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22 March 2014


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I made this comment by Thomas into a post. I would like to see a full throated discussion here of the various international elements of the Jacobin project. pl

John Gavin

I agree to a point with Thomas.

US, NATO, and EU policy is all over the map, and the Obama Administration is not a consistent actor. The primary problem with the Obama Admin is that amateurs are in charge, and are unable to recognize when they are being played.

Where I differ is the idea that Putin's Russia is a rational actor. While Putin may be taking advantage of the clown show at NATO and the EU to makes some plays which will raise his stakes at home, in the long run this won't work out well for anyone, particularly those with an address in Russia.

David Habakkuk


I think you are absolutely right. A brilliant post.

In relation to Obama, although I – to put it mildly – do not warm to him, it seems to me that one has to recognise the difficulty of the position in which he found himself.

Both in relation to the economy, and to foreign policy, he found himself coming to the Presidency as a figure lamentably lacking in prior experience.

Moreover, the people with prior experience – in particular the Clinton-era people – were precisely the people who had managed to make a total shambles of everything, and who displayed no inclination whatsoever to radical rethinking.

Accordingly, what Obama completely lacked was a constituency which had reasonably coherent answers to the actual problems facing the United States, and a strategy for mobilising support for these among both sections of the country’s elites and the population in general.

Whatever his personal limitations and failings – and I have a lot of sympathy with the indictment of ‘walrus’ on Obama’s ‘narcissism’ – it was a dreadful hand for anyone to have to play.

William R. Cumming

It is troubling how the many unqualified for high position in the USA get those positions. THE PETER PRINCIPLE?


Thank you for the Rothko representation.

All, this was a response to Madhu on the Off Ramp Thread.


Why is he not a rational actor? The only thing he did was bolster the forces on the Crimea with Spestnaz troops and under the total allowed by treaty.

Today, he joined with the OSCE to send an observer mission to the Ukraine. There are reports of the Bandera boys running wild and shaking down everyone perhaps the EU will finally see for themselves.



Maybe he is just a narcissist which is why he had no plan or overthinks everything and can't get what he wants.

There is the famous quote of him saying to the Elite I am the only thing standing between you and the pitchfork crowd. Most take this as him saying he was one of them. I read it as he was trying to reach a compromise with them and made a rookie ruler's error by not be able to back it up while they gave him a lesson in domestic power politics by undercutting him. And the error comes from him not reaching outside his circle for advice or support either from former government officials or the public at large.

The real issue is that a faction of the Elite has some control and is full steam ahead for their idolatrous vision, damn us all if we get in the way.

Obama and the few honorable people within the government are the last line of defense before another burning crisis leads to a 21st century Great War. As your prophetic namesake implies in his 3:16, Lord I await patiently the day of distress. It sure seems that it is arriving.


The big picture:

America's current heading aims towards implosion. Bush started at $5.7T 58% national debt/GDP ratio 2000. Neocons took advantage of 9/11 to foist a revenge war in Iraq; we won every battle, and lost the war, ending at $10T 70% ND/GDP 2008. Wall St's subprime meltdown now has us at over 100%, $17T, and ballooning. We're running $0.6T - $1.1T deficits. This scenario has the US currency / Medicare imploding in about 15-30 years, if interest rates never go up and no other wars are started--unrealistic.

The takeaway is, survival after 2009 requires a substantially different set of reflexes than even 2000. Neocons are replaying the 1960's. The next $5T war may very well sink the economy.



The Chinese have got a tiger by it's tail as they try to deleverage their credit bubble. What happens to commodity producers like Russia if commodity prices decline and are sustained at the lower end of the range as China's growth tapers?

IMO, an important reason for the implosion of the Soviet Union was their inability to finance their "socialist" inefficiencies as commodity prices deflated through the 80s.

How will an "interventionist" leadership structure that dominate both parties and the "PR game" of US politics deal with the potential financial instabilities of systemic global leverage?


Sanctions are going to hurt the West too. And a heck of a lot of ordinary people in the West are going to have a bad taste in their mouths over how this revolution in Ukraine was handled. Are NATO countries really happy about being led around on leash by a leader (the US/Obama) with his "going rogue" up to moment of the revolution in Ukraine? There is a somewhat united front about sanctions (led by the US and Canada, which have hardly an important economic relationship with Russia), and stern words from the Dane Rasmussen, but all this is surely just papering over a Pinata of anger inside the organisation over what has transpired.

