by Dmitry Orlov
Club Orlov (May 12 2015)
Last Saturday, a massive Victory Parade was held in Moscow commemorating the seventy-year anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Red Army and the erection of the Soviet flag atop the Reichstag in Berlin. There were a few unusual aspects to this parade, which I would like to point out, because they conflict with the western official propaganda narrative. First, it wasn’t just Russian troops that marched in the parade: the troops of ten other nations took part in it, including the Chinese honour guard and a contingent of Grenadiers from India. Dignitaries from these nations were present in the stands, and the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife were seated next to President Vladimir Putin, who, in his speech at the start of the parade, warned against attempts to create a unipolar world – sharp words aimed squarely at the United States and its western allies. Second, a look at the military hardware that rolled through Red Square or flew over it would indicate that, short of an outright nuclear mutual self-annihilation, there isn’t much that the US military could throw at Russia that Russia couldn’t neutralize.
It would appear that American attempts to isolate Russia have resulted in the exact opposite: if ten nations, among them the world’s largest economy, comprising some three billion people, are willing to set aside their differences and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Russians to counter American attempts at global dominance, then clearly the American plan isn’t going to work at all. Western media focused on the fact that western leaders declined to attend the celebration, either in a fit of pique or because so ordered by the Obama administration, but this only highlights their combined irrelevance, be it in defeating Hitler, or in commemorating his defeat seventy years later. Nevertheless, in his speech Putin specifically thanked the French, the British and the Americans for their contribution to the war effort. I am sorry that he left out the Belgians, who had been so helpful at Dunkirk.
One small detail about the parade is nevertheless stunning: Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, a Tuvan Buddhist and one of the most respected Russian leaders, who presided over the Emergencies Ministry prior to becoming the Defence Minister, did something none of his predecessors ever did: at the beginning of the ceremony, he made the sign of the cross, in the Russian Orthodox manner. This simple gesture transformed the parade from a display of military pomp to a sacred ritual. Then followed the slow march with two flags side by side: the Russian flag, and the Soviet flag that flew on top of the Reichstag in Berlin on Victory Day seventy years ago. The march was accompanied by a popular World War Two song? Its title? “The Sacred War”. The message is clear: the Russian military, and the Russian people, have put themselves in God’s hands, to do God’s work, to once again sacrifice themselves to save the world from the ravages of an evil empire.
If you try to dismiss any of this as Russian state propaganda, then here is something else you should be aware of. Did you hear of the spontaneously organized procession in which, after the official parade, half a million people marched through Moscow with portraits of their relatives who died in World War Two? The event was called “The Eternal Regiment” (Бессмертный полк). Similar processions took place in many cities throughout Russia, and the total number of participants is estimated at around four million. Western press either panned it or billed it as an attempt by Putin to whip up anti-western sentiment. Now that sort of “press coverage”, my fellow space travellers, is pure propaganda! No, it was an enthusiastic, spontaneous outpouring of genuine public sentiment. If you think about it just a tiny bit, nothing on this scale could be contrived artificially, and the thought that millions of people would prostitute their dead for propaganda purposes is, frankly, both cynical and insulting.
Instead of collapsing quietly, the US has decided to pick a fight with Russia. It appears to have already lost the fight, but a question remains: How many more countries will the US manage to destroy before the reality of its inevitable defeat and disintegration finally catches up with it?
As Putin said last summer when speaking at the Seliger youth forum, “I get the feeling that no matter what the Americans touch, they end up with Libya or Iraq”. Indeed, the Americans have been on a tear, destroying one country after another. Iraq has been dismembered, Libya is a no-go zone, Syria is a humanitarian disaster, Egypt is a military dictatorship executing a program of mass imprisonment. The latest fiasco is Yemen, where the pro-American government was recently overthrown, and the American nationals who found themselves trapped there had to wait for the Russians and the Chinese to extract them and send them home. But it was the previous American foreign policy fiasco, in the Ukraine, which prompted the Russians, along with the Chinese, to signal that the US has taken a step too far, and that all further steps will result in automatic escalation.
The Russian plan, along with China, India, and much of the rest of the world, is to prepare for war with the US, but to do everything possible to avoid it. Time is on their side, because with each passing day they become stronger while America grows weaker. But while this process runs its course, America might “touch” a few more countries, turning them into a Libya or an Iraq. Is Greece next on the list? What about throwing under the bus the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), which are now Nato members (that is, sacrificial lambs)? Estonia is a short drive from Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, it has a large Russian population, it has a majority-Russian capital city, and it has a rabidly anti-Russian government. Of those four facts, just one is incongruous. Is it being set up to self-destruct? Some Central Asian republics, in Russia’s ticklish underbelly, might be ripe for being “touched” too.
There is no question that the Americans will continue to try to create mischief around the world, “touching” vulnerable, exploitable countries, for as long as they can. But there is another question that deserves to be asked: Do the Americans “touch” themselves? Because if they do, then the next candidate for extreme makeover into a bombed-out wasteland might be the United States itself. Let’s consider this option.
