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30 June 2017

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Bill Herschel

When I read this I could not believe it and thought it was a joke, a bad joke.

But my God, listen to the Congressman, a veteran, who said that U.S. soldiers have the courage to fight, but Congress doesn't have the courage to debate. Soldiers do their duty but "Representatives" won't.

And on and on. And then the vote. No one voted "Nay". No one. And let it be completely clear, the persuasive voices were the voices of veterans. This is a bright day in the U.S. whatever follows. The Constitution is a very imperfect document, but it's the only one we have and should be followed by the members of the government.

JerseyJeffersonian

Well, this is encouraging.

Colonel, your assessment of the shape-shifting, infinitely mutable nature of this AUMF is entirely correct. It serves the Trotskyite ambitions of the NeoConservatives for eternal and unrelenting war, but it serves the interests of a healthy republic not at all.

It is devoutly to be hoped that the curtain will be rung down on this abomination.

BraveNewWorld

Thanks for the heads up. That is some thing I will be watching for sure, especially any debates on it. It will be interesting to see where the various members of the various branches of government stand on the appropriate use of the military these days.

Swami

Glad to see some members of Congress are finally asserting their Article One authority.

Mikey

Kinziger is a veteran that opposed it. But that's no surprise.

Keith Harbaugh

Dennis Kucinich has a column on the AUMF:

“The president has appropriated, delegated the war-making power”
by Dennis Kucinich, 2017-06-21
http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/338684-the-president-has-appropriated-delegated-the-war-making

Here are the first five paragraphs of Kucinich's column
(BTW, after this introduction he reviews the history of some attempts to use the courts to rule the prez is exceeding his constitutional authority):

The president [Trump], following a practice of his predecessors,
has appropriated and further delegated the war-making power —
which belongs to Congress alone.
This has created a constitutionally impermissible condition
where the power to declare war has passed into
the hands of those responsible to wage war.

There is no faster route to destruction of our republic
than the path we are currently upon,
where unelected Pentagon officials have been ceded
a constitutional power reserved for the Congress.

This is precisely the condition President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of
in his valediction to beware of the military-industrial complex.

Unless Congress soon reclaims and restrains this power,
our country will face a precipitating incident
that could cause us to stumble into World War III
with Russia, North Korea, China, Iran or a combination of the four.

The president’s assignment to Defense Secretary James Mattis and his generals [of]

  • the conduct of an undeclared war in Syria, with sea-based missile attacks and the recent shooting down of a Syrian government plane inside Syria;
  • the restarting and escalation of the Iraq war that officially ended on Dec. 18, 2011;
  • expressly permitting the Pentagon discretion to drop an extraordinary munition on Afghanistan;
  • the restarting and escalation of the war in Afghanistan, which officially ended on Dec. 28, 2014; and
  • the violation of international treaties governing respect for sovereignty, nonaggression and safeguarding of civilian populations
are occurring without constitutionally required congressional permission.

...

Jack

While they're at it Congress should also repeal the unPatriot Act.

In fact I can think of several more pieces of legislation that should be repealed.

sid_finster

I guess it take a Trump to make Congress finally stand up on their hind legs.

Thirdeye

I always have a chuckle when someone refers to the neocons as "Trotskyite." The connection is so tenuous as to be meaningless, but I guess it's good enough for some historical hobbyhorses.

b

Should AUMF be repealed Congress will surely come up with a worse forever-war authorization.

robt willmann

This much-needed proposal to repeal the September 2001 authorization to use military force was surprisingly approved by a voice vote in the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations--

https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394955

The bill is H.R.2810, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. The amendment repealing the AUMF is not yet on the Congressional Internet web page--

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2810/all-info?r=1

The September 2001 AUMF is Public Law 107-40, signed on September 18, 2001--

https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/23/all-info?r=1

https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf

https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/23/text?r=1

After the 'whereas' part, the text says--

"Section 1. Short Title.

