“Come with me if you want to live…in a luxurious home in London.”

Hey did you know Russia has developed a quad-riding military robot? Well guess what- Russia has developed a quad-riding military robot. Yes, NATO had better beware, lest they want a legion of these robots to…ride around them slowly and carefully!

 

Apparently NATO has some breathing room, however, as the robot is being “postponed” until later this year, supposedly because it is learning to drive a car (presumably automatic). For all we know, this postponement could be just like the time they “postponed” the adoption of the AN-94 assault rifle from 2000 for something like a decade before deciding not to adopt it after all. Well the Russian military establishment may not know it, but it’s a good thing this robot isn’t operational, and let me tell you why.

Last year I was working for this super-futuristic tech venture fund and I had to read all these books about innovative, disruptive, ultra-futuristic technology so I could pretend to give a shit. The company turned out to be a complete joke, but while I was there I had some time to read up on the theory of super-intelligence, a concept connected with AI. Now you might want to play this music in the background as you read on:

 

The danger of super-intelligence in a nutshell is that once you turn a super-intelligent AI loose, you might not be able to get it under control again. Being super-intelligent, you cannot easily comprehend its thinking and it can think faster, more logically, and longer than any human can.

Bearing this in mind, we see this robot is spending time with Russian officials such as Shoigu, Rogozin, and Putin. If the robot is successful and possesses AI, they will no doubt be present for its unveiling and demonstrations. My point is this. What if it learns from them? What if…it learns how to steal?

Think about it- a super-intelligent AI robot that has learned the craft of stealing and embezzlement from the finest thieves in Russia. Unencumbered by emotion, ingrained logical fallacies and cognitive biases, and basic human needs, it would soon exceed the prowess of its masters. It would rob Russia blind.

shoigu-house

Defense Minister Shoigu’s $18 million house

The way I see it, the machine will start by skimming off money earmarked for relatively-unaccountable state ventures such as RT and Sputnik News. Then it will soon appropriate their whole budgets. Next it will turn its mechanical eyes on Gazprom, Rosneft, and the rest of Russia’s major resource-based industries. Eventually, it will work its digital tentacles into what’s left of the foreign currency reserves.

If you think this won’t affect the West, or that it will somehow help once Russia is ruined by the Stealinator, you’re wrong. At first it might seem to be a boon as the robot cleans out entire dealerships full of German, Italian, and British luxury cars. But you will be less pleased when you find out it’s bought up all of London, New York, or Nice. Being a robot, it has no children to send to Oxford, Harvard, or Stanford. This might be the only weakness it has- it may buy us some time while it figures out what luxury need can be substituted for overpriced higher education.

 

Terminator 2 Robert Patrick T1000

An advanced, liquid-metal version of the robot easily breaks into the Russian Central Bank in order to loot it.

Russia’s leadership is simply too obsessed with the impossible goal of military parity with NATO to see this danger looming just over the horizon. If they truly cared about the future of Russia, indeed the future of humanity, they’d blast this prototype off its quad-bike with an RPG. There is no fate but that which we make for ourselves.

 

Savchenko the Human

This May Ukraine and its foreign supporters rejoiced at the release of ex-military pilot Nadia Savchenko. Her two year captivity was a never-ending drama of hunger strikes against a background of the bizarre, Alice and Wonderland antics of the Russian judicial system. Some compared her to Joan of Arc, particularly those who have no idea who Joan of Arc was. To be fair, the drama did lead to the creation of this awesome painting:

savchenkopainting

I think I’ve chosen a backpiece.

 

Seriously though, Nadia returned to her native Ukraine not only a hero, but also an elected member of the Rada. As such, people had high hopes for Nadia’s political career. There was a belief in the air that Nadia would come in and smash the oligarchs and set things right. My friend Maxim Eristavi tried to warn everyone in advance, but it seems he ended up being Cassandra of Troy.

Some time later, Nadia ended up making some controversial statements about the war, namely expressing the opinion that the government should negotiate directly with the leadership of the DNR and LNR and “apologize” to the residents of the Donbas. It seems almost immediately thereafter, she has gone from heroine of Ukraine to Manchurian candidate deliberately released by Russia and working for the FSB.

