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If one is to believe the hysterical US and British press we are only days or weeks away from all-out war with Russia. Encouraged by many of the same media who helped get us into the current conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places in the world, we the media consumers are supposed to believe that this latest war they are trumpeting is not only worthwhile, but is necessary to preserve civilization. Of course, this latter idiocy is utter nonsense and absolutely untrue. Put plainly and simply, any war between those aligned with Washington and those aligned with Moscow would be unnecessary and contrived.
The antiwar revolutionary Karl Liebknecht said the following before the beginning of World War One:
“This war, which none of the peoples involved desired, was not started for the benefit of the German or of any other people. It is an Imperialist war, a war for capitalist domination of the world markets and for the political domination of the important countries in the interest of industrial and financial capitalism. Arising out of the armament race, it is a preventative war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties in the obscurity of semi-absolutism and of secret diplomacy.”
If we replace the terms “German” and “Austrian” with the terms “American,” “British,” and “Russian,” the remainder of Liebknecht’s statement hold true for the current situation. In other words, any war between Washington and Moscow and their associated allies will not be started for the benefit of any people. Indeed, the only beneficiaries of such a conflict would be industrial and financial capitalism. This truth is an essential one that cannot be repeated enough. Any and all rhetoric calling for war needs to be opposed on every front.
So, how did we get to this point? This point where the propaganda mills in the West and (from what I can see on my internet feed) in the East are anticipating a battle royal between the two most heavily armed militaries in the world? Why is it that politicians in the United States and Great Britain are whipping portions of their respective populations against Russia and its people? Why would these politicians (and some generals) risk the lives of millions in the escalating battle of words?
There is no single answer to the questions above. However, certain facts are fairly obvious. Let me list what seems most apparent. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Washington and its associated investors took advantage of the moment to steal as much of Russia and its associated nation-states’ financial wealth as it could. This was done via what has become known as the Shock Doctrine. After a number of corrupt officials in the Kremlin, who were more than happy to oblige outside investors while stuffing their bank accounts, Putin was elected into power (first as Prime Minister, then as President, then Prime Minister and again as President) to clean up the mess in his own way. Meanwhile, Washington was consolidating and expanding its military strength and presence around the globe, especially in those European nations formerly in the Soviet sphere. This was done by expanding the NATO alliance, installing missiles in countries neighboring Russia, and waging war in the Middle East and South Asia; first against Iran via Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, then against Iraq in the ongoing war that began in 1991.
Putin’s Russia refrained from overt involvement in the US wars, while simultaneously strengthening ties with Iran and Syria. After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 failed in its goal of replacing the Hussein regime with a pliant yet popular regime in Baghdad—and the political situation in Iraq devolved into a multi-sided bloody civil war manipulated by outside forces (esp. Washington and Tehran)—Putin’s government stepped up its involvement in the region. At the same time, Moscow became more forceful in its opposition to the increasing encroachment of the West on its borders. Rebellions in the Caucasus were brutally crushed and the Crimea was assimilated back into Russian hands after a series of protests in Ukraine manipulated by Washington and Moscow on opposing sides. In addition, the Russian arms industry stepped up its production in response to the growing presence of US/NATO forces and weaponry aimed at its heart.
Most importantly, however, in terms of the growing talk in the press of a US-Russia war is the ongoing conflict in Syria. What began as a popular protest as part of what has come to be called the Arab Spring has devolved into a complex multi-sided war between the Syrian military and its allies, jihadists, tribal forces, mercenaries, secular forces of varying political hues, and the intelligence and special forces of several outside governments. Among those outside forces are Hezbollah, Iranian military, Russian forces allied with the Syrian military under the command of President Assad. Among those providing and supporting outside forces opposed to the Syrian regime and its allies are US military and intelligence agencies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. In addition, various Kurdish forces aligned with Kurdish radicals in Turkey have been quite successful in their battle for autonomy in northern Syria. In addition to all of these (and more) forces fighting in Syria, there is the phenomenon of the Islamic State (IS). Most of those involved directly and indirectly in the Syrian conflict claim to oppose IS. However, they remain a well-funded and powerful player in the region, so they must be getting support from somewhere in addition to the funds they receive via black market oil sales and so on.
Despite an apparent majority of proxy and jihadist fighters in the ranks battling the Syrian forces, it seems from reports I have read and received from people in country and elsewhere that there are groups remaining among those fighting the Syrian army who are democratic and even somewhere on the Left. These folks need our support. However, most accounts report that most of the rest are religious extremists and/ or in the employ of outside sponsors desiring a share of the spoils if the war ever ends. The presence of progressive elements in a civil war is not a logical reason to support the entrance of imperialist forces into that battle. More importantly, it is not any kind of reason to end up in a world war.
At the same time, history tells us that sometimes events get out of hand. In those moments, terrible things can happen. One such moment occurred slightly more than a hundred years ago. When the young assassin killed Archduke Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914 few people could have predicted this act would be used to start a war that would end barely four years later, taking the lives of more than 35 million people and creating a world order that remains a tinderbox almost a hundred years after its end. The assassination itself was the match that provided imperial powers with a reason to attack their rivals. Once the process was initiated, the downspin towards war became impossible to halt. Treaties and alliances were invoked, arms makers and financiers drooled over potential profits and politicians and generals drank to the possibility of victory. Rulers appealed to their population’s prejudices and patriotic passions, enabling a rapid conscription and mobilization that would take humanity into an unnecessary, violent, bloody and murderous hell worthy of the artist Hieronymus Bosch’s most gruesome dreams.
Those of us who oppose imperial war must not fall into the trap of supporting one side or the other. I say this because there is a growing tendency for those in what is considered the western Left to either side with the Syrian regime or with the rebels. In the case of those who support the former, there is a tendency to minimize and even dismiss the murderous tactics of the regime’s military and even applaud the Syrian regime in hyper nationalist terms; in the case of those who support the rebels (usually only the democratic forces in its composition), there is a strong tendency to overemphasize the brutality of the Syrian military and minimize or not even mention the brutal excesses of the rebel forces. Our future does not lie with the predominant forces and their backers on either side. While self-determination is a principle we must not forsake, we should also hold to the idea expressed by Liebknecht’s comrade-in-arms Rosa Luxemburg:
“It is true that socialism gives to every people the right of independence and the freedom of independent control of its own destinies. But it is a veritable perversion of socialism to regard present-day capitalist society as the expression of this self-determination of nations. Where is there a nation in which the people have had the right to determine the form and conditions of their national, political and social existence?” We must not find ourselves (as the soldiers of World War One did) “ Locked in the embrace of death, …tumbl(ing) into a common grave.”