"This joint resolution may be cited as the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force'.

"Sec. 2. Authorization For Use Of United States Armed Forces.

"(a) In General.-That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

"(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements.-

"(1) Specific statutory authorization.-Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution [50 U.S.C. 1547(a)(1)], the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution [50 U.S.C. 1544(b)].

"(2) Applicability of other requirements.-Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution [50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.]."

The sneaky and tricky part of this AUMF is section 2(b)(1). It says that section 2, which is the operative part of the law, constitutes "specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution" (a/k/a the War Powers Act).

When you look at Title 50, U.S. Code, section 1544(b), you see--

"(b) Termination of use of United States Armed Forces; exceptions; extension period

"Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 1543(a)(1) of this title, whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces."

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1544

The slick language of section 2(b)(1) of the AUMF wipes out the time limits and time extensions in 50 U.S.C. 1544(b), and the power created in 50 U.S.C. 1544(c) to Congress. That special power in section 1544(c) applies when U.S. Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside of the U.S. "without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization", and in that case, "such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution."

To try to save its egg-covered face, Congress said in section 2(b)(2) of the AUMF that nothing in it "supercedes anything in the War Powers Resolution", even though in section 2(b)(1) they just superseded the War Powers Resolution!

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, Public Law 107-243, for the 2003 invasion, is also a bad one, but that is another story.

Seamus Padraig

When you consider how Trotskyism arose, it's not strange at all. The Stalinists wanted "socialism in one country" - i.e., they wanted to prioritize the Soviet Union's own industrial development and national interests over throwing away scarce resources on promoting more revolution abroad. The Trotskyite faction, however, promoted a policy of prioritizing "world revolution" above all else. Thus, the parallels between Trotsky's policies and those of the modern neocons are actually quite striking. True, the neocons long ago abandoned any real commitment to socialism; but their "invade the world, invite the world" policies (as journalist Steve Sailer would put it) are just the contemporary version of a borderless, one-world state - Trotsky's dream.

Thirdeye

James Burnham quickly renounced Marxism and the future Cold War liberal tendency that gave rise to the neocons were Social Democrats for a while. There's more merit to referring to the neocons as having Social Democratic roots, although that's also highly questionable.

Thirdeye

The neocon vision of global movement of capital and labor for maximum exploitation is the opposite of the classical Marxist view of local self-determination (albeit under the ideological leadership of an international socialist movement) as state power "withers away." Trotsky adhered to that view more rigidly than Stalin did, while Stalin emphasized centralization of state functions and international realpolitik.

different clue

b,

Well then, let them do it before God AND c-span. If that is indeed what they finally do, then it might drive us the citizenry to undertake the grinding work of political engineering needed to purge and decontaminate and replace this cohort of officeholders . . . seat by seat by seat.

readerOfTeaLeaves

This is an older SST link, but extremely informative.
If you take the time to read it, you will understand that given the roots of neocons in the 1930s, the term 'Trotskyite' has some relevance.

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2005/11/habakkuk_onleo_.html

Regards, rOTL

Morongobill

Trump delegating that authority is just the next logical step down the path to the destination this country seems Hell bent to get to.

Congress needs to wake up and cancel that outstanding blank check given to the executive branch.

Babak Makkinejad

I think the idea of a World Government is a very bad one indeed; regardless of its economic doctrine for allocation of resources.
EU's recent experience, albeit on a much smaller state, has demonstrated that. Earlier,WBS was another demonstration - the World Government will have to crush all dissension through war or go extinct.

David Habakkuk

ROTL,

I think the Trotskyist link is important. What is critical to understand is the way that certain fundamental patterns of thinking are carried over, even though the specific content of the beliefs changes. Recalling his time at City College in New York in the ‘Thirties, Irving Kristol remarked:

‘It would never have occurred to us to denounce anyone or anything as “elitist.” The elite was us – the “happy few" who had been chosen by History to guide our fellow creatures toward a secular redemption… ‘

(See http://www.pbs.org/arguing/nyintellectuals_krystol_2.html .)

