Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Importance of Looking Dangerous

It’s a hard job being a global hegemon and the world’s sole superpower. You have to keep the entire planet in line. Every country needs to be taught its place, and kept there, by force if need be. Now and again a country or two has to be conquered or destroyed, just to teach others a lesson. Plus you have to relentlessly meddle in other countries’ politics, rigging elections so that only US-friendly candidates can win, run regime change operations and organize colored revolutions. Stop doing this, and some countries will start ignoring you. And then the rest will quickly realize that you are losing control and go their separate ways while ignoring you.

Is the United States still the world’s greatest power, in control of the entire planet, or has that moment in history already come and gone? We are constantly hearing how the situation is becoming dire: relations between the US and NATO countries and Russia are going from bad to worse; there is a trade war going on with China; North Korea remains an intractable problem and an embarrassment. Many people maintain that we are very close to a world war. But does “very close” actually mean anything? It is quite possible to stand for hours with your toes hanging over the edge of a cliff and never jump. Suicide is a big decision: big even for a person, much bigger for a large country.

On March 1, 2018 president Putin unveiled Russia’s new weapons systems against which the United States is defenseless and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Previously, the plan was to surround Russia with military bases and missile batteries, then launch a preemptive first strike, destroying its ability to retaliate and forcing it to capitulate. This plan has now conclusively failed, and a US/NATO attack on Russia is once again assured to be an act of suicide. Worse than that, even limited military confrontations are now mostly unthinkable, because Russia can now inflict unacceptable damage on US/NATO forces from a safe distance and without putting any of its own assets at risk. If Russia won’t attack and the US/NATO can’t attack, then how likely is a war?

The new weapons systems have made it possible to start ignoring the US. It is still important to maintain a credible military posture, but politically the US is no longer in control, and neither are the global institutions on which it has relied. Instead, what we are seeing is the reemergence of nation states, and even of empires. The political future of Syria is being decided by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with no useful input from the United States at all. Significantly, whereas Russia and Iran are in categories of their own as far as the US is concerned, Turkey has been a US ally and the second-largest armed force in NATO. The fact that Turkey is no longer eager to please the Americans is quite telling.

Except during the strange and tumultuous twentieth century during which the US briefly flashed across the world stage, these three countries went by different names, which all ended in “empire”: the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire. Of these three, the Russian and the Ottoman empires were heirs to the Holy Roman Empire, whose eastern half, with its capital Constantinople, went on for centuries after Rome had turned into a depopulated ruin and a dark age had descended on Europe. After Constantinople fell to the Turks and Islam took over the region, the center of Orthodox Christianity migrated north to Moscow. Now add China, or the Chinese Empire if you like, which is now aligned with Russia, and complete the picture: all of the greatest and most ancient Eurasian empires have come back and are talking and cooperating, while the has-been upstart on the other side of the planet isn’t even invited.

Given this situation, what is the US to do? It has three choices. The first is to start a major war, thus committing national suicide (while taking other countries with it). It lacks the political will to make this decision, although it could blunder into a major war by accident. The second choice is to basically just fold: give up trying to project power around the world, retreat into its own borders and lick its wounds. It lacks the political will to do this as well; all that remains in the realm of possibility is to pretend that everything is still fine for as long as possible.

But how is it possible to pretend that everything is still fine even as everything is falling apart? The answer is to start faking it. If the US manages to convince enough people, at home and around the world, that it is still dangerous, then it will be able to hide its increasing enfeeblement for a while longer. It may no longer be capable of achieving any of its aims, but it is still very much capable of mass murder, as was recently demonstrated by the US “coalition” bombings of Mosul and Raqqa, which now lay in ruins. Similar wanton acts of mass murder have been committed by America’s Saudi-Arabian proxy in Yemen, and by their Ukrainian proxies in the Donbass.

But even the opportunities to commit mindless mass murder with impunity are now becoming fewer and farther between, forcing the US to resort to more boutique acts of violence. To justify these acts, the US (and much of Europe) curtains itself off from the rest of the world using an elaborately constructed wall of complete nonsense. A favorite trope has to do with dreamed-up chemical weapons as the main frightener. Take a look at the recent Israeli rocket attack on Syria. It was justified using obviously fake video footage produced by the White Helmets—a group known for staging fake terror events. At this point, they don’t even care how fake their product looks: this time around, they didn’t bother editing out the clapper (used to sync up video with sound). The setting was obviously a movie set, but production values were rather missing. Instead, we had actors, some wearing white helmets, but no protective gear whatsoever, dumping buckets of water over shivering children. How is that even supposed to make any sense?

