was also simple: get Russia to intervene militarily in the Donbass and use that as a pretext for a full-scale Cold War Version Two which would create 1950s style tensions between East and West, justify fear-induced policies in the West, and completely sever the growing economic ties between Russia and the EU.  Except that plan also failed – Russia did not take the bait and instead of intervening directly in the Donbass, she began a massive covert operation to support the anti-Nazi forces in Novorussia. The Russian plan worked, and the Junta Repression Forces (JRF) were soundly defeated by the Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF) even though the latter was suffering a huge deficit in firepower, armor, specialists and men (gradually, Russian covert aid turned all these around).

At this point in time the AngloZionist plutocracy truly freaked out under the combined realization that their plan was falling apart and that there was nothing they could really do to rescue it (a military option was totally impossible as I explained it in the past {1}).  They did try economic sanctions, but that only helped Putin to engage in long overdue reforms.  But the worst part of it all was that each time the West expected Putin to do something, he did the exact opposite:

* Nobody expected that Putin would use military force in Crimea in a lightening-fast take-over operation which will go down in history as at least as amazing as Storm-333 {2}.

* Everybody (including myself) expected Putin to send forces into Novorussia.  He did not.

* Nobody expected Russian counter-sanctions to hit the EU agricultural sector.

* Everybody expected that Putin would retaliate after the latest round of sanctions.  He did not.

There is a pattern here and it is one basic to all martial arts: first, never signal your intentions, second use feints and third, hit when and where your opponent doesn’t expect it.

Conversely, there are two things which are deeply ingrained in the western political mindset which Putin never does: he never threatens and he never postures.  For example, while the US is basically at war with Russia, Russia will gladly support a US resolution on ISIL if it is to Russia’s advantage.  And Russian diplomats will speak of “our American partners” or “our American friends” while, at the same time, doing more than the rest of the planet combined to bring down the AngloZionist Empire.

A Quick Look at Putin’s Record

As I have written in the past, unlike some other bloggers and commentators, I am neither a psychic not a prophet and I cannot tell you what Putin thinks or what he will do tomorrow.  But what I can tell you is that which Putin has already done in the past: (in no particular order)

* Broken the back of the AngloZionist-backed oligarchy in Russia.

* Achieved a truly miraculous success in Chechnia (one which nobody, prophets included, had foreseen).

* Literally resurrected the Russian economy.

* Rebuilt the Russian military, security and intelligences forces.

* Severely disrupted the ability of foreign NGOs to subvert Russia.

* Done more for the de-dollarization of the planet than anybody before.

* Made Russia the clear leader of both BRICS and SCO.

* Openly challenged the informational monopoly of the western propaganda machine (with projects like RussiaToday).

* Stopped an imminent US/NATO strike on Syria by sending in a Russian Navy Expeditionary Force (which gave Syria a full radar coverage of the entire region).

* Made it possible for Assad to prevail in the Syrian civil war.

* Openly rejected the Western “universal civilizational model” and declared his support for another, a religion and tradition based one.

* Openly rejected a unipolar “New World Order” lead by the AngloZionists and declared his support for a multi-polar world order.

* Supported Assange (through RussiaToday) and protected Snowden

* Created and promoted a new alliance model between Christianity and Islam thus undermining the “clash of civilization” paradigm.

* Booted the AngloZionists out of key locations in the Caucasus (Chechnia, Ossetia).

* Booted the AngloZionists out of key locations in Central Asia (Manas base in Kyrgyzstan)

* Gave Russia the means to defend her interest in the Arctic region, including military means.

* Established a full-spectrum strategic alliance with China which is at the core of both SCO and BRICS.

* Is currently passing laws barring foreign interests from controlling the Russian media.

* Gave Iran the means to develop a much needed civilian nuclear program.

* Is working with China to create a financial system fully separated form the current AngloZionist controlled one (including trade in Rubles or Renminbi).

* Re-establised Russian political and economic support for Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Nicaragua and Argentina.

* Very effectively deflated the pro-US color-coded revolution in Russia.

* Organized the “Voentorg” which armed the NAF.

* Gave refuge to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

* Sent in vitally needed humanitarian aid to Novorussia.

