Russia: Fighting the Last War

I have not watched much of the idiot box these last few years; Jeopardy and Big Bang Theory being the occasional exception. And certainly, a glimpse of The View has not have changed that. The fewer Bukleyan witticisms or hoser ridicules concerning the show, the better. They would only be perceived as misogyny by a PC mad world. However, the froth of inanity does occasionally rise to public consciousness as exampled by a recent rant.

In responding to recent McCarthyite insinuations that Donald Trump and his cabinet effectively elected acquired power through the machinations of Russian spy agencies at the behest of Vladimir Putin, and with the encouragement of Donald Trump by which Trump is thereby quid pro quo indebted to Putin’s Russians: Joy Behar pompously pontificated.

I mean, do we have to wait until the hammer and sickle is on the American flag before we stand up to this guy?[1]

It is not the intention to rebut the wild accusations of treason. Such attempts by foreign powers to interfere in the democratic elections of others tend to backfire, as demonstrated by Barack Obama’s flagrant attempt during the Brexit plebescite, or in the less transparent efforts of his administration in the last Israeli election, or in JFK’s games in the 1962/3 elections against John Diefenbaker in favor of Lester Pearson. A proud and independent populace tend to react in kneejerk fashion against such interference. All three personas or issues performed better than would have otherwise been the case.

I think that the title of Joy Behar’s aborted talk show Say Anything! pretty much sums her approach to opining; of claims which are unfiltered by intelligence, prudence, intellectual and moral integrity, common sense, facts, etc.

But the point of bemusement was her description of the Russian flag.

russian-flag

Ms. Behar would need to spend a full pregnancy playing Where’s Waldo to find a hammer or a sickle in that spaghetti of colored bars.

Should they ever attempt a remake of All in the Family (and considering the times, that is not a far-out proposition), Joy Behar would be my nominee as Edith. She is such a natural!

♦                    ♦                    ♦

But Behar merely exhibits a dafter manifestation of this perception among too many Americans, even Westerners. Vladimir Putin, despite his past connection with the KGB, represents not a resurrection of Communist ideology, but an updated reincarnation of Tsarism. And rather than a new Cold War in the offing, the geopolitical world is looking like 19th century European power politics on a global scale.

The arrogant prejudices of many in the West scorn those promoted images of Putin riding topless on horseback, having lack of any historical and cultural illiteracy of Russia’s past, even going back to the Scythians; the barbarians to the barbarians. They view Putin’s popular autocratic rule as if something new and unusual to Russian society and culture, a singular achievement by Putin to wrest Russia from the inevitable path to liberal democracy and the end of history.

But one cannot overlay a sociopolitical system over a society whose underlying cultural idioms are alien and not conducive to that system. While Western-style democracies have been attempted by Muslim nations, a full-blown representation would threaten Islam, which continues to have, and in increasing passion, a hold on those populaces. While forms of democracy and market economies exist in Muslim countries, they shall prove to be unstable, ephemeral, and vulnerable to “relapse.” Nor is it plausible for the extreme individualism which permeates American culture, along with other cultural idioms of its heritage, to be conducive to the communalism of socialism.

Close State ties with the Russian Orthodox Church with the inevitable denigration of other streams of Christianity and religions in general implicit in Established Churches; the exploitation of traditional cultural themes to fill the void, left when Communism fell in fact and as well as an idea, in order to proffer a coherent and unifying principle for the nation; a ruthless pursuit of nationalist self-interest in order to restore Russian standing and respect in the world; these are artifacts of an idea older than its seventy year interlude with a “blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilization.”

It would be more prudent and profitable for Westerners to recognize these new and objective realities as they actually are and respond appropriately, rather than attempt to retrofit the modern Russia into some fabulist Iron Curtain/Cold War mold and flay away under that delusional paradigm.

[1] Joy Behar, The View, ABC, December 11, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U177Ql7qLIo&feature=youtu.be&t=22; also http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/12/12/behar_do_we_have_to_wait_until_trump_puts_hammer_and_sickle_on_the_american_flag_before_we_stand_up.html
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The State of American Establishment Opinion

The problem with subjectivist (“subjectivity is truth, truth is subjectivity”) or existentialist (“I create my own reality”) truth is that the world’s real actors always miss your cues.

The narcissistic, parochial insanity that is the ideologically gated community of the American Versailles, whose heartland stretches from Boston to Washington, never ceases to astonish and amuse. Or its sycophantic audacity. The ignorance, stupidity, folly, mendacity and all-round mediocrity of its Ivy League elite has become downright dangerous in foreign policy. And it behooves my country to quickly pursue an independent trade, economic, political and military policy before our all too integrated ties with this unhinged behemoth takes us down with it.

