In hindsight, a good teacher can positively affect your life years into the future. When I was a teenager attending a private school in the 1970s, I took a course on Russian history. I remember my teacher well all these years later, but I also remember some of what he taught. Americans think of themselves as the principal cause of the defeat of Nazi Germany, but Russia lost tens of millions of lives defending against her invasion. And my teacher told me that a way to understand the existence of the Eastern Bloc, especially the partitioning of Germany was that Russia decided it would never be invaded at such great human cost by Germany and its allies ever again; if paranoid, there was a reason for the paranoia and the decision was less about Russia expanding and taking territory, which the nation didn’t need, but creating a buffer zone against possible incursion, hence also the partition of Germany so that she could never again become a mortal threat. I also recall his stating that Stalin couldn’t inspire the people to fight and die for Soviet ideals; instead, he returned to historical themes of saving the Fatherland, their homes, their nation from destruction and enslavement by a foreign enemy.
I mention my personal experience because I was reminded of what I learned so long ago in a new book, currently available on Amazon Kindle and in paper by Andrey Martyanov, entitled Losing Military Supremacy The Myopia of American Strategic Planning. Yet the title, although in fact the heart of book, doesn’t do the book justice because for interested Americans Martyanov explains the very different cultures, American and Russian. If “culture” is not a precise word, one should say that both Russia and America have unique experiences and the experiences of America today put her in great jeopardy. Let me quote an excerpt from the book that makes this point better than I can:
While speaking to the US military at Fort Bragg after the official conclusion of US operations in Iraq in 2011, in what can only be described as an acute case of myopia and ignorance, President Obama doubled down on a his dubious “finest fighting force in history” claim, assuring all that “we know too well the heavy cost of that war.” Here was the problem: America doesn’t. With the exception of those who fought and died or were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and their immediate families, America, as it was with every American foreign war, never knew the real costs. Even as bodies of American GIs started to arrive in coffins into the US from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans continued, as if nothing really happened, to go to work, buy lattes at espresso stands, sell and buy cars, go on vacations, travel around the world and pay their mortgages. Normal life went on as if nothing of significance happened. The very phenomenon which was responsible for the United States emergence as a superpower—war, WWII in particular—was never a factor which had a real impact on the nation and created no real inhibitors in the political elites to their often ignorant, boastful and aggressive rhetoric nor created a necessity to study the subject, which was foundational to American prosperity and success after WWII. This still hasn’t been done.
The outcomes, in full accordance to Clausewitz’ dictum that “it is legitimate to judge an event by its outcome for it is the soundest criterion,” have accumulated today into a body of overwhelming empirical evidence of a serious and dangerous dysfunction within America’s decision making process. From the debacle in Iraq, to the lost war in Afghanistan, to inspiring a slaughterhouse in Syria, to unleashing, with the help of its NATO Allies, a conflict in Libya, to finally fomenting a coup and a war in Ukraine—all of that is a disastrous record of geopolitical, diplomatic, military and intelligence incompetence and speaks to the failure of American political, military, intelligence and academic institutions. Moreover, the spectacular failure of several US Administrations and the US “experts” who supposedly know Russia, to build normal working relations, and, ironically, their even greater failure in sabotaging those relations and Russia herself, are a clear indication of an almost complete ignorance of real Russian history and culture among people who are responsible for an increasingly irrational US foreign policy. This failure is more than spectacular—it is spectacularly dangerous. This book addresses some of the reasons for America’s sad and dangerous state today. The pivot of this book is war and power and how these two have been abused and misinterpreted by the American political and military class. Importantly, it is viewed against the background of Russian-American relations and how Russia, the only country in the world which can militarily defeat the United States conventionally, has been reduced to a caricature by the American “Russian Studies” field, so much so that today it makes any meaningful dialogue between Russia and America’s politicians virtually impossible. It is also impossible because of a dramatic difference in cultural attitudes towards war, a gap which policymakers should at least attempt to narrow.
What Martyanov also describes in depth is the mindset and experience of the Russian people, which I also described in an earlier piece, a people who have known war and the intense suffering that war causes. America has been fortunate never to have faced war and its catastrophic devastation and mass death—so far—on its own soil.
