The outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, the way it’s turning out, and the outraged but limited US/NATO response, are only a surprise to those who haven’t been paying attention to the fundamental changes already underway for some time.
Even though the US spends more on its military than anyone else the performance of this so-called “finest fighting force in the worlds history” leaves much to be desired, thanks to the military/industrial/complex’s desire for profits over effectiveness. Russia by dint of steadily rebuilding its real economy after the US sponsored and profited from the plutocratic looting of the 1990s, has not only achieved a decent standard of living for most citizens, but has built a advanced, first-rate military for a fraction of what ours cost. Russia also has the perspective of being invaded and suffering 20 million casualties in WWII, a fact that most Americans are oblivious of in this United Staes of Amnesia.
However, the US continues to act as though it’s economically and militarily superior, and to tries to coerce nations on which they are economically dependent (China), as well as fighting a proxy war against a nation which has more combat capability than they have. For instance, Russia beat us in Syria and is on their way to defeating us in the proxy war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the US has lost all of its wars in the Middle East, unless you define nation breaking as victory. The fact that India, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Global South have all ignored America’s demands for support in the Ukraine conflict despite considerable arm-twisting speaks volumes (even backed up by threats to emissaries in the US along the lines of: “We know where your kids go to school in the US. We know where you have your bank accounts”.)
All of this is organized by the so-called “smartest guys in the room”, most of whom went to Harvard or Yale, etc. So what does that say about the state of our advanced education complex? Unfortunately, states and elites do not make a fresh calculation every time they are confronted with alternatives; they tend to do what they did last time, or what they always do–which is to focus on next quarter bonuses.
But we’re at a point where the US empire is increasingly unable to cope, and is facing a cascade of disasters. One of the major problems is that the American political class completely buys its own false narrative of US economic and military power exceptionalism and is not dealing well with the cognitive dissonances which manifest themselves with increasing frequency, proving its exceptionalism narrative wrong in a most dramatic way. The reality of the US’s loss of military superiority is slow to dawn on most American policy makers who, for the most part, lack the necessary education and awareness for grasping the unfolding geo-strategic reality where Russian, and Chinese weapon development has dramatically downgraded the always inflated US military capabilities and put a serious hitch in American self-declared hegemony.
As for the corporate media, may they rot in hell for the lies and misinformation that they have been flogging. If one were to go by the laughable assessments of western think-tank propagandists and their dutiful lackeys in the media, “Ukraine is winning” and “the inept Russian military has been humiliated”.
But more discerning observers around the world know better.
In a sense, the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is a test to destruction of both US/NATO and the EU, and the wider, western-dominated multilateral system they are both part of. NATO, in particular, has just been confronted by exactly the kind of situation that it was founded for–to deter the exercise of Russian military power–and it did effectively nothing. No amount of hand-waving, no amount of sanctions or arms deliveries, can change that fact, which in turn changes everything. NATO and the EU can prolong the war, cause more suffering, and destroy many economies, including their own. But they can’t fundamentally affect the result, and the nature of their responses, beneath the surface posturing, demonstrates that they know this.
Ultimately, a country’s ability to wage war is base on its industrial and manufacturing prowess. Too bad our feral elite packed up our industrial base and shipped it off to China all to decimate labor and empower capital. Brilliant work, one and all.
There is another new normal now: Europe in which Russia is the largest military power, and where the West as a whole is dependent on Russia, China and India for its economic prosperity. This is not new, of course, but it’s a shame that it hasn’t dawned on policy makers before. In theory, that could be remedied with massive programs of investment, construction and training, with wartime levels of military mobilization and the return of conscription, as well as the reintroduction of import controls, tariff barriers and other bygones of the pre-neoliberal past. In theory. Even if we do all that–a dubious proposition–the US will never again be in a position of military and economic dominance.
For our feral elite all of this a non-starter. They cling to a world where the US is the lone super-power taking out the bad guys and upholding the “rules based liberal order”. The new Top Gun movie perfectly encapsulates this nostalgia for the “end of history” moment that existed after the dissolution of the USSR. In reality, the movie is a propaganda extravaganza to rehabilitate the US military’s image in the wake of numerous failed wars.
I believe that the American people are generally decent. They genuinely want to help the less fortunate or the beleaguered. But, during the last 75 years, American elite policy makers cynically have used this trait to convince the public to back expeditionary wars that killed millions of civilians. All of this bloodshed was done under the banner of promoting freedom and democracy. Of course, these foreign interventions were bolstered by massive amounts of propaganda.
Today’s changes in military technology, economics and in international politics are tectonic and revolutionary. US elites are in a state of delusion, clinging on to the shadow of the past and denying changing reality. They had better get used to this new normal. It’s not going away any time soon.
Update: Uber intelligence-analyst Alastair Crooke makes the wider connection. “The West, in its cavalier manner, entered upon war with the Russia-China axis, without due care. It expected easy ‘wins’ with sanctions imploding the Russian economy, and with military urban-war tactics borrowed from Syria, bleeding out the Russian army. Instead, it is turning-out to be a monumental débacle. More than that, its multiple failures and insultingly-cocksure propaganda are proving a breakpoint, ushering-in a new era rather than nailing down the old order, as the West had hoped.”