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11 August 2013


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r whitman

No self-respecting Russian would wear those "dude boots".

David Habakkuk

The odd thing is that they used to like you. By the late Eighties, as the Russian history Vladimir Pechatnov put it in a 2010 article looking back at the Cold War, ‘the Soviet intelligentsia craved freedom and democracy almost at any price.’ A corollary of this was a kind of manic Americanophilia.

(See http://dspace.khazar.org/jspui/bitstream/123456789/955/1/01.pdf )

However, there always had been complicated ambivalences about the United States throughout the Russian elite. At the start of 1989, a colleague and I interviewed General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, the military theorist most closely associated with the so-called ‘new thinking’ introduced into Soviet policy by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Unfortunately, at that point I had not come across the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, and the work of Jacob W. Kipp, who later directed its successor, the Foreign Military Studies Office. As a result, I was not aware that earlier in his career, Larionov had been a pre-eminent theorist of the strategy of preemptive nuclear attack on the United States. He compiled and co-authored the classic statement of this, the original 1962 edition of the study of ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshall Sokolovsky.

An interesting Q&A, from an interview with Larionov in 1999 PBS programme, ‘Race for the Superbomb’:

‘Q: At the end of WWII, if I am properly informed, there is this famous scene of the Soviet army and the American, the Western Allies meeting in Germany and rushing across this open field and embracing. You witnessed that event.

‘GL: I remember. Those were embraces without any ulterior motives, truly friendly embraces...Certainly, no one thought then about any aggravations of the situation; everyone thought that the peace had come, the peaceful times arrived, and that it would stay for a long time. It is only there in the higher circles of the state apparatus that they were already thinking about something in the future, and Stalin declared that the future war would be a war with the U.S. But on our level, on the level of an average commander, soldier, and sergeant, everything looked bright. All that was sincere.

‘I only remembered one episode: We went to the other side, spontaneously -- this whole fraternization and all these embraces were completely spontaneous, and then the higher command began to control it. I remember when we made the official invitation to the leadership of the American division, and the tables were set, vodka was brought from Moscow; there was only Russian, not any kind of captured, vodka on the table. The table was covered with captured food, appetizers, alcohol, and Russian vodka and Russian food brought straight from Moscow. I felt then that we were letting our American allies know that we also had something to boast about and that we were very proud.

‘I was 18 then; now I am 75. And I still have it all in my soul.’

(See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/interview/larionov03.html )


Some French historian wrote back in the 19th century that Russia is never as strong as it seems, or as weak as it seems.

I'm sure that notion is familiar to Susan Rice and the other mandarins among Obama's entourage for whom history is what happened before they set their sights on high office - and reading is something you do on I-phones during UN debates


r whitman

The Virgin of Guadeloupe? Ah, more anti Mexican bigotry on the left in Houston. pl

John Minnerath

>No self-respecting Russian would wear those "dude boots"<
Wanna bet?
And the BS they wade through isn't the kind we think of out here.
A little bright for me, but my jeans are usually down over the tops anyway.

David Habakkuk

I had thought it was Metternich who first said this. If it was a Frenchman, it would have been likely to have been Caulaincourt. His memoir ‘With Napoleon in Russia’ was, apparently, lost for years, and only finally published in 1933.

(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armand_Augustin_Louis_de_Caulaincourt )

I heard the veteran British diplomat Sir Frank Roberts cite the phrase, in a discussion at Chatham House, I think in 1989. Unfortunately, neither the Americans nor the British could be brought at that time to see that it was foolish to base policy upon ludicrous overestimations of actual and prospective Russian strength.

Likewise, after the collapse of the Soviet Union they could not be brought to see that it was unwise to base policy upon a confidence that the extreme weakness of the Russians in the 1990s would last for ever, and that enjoying rubbing their noses in the dirt might eventually incur some costs.


Col. Lang,

Aah! You are channelling William Fulbright again - "The Arrogance Of Power".


