. . there are two things about which I do feel certain. The
first is that we are in a situation resembling the one that
developed after the end of World War I. In 1919, too, there
was no visible enemy to guard against. No one imagined that
a defeated and humiliated Germany would rise again so quickly,
or that it would submit itself to a leader like Hitler with
grandiose plans for conquering the world. Nor did anyone dream
that the Bolshevik Revolution, then in its cradle and unpromising
in its prospects, would grow into an even more dangerous power
with similarly unlimited aims."
once, I agree with Podhoretz. Of course, for him this
means that the US must take a more "active" role in world
affairs; this quote is taken from an essay in which he basically
endorses the militant vision of "benevolent world hegemony"
espoused by Bill
Kristol and Robert
Kagan the Weekly
Standard version of "cane the wogs" Tory imperialism.
My own view, suffice to say, is quite different. Yet if we
examine the 1919 paradigm simply as a proposition, its persuasive
force is virtually irresistible – and what could be more ominous
we know that the seeds of the second great worldwide conflagration
were planted in those crucial years in the immediate aftermath
of World War I. Germany, defeated and humiliated by the Treaty
of Versailles, was drowning in a sea of inflation,
and political turmoil. The "Allied" hegemons of Europe reigned
supreme, and imposed their will on the rest of the world with
an arrogant disdain for democracy, ethnicity, and elementary
common sense. The "Allies" and the US had imposed Draconian
reparations on Germany, and loaned them the money to
pay – while US and British bankers made mega-profits on the
interest payments. They also insisted that Germany adopt the
paraphernalia of "democracy," and saw to it that their handpicked
stooges and enforcers occupied positions of power: the left-led
that seized power in the aftermath of the German defeat received
Western support after the Social Democratic government kicked
out the Kaiser, abolished the monarchy, and suppressed
the Spartacist (Communist) uprising.
to the year 2000. Russia, defeated in the cold war and humiliated
by the financial and geopolitical terms set by the victorious
West, is drowning in a sea of inflation,
and political turmoil. The hegemons of NATO, the blood of
Serbia fresh on their talons, are turning their eyes eastward,
to the Caucasus, where the battle for Chechnya rages between
Russian troops and Chechen bands. With less of a gross national
product than Portugal, the remnant of the once mighty Soviet
empire has become a Third World nation – although, as one
of his last acts while in office, Boris Yeltsin pointedly
reminded President Clinton that Russia has First World armaments,
including nuclear weapons. Old Boris was no handpicked stooge,
but instead a political survivor and the prototype of the
ex-Communist apparatchik, but he nevertheless enjoyed
what Ariel P. Cohen, of the Heritage Foundation, testifying
in the "Who lost Russia" congressional hearings, described
as uncritical support from Washington:
support of Boris Yeltsin through thick and thin in the 1993
confrontation with the Parliament, during the Chechen war,
and in the 1996 elections, served to convince the majority
of the Russian body politic of America’s partisanship. The
uncritical endorsement and encouragement of even the most
outrageous practices of the Russian government has succeeded
in bringing many among the Russian political elites and the
population to perceive the United States as a malevolent foe.
made almost no attempt to reach out to those who disagreed
with Yeltsin, or to establish a dialogue with them, thus helping
to create a situation in which the increasingly unpopular
president of Russia now appears in the eyes of many Russians
as an American tool."
the splintered lands of what used to be the Soviet Union a
pervasive myth has grown up to explain the sudden implosion
of the Russian imperium: the "stab in the back" thesis, in
which international bankers, Jews, Freemasons, and Communists
are said to have delivered the country up to be dismembered
by foreign vultures. The rise of "National Bolsheviks" raises
an all-too-familiar voice from the past, and their nationalist,
revanchist, and explicitly anti-Semitic ideology is the most
Weimarish aspect of today’s Russia, (See Walter Laqueur’s
1993 book, Black
Hundred: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia.)
rise of Vladimir
Putin, the "provisional" President and Yeltsin’s heir
apparent, as the new Russian strongman who promises to clean
up the all-pervasive corruption of Russian life has been buoyed
by popular support for the war in Chechnya. This support,
in turn, was the result of terrorist bombings in Moscow itself
in which hundreds were killed and injured. John
C. Gannon, CIA deputy director, warned of "the potential
for a terrorist campaign arising from the war in Chechnya"
in a 1996
speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco:
fighting began late in 1994, Russian forces have occupied
all major population, transportation, and economic centers
in the region, but they have been unable to end the fighting
in the mountains and countryside or even fully secure
the places they occupy. Chechnya has become a classic guerilla
warfare situation, and the threat of terrorism is increasing.