In 1993, another erstwhile Trotskyist, the novelist Saul Bellow, in an article entitled ‘Marx at My Table’, describes his ‘radical education’, starting with how he first heard of Lenin and Trotsky ‘in the high-chair while eating my mashed potatoes.’

(See http://webshells.com/cgi-bin/councilor/intbd/cgi-bin/intbd.cgi?action=read&id=800 .)

He goes on to write:

‘The more clear-headed of the Greenwich Village intellectuals toward the end of the 1930s were beginning to understand that the Revolution was a disaster. Few of them, however, turned away from Marxism. One way or another they clung to the texts that had made intellectuals of them. The Marxist fundamentals had organised their minds and given them an enduring advantage over unfocused rivals educated helter-skelter in American universities.’

The consequences of this emerge when we get towards the end of the article:

‘The objectives of Lenin's revolution never materialised in Russia but they are all about us here in bourgeois America, says the philosopher Kojeve. But in the process everything worth living for has melted away.’

The last novel Bellow wrote, ‘Ravelstein’, published in 2000, was a ‘roman-à-clef’ about Allan Bloom, the pupil of Leo Strauss who translated Alexander Kojève’s book on Hegel, and was mentor both to Paul Wolfowitz and Francis Fukuyama, who in 1989 published the famous ‘End of History’ article.

Although also of Russian origins – an émigré to Paris – rather than being an erstwhile Trotskyist, Kojève was a sometime Stalinist, who however ended up as an EEC bureaucrat. The side of Hegel he was keen to revive was that which suggested that history had really ended with the defeat of the Prussian monarchy by Napoleon in 1806, because then the ‘vanguard’ of history had attained ‘consciousness’.

This was, of course, complete and utter BS.

The fundamental mindset was the same as that of Irving Kristol and his friends in the ‘Thirties. History has a – knowable – universal direction, which ‘intellectuals’ can discern. The change is simply that rather than ending up in the socialist paradise we are all going to end up like the United States. In both versions, ‘rationality’ will be imposed, by force if necessary, on the ‘deplorables’.

One of the ‘neoconservative’ writers I discussed in the piece to which you linked was the ‘New York Times’ columnist David Brooks. In a piece in February, entitled ‘A Return to National Greatness’, he wrote:

‘America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.’

(See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/opinion/a-return-to-national-greatness.html .)

That ‘historical story’, Brooks goes on to write, was ‘America’s true myth.’ And he then tells us that:

‘That American myth was embraced and lived out by everybody from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan. It was wrestled with by John Winthrop and Walt Whitman. It gave America a mission in the world — to spread democracy and freedom. It gave us an attitude of welcome and graciousness, to embrace the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and to give them the scope by which to realize their powers.’

And the article continues:

‘And so along come men like Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon with a countermyth. Their myth is an alien myth, frankly a Russian myth. It holds, as Russian reactionaries hold, that deep in the heartland are the pure folk who embody the pure soul of the country – who endure the suffering and make the bread. But the pure peasant soul is threatened. It is threatened by the cosmopolitan elites and by the corruption of foreign influence.’

Back in March 2014, Brooks wrote a column commenting on the three writers whom Putin had recommended to Russian regional governors – Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov, and Ivan Ilyin. Having quoted ‘proof texts’, he concluded that ‘all this adds up to a highly charged and assertive messianic ideology.’

(See https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/opinion/brooks-putin-cant-stop.html .)

At this point, I become tempted to turn the argument made by Brooks on its head. As it happens, Berdyaev was one of the authors of the 1909 symposium entitled ‘Landmarks’. What this represented was the turning away of a group who were mostly former Marxists from Marxism – and in part from liberalism. It was an impassioned attack on central features of the mentality of the Russian ‘intelligenty’.

