Declining Empire At War
News today that Washington is sending yet another massive chunk ($3 billion) of military aid to Ukraine, on top of the $10.6 billion we have already sent. There are unconfirmed reports that the US military is now taking some weapons away from American soldiers to send to Ukraine. Do we have any domestic arms production underway? Do our leaders really think we are going to be able to sustain this indefinitely? And for what?
Every single American needs to read Christopher Caldwell's powerful piece asking what on earth the US is doing in Ukraine. Excerpts:
Never has an official non-belligerent been more implicated in a war. Russia and its sympathizers assert that the U.S. attempt to turn Ukraine into an armed anti-Russian camp is what the war is about in the first place. Even those who dismiss this view will agree that the United States has made itself a central player in the conflict. It is pursuing a three-pronged strategy to defeat Russia through every means short of entering the war—which, of course, raises the risk that the United States will enter the war. One prong is the state-of-the-art weaponry it is supplying to Ukraine. Since June, thousands of computer-guided artillery rockets have been wreaking havoc behind Russian lines. A second prong is sanctions. With western European help, Washington has used its control of the choke points of the global marketplace to impoverish Russians, in hopes of punishing Russia. Finally, the U.S. seeks to rally the world’s peoples to a culture war against an enemy whose traditionalism, even if it does not constitute the whole of his evil, is at least a symbol of it.
It would be foolish to bet against the United States, a mighty global hegemon with a military budget 12 times Russia’s. Yet something is going badly off track. Russia’s military tenacity was to be expected—bloodying and defeating more technologically advanced armies has been a hallmark of Russian civilization for 600 years. But the economic sanctions, far from bringing about the collapse Blinken gloated over, have driven up the price of the energy Russia sells, strengthened the ruble, and threatened America’s western European allies with frostbite, shortages, and recession. The culture war has found few proponents outside of the West’s richest latte neighborhoods. Indeed, cultural self-defense may be part of the reason India, China, and other rising countries have conspicuously declined to cut economic ties with the Russians.
Caldwell recalls how the United States has been messing with Ukraine for a long time, making moves that Russia cannot have helped but see as aggressive. It's insane how provocatively we behaved, across both the Obama and Trump administrations. As Caldwell puts it, channeling his inner John Mearsheimer: "What did you think Russia was going to do?"
Caldwell explores ways that the US has put itself in an extremely risky position by the radical actions it has taken against Russia to kick it out of the global financial system. It has not really worked, and now Washington has shown China, India, and any other country what could happen to it if it gets on the wrong side of the United States. It is extraordinarily foolish. Here's Caldwell:
The attempt to isolate Russia from the American world system has had a striking unintended consequence—the possible founding of an alternative world system that would draw power away from the existing one. Twenty years ago, under George W. Bush, the United States removed the Iraqi deterrent from Iran’s neighborhood, transforming Iran overnight into a regional power. This year, under Joe Biden, the United States has made China a gift of Russia’s exportable food and mineral resources. We are displaying an outright genius for identifying our most dangerous military adversary and solving its most pressing strategic challenge. The attention of China is now engaged. Joe Biden argues that any wavering in the cause of obliterating Russia will be understood by China as a green light on Taiwan. He may have a point, but the U.S. management of the Ukraine situation over the past decade has constituted encouragement enough.
Administration officials often describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war of choice. Although this may have been true at the outset, it is not now. Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules cannot stop fighting. As long as the United States is involved in arming Russia’s enemies and bankrupting its citizens, they are quite right to believe themselves in a war for their country’s survival. The United States, thus far in a less bloody way, is also involved in a war it chose but cannot exit—in this case, for fear of undermining the international system from which it has drawn its power and prosperity for the past three quarters of a century.
Read it all. Caldwell is raising issues and asking questions that I haven't seen asked or raised elsewhere. And they are absolutely critical for the future of the US. None of this is to justify Russia's attack on Ukraine, but damn, remember how the unnamed Bush administration official, in 2004, told a reporter that in Iraq, "We create our own reality"? The hubris of that! I get the sense that America still has that false idea about our power. It feels like we are the Ottoman Empire, a sick man stumbling towards senescence. This morning I was in a taxi, and the driver, a Hungarian immigrant, said, "I don't want to criticize your country, but look what you have done these past twenty or thirty years. You went all over the world trying to spread democracy, but you just spread destruction."
Yes, and wasted $2 trillion to create Iran as a regional hegemon, and to see the Taliban back in control in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden's successor die in his Kabul mansion, under the Taliban's protection. And now our European allies, which followed Washington's lead on Ukraine, are going to watch their economies totter this winter, while their people freeze in the dark. God only knows if the European Union is going to survive this test. Russia is exhausting NATO's weapons stocks. And if we really are starting now to send our own weaponry to the Ukrainians, what are we going to use to defend ourselves if we find ourselves in a real war?
On the other hand, we have to admit that America is winning the culture war against America's classical liberal ideals, adolescent girls' breasts, pubescent children's genitals, and the rights of parents to know what the hell is going on in their children's schools. That's one war our decadent leaders are damn sure they're going to win.
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The US Navy is now offering up to $115,000 as a signing bonus, or to get vets to come back. Do you really want to go fight to shove Western ideals right up to Russia's backside, citizen? I thought I had seen the end of foolish American imperial wars of choice with the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-one years of war without a sustained victory, and no consequences to anyone for losing. Except the culture war. That the Cathedral/Regime is winning going away.