According to a self-proclaimed expert on Russian affairs, writing in the venerable Washington Post, Russia is not living in the reality-based community. To whatever extent that that is true; one of this columnist’s immediate example drips with supreme irony.

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder.

I must confess to deep envy for not emanating from a family that could put me through Harvard or the connections that would have me groomed to write for Salon, The National Interest, Forbes, The Atlantic Monthly or the Washington Post, even before I finished post-graduate studies. But laying aside such personal pique, might not these media outlets, these major opinion makers be more circumspect as to whom they wish to represent them? Or do they share in this lad’s wide perceptual variance from objective and actual reality, otherwise known as insanity?

Two days after this ridiculing of Russian perspectives on Syria and Libya, the U.S. State Department issues this travel warning as it shutters its embassy.

The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable and unstable. The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security following the 2011 revolution. Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation. Crime levels remain high in many parts of the country. In addition to the threat of crime, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests in Libya. Extremist groups in Libya have made several specific threats this year against U.S. government officials, citizens, and interests in Libya. Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death. U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately.

Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country and attacks by armed groups can occur in many different areas; hotels frequented by westerners have been caught in the crossfire. Armed clashes have occurred in the areas near Tripoli International Airport, Airport Road, and Swani Road. Checkpoints controlled by militias are common outside of Tripoli, and at times inside the capital. Closures or threats of closures of international airports occur regularly, whether for maintenance, labor, or security-related incidents. Along with airports, seaports and roads can close with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should closely monitor news and check with airlines to try to travel out of Libya as quickly and safely as possible.

The status of the country’s interim government remains uncertain. The newly elected Council of Representatives is scheduled to convene by August 4, but political jockeying continues over where and when to seat the parliament. Heavy clashes between rival factions erupted in May 2014 in Benghazi and other eastern cities. In Tripoli, armed groups have contested territory near Tripoli International Airport since July 13, rendering the airport non-operational. State security institutions lack basic capabilities to prevent conflict, and there remains a possibility of further escalation.

U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations, as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens traveling to or remaining in Libya, despite this Travel Warning, should use caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, and maintain security awareness at all times.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Libya enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates and makes it easier to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

You should make plans to depart as soon as possible. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. Flight cancellations occur frequently. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Libya are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. Land port closures occur frequently.

The warning is actually not that significantly different from the one issued on May 27, 2014. Of course, if any American networks had covered the recent Libyan conflagration in as great detail and insight as well as Aljazeera had, (which reminded me of American reportage on the Viet Nam War); such continued deceits and self-deceits that Libya was on a new beginning to a Westernized liberalism democracy would have been disabused from the beginning. As much as Muammar Gaddafi was unhinged himself, the country was peaceable. The autocracy was not too oppressive or murderous. Why rock the boat? Has no one amongst the Washington Establishment watched and absorbed the lesson of Woody Allen’s “Bananas” (1971)?

Who really is not living in the reality-based community?

GCHQ and the G20 Meeting of 2009

This week’s timely revelation from Snowden and company exposed the practicable willingness of Anglo-Saxon states to use their superior surveillance technological know-how for national economic advantage. The particulars of their duplicity include:

·        monitoring email messages and voice calls on delegates’ Blackberrys

·        setting up ‘dummy’ Internet cafes for delegates and using email interception programs and key-logging software to spy on their activities

·        targeting the Turkish finance minister and his entourage (also South Africa)

·        eavesdropping (via NSA) on Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev voice calls to Moscow via satellite

·        supplying round-the-clock summaries of communications between delegates (signal intelligence)

The Timing

One must be impressed with the shrewdness of Snowden and company. Snowden either has an overwhelming catalogue of malfeasance by U.S. and British officials for any possible scenario. Or he has amassed the type of documents to correspond with the itinerary of current U.S. / U.K. officials. Last week, it was about NSA spying on Hong Kong university undergraduates etc just as Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, This week, the G20 revelation corresponds with the British hosted G8 meeting. The U.S. / U.K. officials might want to start changing their itinerary. In any case, depredations about Snowden’s lack of education credentials continue to backfire as college graduates, many of whom are Ivy League, are being outwitted by this drop-out.

The Ramifications

In getting a feel for official and public mood, a revelation of this sort logically should and empirically seems to have initially soured Snowden’s standing amongst his own nationals. The commentariat regarding the Washington Post article articling this revelation1 seems to have strengthened the hands of those who are “officially disgusted with this treacherous little nerd”, whose “ideology trumps education and common sense”. However, one gets the impression that Snowden is not playing to a self-centered narcissistic American crowd but to greater humanity.

Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”2

And in Snowden’s love of his country, he is advocating a tactic that could be said to be taken out of Christian Scriptures in order to reach his ‘Chosen People’.

First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”3

Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.4

The immediate impact ought to scuttle the strength of secular Turkish protests in Istanbul

The country’s embattled prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blamed the international media, and in particular the BBC, for fomenting violent unrest and protests against his rule. Erdoğan has spoken repeatedly of an “international conspiracy”. News that his finance minister really was the victim of a British surveillance operation will strengthen his view.5

This revelation weakens the credibility of the secular faction in Turkey, who have long advocated and practiced laïcité while they were in rule, who are now on the defensive against a resurging Muslim population (largely rural and eastern). Indeed, in combination with other anti-Muslim Western policies and attitudes, mostly in Europe, it is quite probable that this NATO ally will increasingly drift into the Islamist and Russian camp; or at least towards a geopolitical neutrality.

And that is the rub. American foreign policy has since the 1960s, like its culture in general, moved toward a myopic, short-term, ad hoc, unprincipled, unenlightened self-interest. Henry Kissinger could be iconized as the first true personification of this self-serving indulgence, which finds itself consistently arming its future enemies, such as Iraq or Al-Qaida.

This devolution to raw self-interest is a far cry from Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points or the Truman Doctrine or Marshall Plan. Even if one disagrees with the particulars of Wilson’s plan, for instance; it is historically evident that an unenlightened self-interest contributed to the global propaganda coup by America against the small-minded, unenlightened self-serving interests of petty colonial European powers in the first half of the 20th Century.

Having spied on their allies; of whom many delegates were evidently too naïve and gullible (i.e. delegates using Internet Café of the host country) to distrust their hosts; responsible national self-interest can only lead to detrimental long-term consequences which hurt the Anglo-Saxon world. Even presuming that the elite class of every nation is aware of the duplicitous realities of their international counterparts, their less savvy masses become fodder to such revelations, which these elites can exploit at will. (This ‘everybody does it’ argument, found in the American commentariat is indicative of the old worldly-wise jaded whore that America has become, just like their European counterparts in previous centuries).

America/Britain has lost most, if not all, of their global moral authority. They can hardly castigate and preach about Chinese cyber and industrial espionage with straight face. And as a historical political observation and principle; attempting to govern without moral authority, requires considerably more blood and treasure than governing with moral authority. And as a historical political observation and principle, those elites, who lose moral authority, soon find a loss of raw power on the coattails.

The Significance Back Home

The British equivalent to NSA, GCHQ, which is led by that histrionic, patronizing prig, the Right Honorable William Hague, has a legislative mandate to gather information ‘in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom’ through the 1994 Intelligence Services Act.

The purpose is to give the UK a competitive and negotiating advantage. It is justified on legal grounds because the 1994 Intelligence Services Act says the job of GCHQ is gather information “in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom”.6

In other words, the purposes of global omniscient surveillance are not only because of due concern for protection against potential terrorist and other defense-related threats. No. It is also useful to give the UK a competitive and negotiating advantage, even against its allies. Ah! What else it this global omniscient surveillance useful for?

As much as having surveillance capabilities would be a wet dream for corporate managers in contract negotiations with unions, (or vice versa); a public would find such means of acquiring competitive and negotiating advantage unlawful and unjust. I doubt that the global community, who constitute 94-95% of the world population, beyond Anglo-America, thinks otherwise.

More importantly, NSA/GCHQ and their political overlords demonstrate a willingness to transcend or transgress the ostensible purposes of global omniscient surveillance that are being propagated. The argument by persons like Pat Buchanan, that the Defense and Intelligence boys are of a different quality of human being from other bureaucrats, such as those at the IRS, withers on the vine of this duplicity.

 


NOTES

 

1.       Anthony Faiola, “The Guardian: Britain, United States spied at summits”, The Washington Post, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/britain-united-states-spied-at-summits/2013/06/17/b4c3166c-d72b-11e2-b418-9dfa095e125d_allComments.html?ctab=all_& on June 18, 2013.

2.       Glenn Greenwald, “Edward Snowden Q&A: Dick Cheney traitor charge is ‘the highest honor’”, The Guardian, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower on June 18, 2013.

3.       Romans 10:19

4.       Romans 11:11

5.       Julian Borger et al, “G20 summits: Russia and Turkey react with fury to spying revelations” The Guardian, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/turkey-russia-g20-spying-gchq on June 18, 2013.

6.       Richard Norton-Taylor, Spying for spying’s sake: spooks and their intelligence addiction”, The Guardian, June 17, 2013, Accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/defence-and-security-blog/2013/jun/17/spying-spooks-intelligence-addiction on June 18, 2013.