It won't work out well for Russia, but I don't think they'll feel that what they did was wrong or evil. It certainly won't work out well for NATO.

Norbert M Salamon

the greatest danger is to the USA economy, if Mr. Putin is forced by sanctions or other nonsense to
to react strongly: destroy the petrodollar economy - demand payment in species, other fiat currencies excluding the $. [Do recall that Saudi's greatest trade partner is China, another major power wanting to get out of the petrodollar business] .
Diversifying his commodity trade to the Far East, thus cutting dependence on EU/NATO cohort and the game is up.

There is no way that the USA will have the capacity to export oil and gas in sufficient quantities to save EU from the wrath of Russian Federation, were Mrs. Merkel and the rest too obnoxious.


Its all about forcing down our throats multiculturalism and more decadent hedonism dressed up as freedom.

The Jacobin/Globalist moral rage goes back to Russia banning homosexual pedophiles trying to groom children, and now we're seeing World War G over it.

There are no grownups left.


I agree with Thomas' points, however we need to include Egypt - has the Obama administration already forgotten the Morsi's mob attacking the US embassy on 9/11/2012? Oh, right, Obama supported the overthrow of the Egyptian government and installation of the one backed by Muslim Brotherhood ideology and Obama was opposed to the people of Egypt supporting the el-Sisi and the Egyptian army in ousting the MB. We also need to add Turkey as well since we are seeing exactly what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing to their 'democracy.

The track record of results of the neocon leadership is one of failure - Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, now Ukraine. Why is the administration so unwilling to jettison the those whose ideology has led him to implement policies so damaging to the national interest?


This very well-written comment seems to deny any agency to the Ukrainian people. I'm picturing little characters in a video game, completely controlled by joysticks in Washington and Moscow. Did the author consider the possibility that Western Ukrainians really, really didn't want to fall back under Russian influence? What was Obama supposed to do, send the Marines to protect Yanoukovich?

If we look at actual actions rather than just talk, I'm not sure there's anything "Jacobin" about the current administration. The early "surge" in Afghanistan might qualify, but after that it seems that the people actually in charge have learned their lesson. I understand that Obama himself resisted persistent calls to bomb Syria or to escalate the situation in Ukraine.

This administration's most "kinetic" policy is the drone program in Pakistan, which doesn't seem very Jacobin to me.

Finally I'm surprised to see Lybia in the list, as I seem to remember that the Colonel himself supported Khadafi's removal.



You have to differentiate between big things and small things. Libya was a low cost small thing that has cost the US little. It was little more difficult than the Reagan expedition to Grenada and could have been cheaper if better conceived and executed. it was a low cost way to get rid of someone who, along with his pals, was a prevaricating pain in the ass for many years.

Yes, Obama has learned not to listen to the Mommas and the Poppas too much, but that does not lessen the disaster that he brought upon the US by listening to neocon policy asses and hyper ambitions COIN mad generals. pl


At least NATO forces will not be in the Black Sea right away to provoke a confrontation.
Just a modest reminder: the US is situated on another continent from Russian Federation. Crimea is thousands miles away and it is peopled predominantly by Russians. The State Dept. has handed Crimea to Putin; he would have never attempted to take over Crimea if not the involvement of the amateur players.
The absurdity of wailing on endangerment of the US by a popular referendum thousands miles away is more than clownish. Somebody needs an enemy to keep generous funding.


Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. - Wikipedia.

Isn't Washington the ultimate environment for the game of "who is in and who is out"? I have personal experience of senior management practicing Groupthink and it destroyed the company, but by then I was gone; they could not countenance an iconoclast in their midst. I believe Col. Lang suffered a similar fate at one time.

These R2P and Neocon folk really do believe they can write the script for the world. However they are badly educated as far as history is concerned and like many leaders today they have no life experience outside politics to perhaps guide them. Couple with that the self selecting tendencies of narcissists and you have a recipe for bad, very bad, public policy over many years as Mr. Habakkuk has observed.

My personal view, not shared by many, is that Americas current preeminence is an accident of history. America reaped the economic benefits of Two world wars which beggared all possible opponents. American commentators then took this windfall as evidence of moral, social and economic superiority and politicians proceeded accordingly. Hence the rubbish about how the rest of the world "wants to be like us".

In reality, I think the current network of Fifty states is not only supremely economically wasteful but ungovernable - in the sense of being able to respond quickly to external shocks. Then of course there is the problem of the political process being totally dominated by the rentiers who are slowly killing the economy - for example, I read somewhere that Elon Musk can't sell his electric cars in New Jersey directly on line because their law requires the use of dealerships - another bunch of rentiers.

