Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind.
He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm, and with whom he has no quarrel.
And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands, and works for the universal brotherhood of man with his mouth.
It is a phenomenon that is none the less remarkable for the frequency of its observation that none is so enthusiastic an endorser of armed combat and violence as he – or she – who has little or no personal acquaintance with military service, and is among the least likely to participate if her earnest advocacy for war bears fruit.
The poster-child for this philosophy is Molly McKew, of The Washington Free Beacon and Politico, and former adviser to deposed Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. Right up until his people kicked him out of the saddle, in fact, in favour of eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. And now, as another eccentric billionaire is preparing to take over the reins of power in the United States, Ms. McKew joins luminaries of the Make War, Not Love Club Samantha Power and Susan Rice in advocating military action to stop Russia’s Vladimir Putin, because the United States has not depended on diplomacy for so long that it now stinks out loud at it and has no international credibility. When the only tool in the toolbox of the tough is a hammer, the tough get going, and all that.
Ms. McKew gives us a guided tour of her philosophy in “Putin’s Real Long Game”, for Politico, and it is already piling up rave reviews in her Twitter feed from the usual Amerika-Uber-Alles types, such as Catherine Fitzpatrick.
It turns out – not to be a spoiler, or anything – that Putin’s long game looks remarkably like what is customarily the long game for the United States; ensuring by various non-violent means a receptiveness to national interests. Although when the United States does it, it should not be imagined to be sinister in any way, because the United States is a dedicated international philanthropist which consistently works for mutual benefit, and would never abuse a trade-based economic arrangement for its own benefit or use the threat of its mighty military to intimidate an ally into compliance. Whereas Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy boils down to sucking the life-force from hapless countries too weak to resist his bony-fingered embrace, like the pitiful Podlings in The Dark Crystal.
What makes this interesting is not so much the dog-whistle appeals to exceptionalism and good ol’ American can-do, because those are the perennial Hallmark card to the low-information reader that we have become accustomed to. No, what makes this a noteworthy piece is its tentative bellwether sucking up to Trump, who will succeed to the Presidency of the United States despite a cacophony of caterwauling from the neoconservatives who lusted after the war-hammer of Hillary Clinton. Having painted Trump with excrement and ridicule daily in the full expectation that he would lose, America’s War Party must now explore how they might best make use of him to return to the pleasant pastime of perpetual war. Thus Trump becomes an unconventional thinker rather than a self-absorbed simpleton; a rough-hewn individualist rather than a maudlin bumpkin, as out of place as a rap star at an IPO after-party. The apparent aim is a no-hard-feelings attempt to co-opt Trump to the cause of returning Russia to its also-ran box.
Let’s take a look at it, shall we?
Ms. McKew leads in with a poignant sniffle that revolutionaries no longer feel a special affinity with the west, and muses that it might be a weakening of the belief in collective defense (spelt N.A.T.O), or perhaps the certitude that western values would prevail.
And that’s a controversial viewpoint, right off the bat. For one, I don’t know why revolutionaries would lose faith in the west, since it – and most especially Washington – is a reliable money-pot for would-be regime-changers; generally free with the lucre so long as the object of overthrow is a designated annoyance or obstacle to western domination. You’d never know that from reading Molly, though – she confidently assesses that ISIS has its roots in Moscow. As for the contention that revolutionaries feel safe in trusting ‘western values’ will eventually prevail like the sun coming out after weeks of rain, that, too, is a controversial viewpoint. It seems to me that it is Russia which has come round to the policy that international law should rule – and, ideally, prevent – conflict, while it is Washington which has embraced a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach which treats international law as a nice-to-have only so long as it does not restrict the United States in anything it wants to do.
That’s as may be; Molly wants you to know that unless NATO hardens the fuck up and starts acting like a military force rather than some kind of frigging focus group, consequences such as the Baltics’ trembling terror of invasion by Russia will only compound and snowball – in the interests of all that is right and good, NATO and its natural leader, America, must step into Vladimir Putin’s path, and cry “Enough!!”
The Baltics – and fellow sentinels on the toxic fringes of Mordor, Ukraine – are terrified to jelly that Putin will rise up at any moment and crush them, due to his repeated displays of covetous violence over the last decade. Like the invasion of Georgia. Well, after Georgia first invaded a protectorate to which Russia had given security guarantees, and in which the UN had agreed to place Russian peacekeepers at the request of the inhabitants.