In addition to the writing this book, Martyanov also blogs on this site: Reminiscence of the Future. He recently provided an excerpt from his forthcoming book discussing the “Thucydides Trap” pertaining to China but I believe also might be relevant to America’s perception of Russia:
But while there are few more-or-less competent and influential people who speak about [the] fallacy of Allison’s Trap, one has to point out a simple fact that the Thucydides Trap of sorts is known to mankind since the very dawn of human civilization, way before Ancient Greece, and it was observed in [the] animal world, in which aging leaders of a herd are challenged by younger and more ambitious competitors. It was and is also observed in human world all the time, enough to consider sports whose very premise is built on challenging the status quo, be that boxing, track and field or soccer. In general, Allison’s Thucydides Trap is known to humanity as competition and not all competitions end up in wars. This is not to mention the fact that Athens, Sparta and Thucydides himself did not operate with the knowledge of nuclear weapons, net-centric warfare, stand-off high-precision weapons and combined arms operation, which even in purely conventional form can paralyze and defeat [the] modern nation-state, or can cause human losses on [an] unimaginable scale. These factors are the ones which must change any kind of generalizations related to military and war. This brings us to more important issue—historical parallels.
Drawing historical parallels is an extremely dangerous business wrought with huge risks of miscalculation and learning [the] wrong lessons. History, certainly, does provide some valuable lessons but at this stage the whole term history, as it was understood even fairly recently, does not reflect an immense complexity of human development and activity for the last roughly hundred years and those developments cannot be described anymore within [a] traditional framework because more and more causalities are being affected not just by human nature but by technology attached to it. Technology becomes increasingly complex and thus remains beyond the grasp of many humanities educated historians who lack [the] cognitive apparatus for understanding and describing it and technology’s effect on the events. Modern war is highly technological. What used to be [a] few tactical and operational factors to be considered by a military leader such as Napoleon, Kutuzov or Grant, today becomes a vast and complex set of variables needed to be considered by leaders while making a decision. There is a reason why contemporary military leaders have very strong backgrounds in fundamental sciences and many of them have serious engineering backgrounds.
While general principles of warfare and what is called strategy since the times of Clausewitz remained largely static and generally similar for many modern armies, the approach to application of those principles grew in complexity exponentially.[vii] In times of muskets and linear tactics, an officer commanding a company or battalion would have had little trouble understanding a general plan on the battle or even campaign. Today, such understanding requires long years of highly specialized education and very serious background in military technology. Without this background there is no serious understanding of modern warfare—it is simply a hard fact of life. This is where drawing historical parallels becomes a very dangerous business. Many even non-military people understand this danger and, in fact, some even reflected this danger in the modern art.
A 1980 sci-fi Hollywood flick The Final Countdown, with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen starring in it, is an excellent example of such an awareness. While [the] movie deals with the possible time paradox when nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is transported, due to a freaky storm, from 1980 to December 7, 1941, few hours before Japanese aviation attack on Pearl-Harbor, [the] historic ramifications of such an event become clear immediately. Even the most unsophisticated observer could easily arrive to the idea, without understanding even basic technological principles, that a single US Navy’s nuclear aircraft carrier and its air wing which included F-14 Tomcat fighters would have very little difficulty with destroying 360 Japanese piston aircraft due to modern American carrier advanced electronic sensors and overwhelming advantage modern jet aircraft had over 1930s-designed combat planes in speed, maneuverability and weapons. It came down to a complete tactical, operational and technological mismatch, even if portrayed in a fictional setting.
I will be the first to admit that I lack Martyanov’s expertise in military history, mathematics, and capabilities of modern weaponry. However, I would like to point out that Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins propounds a different reason for the origins and escalation of the war as noted by reviewer Dennis Showalter, Professor of History at Colorado College: “This provocative and persuasive analysis of the Peloponnesian War’s first ten years shifts focus from the ‘realist’ aspects of the conflict’s causes and conduct. Lendon stresses instead the centrality of honor, tîmê, manifested by reciprocal acts of destruction and revenge. Humiliation, not conquest, was the primary war aim—an aim so vague it made expanding the war easier than making peace.” This thesis is discussed on an excellent John Batchelor program where he interviews the author. My contention is that the current American initiated conflict with Russia does indeed have aspects that reflect this thesis, thus the centrality of tîmê to the situation, that is not treating Russia with respect and considering her interests, notwithstanding America’s and the United Kingdom’s military and political and financial elites’ ignorance (including of the capabilities of Russian military hardware and the nature of modern warfare). And this drive for dominance by principally the Neoconservatives who control American Foreign policy makes the potential for military confrontation more likely, despite the potentially dire consequences.
