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11 June 2014

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confusedponderer

Harper,
thanks for the two links. Pretty much what I was searching for for months. Thanks.

MRW

EXCELLENT post. Thanks for including the docs.

VietnamVet

This is excellent article.

Russia is trying to figure out what happened to them last February in Kiev. We need more of information like this to figure out what’s really going on. It is clear that American policy is to generate more and wider wars across the Continents. Yet, the US Army is hard put to make a safe withdrawal from Afghanistan. ISIS seizing Mosul and Tikrit and establishing a new Caliphate is not in America’s best interest. But because the USA invaded Iraq and left behind a broken puppet government and gave support to Jihadists in Syria, this is exactly what occurred.

Instead, America should be negotiating a peaceful settlement to Ukraine Crisis. Europe should continue buying Russian gas and building economic trade. Not, both USA’s and EU’s policy of destabilizing Europe with austerity and war as they are doing now.

JohnH

The Russian assessment is a much more plausible explanation of events than the "freedom, democracy, and human rights" nonsense regurgitated daily by the government and the mainstream media.

I'm surprised that it took the Russians this long to figure it out. Hugo Chavez could have explained it to them 12 years ago.

walrus

Well now Russia has well and truly belled the cat.

steve

I suspect that both the Arabs and the Russians had it figured out awhile back, and that this security conference was used as a means to develop mutual interests and possible responses.

Kyle Pearson

I'm confused:

I've been reading about "color revolutions" since the mid-nineties. I thought the mechanism for their construction and execution had already been clearly outlined, for a long time - and not just by Russians. Most of what i've read has been in the Western press, in fact.

Why is this being asserted as a "Russian" estimate, and a "Russian" evaluation?

kao_hsien_chih

I suspect that Russians are giving us too much credit if they think the whole things is an organized conspiracy with a coherent strategy behind it. Many people who are helming the foreign policy machinery or are advising them are genuinely convinced that they are the instruments of the modern secular god's will (or, perhaps, in some cases, especially on the political right, what they consider to be the will of the Christian God) and that spreading "democracy" and "freedom" can't go wrong. In this vein, the Russians and the Middle Easterners might be quite justified thinking that this is a new crusade, driven by a religious zeal without a big plan...even if its participants may have agendas other than pure faith in mind. We shall soon see (or maybe already are seeing, in form of various NGOs staffed by idealistic and naive young people) a Children's Crusade, with the attendant tragedies...

kao_hsien_chih

PS. One irony of sorts is that this new crusade is taking on the same shape as the old crusade--the "West" against the Orthodox World and the Islamic World.....

Dubhaltach

In reply to VietnamVet - 11 June 2014 at 07:19 PM

Russia is trying to figure out what happened to them last February in Kiev."

Umm no, it's been very clear since February and arguably before then that they knew exactly what going on in Kiev and who was to blame for it.

Dubhaltach

Paul Escobar

Kyle Pearson,

Surely you are capable of appreciating subtext?

There are too many pissed off - capable & resourceful - people in that room. They may collude to seek redress of grievances.

Are you new here?,
Paul Escobar


Ursa Maior

Until recently the color revolutions were mostly aimed at weaker post-soviet republics. The Arab Spring and Ukraine have completely altered that perception.

The beaver

Just saw this, a long article about Us-Russia relations :
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/11/why-washington-must-understand-kremlin

“The fact that such high level politicians have not studied Russia specifically in a long time is an important problem,” notes a high-ranking White House source. Russia came up in the context of Libya and Syria, but nobody is an expert on the country.” On the deputy level, the only one who prepares solutions for the president is Deputy Secretary of State William Burns,” adds Weiss. “This is fortunate.”

Mind boggling !!!

Farmer Don

Three crazy, off the wall, common tin hat internet theories:

1 The Government is listening to you. Now detailed by Snowden.

2 The US (mainly) is fermenting regime change causing failed States around the world. Now also believed by powerful people in other countries. (This eye opening article).

3 China & Russia are very actively accumulating gold to protect their currencies from the destructive monetary polices of Western Central Banks, as well as US sanctions, with the coming result of a new monetary system which includes Gold backing.

We will see if the third crazy idea is true also. If it is, this one will really be felt by citizens of the West.

David Habakkuk

kao_hsien_chih,

I think you are absolutely right, both on the crypto-theological element, and on the way that we appear to be reverting to patterns drawn from old religious divisions – Western Christendom against both Eastern Christendom and Islam. But of course this is liable to make current conflicts more dangerous, rather than less.

At the end of the Eighties, when I was trying to make sense of what was going on in the former Soviet Union, I became interested in the ambiguities of the career of George Kennan – and as a result read Tocqueville, who was clearly a major influence on the supposed architect of ‘containment’.

The question with which Tocqueville was centrally concerned was that of why the French Revolution, the first major attempt to emulate the success of the American revolution on the continent of Europe, had ended up with the Terror and the imperialistic military despotism of Napoleon.

This led Tocqueville on to an investigation of the conditions which made it possible for Americans successfully to combine equality and liberty, and the prospects for replicating such conditions in Europe. An alarming feature of his enquiry is that, if you look at all closely the conditions he set, they turn out to be very restrictive and not that easy to replicate. And, of course, failed democratic experiments were a recurrent feature of European history in the century after he wrote.