And then note that the rockets (five of which got shot down by the Syrians, with only three making it through) came from Israel. Why Israel? Because the Russians had warned the US that they knew the fake chemical weapons provocation was being organized as a pretext to launch a rocket attack, and that they were going to shoot not just at the rockets but also at those who launch them. Therefore, Americans decided that it would be too risky to launch the attack from navy ships, and instead asked the Israelis to do the honor of lobbing a few missiles at a remote airbase in Syria, correctly thinking that the Russians wouldn’t immediately retaliate against Israel if no Russians would be hurt, and knowing that there would be no Russians at that airbase during their attack. This is, on the one hand, quite pathetic, but on the other it shows that the Americans are still capable of a modicum of rational thought.

This, then, is the strange period of history we are going through. The US is lying nonstop (since truth is not on its side) while pretending to still be dangerous by committing wanton acts of mass murder (small-scale ones, which it can be sure to carry out with impunity). Meanwhile, both national suicide (via large-scale war) and the decision to shut down the whole imperial project both remain politically impossible. How long this strange, unstable period of murderous nonsense can persist isn’t known—your guess is as good as mine—but it obviously can’t go on for ages. Give it a few years, or less.


Karl K said...

Finally, some snippets of good news. I will spend the rest of the day whistling a merry tune.

But, there is still the thought that "blunder" might be another synonym for Trump.

Time will tell, I guess.

Tom Weiss said...

Minor point:
"the Russian and the Ottoman empires were heirs to the Holy Roman Empire, whose eastern half..."
I'd just delete "Holy".
Otherwise, thanks for the sanity. I read you and the Saker to keep from going crazy right now.

pyrrhus said...

Yes, this "phoney war", as they called it in 1939, was ginned up by the Deep State and Hillary supporters (most of Congress) to justify their existence, and please Israel. Trump has been kept somewhat in line, at least verbally, by threats of impeachment...But Trump, a highly successful builder, not destroyer, has already threatened to withdraw US forces from Syria, and is certainly not going to sign off on any war, IMO...If Trump is somehow removed, however, the possibility of national suicide would skyrocket.

Howard Skillington said...

As little as I welcome the challenges and disruption of economic collapse, it would obviate a number of worse scenarios, such as nuclear Armageddon, and might even mitigate the onset of catastrophic climate change to some extent. Without question, it would ameliorate conditions for much of the rest of the world.

JustTruth said...

It will stop when economic resources to carry it out disappear, the Russians/Iranians/China or even Turkey give them a real bloody nose and embarrass them, or remote chance enough of the US population sees through all the propagandist/MSM crap and demand it end.

NowhereMan said...

Love that pic Dmitry! It really captures our international clown posture at the moment. Too bad most Americans these days can't perceive it.

Alexandra Doroschin said...

Point of clarification: The Holy Roman Empire was established by Charlemagne in the 9th century and consisting mostly of central European territories (no countries as we know today existed in the whole region). At its demise, within less than a century it became Germany. It had nothing to do with the Imperial Roman Empire nor the Byzantine Empire nor the Ottoman Empire. It was Roman because it was ruled by the popes of Rome and Catholicism and Latin were the religion and official language respectively. And of course, it was considered Holy because it was Catholic. Russia was heir to the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire (of the Imperial Roman Empire fame) in terms of culture, religion and politics. The Ottomans were simply the conquerors of the Byzantine Empire, not quite heirs. They did not inherit the culture, religion or politics. On the contrary, they destroyed, or tried to, everything Byzantine (Haiga Sophia is an example).

Very interesting article - Thank you Dmitri!

Dmitry Orlov said...

Alexander -

The "Holy Roman Empire" that you mention is a triple-misnomer, because it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. It was a dark age artifact, and rather short-lived and uninteresting. Byzantium, on the other hand, was a true heir of Rome as the eastern half of the Roman Empire, holy because it was the seat of original, Orthodox Christianity rather than the Catholic heresy, and as far as it being an empire, check the historical maps of the region.

forrest said...

So the good news is that we won't be flash-crisped because our rational homicidal maniacs can no longer hope they could somehow flash-crisp the Russians without being flash-crisped right back by Russian rational maniacs.

This seems, to me, to place undue trust in the rationality of maniacs -- that is, of people who've risen to power by evident willingness to play something akin to high-stakes shotgun-wrestling with live ammo.

I don't think any reasonable gorilla, if you could explain the rules to him, would be interested. "Couldn't we all just pound our chests a little and sit in our own tree?"

Our designated meglonuts seem to be really good at chest-pounding; that's what they do best. But being armed & dangerous on a scale that dwarfs any retail mass-shooter in the history of human psychopathology -- as everyone in the game at any scale, playing for any side, needs to be to qualify...

Couldn't our Rube Goldberg have thought up something a touch less precarious?

Unknown said...

