Seriously: a senior government minister in a major Western power openly boasts that the West is waging “total economic and financial war” against Russia, a nuclear-armed superpower. It’s obvious that the West is doing exactly that, but the fact that this man is also on TV bragging about it is terrifying. Unhinged, even.
It is clear that madness has overwhelmed Putin, but a reactive madness is also overwhelming us. If the goal is to punish Russia maximally for what it is doing to Ukraine, no matter the risk, then it makes sense. But if the higher goal is to avoid World War III, well, this ain’t the way to do it. …
This all feels so familiar to me. I will spare you yet another tour down memory lane, to the time between 9/12/2001 and the day in 2003 that we launched the war of choice on Iraq. But I’m telling you, if you were there, you remember the same moral fervor, the same certitude that we were right to do this, that it was all going to work out because, as Karl Rove boasted at the time, “We create our own reality.”
You remember, or you should remember, how anybody who said, “Hang on, wait a minute” was derided as weak, unpatriotic, and all those things. People poured French wine down the drain (because France wouldn’t support the war) in the same way they’re pouring out Russian vodka today. The Dixie Chicks lost their audience and their fame for opposing the war. On and on it went … and look what happened.
A few years later, a Democratic administration was in the White House. Turmoil broke out in Libya, which was then ruled by the brutal Muammar Qaddafi. NATO — a purely defensive alliance, we are supposed to believe — led airstrikes against Qaddafi, bringing down his government. Video of Qaddafi’s capture by his enemies went viral, as did images of his dead body. A triumphant Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comically boasted before a 60 Minutes interview, “We came, we saw, he died.”
Libya went from being a dictatorship governed by a brute to a failed state governed by many brutes, where Islamic extremism thrived, human slaves were bought and sold, and through which hordes of migrants headed to Europe were funneled. Years later, after he left office, President Obama said failing to anticipate and plan for the post-Qaddafi order was the worst mistake of his presidency. …
Nobody wants to talk about this now, because Russia is behaving evilly in Ukraine, and to reflect on how the world got to this point feels like breaking faith with the suffering Ukrainians. Resist that urge: it’s the same emotivist mistake that people like me made post-9/11, when any questioning of the proposed war on Iraq felt like breaking faith with the 9/11 dead. Read this useful thread:
Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path.
No-one listened to them and here we are.
Small compilation 🧵 of these warnings, from Kissinger to Mearsheimer.
— Arnaud Bertrand (@RnaudBertrand) March 1, 2022
All these men who issued those warnings were foreign policy realists. Their aim was to avoid war. Nobody listened. And here we are. None of that is to excuse Putin’s choice to make war on Ukraine — the ultimate fault is his — but that does not excuse our leaders for making policy choices that helped to get us here.
And now these same leaders are waging total economic and financial war on Russia, and arming the Ukrainians. They are making it awful damn tempting for Russia, as its economy collapses virtually overnight, to lash out militarily against a NATO country … in which case, welcome to World War III. This is not a joke. This is not a “what if”. This is happening in real time.
Look, though, at what NBC’s chief foreign policy correspondent, on the ground in Ukraine, is doing: trying to goad NATO into war:
Perhaps the biggest risk-calculation/moral dilemma of the war so far. A massive Russian convoy is abt 30 miles from Kyiv. The US/NATO could likely destroy it. But that would be direct involvement against Russia and risk, everything. Does the West watch in silence as it rolls?
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) February 28, 2022
This is not journalism — this is pro-war advocacy, from one of the biggest US television networks! This is propaganda!
That’s the way to WW3.
Meanwhile, just as the terrorism laws from 2003 are now being turned against conservatives and other enemies of the ruling class, so too will any measures taken against Russia:
If you don’t think this is going to be turned on political and religious conservatives who dissent from the ruling class’s priorities, you are deluding yourself. This is not a defense of the Russians; this is a reminder that whenever the neoliberal ruling class achieves consensus to attack its perceived enemy, the consequences can be devastating.
Events are very fluid as I write, but what I fear will emerge in the US out of this catastrophe is total resolve by the governing elites to strike at any critics of the neoliberal order and its priorities by smearing them as allies of Putin. All these conservative Christians who are eager to sign up for the regime-change-in-Moscow cause out of laudable sympathy for suffering Ukrainians and reflexive anti-Russian spite from the Cold War will find the same sword of total financial and economic war, and other things, turned on them at home. Mark my words.
hat-tip Stephen Neil