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Archive for the tag “Cold War”

The new Cold War

This morning a friend asked on Facebook what I thought of this article, and I will try to reply here. BREAKING NEWS – PUTIN EXPOSES OBAMA’S PAID ISIS MERCENARIES IN MIDDLE EAST AND SYRIA! | THE MARSHALL REPORT:

(Putin speaking): First point. I never said that I view the US as a threat to our national security. President Obama, as you said, views Russia as a threat, but I don’t feel the same way about the US. What I do feel is that the politics of those in the circles of power, if I may use those terms, the politics of those in power is erroneous. It not only contradicts our national interests, it undermines any trust we had in the United States. And in that way it actually harms the United states as well.

But I can’t reply to this in isolation. It is part of a whole string of media reports and media reporting that goes back two years or more.

Concerning the Middle East in general, and Syria in particular, we are bombarded by  increasingly shrill and decreasingly credible media propaganda from all sides that I’ve simply stopped paying attention to most of it. If there is any truth wrapped up in the all-too-obvious lies, I have no means of sifting and discerning it.

I have tended to interpret all in the light of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, as expounded in his book The clash of civilizations and the remaking of the world order. I’ve already written about that here, so I won’t repeat much of it now, except to say that things are now much worse.

I have tended to attibute the growing American Russophobia, which strikes me as loony and entirely irrational, to Putin’s blocking of Obama’ s plans to bomb Syria. But now the Russian air force is bombing Syria.

The world... is going to hell in a hand cart

The world… is going to hell in a hand cart

Two years ago, I regarded Russia Today as  a more reliable news source than most of the Western media, especially on events in the Middle East. Now it is blatantly filled with anti-American propaganda, so I don’t watch it any more. It’s clearly playing tit-for-tat to the Russophobic line of the BBC, Sky News, CNN, and Fox news. As a result the truth suffers.

Can Al Jazeera be trusted? When reporting on other parts of the world, perhaps. But Syria? I’m not so sure. Al Jazeera’s base is Sunni, the Syrian government tends to be Shia. There could be some bias there that would be difficult for non-Muslims to discern.

Also, since I’m inclined to be pacifist, I find the increasing belligerence of warmongering politicians distressing. Obama promised “change you can believe in” but he is just as belligerent and bloodthirsty as his predecessor George Bush and the only difference is that he is more articulate about it. David Cameron is just as belligerent and bloodthirsty as Tony Blair, but I didn’t expect him to be any better. I did, at one time, and probably foolishly, hope that Obama would be better than Bush and Clinton. But it’s always naive to believe in politicians’ promises, and Obama proved to be no exception.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

If the Labour Party, under Jermy Corbyn’s leadership, manages to win the next UK general election, will it be any better? Will this, at last, be “change you can believe in”?

Not if the British media have anything to do with it. They have slammed him left, right and center, dismissed him as insane because he has qualms of conscience about annihilating millians of people in a nuclear holocaust.

And my mind goes back more than 50 years to Jeremy Taylor, a Johannesburg school teacher who sang this song:

Well one fine day
I’ll make my way
to 10 Downing Street.
“Good day,” I’ll say
“I’ve come a long way
Excuse my naked feet.
“But I lack, you see
the energy
to buy a pair of shoes
I lose my zest
to look my best
when I read the daily news
’cause it appears you’ve got an atom bomb
that’ll blow us all to hell and gone.
If I’ve gotta die
then why should I
give a damn if my boots aren’t on?

Three cheers for the army and all the boys in blue
three cheers for the scientists and politicians too
three cheers for the future years when we shall surely reap
all the joys of living on a nuclear rubbish heap.

I would fight quite willingly
In the forces of Her Majesty
but not at the price of sacrificing
all of humanity.

That expressed my sentiments when I was 21, and still does, now that I’m 74.

And, since the politicians of the world seem to be determined to restart the Cold War, and threaten to make it hot, another Cold War hymn seems appropriate.

The day God gave thee, man, is ending
the darkness falls at thy behest
who spent thy little life defending
from conquest by the East, the West.

The sun that bids us live is waking
behind the cloud that bids us die
and in the murk fresh minds are making
new plans to blow us all sky high.

The price of peace: why Kennedy died

This is a book I haven’t read yet, but it looks very interesting.

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It MattersJFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass

Hat tip to The Pittsford Perennialist: The Unspeakable who quotes from this interview with the author Why Was JFK Murdered?: A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 150 with James W. Douglass:

Why did Kennedy die? He died because he was turning towards peace. That can be established. It’s in all kinds of documents, and I’ve cited hundreds of them, and there are tens of thousands behind the hundreds I’ve cited. He turned toward peace, so that’s the reason why he’s assassinated. What if he had not turned toward peace? Of course, he wouldn’t have been assassinated because that’s the critical issue right there. If he had not turned toward peace, if he had not, in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, turned toward his enemy, Nikita Khrushchev, and said, I need your help, and had Khrushchev, for that matter, had not turned toward his enemy and said, yes, now we need to let Kennedy know that we want to help him – he said that to Gromyko, who was standing beside him, his foreign minister. Had that not happened, you and I wouldn’t be talking about this right now, nor would anyone else be doing much talking. We’d be in a nuclear wasteland. That is hopeful. Had John F. Kennedy not gone up against the Powers That Be in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and turned with his enemy towards peace, there would be no hope for anything right now. That is hopeful.