Which brings to mind another curiosity, this time associated with behavior. What form do your actions take when you fear a violent reaction from a powerful opponent? Are you liable to be conciliatory, or will you behave provocatively, wiggling your fingers in front of your nose and yelling “Nya, nya!!!”, figuratively speaking? Perhaps someone can explain to me why Latvia refuses to allow a third of its ethnic-Russian inhabitants to vote; many Russians who have lived in Latvia since the Soviet occupation do not have the benefits of citizenship. While the explainer is at it, I’d like to know why the EU accepted the Baltics for accession, knowing that all three discriminate to various degrees against their ethnic-Russian minorities. I mean, wasn’t that sort of thing once a big human-rights issue for Europeans? Similarly, Lithuania’s president regularly offers tough talk as if she can’t wait to mix it up with Putin, while her government threatens to cut off rail and road access to Kaliningrad, and deliberately complicates visa procedures for Russians who have to cross EU territory coming or going. None of these are the actions of terrified people, while for its part Moscow has said several times it has no interest in subjugating the Baltics. Yet the myth prevails that the Russians are coming.
Ukraine certainly doesn’t act very scared, appointing a special council of experts to assess which books in the Russian language ought to be banned and loosening its rules of engagement for the air force so that Russian aircraft can be shot down on sight.
Like the hopelessly dysfunctional Democratic party, Ms. McKew speaks of the insidious tactics of 21st-century cyberwarfare used by Russia to flip the American presidential election to Trump as if they were a fact rather than wild imagination wedded to embarrassment. No less an informed source than John McAfee, developer of the world-renowned McAfee anti-virus software, scoffs at this as ridiculous, which it is; the Clinton machine merely wants to distract you from her barefaced lying that she had no classified material on her illegal and unforgivably carelessly-managed private server, by painting her as the helpless victim of Vladimir the Internet Marauder. The sheer hysterical proportions this has taken on were highlighted just the other day, when the Governor of Vermont squealed that the state’s power grid had been hacked by the Russians, in an attempt to seize control of America’s electricity and freeze its citizens to death. It transpired that nothing of the kind had happened, that the computer which had been hacked was not connected to the power grid at all but belonged to an employee, that the malware was likely Ukrainian in origin and that the computer’s owner had visited some naughty Ukrainian websites. Thanks to irresponsible, wild-eyed reporting like this, Americans are seeing Russians beneath their beds at night like they never did, even during the frostiest depths of the Cold War.
Molly wants you to know that the war America is already in – so your only choice is whether you will fight or surrender, because the choice to commit the nation to battle has already been made for you – “…seeks, at home and abroad, to erode our values, our democracy, and our institutional strength; to dilute our ability to sort fact from fiction, or moral right from wrong; and to convince us to make decisions against our own best interests.”
Here’s an open invitation, Molly; explain that in greater detail. I promise you your answers will not be censored or altered. I would like to know, more specifically, how Russia’s opposition to America trampling roughshod over the world as the whim takes it erodes America’s values, both at home and abroad. What, exactly, are America’s values? Let’s take a look. At each ‘value’ cited, I invite you to ask yourself how Russia is affecting it.
According to a fairly recent survey – 2012 – by The Atlantic,
Two-thirds of those surveyed said the country was headed in the wrong direction. Assuming that sentiment would be about the same today, how has Russia affected the impression of Americans that their own country is making misstep after miscalculation? Do you mean the electorate is upset that America did not go to war with Russia sooner? If so, please defend that view.
A substantial majority – 70% – responded that America’s values have been getting worse. Recent ‘advances’ in American tolerance have been a greater social acceptance of homosexuality, human cloning, pre-marital sex and having a child out of wedlock. Which of these has Russia undermined in America or put America in a bad light abroad? Some? All of them? How? America made a big noise about Russia being homophobic in the run-up to the Sochi Olympic Games, because it was hoping to get the games moved and give Russia a political black eye thereby. Since the games ended – successfully – Washington has not said a word about homophobia in Russia. Did it just go away? Or was it never there in the first place? Or did America stop caring about gay rights?