* Provided direct Russian fire support and possibly even air cover to NAF in key locations (the “southern cauldron” for example).

* Last but not least, he openly spoke of the need for Russia to “sovereignize” herself and to prevail over the pro-US 5th column.

And that list goes on and on.  All I am trying to illustrate is that there is a very good reason for the AngloZionist’s hatred for Putin: his long record of very effectively fighting them.  So unless we assume that Putin had a sudden change of heart or that he simply ran out of energy or courage, I submit that the notion that he suddenly made a 180 [degree change] makes no sense.  His current policies, however, do make sense, as I will try to explain now.

If you are a “Putin betrayed Novorussia” person, please set that hypothesis aside for a moment, just for argument’s sake and assume that Putin is both principled and logical.  What could he be doing in the Ukraine?  Can we make sense of what we observe?

Imperatives Russia Cannot Ignore

I consider the following sequence indisputable:

First,  Russia must prevail over the current AngloZionist war against her.  What the Empire wants in Russia is regime change followed by complete absorption into the Western sphere of influence including a likely break-up of Russia.  What is threatened is the very existence of the Russian civilization.

Second, Russia will never be safe with a neo-Nazi russophobic regime in power in Kiev.  The Ukie nationalist freaks have proven that it is impossible to negotiate with them (they have broken literally every single agreement signed so far), their hatred for Russia is total (as shown with their constant references to the use of – hypothetical – nuclear weapons against Russia).  Therefore,

Third, regime change in Kiev followed by a full de-Nazification is the only possible way for Russia to achieve her vital objectives.

Again, and at the risk of having my words twisted and misrepresented, I have to repeat here that Novorussia is not what is at stake here.  It’s not even the future of the Ukraine.  What is at stake here is a planetary confrontation (this is the one thesis of Dugin which I fully agree with).  The future of the planet depends on the capability of the BRICS/SCO countries to replace the AngloZionist Empire with a very different, multi-polar, international order.  Russia is crucial and indispensable in this effort (any such effort without Russia is doomed to fail), and the future of Russia is now decided by what Russia will do in the Ukraine.  As for the future of the Ukraine, it largely depends on what will happen to Novorussia, but not exclusively.  In a paradoxical way, Novorussia is more important to Russia than to the Ukraine.  Here is why:

For the rest of the Ukraine, Novorussia is lost.  Forever {3}. Not even a joint Putin-Obama effort could prevent that.  In fact, the Ukies know that and this is why they make no effort to win the hearts and minds of the local population.  In fact, I am convinced that the so-called “random” or “wanton” destruction of the Novorussian industrial, economic, scientific and cultural infrastructure has been intentional act of hateful vengeance similar to the way the AngloZionists always turn to killing civilians when they fail to overcome military forces (the examples of Yugoslavia and Lebanon come to mind).  Of course, Moscow can probably force the local Novorussian political leaders to sign some kind of document accepting Kiev’s sovereignty, but that will be a fiction, it is way too late for that.  If not de jure, then de facto, Novorussia is never going to accept Kiev’s rule again and everybody knows that, in Kiev, in Novorussia and in Russia.

What could a de facto but not de jure independence look like?

No Ukrainian military, national guard, oligarch battalion or SBU, full economic, cultural, religious, linguistic and educational independence, locally elected officials and local media, but all that with Ukie flags, no official independence status, no Novorussian Armed Forces (they will be called something like “regional security force” or even “police force”) and no Novorussian currency (though the Ruble – along with the Dollar and Euro – will be used on a daily basis).  The top officials will have to be officially approved by Kiev (which Kiev will, of course, lest its impotence becomes visible).  This will be a temporary, transitional and unstable arrangement, but it will be good enough to provide a face-saving way out to Kiev.

This said, I would argue that both Kiev and Moscow have an interest in maintaining the fiction of a unitary Ukraine.  For Kiev this is a way to not appear completely defeated by the accursed Moskals.  But what about Russia?

What if You Were in Putin’s Place?