"There are many respects in which America, if it can bring itself to act with the magnanimity and the empathy appropriate to its size and power, can be an intelligent example to the world. We have the opportunity to set an example of generous understanding in our relations with China, of practical cooperation for peace in our relations with Russia, of reliable and respectful partnership in our relations with Western Europe, of material helpfulness without moral presumption in our relations with the develop ing nations, of abstention from the temptations of hegemony in our relations with Latin America, and of the all- around advantages of minding one's own business in our relations with everybody. Most of all, we have the opportunity to serve as an example of democracy to the world by the way in which we run our own society; America, in the words of John Quincy Adams, should be "the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all" but "the champion and vindicator only of her own."

Fulbright would be less than impressed by what passes for American Foreign and domestic policy since 2000. In particular the squandering of the last of Americas moral capital, so carefully amassed from 1945 to at least the start of the Vietnam war, which has left many countries doing their best to dispense with engaging with the indispensable nation as American IT companies are now finding in the wake of the NSA revelations.

At this point the usual American response to my theme is who gives a **** about the rest of the world and who the heck do you think you are to criticise us? This attitude usually rests on misperceived understanding of the Cold War and particularly its ending - that this was a fight we were always going to win because we were naturally the good guys in the white hats. The reality is that we won because the Soviet economy finally imploded due to its absence of necessary price signals.

The problem with not understanding this is that the current generation of policy makers and the commentariat that supports them, do not have any appreciation of the effort that was required to confront the USSR and thus the risks America runs when attempting to screw with other countries today. They don't know about the string of nuclear land mines across Germany. They laugh when they hear about the dummy Soviet missiles on Mayday parades - only trouble is that at the time I don't believe we thought they were dummies. They don't know about the terrible calculations that had to be made. All they think is that Saint Ronnie Reagan whupped the commies ass! It appears that the Joint Chiefs have a much better appreciation of the limits of power, but there may be a limit to what they can teach.

In addition, it has been suggested by Sir Michael Howard that one of the main reasons for the French débâcle against the Prussians in 1870 was that their army had spent the last Fifty years in Africa confronting nothing worse than badly armed tribesmen - and what has the American Army been doing for the last Ten years? What happens when American forces again confront an educated enemy equipped with modern technology? Does anyone in Washington outside the JCS think of that?

Does anyone not realise that the automatic assumption of American air superiority rests on the almost complete absence of modern MANPADS in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is anyone aware that the first world equivalent of the IED is not only cheap almost undetectable and almost sentient thanks to microprocessors? The same goes for sea mines and other poor mans defence systems? To put tht another way, when I see videos of operations in Afghanistan what staggers me is the outpouring of Western blood and treasure trying to conquer an almost illiterate bunch of peasants. What happens when the enemy is a panzergrenadier?

So yes, Obama is a fool to mess with the Russians, but he is no worse than the rest of them.

Sorry for the rant, but I am sick of people pontificating on Americas superpower status, its far more fragile than it appears and nobody seems to understand the efforts and risks that were accepted to get there anyway.

Babak Makkinejad

Nixon explicitly advised against it. I saw him on TV when he stated that "Russian are down but not out", and that "we can never be friends but we cannot afford to be enemies."

I think he also wrote that "We need to treat Russia with respect..."

His advise was ignored, it seems.

r whitman

None of my Mexican friends and relatives would ever wear those boots. They are "dude ranch specials" even with the Virgin on them. Old man Lucchese would have a screaming fit.


Wonderful excerpt, David. As is the whole collection of interview transcripts from which it's taken.


The "Cowboy and Lesbian" parable rests on the 'exclusive fallacy.' (There's probably a more refined, philosophical term of art, but not in my baliwick.) A useful assessment of the human condition is not us vs. them, but rather something like Whitman's "I contain multitudes."
My father (USAAF) spoke of the late 40's as a time before the Cold War 'jelled" and the oligarchs of the West imposed their "Cowboy OR Lesbian" mindset on the Americans. I fear that too many years of cowboying without enough cattle to run have left us with just our hats -- don't know if we'll end up going to the Euros (more likely the Chinese) with them in hand for what passes for political salvation. Hold tight for interesting times.


