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The End of the Post-WW2 "Peace"
Welcome to a New Era in International Relations
“The deeper we go in search of causes, the more of them we find, and each cause taken singly or whole series of causes present themselves to us as equally correct in themselves, and equally false in their insignificance in comparison with the enormity of the event, and equally false in their incapacity (without the participation of all other coinciding causes) to produce the event that took place.”
- Leo Tolstoy [War and Peace]
Well, that crazy bastard did it. I was wrong when I said that Russia wouldn’t invade Ukraine. The truth is, I had gotten used to the incredible restraint shown by America’s real or imagined enemies. For example, when Trump killed hundreds of Russians in Syria I thought very bad things would happen. When he assassinated Iranian general Soleimani I also expected the world to explode, but again, there was near silence. And thus, I simply expected Putin to continue his pattern of taking extremely limited actions [at least provable actions, we will ignore for now the many ludicrous things he’s been blamed for.] But I was incorrect, and indeed, Russia launched what could only fairly be called an invasion of Ukraine.
It needs to be noted that people can call Putin a dictator all they want, but he got approval from the Russian legislature for both recognizing the breakaway republics and deploying military forces outside of the country, meaning this was in fact a more “democratic” military action than most times the US uses military force. Thus, this is all being done by the state the Russian Federation, not solely by an autocrat. This is key for understanding the actors involved, though obviously it is easy and tempting to use a leader as a synecdoche for a nation. [However, despite what people seem to believe, democracy doesn’t make anything a priori good, and there are limitless examples of nations voting to do morally bad things.]
This is allegedly a current map of Russia’s positions, though I can’t verify its accuracy.
For the time being, it appears they are seizing a variety of relatively small border areas, but there is no good way of knowing how much of the country Russia may gobble up now that it has entered.
I don’t want to speculate too wildly on the military invasion, especially having just been wrong about whether or not Russia would do anything that involved invading Ukraine. [Putin’s referring to it as a “Special Military Operation” is clearly trolling the West for its dishonest use of language.]
As Tolstoy explained, it would be impossible to go through all of the causes of this situation. Unfortunately I have not revised for publishing an “On Peace” article I wrote which might help me here, though I will come back and link it if I do so [Update: The article is here.] But in short, it is the natural state of humanity that there is a great deal of war between man and man and nation and nation. As Hobbes thoroughly explained, it is only through sovereign power that this condition is ever ended. There are limited eras in human history, generally after a major war, where one or more nations with overwhelming powers get to set the rules of war and peace. After World War II, this role was filled by the American-Anglo alliance and by the USSR. With the collapse of the USSR and the crumbling of the British Empire, this became America’s province alone.
There is a famous story in Livy’s History of Rome which was seen to epitomize the power of the Roman Republic. In 168 BC, The Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes took advantage of a dispute within the Ptolemaic dynasty to seize Egypt. He had moved an army in and was in position to take the country- the greatest prize in the ancient world- for his once-great empire. He was intercepted by the Roman ambassador Gaius Popillius Laneas who gave him a tablet from the Roman Senate demanding that he evacuate Egypt and respect the sovereignty of the Ptolemy dynasty. Upon receiving the tablet, he asked for time to consult with his friends and advisors about how to proceed. Popillius took his rod and drew a circle around Antiochus in the sand and said, “Before you step out of this circle, give me an answer to take back to the Senate.” Antiochus, stunned by his boldness but unable to fight Rome, responded, “I will do as the Senate decrees.” [45.12]
This is the kind of overwhelming power and authority which a state must have if it intends to hold the power of war and peace over the world. Antiochus knew that fighting Rome was not an option, and that despite any disputes they may have his only choice for maintaining power was to obey the dictates of Rome.
In the 1990s, with a broken Russia and a developing China the United States did indeed hold this power worldwide, and periodically showed it in minor successful conflicts. Unfortunately, the idiots who rule us squandered this nation’s wealth, power, and prestige enforcing pointless and hypocritical dictates. [It needs to be pointed out, Rome made these same sort of mistakes.]
From the invasion of Iraq onward, the United States foreign policy class showed itself to be completely duplicitous and unreliable; “rogue states” the world over saw that going along with their mandates would not reliably save you once you had been identified as an enemy of “freedom,” and “democracy,” and they would probably also say you hate mom and apple pie.
You can talk all you want about Putin being untrustworthy, but the fact is you have to at least hear what other worlds leaders are saying because there is always a chance to at least hold them to the standards they publicly set for themselves. As Matt Taibbi explained recently,
“In the Bush years, thanks to people like Rove, the sensible or at least intellectually defensible concept, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” morphed into the much broader idea that it’s no longer necessary to understand the thinking of any adversary or oppositional group. It’s where the now-hegemonic idea that talking is weakness and not talking is strength was born.”
I think that part of the reason that happened was simply because in and of itself demands that the US withdraw from the Middle East were sensible. Once the idea of withdrawing from the Middle East was tarnished by terrorism, there was no reason to talk to anyone else who believed that either. And over time, both domestically and abroad, the ruling class has simply decided that they don’t have to talk to anyone they disagree with; they are all backwards deplorables who hate democracy, if the neo-liberal blob is to be believed.
