Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Massing for Global Confrontation


This was the week to bring Europe and the US into a unitary mold of fighting trim. If Crimea had simply been offered to Russia as bait to be nibbled, then Russia hauled in, the result could not be better. As it is, the US structured the Crimean coup in anticipation of Putin’s necessary response, not, as in American practice, to show toughness and demonstrate credibility, but, admittedly more prosaic, to prevent the movement of NATO forces, via Ukraine, to the Russian border. US gamesmanship had for its purpose to reenergize the West and make it, according to Obama, more aware of its “responsibilities” in helping shoulder the burden to confront the Soviet Union (oops, Russia) with the drawing of another red line. Obama in Brussels, exhibiting a necromantic aura, yet one—all the more chilling–garbed with winning smile and glad hand, invites Europe into participation in America’s favorite ritual: the reaffirmation of war as a permanent foundation for the expression of Exceptionalism. By implication, without an Enemy by which to differentiate one’s own moral goodness, the ideological house of cards would collapse. War is the glue cementing the national character.

The walk-ons in this high drama, like Poland and Lithuania, must feign panic, enabling the US to send in fighter jets and missile systems in defense of freedom, while Germany, Britain, and France are asked to cough up more troops and appropriations to assist in the noble cause. Obama, Nobel Peace Prize as the credential validating statesmanship from which he has derived astonishing mileage (however much his vitiating its meaning), is on a mission to gather a Grand Alliance in opposition to Russia. His message to Europe is one of simple exhortation: Rearm, Stand Firm, Advance, Conquer, through sanctions if possible or more active means if necessary. Deny the use of force, whilst building prodigiously (embarrassing the EU and NATO to fall into line) from ground up its basic components, and hence creating the context for its potential use. Russia becomes the Goths of our time, entitled to no mercy—or even negotiations. Do I exaggerate?

The week began with excluding Russia from the Group of 8, so abrupt and categorical the change that by two days later, Group of 7 became a routine designation. The next day, Obama designated Russia “a regional power,” yet still pressed the EU and NATO to expand the latter’s military capabilities. And with an appearance at Flanders Fields the day after, he conjured up the specter of mass deaths in World War One as somehow connected to Russia’s actions one hundred years later in Crimea, given its tenuousness a linkage based on innuendo (his way of instilling fears), the propaganda technique of choice perfected in the campaign of counterterrorism. And by the close of the week, he was emphasizing two conflicting world views, invoking the Iron Curtain, expecting images of slavery to dance before our eyes, on one side, as meanwhile pristine democracy lies on the other—very much the unreconstructed Cold Warrior at every turn.

But beyond carefully drafted rhetoric, there is the reality of confrontation, Crimea, I strongly suspect, the pretext for the reincarnation of Dulles’s rollback theory and practice, and even then, never forsaking the “pivot”—as though back to a two-directional war paradigm and orientation. Only now, Russia itself is receding from view, replaced in geopolitical thinking by China as Enemy # 1 (conceptually, fairly crude, an undisguised encirclement backed as well by the Trans-Pacific Partnership), the furor over Russia in Crimea a means of strengthening the US military even more, though resources will merely add to the Pacific-first strategy. These are indeed exciting times, America as the fusion of three closely integrated formations, all significantly accelerated by Obama and the Democrats: the National Security State, the Garrison State, and the Surveillance State, all structurally simpatico with the highest stage of wealth-concentration in American history, the distillation therefore of the militarization and financialization of US capitalism.

My New York Times comment on Michael Shear and Paul Baker’s article, “Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment to NATO Alliance,” (March 27), which serves as an example of the week’s reporting, follows, same date:

Wonderful NYT, Go for it, treat Obama as a distinguished world leader and a demigod, replete with Shear’s “neutral language,” to wit: “Russian aggression,” “ways of reassuring Poland,” “intended to explain and honor Europe’s role in the global democratic movement,” “threatens to undermine the rules that free nations have fought to establish,” etc. Never mind drone assassination, the invasions into Iraq and Afghanistan, global paramilitary efforts toward regime change, the undisputed Nazi/fascist elements in Ukraine, who led the coup and have high places in the interim government; the move to place NATO forces on the Russian border. Never mind any of that. Just stick to your guns (bad pun) and fuel the American psychosis of permanent war.

Demonize Putin and Russia, otherwise Obama’s rhetoric today about a US-NATO military build-up in Eastern Europe might sound shrill. Beat the drums, turn on the patriotism spigot. Even allow a source pushing the administration line anonymity despite widespread quotation. Was it Rhodes? Readers are entitled to know the identity of officials, those whom you permit to hide–consistent with Obama’s despication of transparency.

NYT once stood for responsible journalism under A.O.S. and Scotty. Where are we now but in the slime of White House propaganda. If you present news coverage, get rid of emotionally-loaded descriptions and one-sided interpretation–that, or forfeit your place in the front-ranks of journalism.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians