Thoughts on Russia and a Cold War revived.

For anyone whose memories of the Cold War are as dim as my own, it was shocking to behold the oligarchs’ fierce, and very successful, campaign to portray Russia’s “invasion” of Georgia as “unprovoked.” Unsurprising, perhaps since reducing all of world history to Munich 1938 has been their chief rhetorical instrument of warmongering since — well, since World War II. What the oligarchs want — what they so desperately need, with Bush’s war mangling their prestige and their power with every passing week — is a revival of the old Cold War. Not a feeble, deflated “war on terror” — a war that, by its very definition, is no war at all — but a perpetual enemy and a perpetual pretext for warmongering nationalism.

The citizenry, as always, is helplessly dependent on the sickly advice of its betters. Rick Shenkman, author of the recent “Just How Stupid Are We,” thinks this is all to the good: “…voters have proven time and again that they cannot fulfill their responsibilities acting on their own. They must be members of a mass group (political party, labor union, etc.). They need to take their cues from people who have 1. studied the issues and 2. can tell them which candidates will best look after their interests.” Leave the politics to the professionals, sayeth the professionals, and leave to us the task of running your imperial republic!

Who can fail to recognize, in the recent spate of books deploring the ignorance of our citizens and their patent inferiority to our wise and noble intelligentsia, a sinister plea for tyranny untrammeled and unchecked by pitiful “inefficient” democracy? Who can fail to recognize it as the grunting resentment of ideologues who long to run the economy themselves, free of interference? Who can fail to hear the echo of the Stalinist gangsters the ideologues so hypocritically pretend to despise?

Americans are not eager for war with Russia, do not even despise Russia — much to the ideologues’ indignation and the oligarchs’ frustration.

Glenn Greenwald is angry, but not surprised:

Since all of the major candidates accept the deceitful premise about what happened — that Russia’s “aggression” against Georgia was “unprovoked” — nobody refutes it, and Americans thus assume it is true. And: Americans are alone in this world in being lied to about what happened. Virtually the entire rest of the world — at least the rest of the world that is affected in some way by Russia and Georgia — has access to the truth. But here, not only is the lie not debunked, it’s not even discussed or debated (with some rare exceptions). The propaganda is just asserted to be true by the political establishment and thus accepted by most of the citizenry, and then becomes the unchallenged foundation of all sorts of dangerous, militaristic policy orthodoxies that nobody is free to dispute (upon pain of being ejected from the political mainstream).

Of course, the original Cold War was built on a lie as well — Truman’s astonishing assertion that “a breach of the peace anywhere in the world threatens the peace of the entire world,” and his determination to provoke Stalin at every turn. The Soviet Union, for all its crimes, was not aiming to rule the world in 1947 (just as Russia is not aiming to rule the world in 2008), and it wasn’t for nothing that Truman, in Sen. Arthur Vanderburg’s words, set out to “scare the hell out of the American people” in order to get his Cold War and his nationalized Imperial Republic.

Of course, Stalin was much worse than Truman — unimaginably worse. But we err if we imagine that Truman foisted on us the CIA, the National Security Act, NSC-68, and the war in Korea out of the goodness of his heart. He did it to crush a republic and flatten it forever beneath the iron rule of the oligarchs. And he was very successful, since no prominent public man dared challenge the Cold War for 20 years.

Walter Karp, as usual, tells us what every other historian won’t:

We are “the strongest nation on earth,” the new President boasted on Labor Day, 1945. Then why, Americans rightly wondered, was the strongest nation on earth simultaneously so weak and so vulnerable that it had to dominate the world just to be safe? Because “America must behave like the Number One World Power which she is,” replied Senator Arthur Vandenberg, foreign policy leader of the Republican Party, begging the question in the safety of his diary. “The position of the United States in world affairs,” noted a typical official statement, “is based on the premise that our security and welfare are intrinsically related to the general security and welfare, and upon an acceptance of the responsibility for leadership in world affairs which is called for by that premise.” Alas for “world leadership,” this kind of high-toned sophistry, reeking with dishonesty in every cant phrase, could neither move a people nor subdue a republic.

General George Marshall would speak of “the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country,” but the overwhelming majority of Americans, unenlightened by higher education, did not understand that “history” told their leaders what to do. “No sudden cultural maturation is to be anticipated in the United States,” lamented a political scientist named Gabriel Almond as late as 1950, “which would be proportionate to the gravity and power of its newly acquired international status.” The only thing Americans want to do, complained Averell Harriman, our ambassador to Moscow, is “go to the movies and drink Coke.”

“Bipartisan foreign policy is the ideal for the executive because you can’t run this damned country any other way…. Now the way to do that is to say politics stops at the seaboard-and anyone who denies that postulate is a son-of-a-bitch and a crook and not a true patriot. Now if people will swallow that then you’re off to the races.” Thus Dean Acheson, explaining how to muzzle a free-people and stifle their freedom.


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