Ask yourself the following question: if you were Putin and your goal was regime change in Kiev, would you prefer Novorussia to be part of the Ukraine or not?  I would submit that having Novorussia inside is much better for the following reasons:

1. It makes it part, even on a macro-level, of the Ukrainian processes, like national elections or national media.

2. It begs the comparison with the conditions in the rest of the Ukraine.

3. It makes it far easier to influence commerce, business, transportation, et cetera.

4. It creates an alternative (Nazi-free) political center to Kiev.

5. It makes it easier for Russian interests (of all kind) to penetrate into the Ukraine.

6. It removes the possibility to put up a Cold War like “wall” or barrier on some geographical marker.

7. It removes the accusation that Russian wants to partition the Ukraine.

In other words, to keep Novorussia de jure, nominally, part of the Ukraine is the best way to appear to be complying with AngloZionist demands while subverting the Nazi junta in power.  In a recent article {4} I outlined what Russia could do without incurring any major consequences:

1. Politically oppose the regime everywhere: UN, media, public opinion, et cetera.

2. Express political support for Novorussia and any Ukrainian opposition.

3. Continue the informational war (Russian media does a great job).

4. Prevent Novorussia from falling (covert military aid).

5. Mercilessly keep up the economic pressure on the Ukraine.

6. Disrupt as much as possible the US-EU “axis of kindness”.

7. Help Crimea and Novorussia prosper economically and financially.

In other words – give the appearance of staying out while very much staying in.

What is the Alternative Anyway?

I already hear the chorus of indignant “hurray-patriots” (that is what these folks are called in Russia) accusing me of only seeing Novorussia as a tool for Russian political goals and of ignoring the death and suffering endured by the people of Novorussia.   To this I will simply reply the following:

Does anybody seriously believe that an independent Novorussia can live in even minimal peace and security without a regime change in Kiev?  If Russia cannot afford a Nazi junta in power in Kiev, can Novorussia?!

In general, the hurray-patriots are long on what should be done now and very short any kind of mid or long term vision.  Just like those who believe that Syria can be saved by sending in the Russian Air Force, the hurray-patriots believe that the crisis in the Ukraine can be solved by sending in tanks. They are a perfect example of the mindset H L Mencken was referring to when he wrote

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

The sad reality is that the mindset behind such “simple” solutions is always the same one: never negotiate, never compromise, never look long term but only to the immediate future and use force in all cases.

But the facts are here: the US/NATO block is powerful, militarily, economically and politically and it can hurt Russia, especially over time.  Furthermore, while Russia can easily defeat the Ukrainian military, this hardly would be a very meaningful “victory”.  Externally it would trigger a massive deterioration of the international political climate, while internally the Russians would have to suppress the Ukrainian nationalists (not all of them Nazi) by force.  Could Russia do that?  Again, the answer is that yes – but at what cost?

I good friend of mine was a Colonel in the KGB Special Forces unit called “Kaskad” (which later was renamed “Vympel”).  One day he told me how his father, himself a special operator for the GRU, fought against Ukrainian insurgents from the end of World War Two in 1945 up to 1958: that is thirteen years!  It took Stalin and Krushchev thirteen years to finally crush the Ukrainian nationalist insurgents.  Does anybody in his/her right mind sincerely believe that modern Russia should repeat that policies and spend years hunting down Ukrainian insurgents again?

By the way, if the Ukrainian nationalists could fight the Soviet rule under Stalin and Krushchev for a full thirteen years after the end of the war – how is it that there is no visible anti-Nazi resistance in Zaporozhie, Dnepropetrivsk or Kharkov?  Yes, Luganks and Donetsk did rise up and take arms, very successfully – but the rest of the Ukraine?  If you were Putin, would you be confident that Russian forces liberating these cities would receive the same welcome that they did in Crimea?

And yet, the hurray-patriots keep pushing for more Russian intervention and further Novorussian military operations against Ukie forces.  Is it not about time we begin asking who would benefit from such policies?

It has been an old trick of the US CIA to use the social media and the blogosphere to push for nationalist extremism in Russia.  A well known and respected Russian patriot and journalist – Maksim Shevchenko – had a group of people organized to track down the IP numbers of some of the most influential radical nationalist organizations, website, blogs and individual posters on the Russian Internet.  Turns out that most were based in the USA, Canada and Israel.  Surprise, surprise.  Or, maybe, no surprise at all?