Behind their writings was not any generalised ideological hostility to the West, or indeed to liberal ideas – but an awareness that if the masses are not liberal, the notion that toppling an autocratic system will lead to happy democratic outcomes is chimerical. In particular, for a wholly or partly ‘Westernised’ intelligentsia among largely ‘unWesternised masses’, it is likely to be suicidal: which is one reason why Trotsky ended up dead.

In the 1993 article from which I quoted, Bellow followed up his reference to the fatuities of Kojève by writing: ‘ Russia is perhaps done with tyranny and privation. If it develops a free market and becomes a union of commercial republics, it will have to do as we have been doing all along.’

This sublimely silly comment was written just as Russia was actually heading, just as it had in 1917 if in a very different way, towards a state of economic and political collapse, which caused immeasurable human suffering.

In one of the articles he wrote prior to his re-election as President in 2012, which was entitled ‘Democracy and the Quality of Government’, Putin alluded to another figure linked both to the ‘Vekhi’ group and Ivan Ilyin:

‘Russian philosopher and lawyer Pavel Novgorodtsev warned early last century: “Many people think that the proclamation of liberty and universal suffrage will magically direct society onto a new path. But in reality, the outcome of such action is usually not democracy, but oligarchy or anarchy, depending on the turn events take.”’

(See http://xn--l1ah.xn--p1ai/en/publications/139691/ .)

Another of Putin’s pre-election articles dealt with ‘The Ethnicity Problem.’ Anyone who, having read it, thinks as David Brooks seems to do that Putin is an ethnic nationalist clearly cannot read. That he thinks so is a dreadful testament to what happens if one is educated by the likes of Kristol and Bloom – critical parts of the piece are devoted to a denunciation of Russian ethnic nationalism.

(See http://embajada-rusa.org/es/russia-the-ethnicity-issue.html .)

And this brings one to the fundamental problem which David Brooks, and people like him, cannot confront.

In 1989, the most fundamental fact about the international system was the extraordinary success of the post-war ‘Pax Americana’, both in Western Europe and key parts of East Asia. The central Marxist-Leninist notion, according to which there were inexorable degenerative dynamics inherent in capitalism, and in an effort to avoid these the ‘imperialist’ states were driven to fight each other or attack the lone socialist state, had proved pure and utter BS. All this was obvious to intelligent Russians.

One did not have to be a Marxist-Leninist, in 1945, to fear a recurrence of German or Japanese militarism. But the Germany of 1989 was, quite patently, not a militaristic society at all. Meanwhile, while the Vietnamese communists might have won their war, the outstandingly successful examples of successful development were countries within the ‘Pax Americana’: the contrast between North and South Korea, for example, was glaringly obvious.

A generation later, however, the picture was quite different. One central fact of the international system was the contrast between China, which had liberalised its economic system but not its political system, with outstandingly successful results, and Russia, which had tried to liberalise both at once, with catastrophic ones.

Another is the fact that, whenever the United States has tried to spread ‘democracy and freedom’, be it in the former Soviet space, or the Middle East, the results end up making the ‘Vekhi’ authors, Pavel Novgorodtsev, and Ivan Ilyin, look prescient.

Indeed, I am tempted to say that one should turn the arguments of David Brooks on their heads. One might perhaps say that it is his version of the American ‘myth’ is in part a Russian ‘myth’. As with Irving Kristol, or Saul Bellow, or Alexander Kojève, what we are seeing is a carrying over into American conditions of the mentality of the Russian ‘intelligenty’, which the ‘Vekhi’ authors were so concerned to fight.

All the characteristics Berdyaev and his collaborators identified in the ‘intelligenty’ are there. A totally unrealistic utopianism; disdain for serious empirical enquiry; preference for finding ‘proof texts’ which can be held to be compromising, rather than understanding what people wrote in the context in which they wrote it; underlying will-to-power; and, last but not least, a fundamentally ‘totalitarian’ mentality.