Accordingly, in situations where these conditions are not present, Tocqueville’s own analysis does not suggest that ‘democracy promotion’ is necessarily a good idea. Indeed, it can be used to justify a whole range of positions. Among them is the belief that one should cling desperately to, or even attempt to restore, an ‘ancien regime’, on the basis what follows it is almost certainly going to be worse; a candid apologia for despotism, on the basis that the likely alternative is anarchy, which is almost invariably worse; and the use of authoritarian means to create the missing conditions for democracy. All these are positions which surface time and again in European political arguments from Tocqueville’s day to our own.

The form of analysis practiced by Tocqueville, having at its core an exploration of the way that what has happened in the past limits the possibilities available in the present, is of course absolutely antithetical to the Hegelian approach which Francis Fukuyama took from the Stalinist-turned-EEC bureaucrat Alexander Kojève. According to this, the role of history was to produce ‘consciousness’ of the virtues of equality and liberty, and somehow, after humanity had not been ready for the revelation for thousands if not indeed millions of years, a ‘vanguard’ had got hold of it by the time Napoleon defeated the Prussians at Jena in 1806.

This framework of thinking – which is actually crypto-theological, with roots going back a long way in the history of millenarian thinking in Christian civilisation – leads naturally to the same kind of conclusions not uncommonly drawn in monotheistic religions. Since truth is held to be self-evident, resistance to it is naturally to be explained either by evil will or ignorance.

Accordingly, the possibility that a successful combination of equality and liberty has preconditions does not arise in the way it does for Tocqueville, and others shaped by ‘republican’ thought, with its emphasis on the need for checks and balances, social as well as institutional. The only predictions for democracy for the ‘end of history’ people are the elimination of the wicked men opposing it and the education of the ignorant who do not understand it. Among the modes of action to which such a framework can easily lead are either righteous violence or something akin to the approach of a rather condescending elementary school teacher dealing with somewhat dull pupils – two strands which seem to come together in the Kagan clan.

Also with very deep roots in Christian civilisation are polemics against millenarian thinking. At risk of producing a particularly crass-oversimplification, a recurrent theme of those polemics is that those who think that they are the instruments of the will of God – or some secular surrogate – are liable to end up believing that their own will should be treated as that of God. The kind of views expressed in the writings of the contemporary American Catholic writer Claes Ryn have a very long pedigree.

His polemic ‘Unleashing the Will to Power: Neo-Jacobin Exceptionalism as a Justification for American Global Supremacy’ echoes not only arguments made about the Jacobins in the revolutionary period, but parallel arguments surrounding the English Civil War and the Russian Revolution.

(See http://ir.stthomas.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=ustlj .)

The issues involved bear upon a crucial paragraph in the piece by John Allen Gay to which ‘Harper’ links:

‘At SAIS, after a panel that featured a swath of former George W. Bush administration officials, a reporter for the Russian state media organization RIA Novosti stood up and asked the panelists whether America wanted a color revolution in Russia, and whether they thought America would benefit if such a revolution led to a Russian civil war. The panelists demurred, but the questioner’s intent was obvious: to get a sensational quote that Moscow might use to advance its own narrative and its own interests.’

The RIA Novosti reporter had actually asked this happy band of well-funded ‘groupthinkers’ the critical questions which apply to most of their efforts: does one have reason to believe that these will achieve their stated aims, rather than making the lives of the countries they profess to benefit worse, and will they benefit American interests? Or might they be a disaster for all concerned, just as the revolutions of 1917 were?

It is not clear what Mr Gay implies by suggesting that ‘the panelists demurred’. Does he mean that they rejected the suggestion that the United States wanted a ‘color revolution’ in Russia, that they disagreed that such a revolution might lead to a civil war in the country, or both? What he very happily does however is make imputations about the reporter’s motives. In so doing, moreover, he demonstrates quite how problematic many members of contemporary Western elites clearly find to grasp that the track record of democracy promotion efforts over the past decades raises the possibility that the ‘Moscow narrative’ might have something to be said for it.

This does not mean that the Western powers should necessarily refrain from attempts to counter attempts by Russia to extend its influence. In the case of Ukraine, there were good reasons to seek to counter Moscow’s aspirations to bring the country into the projected Eurasian Union. But then Putin was prepared to discuss compromise solutions, which would have left open the possibility that Ukraine could be a bridge between East and West. It was the United States and the E.U. who were not.

Likewise, it does not mean that one should blind oneself to the glaring flaws of Russian society, or indeed simply accept Russian positions on issues like Iraq, Syria, or Iran. It does mean that the views of people like Lavrov – and indeed the RIA Novosti reporter which are rooted in their country’s experience of revolutions which, to put it mildly, disappointed expectations, should not be treated with an unmerited and repugnant intellectual condescension.

David Habakkuk

Pat -- posted three identical comments by mistake. Please delete two versions.

