Thursday, August 03, 2017

America Crushed the Soviet Union. Will Russia Return the Favour?

It was through taking a look at Ike Kaveladze, one of the shadowy Russians who attended the June, 2016 meeting with Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort at Trump Towers that I stumbled across the name, Alexei Bayer. I mistakenly thought he was Kaveladze's lawyer but he's more of a kindred spirit, something of a writer, with a fairly interesting Twitter feed. It turns out he's also a columnist for the Ukrainian news outlet, KyivPost, where I found this thought-provoking op-ed penned by Bayer, "Why the new Cold War is different from the old one."

Bayer believes that America's sanctions on Russia and prominent Russians probably won't be lifted anytime soon but expects Putin to fire back.

Russia will now fall back on another strategy: create even more havoc in Trump’s already dysfunctional Washington. I’m expecting an imminent release of the Trump “pee tape,” on which the future Leader of the Free World is cavorting with Russian prostitutes. It doesn’t matter whether it will be authentic or manufactured. The new Cold War between the two nuclear superpowers will then be in full swing.

But it will be a very different Cold War – and this time the United States stands little chance of winning it.

After World War II, America built its domestic and foreign policy around the existential imperative of countering the spread of communism and containing an expansionist Soviet Union. Then, the Soviet Union collapsed, most of the old Soviet Empire rejected communism and President George H.W. Bush declared the advent of a New World Order.

Over the past quarter of a century the United States has tried to find a new national idea. The system that was originally built to fight – and win – the Cold War disintegrated and with it went America’s social and political cohesion. Now that a resurgent Russia is bringing a new Cold War to America’s shores, this country finds itself unable to respond. 


Holding Karl Marx at Bay

Americans don’t realize to what extent their post-World War II society was shaped by the response to the Marxist critique of capitalism. Indeed, in the early post-World War II decades America was determined to give the lie to Marx’s assertion that under capitalism workers became progressively impoverished, with “the capitalist constantly trying to reduce wages to their physical minimum, and to extend the workday to its physical maximum.” In fact, this seemed a major error, because American workers had joined the great American middle class, buying homes, driving private cars and working a 40-hour week, with mandatory higher pay for any overtime.

The government played a key role in making America an largely egalitarian, middle class country. It provided a pension scheme and tuition assistance to middle-class families, and a safety net for the poor. It regulated businesses, protected workers and supported unionization. The Eisenhower Administration built a network of interstate highways, on which people travelled free of charge and which helped create suburbs and contributed to the spread of car ownership. To fund all those government subsidies everyone paid taxes, and the tax system was highly progressive, imposing marginal tax rates as high as 91% on the highest earners.


The Ghost of Marx Returns

The Marxist assertion that capitalism despoiled the environment in search of profits was countered by a growing body of environmental regulations. The response to Marx’s characterization of religion as opium for the masses was strict enforcement of the constitutional separation of church and state. Claims by the communists that capitalism is inherently racist were answered by civil rights legislation, desegregation and affirmative action. And Lenin’s prediction that capitalism would result in constant warfare was debunked as well: Western Europe was at peace and conventional NATO forces were far inferior to the combined might of the Warsaw Pact. They were designed to contain the Soviet threat, not fight wars around the globe.

But the system built to fight communist Russia sputtered once Russia had stopped being communist. The propaganda value of America as a land of opportunity dropped sharply. The orderly, egalitarian, enlightened America was no longer needed, and in this new America many of the dire Marxist-Leninist predictions have suddenly started to come true.

The middle class disintegrated as masses of blue-collar workers were pushed down the income ladder and became lumpenized. Industrial corporations were allowed to bust their trade unions and send jobs abroad. The labor market offered low-paying, no-prestige service jobs without security, benefits or career paths. Many people now have to work several part-time jobs, adding up to much more than 40 hours per week.

While wages are stagnant or declining, corporate profits are at record levels in terms of percentage of GDP, and American corporations are squirreling away trillions of dollars in cash.

Meanwhile, a new class of the super-rich has developed, and it uses its money to sic disaffected lumpenized workers on the liberal intelligentsia with the help of rightwing media outlets. It has bought up the government, making sure it keeps cutting taxes on the rich and shredding the safety net for the poor.


Religion, a private matter in the 1960s and 1970s, has wormed its way into the political mainstream. The anti-abortion movement and the talk about the war on Christmas go hand in hand with the denial of scientific facts, cuts in science research and, most recently, backlash against public education.

Racism is flourishing after eight years of an African American president. Black lives no longer matter, while the KKK and the neo-nazis, once a minor fringe of American politics, are getting encouragement from the White House.

America’s military has been transmogrified into a nation all its own, which wages undeclared wars all over the world without any stated goals and with no end in sight. The Pentagon maintains troops in over one hundred countries and has a budget that nearly matches what the rest of the world spends on defense. The endless war is a vision not even so much out of Marx as out of George Orwell.

America Confused, Clueless and Vulnerable.

It would be highly ironic if this new Russia – having rearmed itself like Germany in the 1930s – not with tanks or fighter planes this time, but with cyber weaponry suited for modern asymmetrical warfare – won Round Two of the Cold War by taking advantage of the fissures in American society that developed because America won Round One.

Food for thought.


Anonymous said...

It would be highly ironic if this new Russia – having rearmed itself like Germany in the 1930s – not with tanks or fighter planes this time, but with cyber weaponry suited for modern asymmetrical warfare – won Round Two of the Cold War by taking advantage of the fissures in American society that developed because America won Round One.

Well said.
Such a confrontation is interesting in that the USA continues to spend more on its military than the rest of the world.
Greed, haste and an overdose of patriotism is leaving the USA with faulty weapons systems that are draining the coffers whilst providing substandard hardware with which to fight.
Were it not for quantity of military hardware the USA would fail even more than they have.
The military ,amongst other things, is bankrupting the USA but their star spangled eyes cannot or will not admit to it.
This is interesting in that it has been apparent for some time that computer hacking and the manipulation of capital is the warfare of the future obsoleting the military establishment as we know it.


The Mound of Sound said...

There are some interesting studies, TB, into why the US gets so little bang for its military buck. A big part of it is this determination to maintain a substantial presence in every corner of the planet that's not already occupied by Russia or China. America's designated adversaries, meanwhile, are focusing their resources and deploying in different ways in the Middle East, Africa and, now, Latin America.

Are you keeping an eye on the Himalayas and the stare down between Indian and Chinese forces? It's one of those confrontations that should and likely will blow over but there's a real chance it could escalate.

Trump is now after Afghanistan's resources. China stitched up the rights to the copper fields in the northeast where it was able to run a rail line straight in. Trump is seemingly pissed off at that. Afghanistan doesn't have to tolerate some resource grab. They can always seek Chinese protection. Wouldn't that be dandy?

It's also informative to follow the technology race between the US and its adversaries. America is stuck with its blanket coverage policy. That means an awful lot of people and hyper-costly gear sitting idle and drifting into obsolescence. Its rivals instead focus their budgets on local conditions, AA/AD (anti-access/area denial) systems and technologies where they're competitive or even superior - hyper-velocity weaponry, cyber, etc.

Name the last two wars America clearly won? Grenada and Panama - Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Desert Storm defeated Iraqi forces but achieved very little in the way of victory, leading to the follow up Iraq War that's still far from resolved. All the King's Men and All the King's Horses....