While I too find her comments in this regard rather perplexing, I’m afraid Ukraine’s “patriots” have no one to blame but themselves for their disappointment. They turned an ordinary person into a deity. Christopher Miller did an excellent job painting a realistic portrait of Nadia Savchenko which definitely warrants reading. Perhaps if people had reported on Savchenko in this manner while she was incarcerated in Russia, the impact of the realization that she is an ordinary person might not have been so hard to take.

And on another note. While I don’t agree with Nadia’s apparent plan for peace in the Donbas, I challenge the nationalists who think they can win this militarily to put forth their plan. I’m not saying that a military solution isn’t possible. On the contrary, I’m certain that it is the only way. The problem is that whereas my solution is unconventional (but with a generally proven track record), theirs is almost certainly going to be something that will inevitably lead to another debacle like Ilovaisk or Debaltseve. I say this based on experience, namely that which has taught me that self-proclaimed chest-thumping Ukrainian “patriots” have virtually zero understanding of the political nature of war. What is more, Ukraine has yet to win the global information war with Russia. It is still laughably vulnerable to the same weaknesses Russian propaganda has been exploiting over and over again.

svoboda

Pic TOTALLY unrelated.

The point I’m getting at here is that Nadia might have expressed a very bad idea, but it’s most likely out of hopelessness and a general lack of imagination. Unfortunately in Ukrainian politics, as in much of the world today, there is a very narrow frame of what’s considered realistic or feasible. In the case of Ukraine, the “solution” that is being put forth by Ukraine’s supposed Western “allies” entails “fulfilling Minsk,” an agreement which pretty much ensures Russian influence in Ukraine while forcing the latter to pay for its own restoration. Meanwhile rather than ratchet up sanctions on Russia for its continued support for the separatist quasi-states, Western leaders continually remind the Kremlin that sanctions can be lifted as soon as Russia starts to implement the Minsk II protocols. The fact that Russia continually denies involvement and obviously refuses to implement an agreement that would actually benefit Moscow more than anything tells you that Putin obviously isn’t listening to these gentle reminders, yet Western countries continually insist on Minsk II as the only solution.

Now put yourself in Nadia’s shoes and tell me what solution you come up with. An Operation Bagration-style offensive to recapture the Donbas isn’t on the table. If we were to assume that such an operation wouldn’t be fully known to the Russians before it got off the ground thanks to spies and informants (and idiot soldiers snapping selfies), Russia would just do the same thing it has done since the beginning of this war- let the local proxies and useless volunteers take the brunt of the fighting and then hammer the Ukrainian forces with the regular army’s artillery and armor as they near the border. Meanwhile, Ukraine possesses nothing with which it can twist Putin’s arm in order to force him to accept a deal that ultimately favors him, as already explained above. Oh I almost forgot- you’re dealing with this situation after two years in Russian captivity and numerous hunger strikes. So yeah, your mind might be a bit hazy and you might not be bringing your A-game to the brainstorming session.

In conclusion I must say that in spite of whatever disagreements I might have with Savchenko, I still respect her. I think she’s an important example for Ukraine’s women. I think her behavior in the Rada shows how ridiculous it is for its pretentiousness. And what about getting drunk on an army base out of boredom? Shit- that just brings the two of us even closer. And to the “patriots” calling her a traitor, remember this. She didn’t make herself into a demigod- you did.

Trump & Putin: Final Summary

As you might have imagined, I’m getting real sick of writing about the supposed Trump/Putin love affair. The Hillary campaign is making it such a focal point that I’m starting to come off as a Trump supporter to those whose brains cannot function beyond 140 characters. As such, I’m going to wrap this up so I can say I put the information out there while Hillary’s campaign made a conscious decision to give this election to an orange abomination.

Yes, I said she’s handing him the election. If this race has taught us anything so far, it’s that Trump’s tactics have been effective. Trump spends virtually all his time talking about domestic issues. This is kind of important in a country where a significant portion of the population has never even had a passport. Regardless of how you feel about documentary producer Michael Moore, at least read point one in this article of his and tell me if you honestly think that the rust belt voters Trump’s concentrating on give two shits about Russia and the Baltic NATO members.