For the AngloZionists, supporting extremists and rabid nationalists in Russia makes perfectly good sense.  Either they get to influence the public opinion or they at the very least can be used to bash the regime in power.  I personally see no difference between an Udaltsov or a Navalnii on one hand and a Limonov or a Dugin on the other.  Their sole effect is to get people mad at the Kremlin.  What the pretext for the anger is does not matter – for Navalnyi its “stolen elections” for Dugin it’s “back-stabbed Novorussia”.  And it does not matter which of them are actually paid agents or just “useful idiots” – God be their judge – but what does matter is that the solutions they advocate are no solutions at all, just pious pretexts to bash the regime in power.

In the meantime, not only had Putin not sold-out, back-stabbed, traded away or otherwise abandoned Novorussia, it’s Poroshenko who is barely holding on to power and Banderastan which is going down the tubes.  There are also plenty of people who see through this doom and gloom nonsense, both in Russia (Yuri Baranchik {5}) and abroad (M K Bhadrakumar {6}).

But What About the Oligarchs?

I already addressed this issue in a recent post {7}, but I think that it is important to return to this topic here and the first thing which is crucial to understand in the Russian or Ukrainian context is that oligarchs are a fact of life.  This is not to say that their presence is a good thing, only that Putin and Poroshenko and, for that matter, anybody trying to get anything done over there needs to take them into account.  The big difference is that while in Kiev a regime controlled by the oligarchs has been replaced by a regime of oligarchs, in Russia the oligarchy can only influence, but not control, the Kremlin.  The examples, of Khodorkovsky or Evtushenkov show that the Kremlin still can, and does, smack down an oligarch when needed.

Still, it is one thing to pick on one or two oligarchs and quite another to remove them from the Ukrainian equation: the latter is just not going to happen.  So for Putin any Ukrainian strategy has to take into account the presence and, frankly, power of the Ukrainian oligarchs and their Russian counterparts.

Putin knows that oligarchs have their true loyalty only to themselves and that their only “country” is wherever their assets happen to be.  As a former KGB foreign intelligence officer for Putin this is an obvious plus, because that mindset potentially allows him to manipulate them.  Any intelligence officer knows that people can be manipulated by a finite list of approaches: ideology, ego, resentment, sex, a skeleton in the closet and, of course, money.  From Putin’s point of view, Rinat Akhmetov {8}, for example, is a guy who used to employ something like 200,000 people in the Donbass, who clearly can get things done, and whose official loyalty [to] Kiev and the Ukraine is just a camouflage for his real loyalty: his money.  Now, Putin does not have to like or respect Akhmetov, most intelligence officers will quietly despise that kind of person, but that also means that for Putin Akhmetov is an absolutely crucial person to talk to, explore options with and, possibly, use to achieve a Russian national strategic objective in the Donbass.

I have already written this many times here: Russians do talk to their enemies.  With a friendly smile.  This is even more true for a former intelligence officer who is trained to always communicate, smile, appear to be engaging and understanding.  For Putin Akhmetov is not a friend or an ally, but he is a powerful figure which can be manipulated in Russia’s advantage.  What I am trying to explain here is the following:

There are numerous rumors of secret negotiations between Rinat Akhmetov and various Russian officials.  Some say that Khodakovski is involved.  Others mention Surkov.  There is no doubt in my mind that such secret negotiations are taking place.  In fact, I am sure that all the parties involved talk to all other other parties involved.  Even with a disgusting, evil and vile creature like Kolomoiski.  In fact, the sure signal that somebody has finally decided to take him out would be that nobody would be speaking with him any more.  That will probably happen, with time, but most definitely not until his power base is sufficiently eroded.

One Russian blogger believes {9} that Akhmetov has already been “persuaded” (read: bought off) by Putin and that he is willing to play by the new rules which now say “Putin is boss”.  Maybe.  Maybe not yet, but soon.  Maybe never.  All I am suggesting is that negotiations between the Kremlin and local Ukie oligarchs are as logical and inevitable as the US contacts with the Italian Mafia before the US armed forces entered Italy.

But is There a Fifth Column in Russia?

