In an interview with Germany’s always fairly balanced Bild, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO can and must react to cyber-attacks, including with conventional military weapons, and that the 28 NATO member states will likely declare the cyberspace as an operational war zone. This makes total sense and all that’s missing from the interview is the reassurance that we’ve always been at war with Eurasia. I could not resist a repost here of my April 2014 article titled,
We must urgently rearm to defeat the New New Hitler from the East!!!
Any day now, Russia’s President Putin will give orders to his troops to invade Ukraine, after which he’ll gobble up the Baltic states, then Poland and then Finland and who knows what else – unless, of course, we spend a lot more money on defence.
This statement is a caricature of the otherwise entirely serious campaign of warmongering hysteria and demonization that’s been saturating the Western media for weeks now.At times, the message is subtle and other times not so subtle, but the demonization seems effective. In discussing these issues, it is de rigeur for most western intellectuals to agree how Putin is a real bad fellow, the new Hitler even, although precious few can provide any concrete reasons why they know this to be so.
They get even more perplexed if you ask them what it is that makes our exalted leadership the good guys. Something like “our values,” comes up and the list tends to include things like democracy and free speech (and not much else), which Putin is systematically suppressing in Russia (and this we know because our truthful media tells us). The public in the west seems to be going with the propaganda, which is understandable – it’s easier than actually paying attention and thinking. And it’s comfy when we can all agree on whom to fear.
But let’s rewind the tape back to the summer of 2008 – most people don’t use that long a lookback period in expounding their geopolitical expertise. In that year, the Republic of Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, an independent region under Russia’s protection. The new Hitler Putin sent troops which pushed back Georgian forces after only 5 days of combat. In fact, Georgian army collapsed in disarray and Russian forces were able to quickly take control of four key Georgian cities (Poti, Gori, Senaki and Zugdidi).
Back then, there was also a lot of talk about how Moscow was going to take the whole country, has territorial pretentions, wants to rebuild the Soviet empire, bla, bla, bla… But within a few weeks’ time, Russian troops packed up and fully withdrew from Georgia. If Putin (who was the Prime Minister at the time) really was bent on reconquering the ex-Soviet republics for Russia, then why did he withdraw from Georgia after he practically plucked it clean? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that Putin is no Hitler, and that Russia under his leadership does not pose a threat to our cherished values as our own good leaders and media make her out to be.
Why might our exalted leaders and our most fairly balanced media outlets want to exaggerate the Russian threat? Why it’s for a good cause, of course. You see, we need to reignite economic growth and to get our economies back on their feet, we really need to boost our military spending – or any spending for that matter, but if you ask the military-industrial complex, military is always preferable. In the age of austerity, you can’t really ask folks to fork over more money for missiles and tanks at the same time as you’re closing down their post offices, schools and libraries, curtailing health care and other social services and raiding their pensions. But you might be able to do all that provided that there’s a sufficiently scary bogey man on the horizon against whom we must urgently unite, and arm ourselves even if it means adding more debt to already crushing levels of debt. It is our values that are in jeopardy, and that we can’t have.
A judicious dose of constructive demonization goes a long way to enable our leadership to achieve their worthy objectives. Demonization of “the other” helps mobilize the reluctant populace and awaken them from their placid stupor. Once they’re with the program, they will surrender their living standards and their children’s future cheerfully in order to defeat the great evil from the east. Hopefully some remilitarization will suffice to rejuvenate the western economies and set them back on the path of prosperity and consumption. But there is also the risk that escalating tensions land us in a hot war whose proportions and outcomes nobody can predict. What we can predict is that most of us by far will end up vastly worse off then we are today.
Consider this: last week, over a period of 48 hours, 4,000 refugees from Libya landed on the Italian shores. Libya used to be ruled by the bad guy Colonel Moamar Ghadaffi, but we took care of that for the Libyans and thanks to our very humanitarian intervention there, things are great in Libya now. People are crossing the Mediterranean in their thousands to come and thank us personally for their new-found freedom and democracy and to share with us in their new prosperity. The same outpouring of gratitude will likely spill out from Ukraine too, only in even larger numbers as there’s no Mediterranean to limit people’s movements. Leave it to the NATO and its enlightened leadership from across the Atlantic to take out all the bad guys and make the world a better place for all.