I write this in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent address to the nation. While America and the West, as usual, portray Russia as the aggressor, this translation by Gilbert Doctorow shows that Putin seeks that America treat Russia with respect and that it has not acted honorably but spread falsehoods; some of these concerns are in the below excerpt in which he addresses Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the INF Treaty:
In closing out the subject of the unilateral withdrawal of the USA from the INF Treaty, I would like to say the following. In the past few years, the USA has been conducting towards Russia a policy which one could hardly call friendly. They ignore the lawful interests of Russia. They are constantly organizing various kinds of anti-Russian campaigns which are absolutely unprovoked, and I emphasize this, from our side. They introduce more and more new sanctions which are illegal from the standpoint of international law. They are dismantling unilaterally practically all the treaties and legal basis of international security that developed over recent decades, and at the same time they just about call Russia the main threat to the USA.
I will say directly that this is untrue. Russia wants to have full-bodied, equitable and friendly relations with the USA. Russia is not threatening anyone. All of our actions in the sphere of security bear an exclusively reactive, meaning defensive character. We are not interested in a confrontation and do not want it, least of all with such a global power as the United States of America. But it would appear that our partners are not noticing how and with what speed the world is changing, where it is headed. They continue their destructive and clearly erroneous policy. It hardly corresponds to the interests of the USA itself. But that is not for us to decide.
We see that we are dealing with business-like, very talented people. However, among the ruling class there are many of those who are excessively captivated by the idea of their exceptionalism and their superiority over the rest of the world. It stands to reason that they have the right to think so if they wish. But do they know how to count? Surely they do. Let them calculate the range and speed of our upcoming weapons systems. We only ask one thing: let them first do their calculations, and only after that take decisions which can create serious threats for our country, understandably leading to actions in response from the Russian side to reliably ensure our security.
Moreover, I already spoke about this and want to repeat it: we are ready for negotiations on disarmament, but we will no longer knock at a closed door. We will wait until our partners mature, come to understand the need for equitable dialogue on this subject.
An excerpt of Putin’s speech with English subtitles can be viewed here. This recent video from Russia’s Vesti News also explains Russia’s position and how Washington was the one to violate the INF Treaty: Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Address Was Sternest in Years! Russia Done “Knocking on Closed Doors!”
However, I am concerned that the faceless ruling classes of the West, whose servants are the political class like Bolton, are quite unhinged and incapable of rational thinking; see this report of this New Year’s Eve event. The propaganda arm of the elites, Hollywood, has made a fetish of Apocalyptic films that have continued unabated over the years. Would they relish a nuclear exchange that they think they can manage? Southfront investigated who owns the Military-Industrial complex, which appears to be investment funds that own each other. We don’t know who or what the real power in the shadows is. But as Professor Stephen Cohen writes in his book, War with Russia:
The title is a warning—akin to what the late Gore Vidal termed “a journalistic alert-system”—not a prediction. Hence the question mark. I cannot foresee the future. The book’s overarching theme is informed by past and current facts, not by any political agenda, ideological commitment, or magical prescience.
To restate that theme: The new US-Russian Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor, which the world survived. The chances are even greater, as I hope readers already understand, that this one could result, inadvertently or intentionally, in actual war between the two nuclear superpowers. Herein lies another ominous indication. During the preceding Cold War, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe was in the forefront of American mainstream political and media discussion, and of policy-making. During the new one, it rarely seems to be even a concern.
If minority rights and opinions are center stage in the legacy media, let them consider a new minority; the minority that believes there is nothing to be gained by war with Russia (or China, for that matter) and everything to lose. Let them realize that the patriots are the ones wanting to spare their nation the evils of war. I see no other alternative. A spiritual renewal does not appear in the offing; quite the contrary. And time is growing short. Yes, we should follow the work and writings of Professor Cohen, The Saker and Andrei Martyanov. But we should also make our voices heard. After all, our rulers number only in the thousands. But time is growing short.
In any event, our illiterate “elites” forget the salient point Tom Holland made regarding hubris: where there is hubris, Nemesis is not far behind. And not only Chris Hedges’ but I think if we were to confess honestly our own observations of our surroundings—at least those of us not in gated communities—we see that she is just beginning.
Links for future reference:
https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/ (Orlov’s Blog)
http://thesaker.is/ (The Saker’s site)
https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/ (Martyanov’s Blog)
https://eastwestaccord.com/ (Professor Cohen’s site)