That is certainly different from the impression that I got at the time. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it seemed that Kennedy was the warmonger, prepared to have a nuclear war because he didn’t like the idea of Soviet missiles in Cuba, close to the USA, but being unwilling to remove American missiles from Turkey, on the border of the USSR.

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Who won the Cold War?

Who won the Cold War? In a book I read recently, Book review: A history of the English-speaking peoples | Khanya the author was in no doubt that Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan “won” the Cold War, but the author’s worldview was utterly anachonistic, and can only be described as neojingoism.

Clarissa takes a somewhat different view of it in Clarissa’s Blog: Who Caused the Collapse of the Soviet Union? Part I:

Nothing annoys me more than hearing people discuss completely in earnest whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by Ronald Reagan or by somebody else. Such discussions make just as much sense as trying to figure out whether world peace was achieved by this or some other politician. ‘Well, there is no world peace,’ you’d say. Right you are. And there was no collapse of the Soviet Union. Not in any meaningful sense, that is. As to the end of the Cold War, if you seriously think it’s over, you need to stop spending so much time listening to the American media and turn to some external sources of information every once in a while. The winner of the Cold War is yet to be decided but I somehow doubt that you can win any war by pretending it isn’t taking place.

I think her whole article is worth reading, though I disagree with the premiss that the Cold War is continuing.

To that extent I agree with the late Samuel Huntington, who said that the Cold War was primarily a clash of ideologies, while what we are seeing in the post-Cold War world is a clash of civilizations.

One of the relics of the Cold War is the term “Third World”, which still seems to persist, though its meaning seems to have changed, or rather dissipated. The “three worlds” view of geopolitics was composed of

  • First World: the capitalist world
  • Second World: the communist world
  • Third World: the non-aligned states

The Third World was founded by India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia was the only Third-World state in Europe, and, in a sense, its disintegration, like that of the Soviet Union, marks the end of the Cold War.

If the Cold War was a war of ideologies, as Huntington says, then one could say that Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher “won” the Cold War, because their brand of free marketism is the dominant religion in the world today. That is where Huntington got it wrong; he posits Western Christianity as the religion of Western Civilization. It isn’t. Free Marketism is.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and Bolshevik rule in Russia is a somewhat different matter. By Brezhnev’s time, if not before, faith in communism had grown cold. The leaders of the ruling Communist Party uttered all the old slogans, but the conviction had gone out of them. All that was left was a clinging to power, and, as Clarissa points out, the most powerful men in Russia today resemble nothing so much as the Vicar of Bray.

The (almost) end of the world

In a recent blog post Jim Forest recalls the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and its most threatening day, 27 October 1962. On Pilgrimage: Memories of the (almost) end of the world:

In my office on Madison Avenue, we did hardly any work that day. We were mainly engaged in nonstop listening to the radio. Then, late in the day, came the news that Khrushchev had announced that the Soviet government had issued an order for dismantling its Cuba-based nuclear weapons. The missiles and their warheads were to be put back in their crates and returned to the Soviet Union.

Out of curiosity I checked my diary for that day. I remembered reading about it in the newspapers at the time, but it didn’t make nearly as much of an impression on us in Soputh Africa as it appears to have done in America. It was just one more act of political brinkmanship (now there’s a word I haven’t seen for a long time, but it was quite common back then).

On that day I was too busy at work to worry about international politics. I was a bus conductor in Johannesburg, and it was a Saturday. Saturdays were mt busiest days. I was working on the Bellevue East Non-Europeans Only route, with clapped-out old AEC Mark III double-decker oil buses which could take about 70 passengers (the “white” buses on that route were big Sunbeam trolley buses, which could take 110 passengers, though they were rarely filled to capacity). We had a full load at the town terminus, and when we reached the station in Noord Street there was another full load waiting, so we couldn’t clear the road, and that was the second-last bus that night. Eventually I wrote a memo to the boss asking for either bigger buses or extra buses on the route. So that night I was too busy trying to work my way through the crowded bus to collect the fares to worry about what politicians far away in the northern hemisphere were up to.

The earliest mention in my diary was two months later, when I referred to American hypocrisy in demanding that the USSR not have missiles in Cuba, so close to the USA, while the Americans had their own missiles in Turkey, on the border of the Soviet Union. When US President Kennedy was assassinated the following year, my main recollection of his presidency was his grandstanding on this, which threatened global thermonuiclear war, and my impression that Krushchev had been statesmanlike in defusing the situation, and in being more concerned with saving the world than saving face.

