And now Ukraine, in hindsight quite predictable. Quantitative becomes qualitative at some point in the logic of events—perhaps the coup, perhaps the Pacific Rim visit to nail down Russia’s eastern flank while simultaneously setting the stage for the next leap forward–encirclement, containment, isolation of China, or perhaps Slovyansk. When momentum builds, the transition can be so smooth, rather than abrupt, that the world, let alone the aggressive party, hardly notices—a negative “reset,” in the works for some time, well before Obama, going back to Cold War I (JFK, for starters), but, as with so much else (massive surveillance, drone assassination, global employment of CIA, foray into cyberwarfare), an intensification of the logic of events under Obama’s watch as to award him the laurels of counterrevolution at the core of American doctrine and practice.
Like sexual foreplay taking its course, the eruption may come at any time, getting into bed (in this case, with indigenous fascism in the targeted country to match the structural-ideological fascism coming to a head at home), the preliminaries—beginning with Exceptionalism predisposed to global supremacy (its logic!)–render almost inevitable the outcome. Incipient fascism casts about for its mate, an infatuation consummated in advanced capitalism, the marriage brokers (JPMorgan Chase delegated to speak for all, on a rotating basis, along next, with one from the hedge fund operators, and still next, from “defense”) themselves but representatives of a vaster military-intelligence infrastructure of US “democracy” which encapsulates American historical-ideological development going back at least to the Open Door, nascent market fundamentalism grafted onto the Battleship Navy. With this background, Obama can hardly miss, although he cannot be allowed a free pass as though merely going with the tide. Nor a free pass because to the Right of him, although he’s STILL part of that formation, there lies the phenomenon of a political thuggery even more contemptuous of peace, civil liberties, a vibrant social safety net than he.
Sanctioning, nay, abetting, the Kiev coup of Svoboda-Right Sector-Bandera acolytes, all bred-in-the-bone native fascists, whose recent historical antecedents refer back to siding with the Nazis in World War II, and further back, an indigenous regional authoritarianism and anti-Semitism predating the Russian Revolution, the US fully comprehended the consequences of its own actions: a shot across the bow to Putin and Russia that Cold War 2 was in full swing (a flow of hegemonic animus hardly interrupted in any case). Obama, the presumed futurist, has brought us back squarely to the 1950s, Russia’s and China’s capitalistic features no defense against the subterranean propaganda offensive—however irrational, eagerly bought by a gullible American public–directed against anticommunism. We need an Enemy, to detract from our own more mundane purposes.
Even market penetration no longer suffices. Nor the profitability inhering in outsourcing. Nor the Imperial sheer delirium of crushing “native” populations (an outgrowth of manhandling blacks, first, in slavery, then segregation, and now, residual practices and premises of racism). Instead, the nation has reached the point of the petrifaction of its own ideology. Advanced capitalism, for its own survival, has a way of doing that; we actually believe counterrevolution (gussied up as anticommunism, gussied up still further as counterterrorism) is, as the key to the stabilization of world capitalism, led by our own, to which all others are tributary, as the summum bonum of human achievement and civilization. Self-serving? Of course, but the process of ideologization is for that very purpose, the veil of self-deception in the prosecution of self-interest (primarily for ruling groups, those below habituated through structural-economic pressure, the value system, and the whole educational process, to experience vicariously the fruits of the System received above). Ideology is indispensable for rationalizing (in both senses, portraying as true what is not, and Max Weber’s stress on coordination and efficiency) the edifice of inequality and social cruelty, together reflections of increasing class differentiation in wealth distribution.
Obama is Johnny-on-the-spot, bailing out a decaying social order, irreconcilable about surrendering its global dominance to a bunch of upstarts (the inevitable decentralization of power in a multipolar world, starting with China, but also perceived as threats, Russia, not far behind, India and Brazil, and emergent modernization of the Third World itself), and now prepared for the showdown, before an irreversible DECLINE sets in. Maybe not a recapitulation of the 1950s, so much as the fading days of all Empires, the Roman perhaps being a good example. Obama here has the edge on his predecessors, not in the staying power of the befuddled and desperate Behemoth (its aggressiveness will only heighten the blowback, the social-political forces of retributive justice), but in the technological means to wreak havoc at home and abroad. Massive surveillance keeps the people unified; clamping down on whistleblowers, via the Espionage Act, keeps the media in line while preventing transparency in government. And the Court, in lockstep, is a buttress against civil liberties, even as it confers freedom-of-speech rights on money and shields corporate aggrandizement.
His advantage, then, is in keeping the show going longer on the domestic front, simultaneous with, and contingent upon, opening up the foreign front to more intervention, confrontation, and adventurism. Hence, Ukraine. Hence also, the potential for world conflagration. It takes a leader with a moral void at the center of his being to stay the course. It takes a populace so jaded, containing so much pent-up aggression, so unfulfilled, perhaps unfulfillable, on the nonmaterial side of life, to abjectly follow, even call out for greater excesses, greater show of strength, greater MILITARISM, that a colossal death-instinct now takes hold, a what-the-hell-is-there-to-lose feeling of resentment directed at the outside world (and in reality, our own selves), to finally end it all.
Thank you, Mr. President, for giving vent to the national mood, and for typifying so well this exact point in American historical development. Now we can join our brothers-in-arms in Svoboda and Right Sector, standing proudly, resolutely, in the face of global people’s aspirations for dignity and freedom from fear and want.
My New York Times Comment on Neil MacFarquhar’s article, “On Triumphant Visit to Crimea, Putin Trumpets Russian Revival,” (May 9), follows—an article fully reflective of the propagandistic groundwork building, The Times doing it share, for making intervention in Ukraine thinkable, greater confrontation with Russia, beyond a tightening of the sanctions regime, then entirely possible:
Why such venom in these accounts of Putin? Wherever possible, word choice reveals subtle turning of screws. As for Victory Day, this should be a world holiday, the defeat of Naziism. Russia lost millions, and saved our society. In return, we give them ashes. To boot, we help install a regime in Kiev that is neo-Nazi–no dispute on that. America has already compromised its democratic image through mass surveillance, enhanced interrogation, drone assassination, intervention, regime change–this urge for war with Russia and now China confirms any doubts.
Yet The Times continues its campaign of defamation, in a vacuum, for no mention of the coup; Svoboda, Right Sector; Bandera wannabes; encouragement of NATO placement on Russia’s borders; the murder of peaceful demonstrators in Trade Union House, Odessa (burned to death, those jumping and severely injured then beaten with chains by fascist thugs).
That’s the company we keep, the “friends” we make. There WILL be a reckoning. Bullying the world into submission, is already creating a backlash. The referendum will go on, despite Putin’s helpfulness in trying to head it off. He does our work for us, except that our work is not peace but spoiling for a fight. NYT persists in using the term “separatists” knowing it to be false–federalism, regional autonomy, is not separatism. But it accomplishes its purposes of building up hatred toward Russia and Putin.
Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.