In the United States, as in other societies, there is no single ‘myth’. The meaning and significance of America has been debated, and contentious, ever since the quite distinct cultures of New England and Virginia were originally created by quite distinct kinds of people from the British Isles.

There are latently ‘totalitarian’ elements in many different cultures, certainly including British: we, can, clearly, be held responsible for John Winthrop. So too much should not be blamed on the Russian ‘intelligenty’ tradition. But too little should not be blamed on it, either.

DH

Trump seems particularly suited to spark a wave to vote out every single Congressional incumbent.

Keith Harbaugh

David, I would be interested in your thoughts on this Anne Applebaum column:

“How U.S. presidents missed the Russia threat —
until it was much, much too late”

by Anne Applebaum, 2017-06-30
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-us-presidents-missed-the-russia-threat--until-it-was-much-much-too-late/2017/06/29/d1dadbe0-5ce7-11e7-a9f6-7c3296387341_story.html

Here are some excerpts:

In subsequent years [after 1991], nobody paid much attention
as Russia, which many had hoped would become a Western-oriented, liberalizing state,
turned into something quite different.
Or perhaps I should put it more strongly:
Nobody in Western politics paid much attention,
but many others in the West were eager to aid that transformation.
In particular, many were eager to help
a cabal of revanchist former KGB officers,
in league with Russian organized crime,
to steal money that belonged to the Russian state,
launder it abroad, bring it back
and use it to take power.

While Western presidents and prime ministers were distracted by other things,
Western lawyers, accountants, unscrupulous offshore bankers and even mainstream bankers were happily taking cuts.

...

For nearly two decades, in fact,
the Russian government and Russian companies spent money systematically
to create corrupt business relationships as well as
to undermine democracies in both Eastern and Western Europe.
During that period,
no U.S. president or secretary of state ever took any threat from Russia seriously,
all of them either overestimating the Kremlin’s goodwill or underestimating its capacity to do damage.
Bush “looked into Putin’s eyes” in 2001 and got “a sense of his soul.”
Obama dismissed Putin back in 2013 as behaving
“like a bored kid in the back of the classroom.”

Neither one of them ever understood the corrosive effect of Russian money,
whether on New York real estate or Western democracy.
Neither understood the subtle ways in which
a large, kleptocratic, semi-criminal state on Europe’s borders
could threaten Western political stability.
Neither understood that
the U.S. political system, like that of France, Germany and Ukraine, had become so vulnerable, or that
U.S. political operatives may have turned to Russian hackers for help.
By 2016, it was already too late to stop Russia,
because most of the damage had already been done.

Thirdeye

From what I can tell, the rationale for considering the neocon manner of thinking rooted in Trotskyism is the notion of an elite vanguard leading the world to its highest destiny, whether the world appreciates it or not. But that can be regarded as equally related to other "light-of-the-world" ideologies that precede the Trotskyist doctrine of world revolution. The American self-concept of being the ultimate expression of the liberal idea that would transform the world also has some similar aspects. At its best it motivated the US to get its own house in order - the fight against slavery, the Progressive movement of the early 20th Century, and the New Deal come to mind. But there were always contradictions in how it would affect the way the US engaged the rest of the world. The Monroe Doctrine opposed European colonialism in the western hemisphere, but on its flip side was the notion of Manifest Destiny. The rhetoric of safeguarding democracy was used in entering World War I when it was in actuality safeguarding the investments of US financiers in the British war effort. The concentration of military and economic power in the US at the end of World War II, combined with the self-concept as the vanguard of liberal democracy and economics, was a heady combination. The moral certainty of judging anyone who didn't fall in line with the Truth and Light behind American power as a morally lesser being was (is) as dangerous as it was arrogant. Cold War liberal ideology attracted some Social Democrats including some ex-Trotskyists. Take away the moral imperatives of liberalism on the home front while keeping its messianic-imperial aspects and you have neoconservative ideology. The other pre-Trotskyist ideology centered on the notion of an enlightened vanguard entitled to guide the world that comes to my mind is messianic Judaism. It is regarded as impolite to make that connection with the neocon establishment, but it can not be ignored while keeping any intellectual honesty.