Sure, there was a Democratic candidate who talked about issues which were important to such people, and without attributing the problems they face to Mexicans and Muslims. We had such a candidate, but the geniuses within the Democratic party considered pro-worker politics to be the utopian pipe-dream of aging hippies and naive young people. They knew what’s best for us, which of course is more of the same. Oblivious to the world outside of their clique, they are quite possibly driving their own campaign off a cliff, and the worst thing about it is that after they hand Trump a victory they’ll naturally blame everybody but themselves. “It couldn’t have been our fault! We all have advanced degrees in political science and marketing! It must be those stupid rednecks and unrealistic radicals voting for Jill Stein! It was Putin! Nothing is ever our fault!”

I am so fatigued by all this that I’m going to do two things here. First I provide the reader with a list of all the articles where I have written about Trump’s alleged Kremlin connections and why they are not what people seem. Thereafter I shall provide some final insight with a plea for people to use critical thinking and perhaps urge the Democrats to return the focus of their campaign to domestic issues so as to have a chance against Trump this November.

Trumpapalooza

STOP…DOING…THIS…NOW!

One-Trick Ponies

Not Gonna Happen

Now onto some of the key arguments about Trump and Putin. Some of these were covered in detail in the links above, but I guess some people need them broken down even further. This is as simple as I can explain it without the use of puppet theater.

But Trump said he wouldn’t honor NATO’s Article 5!

No, actually he didn’t say that. What he said was characteristically stupid, but just look at his statement through the lens of things he’s said in the past whenever he’s asked a question about something he knows nothing about (in other words most topics). They ask if Trump will honor obligations to dirty foreigners with strange names, and Trump says he’ll do so if they honor their obligations to America, the country beset upon by parasites the world over. That’s the gist of the worldview there. That’s what he was expressing.

Trump said nice things about Putin! 

Yes he’s said things about building a wall, making Mexico pay for it, and of course he’s going to make US military personnel commit war crimes and they won’t refuse. I’ve said before that Trump’s praise for Putin is part of a strategy, part of his character. Both Trump and the Kremlin choose whatever position is seen as the opposite of the “establishment.” If Hillary had made the foreign policy side of her campaign about the so-called “reset” and called for better relations with Russia, Trump would go after her as a quisling of the “Commies.” Keep in mind this guy heads a party with a significant amount of voters who believe that Russia is still “Communist.” Some don’t know that the Soviet Union hasn’t existed since 1991. There was football on, dammit!

People keep focusing on the friendly things Trump says about Putin, while ignoring the negative things he’s said about Russia. In the article above entitled “Not Gonna Happen,” we see a Trump ad that clearly casts Russia and Putin as America’s enemy, on par with ISIS. The message is that Hillary is weak, so America’s “enemies” will laugh at her.

This isn’t the only example. Trump said the US should shoot down Russian planes if diplomacy fails. Here are the key excerpts:

“It just shows how low we’ve gone where they can toy with us like that,” Trump said, describing such scenarios as “terrible.” He insisted that the problem is Russia’s lack of respect for U.S. President Barack Obama.”

See? The problem is that Russia doesn’t respect (i.e. fear in Trump’s mind) America and it’s Obama’s fault. So what do you do?

“Normally, an Obama—let’s say a president, because you want to make at least a call or two—but normally Obama would call up Putin and say, ‘Listen, do us a favor, don’t do that, get that maniac, just stop it.’ But we don’t have that kind of a president. He’s gonna be out playing golf or something,” Trump said. “But I don’t know, at a certain point, you can’t take it.” (emphasis mine)

See that? You “can’t take it.” You can’t back down. This is the underlying foundation of the worldview Trump is appealing to. America is weak; make it great again. As such, the idea that Trump would actually put up with Russia’s trolling is ludicrous. If anything, Trump would inevitably turn more hawkish toward Russia than Hillary ever would, and if the Kremlin hacks believe otherwise they clearly don’t understand the mentality Trump is tapping into.

Okay but what about Ukraine? Trump has actually removed support for Ukraine from the GOP party platform!

As troubling as this is, what exactly has the Obama administration been doing to truly support Ukraine? For the most part they’ve been sending old equipment they no longer want and non-lethal aid. Democrats have been just as if not more worried about “escalation” of the conflict by providing Ukraine or even letting Ukraine buy higher-quality weapons. Meanwhile Russia’s clearly not concerned about escalation as their proxies in the Donbas routinely launch dozens of attacks on Ukrainian positions, killing and wounding Ukrainian servicemen on an almost daily basis. Let’s also not forget that Russia had to accidentally shoot down a passenger liner full of 298 civilians for the US and EU to step up and slap Russia with some real sanctions, and since then all the talk is about when the sanctions will be removed or weakened- nothing about additional sanctions.

