I posted a “soundtrack” to this post yesterday. Check it out here.
As I write this US state media tells us that Russia is going to invade Ukraine tomorrow (although the governments of Ukraine and Russia appear to disagree…). I guess I’m supposed to be angry about this? But like millions of Americans of a certain age, my first thought whenever anyone brings up Ukraine is this classic clip:
My second thought is, World War III would really suck.
I’ve written about Ukraine before in this blog — 8 years ago, on roughly the same topic, so if it seems like this has come out of nowhere to you, well, it has been simmering for a long time. As I see it, Ukraine isn’t really a country — we used to call it “the” Ukraine, implying it’s a region, and it seems like its national borders are entirely ad hoc and based on Soviet administrative needs instead of anything like organic nation-hood. A third of its population — mostly in the eastern part that is “disputed” with Russia — speaks Russian exclusively and would probably greet a Russian “invasion” with flowers and kisses, seeing Putin as liberating them from the anti-Rus neo-Nazi Kiev kleptocracy. For centuries prior to the disastrous collapse of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine was part of a Russian Empire; before that it was traded back and forth between a fascinating variety of ethnic groups, including the Mongol Golden Horde and the Lithuanian Empire that was still officially pagan in the 14th century. Ethnically and linguistically it has far greater ties to Russia than it does to any more western country in Europe, but despite the nationalist propaganda of the Ukrainian regime, it doesn’t seem to have any kind of deep-rooted national identity of its own. It’s definitely not a democratic country, nor is it in any way obvious that its government is morally superior to that of Russia. It certainly doesn’t make much sense for the US to be involved in Ukraine’s troubles — what possible reason do we have to favor a Ukrainian autocracy against a Russian one? Questions about Ukraine’s sovereignty, or the will of its various ethnic groups, are far more complex than they are presented to American audiences, and do not permit black vs. white comparisons of Kiev and Moscow in whatever this current conflict actually is about.
But since when has that ever stopped Americans bent on starting wars? I could have written the exact same paragraph about Iraq in 2003, just changing out names of leaders and tribes. Iraq wasn’t really a country; it was arbitrarily carved out of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, with a Sunni ruling elite presiding over a Shi’ite majority population. The two factions had beef going back to the sixth century AD, and it was obvious to lots of us that the net result of removing the “evil dictatorship” of Saddam Hussein would be revenge by Shia on Sunni, which is exactly what happened, accompanied by a vicious civil war complete with ethnic cleansing. The US bought all of that with thousands of dead American soldiers, trillions of wasted dollars, and the irreversible loss of any hope for a new world order of free and peaceful sovereign countries after the end of the Cold War.
War with Russia would, of course, be vastly worse. People seem to have forgotten about nuclear war – during the Cold War, we could rely on the hard-nosed pragmatism of the Russian and American generals who fought World War II (on the same side) to act as a bulwark against temporary bursts of insanity from politicians. But there was always the threat that nukes would get in the hands of crazy people — and the leftists who have seized control of the West are certainly crazy, apparently unable to distinguish the products of their imagination from the material universe. If they believe that humans, by an act of will, can change their sex, perhaps they believe that if we just believe hard enough in “Our Democracy” it will shield us from Russian ICBMs? Or perhaps as the Boomers retire and the memory of the Cuban Missile Crisis fades, we’ll get closer and closer to midnight on the proverbial doomsday clock? One could speculate about a conventional war with Russia – which would still be terrible – but the logic of thermonuclear war hasn’t changed since the 1980s, and the sensible bet is that any prolonged hostilities between DC and Moscow will escalate inexorably toward a full-scale global nuclear exchange and the deaths of hundreds of millions of human beings. As metal as that would be, I’m aginn it.
One of the strangest outgrowths of our highly polarized time is how it has affected the “foreign policy” of the United States. On the one hand, we see our political divisions reflected in very similar terms in nearly every democracy on Earth. The first time I noticed this was with Brexit, where I couldn’t understand why American leftists were just as pissed about it as were British leftists. Why did they care? Why did the German left hate Trump? Why do all of the governments of Europe, North America, and Australia have similarly leftist, woke bureaucracies opposed by similarly rightist, nationalist populations? A conservative Trump voter in Alabama has more in common with a nationalist Zemmour voter in France than with his liberal next-door neighbor. One could surmise that there is a worldwide push for some form of globalist anti-democratic oligarchy that would have the power to control the economy, regulate energy production, and stabilize its authority through draconian controls on speech and education, and that there is a countervailing worldwide reaction to oppose such in favor of nationalist, localist, ethnicist, or particularist modes of living, and these two forces have subsumed all the lesser politics in all countries of the Indo-European diaspora.
But the other side of this is that it has created weird systems of international alliances. This was first evident to me during the 2016 US election when Hillary Clinton very obviously wanted to increase antagonism with Russia, whereas Donald Trump very obviously wanted the opposite (to be honest, this was what first convinced me to support Trump, as opposed to protest voting Libertarian as I had in the four previous presidential elections). Clinton went so far as to directly accuse Trump of treason for not wanting to go to war with Russia over a supposed hacking incident (that didn’t actually happen). This has only been magnified in years since, as the Democrats have gone all-in on Russia as the big baddies, whereas the Republicans are Russia-agnostic but see China as the primary rival of the US. The Democrats also consistently side with the EU and with the Arab states, whereas the Republicans consistently side with the UK and with Israel. Importantly, these broad alliances conform with the natures of the parties – China, Germany, and the dar al-Islam are more universalist/leftist, whereas the UK, Israel, and Russia are more nationalistic/traditionalist.
So the parties don’t just disagree on domestic policy; they don’t just disagree on broad-scale foreign policy; they don’t even agree on who our allies and enemies are. Elections in the US are therefore matters of war and peace for foreign governments – and we are surprised if they take an interest in who wins? If a Russian presidential election could make the difference between fighting a nuclear war or not, I damn sure hope the CIA would be manipulating its outcome to the best of their ability!
Of course, there is one unifying factor between the Ukraine situation and our GWoT wars – fossil fuels. It seems likely that the conflict between Ukrainian and Russian oil and gas oligarchs (e.g. Burisma vs. Gazprom) is the true issue here – or at least it’s the reason that corrupt grifters like Clinton and Biden care about the outcome. It’s not a coincidence that Biden’s son was embroiled in a scandal related to Ukrainian oil corruption, and now we’re on the verge of World War III over the Donbass. Here’s hoping all of this blows over, or at least that Biden turns tail. Till then, you can order anti-radiation iodine tablets on Amazon.