Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Politics & War

A post by Steve Waldman -- Peace as war by other means -- reminds me of a recent post by Big Serge: Politics By Other Means - Putin and Clausewitz.  I highly recommend that post in its entirety.  It is a tour de force, in my opinion.  Both the Waldman and Big Serge posts zoom out to look at the long term interests for the two sides in the current war.  Both recognize that “War is the mere continuation of politics by other means", as Clausewitz wrote.  

The Waldman post suggests that we move from war back to non-violent politics.  Russia and Ukraine have legitimate differences which can't be papered over.  Since war is often lose-lose, it would make sense for the two countries to compete for hearts and minds in the political and economic arenas.  May the best country win, but not at the expense of tens of thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians.

Big Serge, on the other hand, sees that Russia has the laid the groundwork for victory in an existential battle with the West.  Russia has been losing politically for years or decades, and Russian leadership came to the conclusion that its very existence as an independent culture was at stake given the political trends and the positioning of the Western military.  The Russian leadership therefore consciously chose to go to war in Ukraine in order to turn the political tide.  The current war will be win-lose, and Russia will win in that their political objective of stopping Western encroachment will be achieved.

If Big Serge is right, and I think he is, then Russia would be foolish to enter into a negotiated ceasefire at the present time, as long as Ukraine remains militarized by NATO.  Better to press the military advantage and drive NATO out of Ukraine.  Politically, this will be an obvious loss for the West.  The West will have to recognize Russian sovereignty and respect its hegemonic influence in neighboring countries.  

So, in my opinion, Waldman's proposal would be good for the West but not for Russia.  Yet, there seems to be little chance that the West will negotiate in the near future (as documented extensively by Aaron Mate).  The West is unable and/or unwilling to see that negotiations such as Waldman proposes would be in its own best interests.  This points to deeper problems in Western societies.

War is indeed politics by other (violent) means.  The West is engaged in a proxy war.  Russia is engaged in an existential war.  As Big Serge puts it:

Putin and those around him conceived of the Russo-Ukrainian War in existential terms from the very beginning. It is unlikely, however, that most Russians understood this. Instead, they likely viewed the war the same way Americans viewed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - as justified military enterprises that were nevertheless merely a technocratic task for the professional military; hardly a matter of life and death for the nation…

What has happened in the months since February 24 is rather remarkable. The existential war for the Russian nation has been incarnated and made real for Russian citizens. Sanctions and anti-Russian propaganda - demonizing the entire nation as “orcs” - has rallied even initially skeptical Russians behind the war, and Putin’s approval rating has soared. A core western assumption, that Russians would turn on the government, has reversed. Videos showing the torture of Russian POWs by frothing Ukrainians, of Ukrainian soldiers calling Russian mothers to mockingly tell them their sons are dead, of Russian children killed by shelling in Donetsk, have served to validate Putin’s implicit claim that Ukraine is a demon possessed state that must be exorcised with high explosives. Amidst all of this - helpfully, from the perspective of Alexander Dugin and his neophytes - American pseudo-intellectual “Blue Checks” have publicly drooled over the prospect of “decolonizing and demilitarizing” Russia, which plainly entails the dismemberment of the Russian state and the partitioning of its territory. The government of Ukraine (in now deleted tweets) publicly claimed that Russians are prone to barbarism because they are a mongrel race with Asiatic blood mixing.

Simultaneously, Putin has moved towards - and ultimately achieved - his project of formal annexation of Ukraine’s old eastern rim. This has also legally transformed the war into an existential struggle. Further Ukrainian advances in the east are now, in the eyes of the Russian state, an assault on sovereign Russian territory and an attempt to destroy the integrity of the Russian state. Recent polling shows that a supermajority of Russians support defending these new territories at any cost.

All domains now align. Putin and company conceived of this war from the beginning as an existential struggle for Russia, to eject an anti-Russian puppet state from its doorstep and defeat a hostile incursion into Russian civilizational space. Public opinion is now increasingly in agreement with this (surveys show that Russian distrust of NATO and “western values” have skyrocketed), and the legal framework post-annexation recognizes this as well. The ideological, political, and legal domains are now united in the view that Russia is fighting for its very existence in Ukraine…

All that remains is the implementation of this consensus in the material world of fist and boot, bullet and shell, blood and iron.

The deeper problem in Western society is that we do not understand what we are up against and why.  We have been blinded by propaganda and even valiant attempts to light the way such as this by Steve Waldman may be seen as outrageous (although there are many disclaimers here blaming Russia as being solely at fault).  We the people of the West need to expand our horizons, in my opinion.  The future for our children's children's children depends on us coming to terms with political reality.  We need to end the hot war in Ukraine and the new Cold War by recognizing the limits to the projection of our military power, and by embraciing and strengthening international institutions with the potential to solve conflicts peacefullly and limit arms races.


Peter Pan said...

The war in Ukraine was, and is, a humanitarian effort on the part of Russia.

The only existential threat to Russia is from the US/NATO nuclear arsenal. The doctrine of MAD keeps that threat in check. We all face the threat of nuclear annihilation.

If there is a threat to Russian culture, the option is to self-isolate from the rest of the world, if not the world economy.

What this article demonstrates is that Russians are as susceptible to believing in bullshit narratives, as are Americans.

Tom Hickey said...

MAD keeps that threat in check


Peter Pan said...

If you are a Russian military planner, you realize that M.A.D is no longer a reality. In the event that Russia believed it faced a genuine existential threat from the West from a nuclear strike, even a tactical hit, the Russian military could present President Putin with a viable plan that would destroy the U.S. nuclear response with limited (albeit horrific) damage to Russia. I am not suggesting that Russia would walk away unscathed. But Russia, with a field tested, integrated anti-ballistic missile defense system, would have a better than even chance of surviving a nuclear exchange with the United States.

More BS. A one-sided nuclear exchange at that scale would end civilization. It is doubtful humanity would survive an exchange between India and Pakistan.

NeilW said...

There will be no negotiation until the West drops the belief that Ukraine is winning.

Wars are won with bodies not machinery. Unless the West is prepared to commit bodies to the war in Ukraine then Russia will win due to the straightforward fact that Russia has more people that Ukraine.

The West doesn't have sufficient technological superiority in weaponry to overwhelm Russia in Ukraine, nor sufficient diplomatic skills to sway the local warlords in the disputed territories (a vital way war was fought in the past that has been lost, as Afghanistan demonstrated).

Matt Franko said...

“ War is indeed politics by other (violent) means.”

That’s why the Art degree left is overwhelmingly anti-war … it exposes the ultimate futility of their methodology…

Peter Pan said...

Quote of the near future:

"Nuclear weapons are safe and effective!"

Matt Franko said...

They’ve already said it or something like that “war is peace!“ “Stability creates instability!“ They’re all nuts

mike norman said...

Art degree morons are "anti-war?" Did you state that correctly?

Peter Pan said...

All those little Ukrainian flags aren't being worn by STEM graduates?