If there is any "left" tendency that seems like a close ideological precursor to the neoconservatives it would be the descendants of the Frankfurt School. Same emphasis on an intellectual vanguard entitled to rule, same use of ethnic division in the interest of power, same contempt for the great unwashed...

David Habakkuk

Keith,

Before commenting on Anne Applebaum, I should explain the reasons I was from the start strongly prejudiced against her husband.

After Radosław Sikorski stayed in England following the imposition of martial law in Poland in 1981, he was accepted to study at Oxford. There he chose to seek election to the Bullingdon Club, whose members include the former Prime Minister David Cameron, the former Chancellor George Osborne, and our current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Like Johnson, Sikorski was also very active in the Oxford Union.

The Bullingdon is a society for ‘poor little rich kids’, whose members have dinners where they get blind drunk, smash places up, and then think to make it up by flashing their money around. The claim that one of their ‘initiation rituals’ in recent years was to burn a £50 note in front of a homeless person may or may not be well-founded. Although it is not universally true, in general a former member of the Bullingdon has about as much claim to be a ‘gentleman’ as Donald Trump.

(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullingdon_Club .)

As to the Oxford, and Cambridge, Unions, decent people can be involved with them. But many of those who spend a lot of their time as students on this kind of thing are pretty suspect characters, like Johnson or indeed the former head of the Russia desk at MI6, Christopher Steele, a sometime President of the Cambridge Union, who turns out to have been centrally involved in the ‘information operations’ against Trump.

Turning to Anne Applebaum’s account of post-Soviet Russia.

Not long ago, the ‘American Conservative’ published a piece about John Paton Davies, the old ‘China Hand’ who had the temerity to advocate, in the early Cold War, the kind of ‘divide and rule’ strategy which Kissinger would finally adopt decades later in regard to China and the Soviet Union, and had his career wrecked by Joe McCarthy in consequence. Discussing the views expressed in the book ‘Foreign and Other Affairs’ Paton Davies published in 1964, the review’s author, George Liebmann, writes:

‘He was spot on in his prophecy about the Soviet Union: “The real threat to the Bolsheviks in the Kremlin is not imperialism in its last throes nor the heresies of fraternal parties nor the Russian masses who they have so abused but the new Soviet elite which they have nurtured – their own serpent-toothed sons.”’

(See http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/john-paton-davies-foreign-policy-prophet/ .)

The extent to which this phenomenon was missed by British and American intelligence agencies almost beggars belief. To get a sense of it, one can usefully read reflections on the Cold War published in 2010 by someone I suspect is one of those ‘serpent-toothed sons’, Vladimir Pechatnov, now Chair of European and American Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

(See http://jhss-khazar.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01-1.pdf .)

As he notes, by the end of the Brezhnevite ‘era of stagnation’ the Soviet intelligentsia ‘craved freedom and democracy almost at any price.’ As became clear, this was not simply true of the opposition ‘intelligentsia’ but of many of the children of the ‘nomenklatura’. Meanwhile, the patent failure of the Soviet system to cope with the challenges of the post-industrial economy, and resultant backwardness, discredited it far more widely:

‘This backwardness discredited the Soviet system not only in the outside world, but in the eyes of its own people who by then could see enough through the iron curtain and compare their quality of life with that of the “rotten” West. (“The West is rotten, of course, but it smells so good”).’


Unfortunately, what resulted was an alliance of Russian ‘market Leninists’ with Westerners who had swallowed Fukuyama whole. The attempts by the political analysts at the American Moscow Embassy to combat this are described in fascinating interviews by E. Wayne Merry, Thomas Graham and Donald Jensen for the PBS ‘Return of the Czar’ programme, broadcast in May 2000, immediately after Putin was sworn in as President.