But another paragraph in Jim Forest’s post challenged my assumptions on that too, when he mentioned a book of revisionist history On Pilgrimage: Memories of the (almost) end of the world:

(We didn’t yet know that Kennedy had made a pledge, overruling the advice of the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to invade Cuba, nor did anyone beyond Kennedy’s inner circle know of the promise made to Khrushchev to pull US missiles away from the Soviet border with Turkey. The more hidden side of the story is told in Jim Douglass’s book, JFK and the Unspeakable.)

I didn’t know that until I read Jim Forest’s blog, and it put Kennedy’s (and Krushchev’s) actions in a very different light. It seems that Krushchev got the kudos, while Kennedy was doing his good deeds in secret, and I might have to revise my harsh judgement on his brinkmanship.

And I was reminded of that again this morning when I came across another mention of this book by Jim Douglass — America Magazine:

Last year Orbis Books published a book by Jim Douglass, a veteran Catholic peace activist and theologian, called JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. It was reviewed very favorably in America here by George Anderson, SJ. Just when you might have thought everything that could be said about the death of JFK had been said, Douglass offered a new examination of the assassination. His own contribution was to attempt to establish the motive for Kennedy’s killing, tracing the process of conversion that led him, over the course of three years, from his attitude as an ardent Cold Warrior to his commitment to lead the world away from the edge of apocalypse. A series of political steps caused him to be viewed as a virtual traitor by elements of the CIA and military establishment.

So perhaps Kennedy was a martyr for peace rather than one of the masters of war.

Western re-think on Caucasian war?

Are Western countries beginning to doubt the wisdom of their rush to support Georgia in last months Caucasian conflict?

Did Saakashvili Lie?: The West Begins to Doubt Georgian Leader – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International:

But now the volume is being turned down on the anti-Moscow rhetoric. Last week German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly called for clarification on the question of who is to blame for the Caucasus war. ‘We do need to know more about who bears what portion of the responsibility for the military escalation and to what extent,’ Steinmeier told a meeting of Germany’s more than 200 ambassadors in Berlin. The European Union, he said, must now ‘define our relations with the parties to the conflict for the medium and long term,’ and that the time has come to have concrete information.

If there is a re-think going on, however, the signs are very faint — “nuanced” as they like to say in academia.

Der Spiegel reports

But now, five weeks after the end of the war in the Caucasus, the winds have shifted in America. Even Washington is beginning to suspect that Saakashvili, a friend and ally, could in fact be a gambler — someone who triggered the bloody five-day war and then told the West bold-faced lies. “The concerns about Russia have remained,” says Paul Sanders, an expert on Russia and the director of the conservative Nixon Center in Washington. His words reflect the continuing Western assessment that Russia’s military act of revenge against the tiny Caucasus nation Georgia was disproportionate, that Moscow violated international law by recognizing the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and, finally, that it used Georgia as a vehicle to showcase its imperial renaissance.

But there’s no sign of any acknowledgement that Russia’s response was no more “disproportionate” that Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, the US attacks on Iraq in 2003 and Yugoslavia in 1999, or the British attack on Argentina in 1982.

If Western hypocrisy is cracking, the cracks are still painted over.

Do Americans live in an alternative reality?

Perhaps I should have got used to it by now, but I am still sometimes astonished by American arrogance and ignorance.

An apparently serious article, in an apparently serious publication, has the heading “Russia is still Third World”. How can one take seriously anything written by anyone who displays such appalling ignorance?

Today in Investor’s Business Daily stock analysis and business news:

In Long Run, Russia Is Still Third World


Posted 9/5/2008

I was in Moscow just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and spent most of three days at the Russian Parliament building, watching as Boris Yeltsin, standing atop a tank, rallied thousands of fellow Russians to defend their emerging democracy against a then-in-progress coup attempt by Soviet hard-liners.

One can only assume that the writer arrived in Russia from another planet, from another galaxy, another universe, or an alternative reality.

Russia was never a Third World country.

The author witnessed one of the events that marked the end of the Cold War, but seems to be unaware of what the Cold War was all about.

The Cold War was between the West (First World) on the one side, and the East (Second World) on the other.

The “Third World” comprised those countries that were neutral in the Cold War. They refused to take sides, and were prepared to do business with both sides (sometimes playing one against the other to gain the advantage). The Third World, also known as the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) or the Afro-Asian Bloc, was founded by India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia.

Russia, on the other hand, was at that time part of the USSR, and was in fact the dominant country in the USSR, which was the leader of the Second World.

Now it seems that the media in both Russia and the USA are determined to fan the embers of the Cold War into a flame again, and so perhaps people like Ebeling are not so much ignorant as disingenuous, and are simply writing to confuse people about recent history in order to pave the way for another nuclear stand-off.

So perhaps it is time to recall the Cold War. Do we really want to return to those days?

The day God gave thee, man, is ending
The darkness falls at thy behest
Who spent thy little life defending
From conquest by the East, the West.

The sun that bids us live is waking
Behind the cloud that bids us die
And in the murk fresh minds are making
New plans to blow us all sky-high.

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