July 30, 2014
Imperial Washington is truly running amuck in its insensible confrontation with Vladimir Putin. The pending round of new sanctions is a counter-productive joke. Apparently, more of Vlad’s posse will be put on double probation, thereby reducing demand for Harry Macklowe’s swell new $60 million apartment units on Park Avenue. Likewise, American exporters of high tech oilfield equipment will be shot in the foot with an embargo; and debt-saturated Russian state companies will be denied the opportunity to bury themselves even deeper in dollar debt by borrowing on the New York bond market. Some real wet noodles, these!
But it is the larger narrative that is so blatantly offensive—that is, the notion that a sovereign state is being wantonly violated by an aggressive neighbor arming “terrorists” inside its borders. Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Tony Blanken, stated that specious meme in stark form yesterday:
“Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in Eastern Ukraine” and “has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis,” Blinken said.
Puleese! The Kiev government is a dysfunctional, bankrupt usurper that is deploying western taxpayer money to wage a vicious war on several million Russian-speaking citizens in the Donbas—-the traditional center of greater Russia’s coal, steel and industrial infrastructure. It is geographically part of present day Ukraine by historical happenstance. For better or worse, it was Stalin who financed its forced draft industrialization during the 1930s; populated it with Russian speakers to insure political reliability; and expelled the Nazi occupiers at immeasurable cost in blood and treasure during WWII. Indeed, the Donbas and Russia have been Siamese twins economically and politically not merely for decades, but centuries.
On the other hand, Kiev’s marauding army and militias would come to an instant halt without access to the $35 billion of promised aid from the IMF, EU and US treasury. Obama just needs to say “stop”. That’s it. The civil war would quickly end, permitting the US, Russia and the warring parties of the Ukraine to hold a peace conference and work out the details of a separation agreement.
After all, what is so sacrosanct about preserving the territorial integrity of the Ukraine? Ever since the middle ages, it has consisted of a set of meandering borders in search of a nation that never existed owing to endemic ethnic, tribal and religious differences. Its modern boundaries are merely the fruit of 20th century wars and the expediencies of a totalitarian state during the decades of its rise, rule and disintegration.
There was until recently a neighboring “state” of equally artificial lineage called Czechoslovakia. It was carved out of the German and Austrian empires by the vengeful victors at Versailles, urged on by scheming Czech nationalists who coveted the resources of the Slovaks. But notwithstanding revolutions, the Stalinist oppression, the Cold War, the Prague Spring and all the rest of the 20th century mayhem—-the machinations at Versailles didn’t birth a state that was viable or sustainable. Accordingly, separation has been had, and the parties are better off for it—as are its neighbors and the larger world.
And on the topic of partition there is the ghost of Yugoslavia–another state that emerged in whole cloth from the madness of Versailles. Yes, it has been partitioned now into half a dozen smaller states—-Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia. But the operative point is that the partitioner was none other than Washington and its European groupies who had no regard for those happenstance 20th century-made borders when it suited their purpose.
So the sanctimonious yelping from Washington about the sacred territorial integrity of the Ukraine is ahistorical tommyrot. In fact, however, it is a thin fig leaf for a far more insidious purpose. Namely, the self-aggrandizement of the Warfare State machinery that was left stranded in Imperial Washington without purpose or justification when the Cold War ended two decades ago.
So the Warfare State machinery—including its spy network, state department, aid agencies and NGO supplicants— invented enemies and missions to justify their continued existence and their massive dissipation of fiscal resources. Those are upwards of $1 trillion annually if you count everything including veterans and homeland security.
Thus, after arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s, their Taliban successors were deemed our enemy after the cold war ended—even though they never poised a scintilla of threat to the citizens of Lincoln NE or Worcester MA. So too with our 1980′s ally Saddam Hussein, and also with Khadafy, Assad and the warring tribal potentates and cutthroats of Yemen, Somalia and Waziristan, to name just a few.
But it is in eastern Europe that the Warfare State machinery has most egregiously made an enemy and mission out of whole cloth. As the Cold War was drawing to a close in the late 1980s, then Secretary of State James Baker made a sensible deal with Gorbachev. In return for Soviet acquiescence in the reunification of Germany, the US would insure that NATO did not expand by a “single inch”.
Since then, of course, there has been a senseless bipartisan betrayal and stampede in the opposite direction. Starting under Clinton and extending through Bush and Obama, NATO has been expanded from 16 nations at the end of the Cold War to 28 countries today.
Yet the very recitation of its new members underscores the historical farce that this needless expansion amounted to. For better or worse, the formation of NATO in the late 1940′s involved what were perceived to be vital national security interests against a Stalinist policy that by the lights of the hawks and militarists of the day amounted to a violation of his Yalta obligations. Accordingly, NATO constituted an alliance of real nations—England, France, Italy and West Germany—-that could make a meaningful contribution to collective security against the perceived Soviet threat of the times.
But Albania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia? And that is not to forget Moldova, Georgia, Macedonia and the Ukraine—all of which are still coveted for membership by the NATO apparatchiks. What could these micro-states possibly contribute to American security? That’s especially the case since the Warsaw pact had been dissolved; the Soviet Empire has erased from the pages of history; and the Russian successor was left with an Italian-sized GDP encumbered with the destructive legacy of a state-dominated economy that had been appropriated by a passel of thieves, opportunists and oligarchs.
In short, today’s Ukrainian crisis is the outcome of the mindless 20-year drive of the Warfare State to push an obsolete NATO to the very doorstep of Russia, and into the messy remnants of the Soviet disintegration. Stated differently, Putin has been in power for 15 years, yet during 13 of those years there was no hue and cry from Washington, London and Brussels that he was an incipient Hitler bent on sweeping conquest. Even the so-called invasion of Georgia in 2008 was a tempest in a teapot provoked by local pro-Russian separatists who did not want to be ruled by a de facto American interloper in Tbilisi.
In any event, it was the $5 billion that Washington spent during the last decade meddling in Ukrainian politics, and finally inciting and financing the February overthrow of the country’s constitutionally elected government that precipitated the current civil war. It brought to power a new gang of crooks and thugs who could not govern for a day without tapping the Washington/Western financial lifeline. Indeed, the civil war now raging, the brutal military attacks on civilian populations and the hundreds of thousands of refugees now streaming out of the eastern regions are the result of a crisis made in Washington, not the Kremlin.
So the rebels— who properly fear for their lives and property were the nationalists and neo-fascists who run the Kiev government to prevail—are not “terrorists” by any stretch of the imagination. That is just insipid Washington propaganda. Instead, they are the Russian-speaking remnant of the Soviet empire who fear an ethnic cleansing and who noted well the fate of their kinsmen in the hands of Ukrainian thugs during the fire at Odessa.
Once again, the American Warfare State has confected a false narrative to justify policies and missions that have nothing to do with the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE and Wooster MA. About 55 years ago such a false narrative arose in the form of the “domino theory” that lead to the carnage of Vietnam. Ten years ago it cropped up in the form of the WMD story that led to the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Today, it is the preposterous story of Ukrainian territorial integrity, terrorists in the East and a latter-day Hitler in the Kremlin.
Unfortunately, false narratives are what the Warfare State does.
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.
Former Congressman David A. Stockman was Reagan's OMB director, which he wrote about in his best-selling book, The Triumph of Politics. His latest book is The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. He's the editor and publisher of the new David Stockman's Contra Corner. He was an original partner in the Blackstone Group, and reads LRC the first thing every morning.
Copyright © 2014 David Stockman
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