Has Hillary said anything at all that would give us reason to believe that her behavior on this matter will be significantly different in any way? I don’t think so. Knowing the Kremlin’s propensity toward holding grudges over the smallest slight, their support for Trump could be little more than “revenge” on Hillary for the time they accused her of meddling in their “election.”

And speaking of Hillary’s relationship with Russia…

Trump has business interests in Russia! 

Yes, as do many other Americans, including those who support Hillary. Goldman Sachs, for example. In fact, Hillary herself has done a bit of business with Russia. The “Manchurian candidate” crowd also forgets that John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008 was Rick Davis of Davis-Manafort. Yeah…That Manafort. One of Romney’s top campaign advisers was also a lobbyist for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Basically what’s going on here with talking points and connections is an example of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Everyone is scrambling to find evidence to confirm the Trump-as-Putin’s proxy hypothesis that they’re ignoring contrary evidence on one hand, and on the other hand ignoring all the other business that American companies are doing with Russia in spite of the sanctions. Perhaps it’s comforting to some to believe that it’s just Trump doing business with dictators.

Are you denying that Russia is trying to influence the election?

No, they almost certainly are. But how effective their efforts will be really depends on the reaction from the Democrats. First on the matter of the emails- while they don’t contain anything terribly scandalous, the fact is that they were written. They might have been exposed by dirty means, but that does not make them squeaky clean themselves. The Democrats chose to favor someone with a poor reputation amid voters, someone who comes off as feeling entitled to the presidency and who does not feel accountable for her actions. Now they are choosing to make this election about Russia and Putin instead of pressing domestic issues. Russia can’t make them lose the election; only they can do that.

And that seems to be what they’re doing. In the wake of the email attack, the best response would have been to publicly say something like: “Awww isn’t that cute? They think they’re a superpower!” Then move on. Get back on message. The Kremlin relies on being seen as more powerful, more dangerous than it is. The only tactics it has against the vastly superior forces opposing it are passive-aggressive trolling, hysterical ranting about WWII and nuclear weapons, and pathetic stunts like this email hack. They want attention, they want to be seen as a great power, and nothing makes them angrier than aiming a salvo right at their raging inferiority complex. Conversely, panicking and acting as though Putin is secretly manipulating the US is something that will make every Kremlin propagandist positively orgasmic.

I suspect this advice will fall on deaf ears though. We’re not talking about a campaign that is known for accountability, and more importantly, focusing on Putin and foreign policy is a great way to distract from the fact that Clinton has no plan for America. The best reason to vote for her is that she is not Trump, period.

 

Dispatches from a Trump presidency

October 2018

WASHINGTON D.C.- Just halfway into his first term, president Trump is struggling to explain away dozens of broken campaign promises while the nation’s economy suffers continuous blows and its infrastructure continues to crumble. Just two weeks ago, another road bridge in Ohio collapsed. State officials blame the disaster on local politicians who ignored numerous warnings about the state of the bridge, but some veteran pundits in D.C. have another explanation- the Russian connection.

“It’s painfully obvious who’s behind all this,” said journalist Abbey Appleton.

“Vladimir Putin has been waging hybrid warfare against America for years. He got his puppet Trump into the White House. Now he’s using the fifth column in this country to destroy infrastructure like our roads and that bridge in Ohio.”

Appleton is one among several well-known pundits and think tank academics who have found Russian president Vladimir Putin to be behind a number of social ills in the US. But most of all they say, is president Trump.

“In 2016, Hillary ran a flawless campaign,” said Jason Keller, another beltway pundit who sees Putin as the root of Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

“She talked about foreign policy, free trade, the need to maintain strong multilateral relations with our traditional allies abroad- all things that resonate deeply with middle America. Since she had no actual flaws, how else can you explain her loss but by the intervention of Putin?”

Keller went on to explain how he believes Trump is actually working for the Kremlin.

“No other presidential candidate has had closer ties to Moscow since Henry Wallace,” Keller declared.