Unfortunately Putin’s speech from last night seems mostly memory-holed despite having occurred just last night. However, it can be easily found on Rumble [which doesn’t embed.] Watch Putin’s speech here. If he is anywhere near as dangerous as you are wanted to believe, the very first thing you should do is listen to what he directly says so you can understand what moves to make next. This was once common sense.
What I find the most notable about this speech, besides just enjoying when anyone calls out the West’s extreme fiction and hypocrisy in world affairs, is that he did more or less announce the end of the ailing post-WW2 peace. For a long time I’ve wondered how long this once-useful but now anachronistic system could continue.
Corrupt Ukraine Partisan Adam Schiff seems to think he’s saying something new and that Putin didn’t straight announce this:
As usual with Schiff, essentially everything about this is hysterical and intentionally misleading, but he is correct that Putin ended the post-WW2 order: less with his attack, and more with his publicly stated reasoning behind it.
Despite what people may wish, it was never going to be permanent that the coalition which won a single war would indefinitely have power over international law. The absolute youngest people who conceivably may have fought in that war are 90. It would have been nice if our rulers were sensible enough to participate in the transition to a multipolar world, but of course they aren’t. [And the financial interests appear to be selling us out so they can maintain their position in a China-led future; perhaps they aren’t even creative enough to conceive of a multipolar world.] Russia is the head of the UN Security Council this month which makes it all the stranger of a time for Joe Biden to constantly talk about a Russian invasion until they finally actually did it. [Of course, Biden also basically gave Russia the “green light” in January.] Though I was wrong about how this would play, I do absolutely stand by my claim that this was caused by Joe Biden’s insanely counterproductive “diplomacy.” Obviously only Putin can truly be held to account for the attack, but world leaders behave ways for reasons, as appealing as it may be to assume they are all madmen bereft of logic.
As it stands, the post-WW2 peace is indeed dead, but I don’t believe that WW3 is beginning. For one thing, the disunited and toothless West has already said they don’t intend to send NATO troops to Ukraine. There is absolutely no parity between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries, as this graphic shows:
On top of the difference in numbers, Ukraine relies heavily on conscripts, which are universally understood to be poorly trained and motivated compared to professional soldiers. Without NATO’s help it seems quite obvious that the military end to this is simply Russia taking the Russian speaking regions of Ukraine and whatever else it wants while NATO squeels impotently.
Ever the creative bunch, or rulers still somehow think sanctions will work, as shown in these tweets:
This despite the fact that Europe is heavily reliant on Russian gas, so much so that thus far Europe won’t even agree to remove Russia from the international SWIFT payment system as they would have no way to pay for gas. Further, with the burgeoning Sino-Russian alliance, and China’s international payments system combined with the fact that the BRICS Alliance is unlikely to join meaningful financial sanctions it is hard to see how they intend to hurt Russia with these sanctions. Putin had years to prepare for increasing sanctions as the West repeatedly showed an unwillingness to find common ground. Just having the card of recognizing Crimea as Russian on the table would have given them vast room to negotiate, but once again, they don’t negotiate with anyone. People do what the US says or the US walks away from the table, because the US still thinks it is strong enough to rule by drawing circles in the sand: it is not.
The costs of war are certainly a human tragedy, but the diplomatic situation and our rulers’ response is absolutely a farce.
I especially laughed when they announced there would be “personal” sanctions against Putin:
I hope for calm and a resolution to this crisis, but it does not help that we have the dumbest ruling class of all time. I would like to emphasize here that internationally recognized neutrality for Ukraine was in absolutely everyone’s interests, and it is solely being blinded by hubris and driven mad by the wages of corruption which caused the Biden administration to create and then lose this crisis.
Contra Stephen King, Putin knows exactly who he is dealing with:
A friend pointed out that King does specialize in fiction, but seriously imagine being that clueless. And it needs to be pointed out, in the face of unremitting domestic hostility towards any form of reconciliation, Trump was relatively easily able to prevent this exact thing from happening for four years. Which also demonstrates that anyone who thinks Putin is impossible to work with regarding these matters is simply wrong, as this didn’t happen until Biden provoked the situation for no obvious reason.
I feel bad for Ukraine, because war is hell, but their incompetent leadership and reliance on a world power that is known to be unreliable is what lead them here. Ukraine had many options to avoid an attack from a much more powerful neighboring state. To quote Machiavelli, “The worst defect weak republics can have is to be indecisive, so that all their decisions are taken out of necessity, and if any good comes to them, it comes through force of circumstances rather than through their own prudence.” [Discourses on Livy, 1.38] Indeed, had they simply charted a clear and realistic course instead of tying themselves to a weak and unreliable distant power, they would not be in this situation right now.
I leave you with a famous quote from Thucydides, which will tell you more about how international relations actually work than 1000 Council on Foreign Relations policy papers vaunting the erstwhile international order:
“You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” [5.89]