I don't really see anything happening that is going to avoid the country's ultimate fate; the takeover of government by a military strong man(Petreaus?) and the continued looting of the economy by the rentiers until the hollowing out causes the same implosion as happened to the USSR.

My own assessment is that Europe and the former British empirewe are just about through with dealing with the effects of the First world war one hundred years ago and that another Thirty to Forty years must pass before the final ripples of World War Two die out. Somewhere between now and then it will become obvious that their systems of government and economics are superior - in terms of economic utility, despite, no doubt, American efforts to sabotage or simply hide this truth. A case in point is the abomination of Obamacare - Europe and the rest of us have had single payer for over Forty years with no ill effects.

The question then becomes in the mean time how do we avoid a Sarajevo incident followed by nuclear armageddon? Has anyone in Washington read The Guns Of August or Christopher Clarkes masterpiece?


I wonder if the sanctions on Russia will not play out to favor Putin. They will wedge the interest of Germany with the west. In time this could stress Germany's solidarity with the west in international affairs especially when economic sanctions are involved. At any rate, India has reaped huge rewards from trading with Iran despite economic sanctions.

Anyways, I don't believe in laws that cannot be enforced. And I don't believe it wise to apply economic sanctions to Russia when we know they will not work.


Actually Putin has probably given NATO a new lease on life. Not that it was on life support, exactly, but barging into Crimea just reminded all his neighbors of why Russia makes them nervous.


toto. I know that S... happens. But the in relations between the US, Europe, Russia, and Ukraine it is not an option for the US to not at least be interested and informed, if not heavily involved. It's negligent of the US to be otherwise.

Obama ought to have being phoning Putin throughout this crisis as it happened to, if it were the case, disclaim any high-stakes US involvement, and reassure Putin that the US noted Russia's concerns about the new government marginalizing the Russian population in the Ukraine, or its economic interests. And Obama could have leaned heavily on "our man" Yatsenyuk to not reward the far right, let alone the Nazis with a place his government, and he ought to have counseled him bring in political players from the East, and to delay making major economic or political association until after an election. Instead we have the EU swoop in like Vultures to sign association agreements, and Obama feting at the White House an unelected man who's government just had the token decency to rescind their new law banning the language spoken by ~%40 of his populace.

Russia has obviously made mistakes, but it is highly unlikely that Russia would have taken the course of action it did if the United States had properly behaved towards it and towards the government in Ukraine. Either immediately reassured Russia and clearly communicated with it. Or else, if the US's policy was deliberate, have at least have had the decency to talk it through widely within the military/congress/NATO. From the government's reaction, and NATO partner's reactions, you absolutely know they didn't do that.

So Obama didn't communicate with Putin, or allies. Why? Maybe because the US was really was heavily invested in one political outcome in Ukraine. Maybe this was being done without direct White House involvement, and no one was interested enough to take the President through how dangerous the situation could become. Maybe Yatsenyuk really was our man, and he had the US's full knowing support to kick Russia in the balls (scary to think).

Any explanation you can think of, it has to involve stupendously gross negligence on the part of the US, since it has risked, however small, an unthinkable Russia-US war, has certainly profoundly shaken the confidence of any NATO members, and it certainly has resulted in a Russia-US-Western schism of enormous proportion that will have large future ramifications. Every facet of this comes out against US interests as far as I can tell. Everyone's interests. Nobody, nobody, absolutely nobody, wanted this.

Bush was just an idiot. Before undertaking them, he communicated his idiotic adventures to the world (enemies even!) publicly (and I'm sure well before to our allies and perhaps Russia). There are no words to describe what has transpired here with Obama. The world and the United States are far, far less safe now than two months ago. Job One of the President: keep the US safe. Negligence on the armageddon scale.


Sic Semper Tyrannis (22 Mar 14)

Dear Col. Lang,
Your request for a “full throated discussion” of the many aspects of these various projects is daunting. On the one hand, I might offer the observation that much of what is underway is a long-term project following the defeat of Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964 and a concerted effort to build up as constituency for conservative values, one result being massive investments in think tanks and programs with endowments provided by wealthy benefactors to promote their vision of conservatism and what was needed to reverse the apparent decline in support for conservatives. I would cite those of Adolph Coors and William Scaife-Mellon to name just two. One result of these programs was what I think of as the indoctrination and funding of future intellectuals, the result of which bears only some resemblance to the values of Goldwater. I would cite this from his 1960 ghosted autobiography in 1960: “Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism” (The Conscience of a Conservative) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Barry_Goldwater. I believe his warning here was not taken to heart. The current-day Jacobins appear to have honored it only in the breach.