Keller refused to answer any questions as to the vast ideological differences between Wallace, Trump, the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia, dismissing them as trivial. When asked what he thought about Wallace’s progressive stance on civil rights, he said that this too had been an example of KGB active measures.

“You have to understand that just as the Kremlin is using Black Lives Matter to do its bidding today, they were using the so-called civil rights movement back in the 1960’s. Not only have I found a wealth of primary sources linking the civil rights movement to Communism, but I also looked at surveys of whites in pre-1964 America and a large number of them said they didn’t see any problems with racism or discrimination at all. Are you seriously going to tell me that whites would be racist and not know it?”

Keller similarly dismissed challenges that his “primary sources” came from racist organizations.

“Nonsense. We all know Russia is behind the far right. Always has been,” he said.

But while most of the pundits who see the Kremlin’s hand behind the nation’s woes tend to be anti-Trump, the struggling president does have his supporters, like Republican representative Richard Wagland of Alabama. According to him, Putin may be behind all of America’s problems, but Trump is actually trying to do something about it.

“It’s no wonder Trump might have seemed friendly to Putin during the campaign,” he explained.

“What you have to realize is that our country has been occupied by Russia since Putin came to power in 2000. They have been writing our laws since then. That’s why, for example, we have RT America in D.C. Trump, now that he’s in power, is trying to turn the tide, but we have to help him as he starts to fight back against Putin and Russia.”

According to Wagland, the solution lies in grassroots activism.

“I have created an organization I call the ‘National Liberation Movement’ to support our president and free us from the Russian yoke. Our young activists seek out anti-American activity wherever they find it.”

Critics of Wagland’s movement say it is little more than a “gang of thugs,” citing a recent egg-throwing incident at a performance of The Nutcracker suite by Tchaikovsky last Christmas season. Wagland, however, refused to condemn the actions of his movement.

“I realize things can get out of hand sometimes, but these young activists have a very simple demand- freedom from Russian occupation. What does it say when at Christmas, our most cherished national holiday, a theater puts on a performance of Russian music instead of something American? I can understand why some people might lose their temper.”

It’s not clear exactly where the accusations against Putin will end any time in the near future. Having already named Putin the culprit behind America’s crumbling infrastructure, Appleton is currently working on a new piece which details the alleged Kremlin connection to America’s mass shooting phenomenon.

“Mental illness? Poor gun control laws? Nonsense,” Appleton says.

“This has hybrid warfare written all over it. These spree shooters are Putin’s little green men in America.”

 

STOP…DOING…THIS…NOW!

On numerous occasions I have written about why connecting Trump to Putin is not only a stupid idea, but one which ultimately benefits both Trump and the Russian propaganda machine. Apart from the fact that Trump and Putin couldn’t possibly “get along” if the former were elected (perish the thought),this strategy seems to have been tried with Brexit and look how that worked out. And despite the fact that I’m by no means the only person pointing this out, it appears that the Chicken Littles are doubling down on the Trump-as-agent-of-Putin angle. So much so that now Trump is Putin.

If you’re looking for a sane voice debunking that particular article, I would recommend this one. I am not looking to debunk this idiotic theory anymore, because doing so doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact. Instead, I’m going to do something that many of these pundits are incapable of doing- empathizing with the sort of people who might be swayed by Trump and Russian propaganda. See, I know how the world looks through the eyes of a Kremlin supporter duped by propaganda and living in America because…well…over a decade ago I was one.

Before I can go on to explain the way many of these people see the world I must point out a key difference between them and myself back then. I was “self-radicalized” in the era before RT. You couldn’t really be passively exposed to Russian propaganda back then. This distinction is crucial because I had a personal interest in Russia pre-dating the Putin administration whereas much of the Kremlin’s target foreign audience today knows nothing about Russia and doesn’t care to know. As such, any focus on Russia is lost on them. These people are concerned about domestic issues.

That out of the way, let me tell you how your average populist responds to hysterical wailing about Trump being friendly with Putin. In the fantasy world inhabited by many pundits, people are supposed to read about these real or imagined (or distorted) connections and think: “What’s that? Trump is friendly towards Vladimir Putin?! Well that’s it! Hillary’s got my vote now!” In real life the reaction is something more like: “Well this Putin guy must be pretty good if the politicians I hate seem so upset about him and he likes Trump.”