Yes, absolutely.  First and foremost, it is found inside the Medvedev government itself and even inside the Presidential administration.  Always remember that Putin was put into power by two competing forces: the secret services and big money.  And yes, while it is true that Putin has tremendously weakened the “big money” component (what I call the “Atlantic Integrationists”) they are still very much there, though they are more subdued, more careful and less arrogant than during the time when Medvedev was formally in charge.  The big change in the recent years is that the struggle between patriots (the “Eurasian Sovereignists”) and the fifth column now is in the open, but it if far from over.  And we should never underestimate these people: they have a lot of power, a lot of money and a fantastic capability to corrupt, threaten, discredit, sabotage, cover-up, smear, et cetera.  They are also very smart, they can hire the best professionals in the field, and they are very, very good at ugly political campaigns.  For example, the fifth columnists try hard to give a voice to the National-Bolshevik opposition (both Limonov and Dugin regularly get airtime on Russian TV) and rumor has it that they finance a lot of the National-Bolshevik media (just like the Koch brothers paid for the Tea Party in the USA).

Another problem is that while these guys are objectively doing the US CIA’s bidding, there is no proof of it.  As I was told many times by a wise friend: most conspiracies are really collusions and the latter are very hard to prove.  But the community of interests between the US CIA and the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchy is so obvious as to be undeniable.

The Real Danger for Russia

So now we have the full picture.  Again, Putin has to simultaneously contend with

1) a strategic psyop campaign run by the US/UK & Company which combines the corporate media’s demonization of Putin and a campaign in the social media to discredit him for his passivity and lack of appropriate response to the West;

2) a small but very vociferous group of (mostly) National-Bolsheviks (Limonov, Dugin & Company) who have found in the Novorussian cause a perfect opportunity to bash Putin for not sharing their ideology and their “clear, simple, and wrong” “solutions”;

3) a network of powerful oligarchs who want to use the opportunity presented by the actions of first two groups to promote their own interests;

4) a fifth column for whom all of the above is a fantastic opportunity to weaken the Eurasian Sovereignists;

5) a sense of disappointment by many sincere people who feel that Russia is acting like a passive punching-ball;

6) an overwhelming majority of people in Novorussia who want complete (de facto and de jure) independence from Kiev and who are sincerely convinced that any negotiations with Kiev are a prelude to a betrayal by Russia of Novorussian interest;

7) the objective reality that Russian and Novorussian interests are not the same; and

8) the objective reality that the AngloZionist Empire is still very powerful and even potentially dangerous.

It is very, very, hard for Putin to try to balance these forces in such a way that the resulting vector is one which is in the strategic interest of Russia.  I would argue that there is simply no solution to this conundrum other than to completely separate Russia’s official (declaratory) police and Russia’s real actions.  The covert help to Novorussia – the Voentorg – is an example of that, but only a limited one because what Russia must do now goes beyond covert actions: Russia must appear to be doing one thing while doing exactly the opposite.  It is in Russia’s strategic interest at this point in time to appear to:

1) Support a negotiated solution along the lines of: a unitary non-aligned Ukraine, with large regional right for all regions while, at the same time, politically opposing the regime everywhere: UN, media, public opinion, et cetera. and supporting both Novorussia and any Ukrainian opposition.

2) Give Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs a reason to if not support, then at least not oppose such a solution (for example by not nationalizing Akhmetov’s assets in the Donbass), while at the same time making sure that there is literally enough “firepower” to keep the oligarch under control;

3) Negotiate with the EU on the actual implementation of Ukraine’s Agreement with the EU while at the same time helping the Ukraine commit economic suicide by making sure that there is just the right amount of economic strangulation applied to prevent the regime from bouncing back;

4) Negotiate with the EU and the Junta in Kiev over the delivery of gas while at the same time making sure that the regime pays enough for it to be broke;

5) Appear generally non-confrontational towards the USA while at the same time trying as hard as possible to create tensions between the US and the EU; and

6) Appear to be generally available and willing to do business with the AngoZionist Empire while at the same time building alternative international systems not centered on the USA or the Dollar.

As you see, this goes far beyond a regular covert action program.  What we are dealing with is a very complex, multi-layered, program to achieve the Russian most important goal in the Ukraine (regime change and de-Nazification) while inhibiting as much as possible the AngloZionists attempts to re-create a severe and long lasting East-West crisis in which the EU would basically fuse with the USA.

