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11 June 2014

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David Habakkuk

‘the beaver’,

Thanks for that link. What comes out of the article really is ‘mind boggling’.

One element is the assumption that, because Russian power had dwindled so dramatically, the country had ceased to be important. Certainly it is no longer a ‘superpower’ – except in the hardly trivial respect of possessing a large nuclear arsenal – and indeed Putin has specifically disavowed any aspiration to be such a thing.

By virtue of geography, however, Russia remains a global power, inextricably and unavoidably involved with a whole range of areas which will continue to be of concern to the United States – including areas like Central Asia which may become more salient in coming years. Moreover, the ‘lingua franca’ in such areas remains Russian. Accordingly, one might have thought securing a basic minimum of expertise among some of its staff in Russian language and culture would continue to be a requirement for any competent foreign affairs or intelligence bureaucracy.

Moreover, while a Russia that wants to be your friend – as Putin quite patently did, until relatively recently – can be of considerable help to you, a Russia that wants to make trouble for you can make a lot of trouble.

The lack of basic analytical competence among American policymakers in relation to Russia and the post-Soviet space in general is painfully apparent in some of the sheerly inane views quoted in the article.

‘“In the 2000s,” notes Charap, “a view that ‘Russian politics is Putin’ dominated. Only a few sought a deeper explanation.” One of the main research issues are lacking reliable sources among the elite, whose representatives are not eager to give interviews.’

Leaving aside the lack of basic grammatical competence, it seems daft simply to assume that Putin had constructed a top-down system dominated by himself – and there are other ways of ascertaining what members of an elite think, besides interviewing them. How to find, by indirect approaches, clues to the thinking of people who will not talk to you, and are certainly not going to talk candidly to you, is a basic problem faced by diplomats, intelligence analysts, and journalists.

And then, the nightmare conclusion of the article:

‘“Some things cannot be said nor written. For example, many like the idea of the federalisation of Ukraine: why should we, the United States, the model of federalism, be against it? But since Lavrov said it, supporting the idea in public is not allowed until we hit a dead end – you’ll sound like a nut job, or who knows, even an agent of Gazprom’s influence,” adds an expert.’

Words fail me. This has to be one of the most sheerly stupid foreign policy elites in history. Perhaps if Lavrov says in passing that the world is round Washington policymakers will all become flat-earthers.

Tyler

Blaming the Christian Right for actions more often than not organized, encouraged, and led by Jewish neocons.

Hook. Line. Sinker. Sucker born every minute. Etc.

kao_hsien_chih

Hardly a blame of the "Christian right." For all we care, this is a crusade waged by atheist "democracy" mongers. The bottom line is that it is an irrational drive waged by hubris of self-righteousness fueled by pseudo-religious zeal. I was thinking that I was fairly clear in stating that most of the drinkers of this kool-aid saw their mission as being from "modern secular god" although the qualification was made for some who were of Christian fundamentalist variety (e.g. GWB).

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

It is difficult for an old-style 'perfidious Albionian' like myself to take the 'Democratic Peace Theory' seriously.

If it is supposed to establish that 'democratic' societies are peaceable, then look at the experience of Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Successive reform acts, extending the franchise, move pari passu with us gobbling up more and more of the world.

If it is simply supposed to mean that 'democratic' societies do not attack other 'democratic' societies, then the sample of societies that can be considered properly 'democratic' is too small.

Moreover, 1. most of them have existed in the highly specific context of the post-war 'Pax Americana', and 2. the chain of causation may work the other way -- societies which are endemically under threat of attack may find authoritarian systems a necessary guarantor of security.

kao_hsien_chih

It will be a disaster economically, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. The value of most modern economic assets (including currency) depend on trust. Undermine the trust, people will attempt to find some insurance, even at steep economic cost.

David Habakkuk

JohnH,

I would agree with this up to a point. However, it would be unwise to understate the achievements of the United States in the 'brief post-WWII period' in Europe, and also then, and later, in East Asia. Very few people in 1945 would have expected that democratic systems would take root in the Federal Republic, or indeed Japan, in the way they did.

The other important point is that, irrespective of the real drivers of action, people habitually believe their own propaganda. If there was more cynical Machiavellian manipulation around, the neocons would not have made such a succession of total cockups.

On another thread, 'oofda' quoted Richard Perle, in September 2003, anticipating that there would be a square named after George W. Bush in Baghdad within a year. The only plausible explanation, it seems to me, is that Perle really believed what he was saying. There are no 'hidden depths', or deep Machiavellian calculations -- we are dealing with overeducated imbeciles.