(See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh//pages/frontline/shows/yeltsin/interviews/ .)

From Graham’s interview:

‘Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, you will remember the very famous “end of history” article, which at that time did reflect the views of a large segment of the American political-business establishment. There really was no alternative to democratic politics and market economies, which would develop naturally once you removed the obstacles in the Soviet Union.

‘There never really was any doubt about the direction in which we were urging Russia to go. The view, one of intellectual arrogance both here and in Russia, was that if people didn’t understand this, it was because of a certain amount of ignorance, not because they have legitimate concerns. The view was that we needed to push forward on reform as rapidly as possible, because that would lead to the types of benefits that would ultimately persuade these people of the correctness of the policy.’

Unfortunately, what was illustrated was that the intellectual arrogance of many Western academic economists is only matched by their ignorance. They failed to grasp that the collapse of discredited authoritarian systems, in the post-Soviet space as also in the Middle East, can very easily produce criminalised anarchy.

As well as producing ‘rich white trash’ like the ‘Bullingdon boys’, Oxford is host to some very fine scholars indeed. One of the most interesting applications of ‘rational choice theory’ is by two splendid Italians working there, Diego Gambetta and Federico Varese, who have an interest in mafias reflecting their own country’s experience and have developed the systematic study of the subject with a deeply impressive combination of theoretical rigour and down-to-earth common sense.

An early paper from the latter, published in 1994, is entitled ‘Is Sicily the future of Russia? Private protection and the rise of the Russian mafia.’

(See https://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/materials/people/varesef/varese-Russian_mafiaSicily.pdf .)

A central point is very simple. A reasonably civilised market economy presupposes codes of law governing the ownership and transfer of property rights, and state with the capacity to enforce them. – and it really does help to have a culture of respect for property rights. Absent such conditions, ‘rational choice’ can easily mean plunder, and the proceeds have to be protected by private enterprise: which means mafias.

If a rapid transition to a market economy is happening at the same time as a large number of armed men are becoming unemployed, then different forms of ‘rational choice’ come together. For the new oligarchs created by ‘shock therapy’, and also the builders of purely criminal enterprises, like Semyon Mogilevich, it was ‘rational’ to use or create private security forces, and for former members of the vast military and intelligence apparatuses of of the Soviet state it was ‘rational’ to join them.

As it happens, the weakness of a culture of law in Russia is one of the central concerns both of the ‘Vekhi’ writers, and of Ivan Ilyin.

Another very fine scholar of modern Russia, Paul Robinson, now teaching in Ottawa, was, ironically, a contemporary at Eton and Oxford of Boris Johnson. But, rather than as Johnson did going into a media ‘bubble’, he went into the Army, ended up in Intelligence, and when he returned to Oxford did a thesis on the White Army in exile – the ultimate irrelevant subject. As a result, from very early on he understood where Putin is ‘coming from’, and has long been familiar with the writers on the ‘reading list’ for regional governors.

As Robinson brought out in an article in the ‘American Conservative’ entitled ‘Putin’s Philosophy’ back in March 2012, the weakness of a culture of respect for law in Russia was a central concern both of the ‘Vekhi’ writers and of Ivan Ilyin.

The fact that the Russian ‘intelligenty’ appeared committed to making this problem worse, rather than better, was one of the items on the charge-sheet the authors of the symposium levelled against them. And it was precisely the weakness of ‘legal consciousness’ that in Ilyin’s view meant that democracy would not be a suitable form of government for a post-communist Russia.

(See http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/putins-philosophy/ .)

So the ‘kleptocratic’ elements in contemporary Russia are actually a product of several distinct strands. Among them are cultural characteristics going back to Tsarist times, the legacy of communism – and also the disastrous effects of policies hatched by a coming together of Russian utopians like Gaidar and Chubais, and immensely arrogant Harvard ‘Fachidioten’ like Larry Summers.