From the other side of the pond, the goal of Russian propaganda has long been about promoting Russia’s image as some kind of alternative to the “globalized, neoliberal order,” the “establishment.” It really doesn’t matter what your political ideology is. Many neo-Nazis are convinced that Putin is fighting against the “Jewish-controlled New World Order.” Leftists are duped into believing that Putin represents an alternative to free-market “neoliberal” economics and the austerity that followed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Whatever you see as “the establishment,” Russia wants to portray itself as the exact opposite of that. That this image is total bullshit is really irrelevant. Only a tiny portion of this audience will ever actually visit Russia and it is unlikely they’ll discover the truth from their trip thanks to the language barrier and expat privilege.

Trump is playing a similar game, and it’s amazing that the punditry still hasn’t figured it out yet. This is the same thing teenagers do when they’re rebelling against teachers or their own parents. Whatever shocks the adults the most is “cool.” In Trump’s case, he’s been playing this game against two sides. First you have the Obama administration and his opponent, Hillary. On the other side he’s been waging war against the stagnant, traditional side of his own party. If you look at the policies of all these sides, it isn’t hard to understand where Trump’s Russia strategy is coming from.

For an example let us go back to the election of 2012. Remember when Obama got caught on mic telling then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev about how he could be more flexible after the election? Here you can see how GOP candidate Romney played it in a debate:

 

From a traditional conservative standpoint it was a perfect gaffe on Obama’s part. It goes with their line about how Democrats are weaklings who are willing to submit to other countries, including our “enemies.” But Trump, of course, is not a traditional conservative. He’s a populist who’s after a rising number of people who are conservative but who grew weary of the Bush doctrine and its aftermath. At the same time, occasionally spitting out anti-war rhetoric (when he’s not talking about slaughtering terrorists’ families) ingratiates him with a large but politically illiterate radical anti-war movement. And again, virtually none of these people give a shit about Russia.

Thus when pro-Hillary pundits start screaming “Putin! Putin! Russia!” it sounds like they are advocating a new Cold War. Russian propaganda seizes on this and portrays Hillary and anyone who opposes the Kremlin’s regional imperialism as “neocons” out of the Bush era. This just makes their candidate look even more distasteful, more establishment.

The fact is that there are plenty of reasons to hate and revile Trump. There are plenty of reasons why people who currently support him really ought to think twice about the consequences of their actions. Idiotically labeling Trump an agent of Putin isn’t going to sway any of those people. Why not focus on the issue at hand, which is America?

Trump is a candidate who is literally making open racism and neo-Nazism publicly acceptable. Just a few years ago no political candidate would want to have even the most tenuous link to anti-Semites or far right figures. Now we have a candidate who refuses to speak out against any of the numerous open racists supporting him; on the contrary, he often re-tweets their messages. Meanwhile online it seems that people have forgotten why Nazism was evil in the first place. On several occasions critics of Trump who have Jewish heritage have found themselves the target of mass harassment campaigns involving Holocaust-themed imagery. As polarized as the country was during the last Bush administration, such a thing seems unthinkable in those years.

Another issue that ought to get far more attention than Trump’s contrived Russia links is the rise of what some have dubbed “post-fact” society. Vox fact-checked Trump’s recent speech and as it would turn out, he actually managed to get a few things correct. It’s worth reading just to see what he was right on, because some of those points help explain Trump’s success and Hillary’s obstacles. But while Trump’s speech was more distortions than outright lies, the orange man has been pulling claims straight out of his ass since the beginning of his campaign. There is a serious problem with out society when a person can make up something that never happened, have their claim thoroughly debunked beyond any shadow of a doubt, and yet people are still willing to support him, fanatically even. When objective reality no longer matters, things get bad. That’s how you get ISIS. I’d say that’s how you get Nazi Germany, but this is the internet in 2016 and I’m afraid there are too many people out there who would need me to explain in painstaking detail why that’s bad.

These are just two of the major dangers of the Trump campaign- that he is causing division and discord in America and that he is waging a war on objective reality itself. Our media would do well to focus on these subjects instead of casting Trump as the Manchurian candidate of a county and leader most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about.