Great links, David. Thanks.


Like this piece, Colonel.


Hey, Nixon can be ignored. After all, he was a RINO, as underlined by him creating the EPA. The EPA had the gall of banning Tom DeLay's favourite pesticide on grounds it "harmed marine life", creating red tape. Stupid shrimps. And that with Russia and respect - same thing. Not to mention Nicon's despicable appeasement of the Chicoms.

Defeating evil, Nixon didn't.

That said, I wonder, why didn't the D's heed his advice then ... oh, they didn't because he was a Republican, and a sort of devious one for that.

That's the handy thing about it being about persons - once one knows who the enemy is, one doesn't need to bother with what they say.

The person principle is a successful recipe in foreign policy also: Iraq problem was Saddam, and with him gone ... oh wait

FB Ali


You refer to the squandering of America's moral capital starting with the Vietnam war. Another 'squandering' took place right after 9/11. That infamous attack caused an upsurge of sympathy for America and its people throughout the world, including the Muslim world. Instead of building on that Bush-Cheney and the neocons used the opportunity to launch their mad schemes, starting a generational war with the Muslim world, and creating much hostility and discontent in much of the rest of the world.


In regards to Russia:
When you think you have them by the balls; recheck the contents of your hand. ( Not quite LBJ but then who is?)


"At this point the usual American response to my theme is who gives a **** about the rest of the world ...." Hasn't this been a common refrain of the poi polloi for the better part of the last century? Our problem is that our leaders think that's just what their fellow citizens are and have been treating us all accordingly. We'll see if those leaders get an electoral comeuppance in the next few years or will continue to see themselves as 'first citizens' and the rest of us as second class ones.


And now the real pressure mounts...gay activists and the Olympics...as we are not shy about telling the world, and especially Russia, how to live. If the Russians thought America (500 or so voices in DC media)was ticked off about Snowden et al....wait till they see how the media plays the gay issue. Because that is one of their favorite issues.


r whitman

I usually wear Lucchese Classics but in this case I think i will order these in black background. pl



Are you actually familiar with the tale of the cowboy and the lesbian? How about the story that begins with a fellow walking into a bar with an eight foot alligator on a leash? does that also present some philosophical point you would like to make? pl


Sure -- "guess I been a lesbian all these years!!" is the old cowpoke's closing line. BTW, there are at least two setups, one quite a bit cleaner than the other.
The alligator on a leash? You don't mean the Jerry Reed version, where the 'gater's tail's been cut off and he's been painted yellow?
No, I guess not.
Well, there's a violent tale (involving a blond) and a more discipline-oriented one (involving a drunk @ the bar). Both work, but the blondie one is more cuter (as blonds usually are, vis-a-vis drunks).


Oops! Forgot the "philosophical" point. For the Jerry Reed version -- traveling under false colors is often a good idea. For the blond/drunk version -- just cause you can don't mean you should.



The gator walker tells the barman, "A schooner of suds for me and a pail full for my friend. The barman says, "we don't serve dumb animals here." the gator's friend picks up an empty bottle and hits the gator on the head with it. the gator has been looking at the crowd appreciatively. It turns around, opens its jaws, waddles up to the friend and slowly clamps down on his his genitals. the friend hits him again. the gator opens up and backs away. "There, there!" cries the friend. "you call him a dumb animal. Could any of you do that?" A girl in the crowd raises her hand and says, "I'll try sir if you don't hit me so hard with the bottle." pl


PL, Bob Weir told that joke endlessly while the Grateful Dead tuned or replaced broken guitar strings. I wish he had included the cowboy and the other alligator joke for variety.


Yup -- that's the blond version. The drunk version has the gator keeping his mouth open for 5 minutes despite the temptation and the drunk tells the owner "I don't know if I can keep my mouth open for 5 minutes." Like I said -- blonds is more cuter than drunks.

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