Conclusion: A Key to Russian Policies?

Most of us are used to think in terms of super-power categories.  After all, US Presidents from Reagan on to Obama have all served us a diet of grand statements, almost constant military operations followed by Pentagon briefings, threats, sanctions, boycotts, et cetera.  I would argue that this has always been the hallmark of western “diplomacy” from the Crusades to the latest bombing campaign against ISIL.  Russia and China have a diametrically opposed tradition.   For example, in terms of methodology Lavrov always repeats the same principle: “we want to turn our enemies into neutrals, we want to turn neutrals into partners and we want to turn partners into friends”.  The role of Russian diplomats is not to prepare for war, but to avoid it.  Yes, Russia will fight, but only when diplomacy has failed.  If for the US diplomacy is solely a means to deliver threats, for Russia it is a the primary tool to defuse them.  It is therefore no wonder at all the the US diplomacy is primitive to the point of bordering on the comical.  After all, how much sophistication is needed to say “comply or else”.  Any petty street thug knows how to do that.  Russian diplomats are much more akin to explosives disposal specialist or a mine clearance officer: they have to be extremely patient, very careful and fully focused.  But most importantly, they cannot allow anybody to rush them lest the entire thing blows up.

Russia is fully aware that the AngloZionist Empire is at war with her and that surrender is simply not an option any more (assuming it ever was).  Russia also understands that she is not a real super-power or, even less so, an empire. Russia is only a very powerful country which is trying to de-fang the Empire without triggering a frontal confrontation with it.  In the Ukraine, Russia sees no other solution than regime change in Kiev.  To achieve this goal Russia will always prefer a negotiated solution to one obtained by force, even though if no other choice is left to her, she will use force.  In other words:

Russia’s long term end goal is to bring down the AngloZionist Empire.  Russia’s mid term goal is to create the conditions for regime change in Kiev. Russia’s short term goal is to prevent the junta from over-running Novorussia. Russia’s preferred method to achieve these goals is negotiation with all parties involved.  A prerequisite to achieve these goals by negotiations is to prevent the Empire from succeeding in creating an acute continental crisis (conversely, the imperial “deep state” fully understands all this, hence the double declaration of war by Obama and Poroshenko.)

As long as you keep these basic principles in mind, the apparent zig-zags, contradictions and passivity of Russian policies will begin to make sense.

It is an open question whether Russia will succeed in her goals.  In theory, a successful Junta attack on Novorussia could force Russia to intervene.  Likewise, there is always the possibility of yet another “false flag”, possibly a nuclear one.  I think that the Russian policy is sound and the best realistically achievable under the current set of circumstances, but only time will tell.

I am sorry that it took me over 6400 words to explain all that, but in a society were most “thoughts” are expressed as “tweets” and analyses as Facebook posts, it was a daunting task to try to shed some light to what is turning to be a deluge of misunderstandings and misconceptions, all made worse by the manipulation of the social media.  I feel that 60,000 words would be more adequate to this task as it is far easier to just throw out a short and simple slogan than to refute its assumptions and implications.

My hope that at least those of you who sincerely were confused by Russia’s apparently illogical stance can now connect the dots and make better sense of it all.

Kind regards to all,

The Saker

Notes:

{1} http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2014/07/thinking-unthinkable.html

{2} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Storm-333

{3} http://russia-insider.com/en/politics_ukraine_opinion/2014/09/25/09-19-53pm/ukraine_will_never_again_be_united_country_get_used

{4} http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2014/09/september-21-ukraine-and-russia-mini.html

{5} http://www.iarex.ru/articles/50896.html

{6} http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2014/09/24/west-beats-retreat-in-ukraine/

{7} http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2014/09/strelkov-from-swimming-with-piranhas-to.html

{8} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinat_Akhmetov

{9} http://www.iarex.ru/articles/50896.html

http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.jp/2014/09/the-russian-response-to-double.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Mongolia as the Key …

… to a Russian-South Korean Strategic Partnership

by Andrew Korybko

Global Research (October 11 2014)

Nestled between Russia and China, Mongolia is a geographically obscure country with the sparsest population density in the world. It isn’t exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of East Asian or Pacific economic opportunities, yet for Russia, Mongolia is the key that it needs to unlock strategic relations with South Korea. Ulaanbaatar’s unique Third Neighbor Policy has allowed it to cultivate favorable relations with Seoul, and coupled with its valuable coal reserves and rare earth minerals, it has just the type of resources that South Korea needs. By bridging the geographic divide between the two, Russia stands to gain by entering into a strategic and multifaceted partnership with South Korea that proves the seriousness of its Pacific Pivot and could potentially transform Northeast Asian affairs.

