Bloomberg’s Pankaj Mishra, published in the Japan Times, questions the relevance of Cold War thinking–and Cold War thinkers–now that the Cold War has been over for almost a generation. He suggests that recent domestic drumbeating about Crimea is, at least in part, an attempt by Cold Warriors to regain their think-tank mojo (and their think-tank gigs).
Forced into premature retirement by the unexpected collapse of communism in 1989, this thinker re-emerged after Sept. 11, 2001, convinced there was another worthy enemy in the crosshairs: Islamic totalitarianism.
Unchastened by a decade of expensive, counterproductive and widely despised wars, these laptop generals have been trying to reboot their dated software yet again as Russian President Vladimir Putin formalizes his annexation of Crimea.
He goes on to suggest that confrontational Cold War thinking led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as the USSR reacted to its perceptions of American intentions. (We experience the long-term effects of that whenever we stand in a security line at an airport, for that nurtured the Taliban and other forms of Islamic political radicalism, including Al Qaeda).
Follow the link to his article for his arguments. Follow the second link to learn more about the common origins of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Chauncey Devega dissects the compulsion of old men to send young men and women to their deaths, using Bill Kristol, leading drum-beater for the Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq, as an example. A nugget (do read the rest):
The Face of Battle is a book that attempted to recreate for the reader the front-line soldier’s view of battle at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. It does not paint the pretty, romantic picture portrayed in your average movie or television show.
I have read it. You should too.
Here, Thom speaks of the face of battle. His words are directed to President Obama, as they were in the context of Syria, but they apply to everyone who casually advocates blowing stuff up (something, it should be noted, that President Obama does and did not do).
“Credibility” has great power in national security debates.
In reality, the credibility gambit often combines sleight of hand with lazy thinking (historical parallels tend to be asserted, not demonstrated) and is a variation on the discredited domino theory. This becomes apparent if one examines how it is being deployed in the debate on Syria.
Making a futile and pointless gesture, one that is agreed will ultimately accomplish nothing, though, will most certainly undermine “credibility”; such is politics a laAnimal House.
This trap opened with the Iranian Revolution and continued with the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. That historical event contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union but created a psychological trap for the West, that of invincibility. That led to the first Gulf War and insidiously and cumulatively developed into a direct threat to the West slowly dragging us into a vortex of barbarity, self-deception and degradation of political life.
The Honorable Tim Kaine
United States Senate
388 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Mr. Kaine:
I see in today’s Virginian-Pilot that you voted for intervention in Syria because, to paraphrase your statement as quoted in the story, “Somebody should do something.”
As it appears that “doing something” will not end the civil war in Syria, will not bring peace in any form, will not, in fact, accomplish anything other than to blow up more stuff and people, I submit, sir, that “Somebody should do something” is not a sound basis for policy formation.
Copied to my other elected representatives incongruously assembled.
Judging from the headlines at the news sites I frequent, the Very Serious People seem to have decided that the crucial question regarding Syria is whether or not Syria used gas warfare. Framing the question in that way implies that, if the answer is yes, some sort of attack is ipso facto justified.
That had the makings of a mistake anyway. A moderate rebel in Syria might be someone who allows you a blindfold before he chops your head off. If amnesia did not have such a national hold, we might remember that arming the Mujahideen when the Russians occupied Afghanistan seemed like a good idea at the time, but the blowback gave us Osama bin Laden and his pals.
The same critics who urge Mr. Obama to war now will be urging him to more war later.
This is the same guy who declared on the eve of war 10 years ago that Iraq would be a breeze, that the Bush invasion would pacify a warring people: “There is a certain amount of pop psychology in America that the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni….There’s almost no evidence of that at all.” Ten years later, in Iraq, the Shiites and the Sunnis are still blowing each other up; for most of those 10 years, American soldiers died in the crossfire. But in Washington, there’s no shame and no penalty for being dead wrong, which is why Kristol still reigns on Sunday morning TV.
As Driftglass often points out, in the punditocracy, there is no penalty for being wrong all the time.