Nearly half – 46% – expected American values to become weaker over the next decade. That was before Russia dug its heels in and began seriously to oppose American objectives worldwide, but most especially in Ukraine, where the US State Department is on record as having sponsored a coup which ousted the democratically-elected leader in Ukraine, and hand-picked a government to succeed him. How has Russia contributed since to a weakening of American values? Is regime change an American value, or just a political tool?
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion were selected by Americans as the top examples of their values compared to other countries. How has Russia undermined American freedom of speech and/or freedom of religion around the world and at home? In fact, it is Washington that wants to intervene to control what Americans hear and understand, and anything which does not correspond to the approved narrative is branded ‘fake news’. Similarly, Washington wants to set up propaganda networks abroad to beam America’s values to areas which have heretofore not been particularly receptive to them. What kind of a thing is that to do, considering Americans themselves assess that the country’s values are going to hell in a handbasket, and expect the situation to worsen rather than improve? Or is The Atlantic one of Putin’s mouthpieces?
Two-thirds of Americans believe the American economy is headed in the wrong direction, and half thought it was unfair to middle-class and working-class people. I’m just going to step in here and say that that is entirely and completely up to the US government, and that Russia has no effect on it at all, while not downplaying it as a serious problem. Objections? I thought not. Similarly, 70% of Americans believed elected officials reflect the values of the wealthy, while upwards of 80% agreed money and lobbyists have too much influence in politics. That’s just two years after Citizens United resulted in corporations being awarded personhood for the purposes of making donations to political campaigns. At first blush, I would have to say that was unpopular. I really don’t see a handle there for you to grab, either, from the standpoint that Russia is eroding American values. Can corporations make unlimited donations to political campaigns in Russia? They surely can not.
Oh, hey; maybe this is your breakthrough – more than half of Americans did not expect their information to be private when using social media, and nearly the same percentage worried about government collecting information on their private lives! Oh, wait, though: they were worried about their own government snooping on them. Not Russia.
Finally, nearly 80% of Americans believed people were typically motivated by self-interest than by altruism. Those, Molly, are the values you want people to import from the United States, and implement in their own countries. Speaking strictly for myself; thanks, but no, thanks.
Look, we’re getting close to the end of this, and it’s time for plain speaking. Americans are confused and don’t know fact from fiction because their own government feeds them bullshit with a side of spin day in, day out, and you’re part of it. There was no Russian interference in the American elections, and you know it. Crimea fled into the arms of the Russian Federation because its citizens feared repression by the Ukrainian coup government; Crimea is overwhelmingly ethnic Russian and the coup government promptly rushed in a bill which downgraded the official status of the Russian language in Ukraine, even though the very great majority can and does speak it. The bill was never signed into law – its effect was so plainly and immediately negative that the kangaroo government dared not. But the damage was already done, and you know that, too. There has never been any evidence which tied the FSB to the Moscow apartment bombings, and the theory is popular in the west only because it suits the popular picture of Russia in the west. The sources often quoted which support it – such as Novaya Gazeta and The New Times – are viewed in Russia much the same way an allegation that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Bat Boy would be viewed in America if it were reported in The National Enquirer and the Weekly World News. You know that, too.
Finally, the notion that Russia has anything to teach the great hegemon, that has never since its birth known a decade without a war, anything about employment of mercenaries or covert warfare should be viewed as comical. Green men? America did its dirtiest fighting in Iraq – a war it lied the American people and the world into with wild tales of weapons of mass destruction – with contractors from Blackwater. In Syria, American Special Forces fought alongside Kurdish irregulars, wearing their insignia to disguise American active-duty participation. Incredibly, a Pentagon spokesman announced that this is common practice, apparently unaware that it is an example of an offense against the Laws of Armed Conflict referred to as Perfidy: to wit; “the wearing of uniforms or the use of emblems of neutral States or other States not party to the conflict because uniforms or emblems of neutral States or of other States not party to the conflict may not be used.” The YPG is not a recognized state military force, and is recognized by US allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey as a terrorist organization.
What Washington demands of Russia is a lifetime of self-denial and subordination. It is not going to get it willingly. How Washington responds to this rejection of its terms will define the maintenance of an uneasy global peace… or regional, perhaps even global war.