Mongolia’s Third Neighbor Policy

Mongolia has historically been in the Russian sphere of influence, but after 1991, the country spearheaded the so-called Third Neighbor Policy to diversify its relations in the post-Cold War world. This saw it reaching out in economic, political, and military (although largely benign) ways to distant partners such as the EU and NATO, as well as closer ones such as Japan and South Korea. The guiding philosophy behind this policy was that Mongolia did not want to be dominated by either Russia or China, the latter of which it secured its independence from in 1911 after centuries of control. This concept will be important in later understanding Mongolia’s anticipated role in bringing together Russia and South Korea.

Mongolia’s Chinese Dependency

Mongolia has thus been faced with the dilemma of interacting with the wider world while still being dependent on its neighbors for physical trade networks. Although securing significant natural resource investment from leading Western companies such as Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines and the UK’s Rio Tinto, it still sells ninety percent of its natural wealth to China, creating just the type of dependency that it had earlier sought to avoid. The fact that twenty percent of Mongolia’s GDP is dependent on mining, and growth in this field has allowed the country’s GDP to be the world’s fastest growing since 2012 (and expected to remain among the top for the coming years), reinforces the dominant role that Chinese mineral purchases have on the overall Mongol economy.

King Coal and its Curse

There are concrete reasons why Mongolia’s mining sector (and consequently, the mainstay of its economy) became dependent on China. Way more than rare earth mineral demand (of which China is already dominant), this has to do with China’s insatiable appetite for coal. Bluntly put, Mongolia is nothing more than a raw resource appendage of China and has little purpose for Beijing besides helping to keep the lights on. Nonetheless, this arrangement was beneficial for Mongolia, so long as China kept buying coal.

At the same time, though, this may be rapidly changing in the near future. For the first time, China’s coal consumption has actually decreased by 23% year-on-year for August and September as the government implements cleaner energy policies and diversifies its electricity generation to natural gas and other means. Although ideal for China, this will be disastrous for Mongolia, seeing as how intricately its mining sector (and by degrees, its entire economy) is dependent on Chinese coal consumption. Whereas in the past coal was treated as a king in Ulaanbaatar, now it appears to be a curse, and the country desperately needs to diversify its consumer base to stave off economic destabilization and possible social and Color Revolution-influenced unrest.

The Mongolian Middleman

As all of this is happening, larger global processes are at play. Russia has set a grand aim of becoming a Pacific Power and moving away from its previous European economic interdependence, and in light of recent East-West tensions and subsequent sanctioning, this has taken on a more pressing urgency than ever. Concurrently, South Korea, wedged between heavyweights China and Japan, is growing at a consistent rate and is on the prowl for energy resources to fuel this into the future. 97% of its energy is foreign-sourced, and its import of coal, already at eighty million tons a year, is expected to rise to 128 million by 2018. Thus, the situation is presented where Russia wants a more active East Asian presence, South Korea is thirsting for energy, and Mongolia has the world’s largest untapped coking coal deposit. It is through this confluence of factors that the three actors are uniting their interests, with Mongolia being the middleman via its Third Neighbor Policy, which allowed it to jointly develop positive relations with both Russia and South Korea and thus make the entire arrangement workable.

Russia’s Delicate Steps

Within this structure of interests, Russia took care to avoid upsetting its global strategic partner, China. It signed an historic natural gas deal in May to supply it with nearly half a trillion dollars’ worth of energy for thirty years, thus assisting with Beijing’s plans to replace coal with natural gas during this timeframe. This massively important tradeoff is advantageous for China and placates any fears or jealousy that it may have over Mongolia’s future trade links with South Korea. Additionally, Russia, China, and Mongolia have announced their intent to economically cooperate in a trilateral framework and create an economic corridor, showing that no bad blood exists between any of these actors. As is thus seen, Russia has taken delicate steps to ensure that Beijing would not be perturbed by its Mongolia-enabled outreach to South Korea, as such a move, in line with the practice of the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership, would increase the strategic influence of both Moscow and Beijing if successful.