There is however one further element. We know that, from as early as 1989, some of the most important of the future ‘oligarchs’, crucially Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky, were receiving training in ‘Western business methods’ from a shady company called ‘Valmet’, run by Christopher Samuelson and Christian Michel, which clearly had links to elements in British and American intelligence.

All kinds of different people, in the years that followed, were involved in using sophisticated methods to ‘launder money’ abroad, and use it in attempts to ‘take power’ in Russia. The notion that the Russian security services are the only people who played such games, and people like Christopher Steele are entitled to play ‘dindu nuffin’, is BS.

(See http://mikhail_khodorkovsky_society_two.blogspot.co.uk .)

After Putin came to power, he used ‘divide and rule’ tactics on the ‘semibankirshchina’, the oligarchic cartel which had come to rule Russia as a result of ‘shock therapy’. The terms he offered allowed oligarchs to keep what they had looted, so long as they kept out of politics and observed some restraint – actually paying taxes, for example.

In the resulting conflict with the oligarchs who refused these terms – principally Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky – Putin put his cronies in control of the assets he expropriated from them, so they became quasi-oligarchs.

It is amply clear that in this conflict, MI6, and elements in the CIA, sided with Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky. Moreover, Berezovsky and his associates – including the late Alexander Litvinenko – were prominently involved in supporting anti-Russian elements in, critically, both Ukraine and Chechnya.

So what we have had, since Putin came to power, are a very complex set of power struggles, largely obscured from view.

Unfortunately, superannuated student politicians like Christopher Steele and Anne Applebaum’s husband are out of their depth in these. The attempt to incorporate the whole of Ukraine in the West, and ultimately NATO, in which her Sikorski was a leading player, was always bound up to blow up in people’s faces. Quite clearly, he must know a great deal about the shady side of the intrigues in which MI6 and others were involved over his period in high office, from 2005 to 2014.

In the light of this, I can’t help by find his wife’s ‘dindu nuffin’ performance on behalf of Western governments rather comic.

Keith Harbaugh

Thank you very much for your erudite review of post-1991 developments in Russia.
Very useful indeed.

While I cannot compete with your depth of knowledge,
perhaps it would be of some value to add three further links.
The first two, both circa 2000 and from America, just discuss
the not-so-happy results of the ‘shock therapy’:
http://fair.org/extra/harvards-best-and-brightest-aided-russias-economic-ruin/
https://www.thenation.com/article/harvard-boys-do-russia/

The third is probably of greater interest,
and provides a vastly more sympathetic view of Putin than Applebaum did:
“How to Think About Vladimir Putin”
by Christopher Caldwell, 2017-02-15
https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/how-to-think-about-vladimir-putin/

Here is an excerpt:

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless.
It was bankrupt.
It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites,
in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans.
Putin changed that.
In the first decade of this century,
he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s.
Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state,
and gave it coherence and purpose.
He disciplined his country’s plutocrats.
He restored its military strength.
And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric,
to accept for Russia a subservient role
in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders.
His voters credit him with having saved his country.

fanto

At David Habakkuk:
David,
I am also very impressed with the depth of your knowledge. Politics, sociology, political economy, spy craft, international intrigues fascinate to me. It seems to me now that these topics are not understood at all when one is young and preoccupied with one’s career in a totally different subject (surgery in my case). Your detailed and referenced comments are a resource to keep. I would like to add one little, not well known piece of information about the sources of money which helped the early Russian oligarchs to get started with buying the Russian property, factories, mines etc. You have added a piece of the puzzle with the information about the Geneva based company “Valmet”. I wonder what, if any, connection was there with the IMF – (IIRC, Larry Summers might have been involved with IMF, I am not sure about it.) Here is the link:
http://money.cnn.com/1999/08/26/companies/russia_probe/

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