As the events in Ferguson, and more recently in Baltimore, have indicated, the tensions between African-Americans and the police have escalated to a point where explosions become likely. The American “war on drugs” has been essentially a war on young black (and Latino) men; about a third of young blacks are behind bars. They also run a high risk of being shot by the police. To be fair, the police also run a high risk of getting shot by young black males, causing them to be jumpy and to overreact. Given the gradually collapsing economy – close to 100 million working-age Americans are unemployed (“outside the labour force”, if you wish to split hairs) – it would seem that for an ever-increasing chunk of the population cooperating with the authorities is no longer a useful strategy: you get locked up or killed anyway, but you get none of the temporary benefits that come from ignoring the law.
There is an interesting asymmetry in the American media’s ability to block out information about civil unrest and insurgency: if it is happening overseas, then news of it can be carefully calibrated or suppressed outright. (Did American television tell you about the recent resumption of shelling of civilian districts by the Ukrainian military? Of course not!) This is possible because Americans are notoriously narcissistic and largely indifferent to the rest of the world, of which most of them know little, and what they think they know is often wrong. But if the unrest is within the US itself, then the various media outlets find themselves competing against each other in who can sensationalize it better, in order to get more viewership, and more advertising revenue. The mainstream media in the US is tightly controlled by a handful of large conglomerates, making it one big monopoly on information, but at the level of selling advertising market principles still prevail.
Thus there is the potential for a positive feedback loop: more civil unrest generates more sensationalized news coverage, which in turn amplifies the civil unrest, which further sensationalizes the news coverage. And there is a second positive feedback loop as well: the more civil unrest there is, the more the police overreact in trying to control the situation, thereby generating more rage, amplifying the civil unrest. These two positive feedback loops can continue to run out of control for a while, but the end result, in all such recent incidents, is the same: the introduction of National Guard troops and the imposition of curfew and martial law.
The swift introduction of the military might seem a bit odd, considering that most police departments, even small-town ones, have been heavily militarized in recent years, and even the security people at some school districts now have military vehicles and machine guns. But the progression is a natural one. On the one hand, when people who habitually resort to brute force find that it isn’t working, they naturally assume that this is because they aren’t using enough of it. On the other hand, if the criminal justice system is already a travesty and a shambles, then why not just cut through the red tape and impose martial law?
There is an awful lot of weapons of all sorts in the US already, and more will come in all the time as the US is forced to close overseas military bases due to lack of funds. And they will probably get used, for the same reason and in the same fashion that red bricks came to be used in Boston. You see, plenty of red bricks kept coming into Boston aboard British ships, where they were used as ballast for the return trip. This created the impetus to do something with them. But putting up brick buildings is a difficult, demanding process, especially if labourers are always drunk. And so the solution was to use the bricks to pave sidewalks – something one can do on one’s hands and knees. Similarly with the military hardware sloshing back into the US from abroad. It will be used, because it’s there; and it will be used in the stupidest way possible: shooting at one’s own people.
But bad things happen to militaries when they are ordered to shoot at their own people. It is one thing to shoot at “towel-heads” in a far-away land; it is quite another to be ordered shoot at somebody who could be your own brother down the street from where you grew up. Such orders result in fragging (shooting your own officers), in refusal to follow orders, and in attempts to stand up for the other side.
And that’s where things get interesting. Because, you see, if you shoot at, imprison, and otherwise abuse a defenceless civilian population long enough, what you get in response is an armed insurgency. The place insurgencies are easiest to organize is in prison. For instance, ISIS, or the Islamic Caliphate, was masterminded by people who had previously worked for Saddam Hussein, while they were imprisoned by the Americans. They took this opportunity to work out an efficient organizational structure and, upon release, found each other and got down to work. Having a third of young American blacks locked up gives them all the opportunity they need to organize an effective insurgency.
To be effective, an insurgency needs lots of weapons. Here, again, there is a procedure for acquiring military technology that has become almost routine. What weapons are being used by ISIS? Why, of course, American ones, which the Americans provided to the regime in Baghdad, and which ISIS took as trophies when the Iraqi army refused to fight and ran away. And what weapons are being used by the Houthi rebels in Yemen? Why, of course, the American ones, which the Americans provided to the now overthrown pro-American regime there. And what are some of the weapons being used by the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad? Why, of course, American ones, sold to them by the Ukrainian government, which got them from the Americans. There is a pattern here: it seems that whenever Americans arm, train and equip an army, that army stands a really big chance of simply melting away, with the weapons falling into the hands of those who want to use them against American interests. It is hard to see why this same pattern wouldn’t hold once the US places much of itself under military occupation.
And that’s where things get really interesting: a well-armed, well-organized insurgency composed of thoroughly radicalized, outraged people who have absolutely nothing to lose and are fighting for their home turf and their families squaring off against a demoralized, defeated US military that has just failed spectacularly in every country it “touched”.
They say that “You can’t fight city hall”. But what if you have a tank battalion that can control four intersections all around city hall, turrets pointed in all directions, firing at anything that moves? And what if you have enough infantry to go around and ring the doorbells of all the key city hall bureaucrats? Wouldn’t that change one’s odds of victory in fighting city hall?
The US might get to “touch” a few more countries before this scenario unfolds, but it seems likely that (excepting the possibility of all-out war) eventually America will “touch” itself, and then all those countries whose troops marched through Red Square last Saturday won’t have America to kick around any more.