The Way Forward

Going back to the Mongolia’s role in connecting Russia with South Korea, the heart of it all rests in a proposed railroad project to link Mongolia’s Gobi desert coal deposits to Russia’s Pacific coast. Afterwards, the coal would be loaded onto ships for transport to South Korea and possibly Japan. Leading Australian companies already fear that the opening of Mongolia’s coal resources to the East Asian market would be a game-changer and could possibly push them out of the market, indicating the enormous impact that this project would have if successfully implemented.

Although rail links already exist between Mongolia and China, as stated earlier, the former is trying to cut its future dependence on the latter and understands the additional influence that Beijing would have if the line ran southeast instead of northeast. Also of importance, Mongolia’s expected customers, South Korea and possibly Japan, would be hesitant to know that a growing percentage of their energy imports are indirectly controlled by China. That being said, the proposed railroad through Russia takes care to respect the geopolitical sensibilities of its intended East Asian client(s).

Russia’s Pacific Future

Projecting even further, the East Asian coal market is only one of the many spheres that would be fundamentally altered by the proposed Mongolian-Pacific railroad. One of the most breakthrough results of this would be the creation of a Russian-South Korean strategic partnership. Although Russia would be playing a physically passive role in the Mongol-South Korean energy relationship simply through allowing the railroad to traverse its territory, it will still have prized access to influential South Korean companies, investors, and government figures who are involved in its construction. As Russia naturally needs investment in its Far East and South Korea has a hunger for energy besides coal, this could open the prospect for South Korean investment in the region in exchange for Russian natural gas exports, most likely through LNG, of which Seoul is the world’s second-largest importer. Of relevant note, South Korea’s demand for natural gas is expected to increase 1.7% annually until 2035, meaning that both Russia and South Korea now have the perfect time to work out an energy deal as significant and historic as the one between Russia and China (possibly even involving the promise of a share of Artic gas resources in the future).

The strategic partnership between the two states would then take on a larger significance. The demonstration effect of the booming Russian-South Korean energy trade could possibly convince recalcitrant Japan to abandon its blind loyalty to its American overseer and concede its Kuril Islands claims in exchange for a similar and much-needed deal as well. Additionally, South Korea is at the center of the US-China-Japan nexus in Northeast Asia, and by moving closer to Russia, it can expand its foreign policy importance and serve as the perfect conduit between all four actors in this region. By integrating Russia more closely into the region and its affairs, it could give it a greater stake in the peninsula’s future, thereby possibly motivating it to seek a diplomatic breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear talks. With Russia returning to the Korean peninsula, no matter in which form this takes (diplomatic, energy, political, economic, et cetera), it would place the US on the strategic defensive in Northeast Asia and show that Russia has succeeded in pivoting to the Pacific.

Concluding Thoughts

It is of absolute importance for Russia’s future that the country move as rapidly as possible to the burgeoning Asia-Pacific region. Although China is a steadfast and loyal strategic ally, by itself, bilateral relations between the two do not constitute a proper Pacific Pivot for Russia. Instead, what is urgently needed is for Russia to enter into a strategic relationship with a non-Chinese partner that can immediately accelerate full-spectrum relations between the two. This is where South Korea comes in, but the key to accessing that country’s decision makers and business leaders is to provide them with something that they too urgently need, and this is Mongolian coal. By acting as a conduit between Mongolia’s coal mines and South Korea’s power plants via a strategic railroad, Russia can take a concrete step in pivoting to the Pacific, attracting investment to the Far East, and working to transform the long-term nature of Northeast Asian relations.

Links:

The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains links to further information not included here.

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Andrew Korybko is the American political correspondent of Voice of Russia who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for Oriental Review.

Copyright (c) 2014 Global Research

http://www.globalresearch.ca/mongolia-as-the-key-to-a-russian-south-korean-strategic-partnership/5407524

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