I would add to this the war-weariness of many Americans after the very divisive period of our involvement in Vietnam, especially the sacrifices of more than 50,000 Americans often perceived as wasted blood and treasure. The debacle of Nixon’s Whitehouse with Watergate along with the failure to provide both guns and butter as promised by Johnson earlier, followed by Carter’s presidency, with stagflation and the lack of foresight in regard to the fall of the Shah, the hostage crisis in 1979 and the failed rescue attempt followed by the election of President Reagan in 1980, and his ability to provide the pretexts for interventions in Granada and Nicaragua seemed to give Americans a sense that we could succeed where previously we had failed in military interventions. George H. W. Bush’s destruction of Saddam Hussein’s forces and tanks, in which the operant term for me was “air supremacy” not “air superiority” led to the belief that with such supremacy we could project force across the globe unchallenged, especially after MAD seemed to be off the cards. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the raising of the Iron Curtain after 1989 led to a progressive NATO expansion toward the very heart of any invasion of Russian.

The trauma of 9-11 (with the irony that Putin the first foreign leader to express condolences and support for our anti-terrorism campaign) and the invasion of Afghanistan led to American access to the Stans, a vital logistical supply line for our forces there, further encircled Russia.

All of this is background to the current stand-off involving the United States and Russia, especially with the possibility of the Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, a situation that would put Russia in an even more threatened geo-political position. While the United States has advanced the Monroe Doctrine in regard to its security for over 200 years, Putin will be seen by many Russians and others as calling hypocrisy on the recent statements from the US, whether by Secretary Kerry, Vice-president Biden, or President Obama. This is just one part of the analysis you asked for Colonel. Please do correct me, all or any, for my misapprehensions or outright mistakes. I will leave it to others to chime in in regard to Professor Chalmers Johnson’s wonderful, knowledgeable and prescient analyses in his trilogy: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis, that might provide one more line of analysis, perhaps in need of updating, for a further chorus in the discussion.

I will add by way of personal anecdote that among my earliest memories as a child was overhearing hushed voices discussing Korea (my father being a veteran and other teachers being called up for one more stint of service when I was three or four), then I recall the term Suez, and my parents fear, more palpable a few years later, Makarios and Cyprus and violence against the British colonials,the Sputnik, Battista and Castro, the space race, along with decolonization in Africa, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs and fallout shelters and air-raid drills throughout my elementary and junior high-school years. It seems to me that many among those younger and some among those older than I seem to have forgotten or repressed them—or perhaps never experienced them.

John Gavin

Agreed on all points. If you thought that I was asserting there would be an upside to all this, I was not. Whether or not the Russians feel this was wrong or evil matters not in the slightest.



I can see that Obama's lack of preparation for dealing with the economic crisis he walked into may be understandable. After all, economics has been made to seem an awfully arcane business.

Should we cut him as much slack when it comes to foreign policy? I don't think so. He rode into office in no small part on the back of his anti Iraq war stance and was well aware of the public's growing weariness with overseas adventures.

In "Neocons Have Weathered the Storm", Robert Perry discusses the fatal errors that allowed the neocons to not only survive the post-Iraqi fallout but to thrive. (If someone here at SST first pointed me to this article, apologies for not giving credit.)

"And, despite Obama’s opposition to the neocons’ obsession with endless warfare, he didn’t purge them from his administration. Neocons, who had burrowed deep inside the U.S. government as “civil servants” or “career foreign service officers,” remained as a “stay-behind” force, looking for new allies and biding their time.

Obama compounded this “stay-behind” problem with his fateful decision in November 2008 to adopt the trendy idea of “a team of rivals,” including keeping Republican operative (and neocon ally) Robert Gates at the Defense Department and putting hawkish Democrat Hillary Clinton, another neocon ally, at State. The neocons probably couldn’t believe their luck."


There's much more and while little of it is entirely new, to me at least it was a particularly useful summation of the nature of the "Jacobin" problem we're discussing in this thread.

John Gavin


John Gavin

I don't believe this will pan out well in the end for Putin, the Russians, or anyone else (save the sort that get fabulously wealthy when armed conflict occurs). If I am right, Putin will not turn out to have been a rational actor. If Putin dies of old age as King Of All He Surveys, I am wrong.

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