Psychopaths never sleep. Washington’s think tanks are churning out delusional paths to victory 24/7. I agree with what you state. Even give it an eighty percent chance of reliable outcome if it weren’t for the twenty percent of real bad apples nestled together.

Slo Mo said...

Don't mistake 8 Israeli missiles for the US response to the alleged chemical attack. That was an episode of another war happening on the same territory (Israel-Iran). Americans haven't responded yet.
If Americans respond it would be from their submarines, not surface ships. Submarines are still out of reach of Russian weapons.
Looks like a conflict inside the US elite. Some fraction wants to pull the current administration into a war and the administration is resisting. Successfully, so far.

Jake said...

Do you think that the AngloZionists will do some more limited strikes?
If so, will Russia & Syria just take it in order to avoid a bigger conflagration?
What might be Russia's red lines before she punches back?
You are the best.

The lonely Antipodean said...

There are suggestions that the US Military is not led by fools but by those who know what the consequences of open warfare with Russia (and China maybe) would be. The talk is that should the idiots in charge in the US try to initiate war then the US Armed Forces could mutiny. That is, have a coup of their own. The last 30 or so years has had the effect of bringing out the crazies known as the 'Neocons' and their backers into the spotlight so when, not if the situation becomes so dire that the head of the snake has to be severed they will be very easy to pick off.

el gallinazo said...


Name me one example when Putin threatened with a bluff. He has been quite clear that:
1) An attack on Syria will be considered to be an attack on Russia.
2) Russia will not only attempt to shot down any missiles thrown at Syria, but will attempt to destroy their launching platforms. This presumably would include ships located in the Mediterranean.
3) A world without Russia is of no value to him and not worth preserving.

Also, interesting point about the missiles being launch from US submarines. But how do we know of the Russians' ability to detect submarine locations?

Jake said...

It's certainly a nail-biting week.

Frank Bastille said...

In 2008, FoxNews Neocons were drowing the Illiterate in hysteria that North Korea was delivering nuclear technology to Iran through Syrian sea ports. Therefore, AIPAC concluded that Iran would be fully nuclear capable by 2011. Israel became agitated when some hinted it's war planes, crossing Iraq air space to bomb Iran, might be shot down by American military. Lee Kwan Yew was attempting to pacify the Illiterate hysteria with statements that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were mere distractions. And, Pakistan was considered the highest nuclear risk. Oil was above $100, when Goldman Sachs provided guidance that it was going above $200. Saudi Arabia disagreed and dropped oil to below $50.

A decade later, war no longer dictates the price of oil and bankers haven't yet mastered it. Drones have confused the Illiterates into wondering why troops on the ground are still being repositioned. Over the past century, central banks funded military budgets, $800 billion for the US.

Third Rome speaks softly and carries a big stick. Trump tweets.

Years ago, US AirForce funded research by the Rand Corporation which concluded that Iran is a "rational actor". They are all slowly becoming rational actors.

Francisco said...

This post had the valuable effect of eventually calming me down, as I was getting more than a bit agitated about what was going on, especially after seeing those Trump braggadocio tweets yesterday. The calming effect occurred when I remembered something I had read a few years ago in a declassified document from 1995, titled “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” prepared by the United States Strategic Command. At a certain point in this report, they outline the advantages of cultivating an irrational image for the United States, where certain elements might be perceived to be “out of control”, which of course ties in well with the “importance of looking dangerous” that you are talking about. This part seems to expand on the possibilities of a quote attributed to John Foster Dulles in the 1950s, when he supposedly said or wrote:
“The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you’re scared to go to the brink, you’re lost.”

Now here is the quote, and a link to the full Strategic Command declassified document. This part appears on page 7. The whole document is an example of modern Machiavellian thought, and proves that the US planners are far from being irrational creatures, though they explore the advantages of projecting an image of irrationality as a means to ampify fear in their adversaries.

[...] Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the U.S. may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed. The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially "out of control" can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts in the minds of an adversary’s decision makers. This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence. That the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be part of the national persona we project to all adversaries.[...]

Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence
United States Strategic Command (Stratcom)

bairdseymour said...

Great article.
All of this has now become so obvious that you must be an american not to notice.

bairdseymour said...

I thought I knew a lot about corruption in and around the US-- until I got this book.

Turns out I didn't know that much.


bairdseymour said...

Friday night 4/13 10pm EDT

Question marks removed.

Trump is completely captured by Zionists / Golbalists.

Jean-Paul Printemps said...

Your assessment appears to make sense. Since Tillerson resigned, US actions have been much more in line with those of its allies. I noticed the rhetoric on the Solsbury spy poisoning to be much less equivocal, and now these air strikes. It also explains why the fiendish US propaganda outlets hedged on ascribing responsibility for the strikes. Doublespeak was in overdrive all week.