Sorry about this,

David

Tom ATK

Thanks. The Russians are of course correct. They know, because they invented a lot of these methods. They still have an institute devoted to “Political Technologies”. Americans like Saul Alinsky copied from soviet field manuals. Hillary Clinton wrote her thesis on Alinsky, and this no doubt influenced her policies. Since her husband's presidency, US policy makers naively thought they struck gold by following advice of manipulators like Gene Sharp, not knowing that his clumsy 198 rules distorted principals of political changes formulated more effectively before him (beware of people that write without citations or references).

Russians cleverly used false flag "green men" in Ukraine, it seems to show the West that they too are just as capable of manipulation. The same in Syria.

In this post national world, what counts are converging crony capital interests, and the next manipulative trick.

BTW, that Byelorussia was part of the presentation, sounds like an inside joke.

MRW

Gold backing? No modern economy would mortgage itself to the owners of gold. This is ridiculous thinking, and completely illogical.

The US understood this 80 years ago and ended that practice domestically.

William R. Cumming

It is fairly well documented that this President is now socially, politically, and culturally isolated and cocooned. So is the US FP establishment. Their concept of formulating US FP and developing it and implementing it is by doing each other's laundry. The House Majority leader is a good example as he looked in the mirror each morning and saw the most wise and beautiful person in the land.

The FP community is as isolated today as the 1% in personal wealth. Few are really well educated. Few speak foreign languages or have lived abroad "on the economy" as we used to say in old FRG days.

Well we are the "exceptional" nation. Few understand the enormity of action on the Eastern Front in WWII and that even today that impacts Russian FP!

But what the FP establishment really fails to understand is how well played the US is by most of the world's nation-states and interest groups who love it when American politicians say "its the economy, stupid" as if we are not totally dependent on the world and continue to utilize 25% of the world's resources and outputs on an annual basis.

The water for the frog continues to warm up! Poor frog!

Fred

The beaver,

That's a nice story but rather irrelevant. Surely the author doesn't think we should be required (must not shall) hire a newly minted PHD who studied under Ann Marie Slaughter or Condelezza Rice to advise the State Department now does he?

Babak Makkinejad

It is a new religion, positing, in effect, that there will and could be no Peace until the entire planet is "converted".

The "Democratic Peace Theory", I should expect, is going to be viewed in the same manner as the previous such ideas; the "Communist Peace Theory", the "Muslim Peace Theory", the "Christian Peace Theory".

The stupid thing about it is that trade between US and China has been good to both, while World War I was fought among largely democratic states (like the centuries of war between Iran and Turkey).

JohnH

The notion that the US government feels a messianic mission to promote democracy around the world is a curious one. How many democracies has the US spawned since 1950 (the brief post-WWII period being an anomaly?)

When you do a count, and realize that you do not need many fingers on a single hand to tally up the democracies created, you come to the conclusion that the US is an abject failure at its stated goal of democracy promotion. In fact, a case can be made that the US has supported the destruction of more democratic governments than it has created, Iran being an early example, and Ukraine being the latest example.

So, if the US in fact destroys more democracies than it creates, can the goal be democracy promotion, or is that just a public relations cover for other goals, such as the extension of power and hegemony?

What seems to be different in the last 10 years is that the US color revolutions have shunned the traditional option of just replacing one strong man with another. Iraq was a perfect example. Why not invade, remove Saddam, and replace him with a cookie-cutter, allied tyrant? The model worked throughout history, particularly in Latin America.

Apparently there was a fear that the cookie-cutter replacement would have been no more reliable as an ally (or more friendly to Israel) than Saddam was, so they had to destroy the whole system and replace it with a new one, which was to be dubbed democratic.

Besides Iraq that model was repeated in Afghanistan and Libya. When it was realized that direct military intervention was not effective, they tried "smart power," and "color revolutions," which featured indirect intervention and covert subversion, Syria being a prime example.

That has not worked out so well either. In fact, it tends to create chaos and a fertile breeding ground for terrorism.

David Habakkuk

walrus,

I did not reply to your response to a comment of mine on a previous thread, in which you raised the question of what could be done to restore the moral authority which the United States had at end of the Second World War – and also, one might add, largely had for many people in 1989.

It seems to me that one thing we need, both in the U.S. and also in the U.K. – though we of course don't much matter – is something akin of what Confucius called a ‘rectification of names.’ The problem he was talking about – a situation where language does not seem to engage with reality, but to freewheel like an engine out of gear – was endemic in the old Soviet system, and has now, for reasons I do not fully understand, come to have become pervasive in the West.

Some of the problem has to do with ideological blinkers, some with PC nonsense of one kind or another. These elements are bound up, and they are also I think bound up with two aspects about which you have written repeatedly, which add to the toxic mix: a pervasive narcissism, and contempt for practical and local knowledge.

Matthew

Walrus: The real strategic challenge will be lead by Russia and China as they "de-dollarize" the world. Our misuse of sanctions have only highlighted the risk countries face as they integrate into the Western financial system. My fear is that we (the USA) will find the Ukraine adventure was much costlier than anticipated.

Matthew

WRC: One of the best tweets I've read recently essentially said, "Everyone agrees in Washington that our foreign policy is flawed, but nobody wants to add any new blood to the discussion."

We are the Hapsburgs.

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