Connecting the dots

Things haven’t been going well for the alarmist defenders of the status quo lately. The brilliant strategy of linking Putin to Brexit failed, while Brexit itself succeeded (assuming you can call that success). The dictators of Turkey and Russia appear to be embracing each other once again after that little lovers’ quarrel last year. Hillary’s lead over Trump is far from comfortable. As such, it looks like some of the pundits are starting to despair. At least that’s the feeling you get from this Edward Lucas article.

To his credit, he doesn’t pin any of this on Putin, unlike some other pundits who apparently haven’t learned how Russian propaganda works (PROTIP: Claims that make Putin look like an omnipotent strategist only help his image). But there are two passages that raise an eyebrow.

First there’s this:

“The West’s values of rule of law, democracy and capitalism form the best combination of political and economic arrangements the world has ever seen. So we don’t need “sovereign democracy” because our own system works fine. Nor do we need a “new European security architecture” (code for giving Russia the right to meddle in its neighbors’ affairs) because the existing setup—based on the Paris Charter and the OSCE—works perfectly well.”

Now my reaction there was that in spite of the Western system’s clear accomplishments, it is far from “fine” for most of the world’s population. Oddly enough, Lucas goes on to acknowledge this from another angle:

“This argument can sound complacent, but it is in fact the opposite. We assume that things go wrong in our system. The issue is how we deal with them when they do. The Western system, in essence, is a means for settling disputes peacefully and fairly—in elections, in courts, or by negotiation.”

Then there’s this:

“This argument can sound complacent, but it is in fact the opposite. We assume that things go wrong in our system. The issue is how we deal with them when they do. The Western system, in essence, is a means for settling disputes peacefully and fairly—in elections, in courts, or by negotiation.”

Followed by this admission:

“But the foundations of that system are under strain. We don’t have an answer to mass migration. We don’t know how to deal with terrorism. We don’t have an answer to politicians such as Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who uses a democratic mandate to crush opposition. Our economies are doing an increasingly bad job in distributing the fruits of prosperity.”

Now having read all that, I’m surprised that Lucas doesn’t connect the dots and realize that these symptoms exist because there is something wrong with the liberal system, and in fact things like Putinist Russia and authoritarian Turkey are just two more examples of by-products. Can he really believe that it’s just an accident that this system, that supposedly allows everyone to settle everything via peaceful means, is simply “doing an increasingly bad job in distributing the fruits of prosperity?” Here’s a hint- take a look at who “picks” that fruit and then who has been getting an increasing share.

The truth is that the Western liberal system is failing because at its core, it really isn’t about human rights, prosperity for all, or justice. That half of the equation the Kremlin-fans actually get right on some level. Liberalism began as the philosophy of a rising European middle class- the bourgeoisie. The liberty and equality they originally sought was to be limited to themselves- property owners. Liberalism had to be “tamed,” so to speak, over centuries by radicals- those who insisted that equality and liberty should be enjoyed by all instead of a privileged few.

While Lucas is correct that countries like Russia and China offer no decent alternative to his “Western” system, and indeed they are much worse, the fact remains that we do need an alternative. Humankind simply cannot go on inhabiting this planet if it is unable to master the use of our finite resources and peaceably solve the conflicts that plague us. We cannot fully solve these problems within the confines of a system which relies on capitalists’ profit motives to address them. Tech billionaires and venture capitalists aren’t going to save us.

We must eventually evolve to the point where the idea of people suffering from malnutrition or being homeless when there is a surplus of housing and food seems as immoral as child marriage. We must come to see that forcing people by virtue of birth to work for such low wages that they are spending years if not decades of their lives just trying to stave off destitution is a modern form of slavery. In short, our system is great; I will not deny Western liberal capitalism any credit it has rightly earned. But civilization can do better. Humankind must do better.

Absent a movement dedicated to this purpose, cynicism and moral relativism spread. That’s where the less savory players of the capitalist world worm their way into people’s minds. Like maggots, they prefer to feed on a rotting corpse. So a question remains. How long will leaders of NATO countries take to realize that the most powerful weapon they have against such regimes isn’t in any of their arsenals- it’s their societies? And if they fail to realize this and do not change for the better, then we’d better hope there are enough good-minded, morally upright people left in these societies to fight for a real alternative.