JohnH

Mind boggling, indeed. But not surprising.

A few years ago I asked someone who had helped establish the Iraqi parliament why it was that Europe was so much more effective at nurturing democracies than the United State.

She suggested that it was because European powers employed country experts who were tasked with knowing all they could about a specific country. They became to go-to people when issues arose.

By contrast, the US hires generalists who could be parachuted in willy nilly from one posting to another, depending on technical needs of the host country and career imperatives.

As a result, career foreign service employees never served long enough in a place to develop a deep, gut-level understanding. They are typically short termers looking for the next promotion.

Combine this with top government officials who have their pulse more on Washington politics than events in foreign countries, and you end up having the blind leading the blind.

walrus

MRW, Gold is the preferred store of value when currencies cannot be trusted not to collapse. It is a "catastrophy hedge", as such it is not illogical at all to hold some.

My economics Professor was advisor to our Federal Governnment when Russia invaded Afghanistan and there appeared to be a chance that America might go to war. His first question: "what are our gold reserves?".

To put that another way, in time of war, gold sales are the only thing to settle international trade transactions with belligerants or possible belligerents.

JohnH

Yes, the post-war achievements were noteworthy...and highly anomalous. As noteworthy as what was actually accomplished (and not repeated) was the credibility the US gained as a champion of freedom, democracy and human rights.

That one brief shining moment has provided the grist for generations of US propaganda and the grain for the delusions of the political elite.

kao_hsien_chih

One should note that Tocqueville overstated his case even in the US. The desire to use the power and resources of the state for social engineering is always immense, even in the US, and we have seen a few major crises in American history that sprang out of such desires--the Civil War, the Prohibition, the War on Drugs, and many social engineering schemes that people in Washington and some state capitols (not just one side of the US political divide, but from both sides) keep coming up with even now.

It is true that we didn't see a total collapse of democratic governance into a Napoleonic despotism in the US even with those crises. Perhaps the inherent "conservatism" of the American public (in the sense that there are enough people here who are skeptical of schemes that are too good to be true) has provided enough inertia so far...but it is not something that I'd just take for granted.

Kyle Pearson

I'm a daily reader of the last 12 years or so (pretty much right from the beginning), but i don't comment much.

I have very little to add, and what observations i might be able to contribute on any issue are usually well covered by the regular posters, here.

What struck me about the report, above, is that Russia is claiming this is a "new" mode of warfare, but the term "color revolutions" goes back to the mid-to-late nineties, at least, and was used all over Eastern Europe from then on 'til now.

Perhaps the emphasis was intended to indicate how color revolutions" have moved from "people's coups" to "open warfare"?

I can't imagine that the people in that room didn't already know the term; but is it possible that inside the beltway the term isn't much used? Or that Washingtonians are so deluded by their own propaganda that most have dismissed the idea as "conspiracy theory"?

That's why i'm curious about how the story, above, was put together.

MRW

That's not entirely true. Tally sticks were in use in England from 1100 AD until 1836 AD. Gold, as a monetary token, didn't show up pressed as a unit of exchange for 2800 years until 700 BC in Greek temples. Convertibility to gold is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Your economics professor's question only had meaning if he asked it before August 15, 1971.

MRW

The neocons purged the experts.

MRW

"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."

?????????

Imagine

Nice summary of Jun 2nd Ukraine airstrike on Lugansk at:
http://revolution-news.com/the-bombing-of-civilians-in-lugansk-by-the-kyiv-government-graphic-behind-ukraines-walls-of-fire-iv/

Indy reporter Matthew Russell Lee of InnerCityPress.com documents Ukraine's repeated fabrications on the matter:
https://www.beaconreader.com/matthew-russell-lee/after-bombing-of-luhansk-ukrainian-ambassador-denies-osce-report-of-airstrike-website-down

confusedponderer

MRW,
I'm as puzzled. What the 'polite green Men' were about was plausible deniability.

It was not them posing as something they weren't, to pin their action on somebody else, like Ukrainian government troops.

A false flag op was the Izzies blowing up a US library in Egypt to blame it on some Arabs (Lavon affair) or them trying to sink the USS Liberty with man and mouse in an attempt to frame the Egyptians. Or Ukrainian nationalists shooting some demonstrators in the head in order to frame the Ukrainian riot police, and then shoot at the riot police. That sort of thing.

The 'polite green Men' did nothing of the kind. They intervened in Krimea without openly showing that they were part of the Russian armed forces, so Russia could deny their involvement.

Big difference.

confusedponderer

"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."

... if only there was something else under that splendid hairdo.

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