instances of hostage-taking have already occurred,
with one of them spilling over Russia's borders into Turkey,
and another into Central Europe. Even more ominously, some
Chechen rebels have warned that they will target Russian nuclear
facilities. In an event that was widely publicized in Russia
but received little attention in the West, Chechen militants
buried a small amount of cesium
in a Moscow park last year to demonstrate their ability to
carry out a terrorist act in the heart of Russian territory."
from imagining the American response to a similar tragedy
in, say, the heart of New York City – isn’t it funny
how America’s spooks saw the terrorist attack in the heart
of Russia coming so far in advance? Are these really the same
guys who couldn’t keep accurate street maps of downtown Belgrade?
title of a book by the Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff,
Ominous Parallels whose theme is the Weimarization
of American intellectual life and the potential for totalitarian
subversion of the American republic – sums up what is happening
in Russia today in nearly every respect. One example: in 1919,
the argument was continually made in Western capitals, including
Washington, D.C., that aid to Germany was imperative because
otherwise the country would go Bolshevik. The Germans then
turned around and utilized the only weapon left at their disposal:
inflation, the great friend and ally of all debtors eager
to renege on their obligations. The German government inflated
the mark so that they could maintain the social entitlements
that kept them in power while pretending to pay off their
international creditors. The political and social forces unleashed
by this convergence of factors produced Hitler,
and the most destructive war in human history.
FIRST TIME AS TRAGEDY . . .
we have heard the same arguments from the Clinton administration,
even as billions in Western aid is discovered in the private
Swiss accounts of Russian gangsters and their clients in the
nomenklatura. We must support Yeltsin and his successors,
or else the Communists will come back. Yeltsin, nuclear-armed
but dirt-poor, then fought back with the only weapon at his
disposal: inflation. The Russian government inflated the ruble
so that they could maintain the social entitlements that kept
them in power while promising their Western creditors that
they would make good on their obligations – but only if aid
continues. It was a house of cards that had to come crashing
down, and when it did – what was unleashed? The jury is still
out, but if present trends continue on course it looks like
history is going to repeat itself the first time as
tragedy, and the second as calamity. Imagine Adolf Hitler
armed with nuclear weapons.
the Strongman can easily become Vladimir the Vanquished, and
his popularity could plummet if – or, rather, when –
the war in Chechnya goes badly. Already, the Russian troops
have been brought to a virtual standstill at the gate of Grozny;
the poorly trained, ill-treated and underpaid Russian conscripts
are unenthusiastic about the war, while the fanatic Chechens,
who glory in war and violence as a way of life, are in their
element. The conflict has all the hallmarks of a classic quagmire.
It is clear, even early on, that this war can only end in
another Russian humiliation, an occasion for the worldwide
display of Moscow's decline. The Russian bear has walked headlong
into a trap.
BATTLE FOR THE CAUCASUS
NATO, beleaguered by Islamic terrorists, forced to go
hat in hand to Western bankers, Weimar Russia is facing a
major Western incursion into the Caucasus region: Both Georgia
and Azerbaijan are Western proxies in the region, and the
Russians have long accused the Georgians of allowing Chechen
rebels to smuggle arms over the border. The Russians, in turn,
have supported Georgian separatists, notably the Abhazians,
and this doesn’t take into account the conflict in nearby
where the residents are pro-Russian and the "rebels" are Islamic
"internationalists" whose leader is a Jordanian trained in
Afghanistan. The last we saw these folks in action was in
Bosnia and the Kosovo war, where they also were a great help
to their alleged enemy, the American government. Even though
we may be in for another bout of Serb-bombing as the result
of a civil war in Montenegro, the Balkanization of the former
Soviet Union has shifted the focus eastward. The
US is openly slavering over the oil-rich Caucasus region.
As a perfect mirror of gangster-run Russian state capitalism,
the Anglo-American corporatists of the "Third
Way" operate on the spoils system: they have staked out
regional economic concessions for politically-influential
Western corporations, from Azerbaijan
and dream of turning the Caspian Sea into a Western lake.
attempted conquest of Chechnya can never succeed for the simple
reason that the Chechens are unassimilable. They are ethnically,
religiously, and temperamentally unsuited to live in a single
state alongside Russians; their anarchic social structure
is completely alien to the Russian mir or collective,
and is best suited to the life of nomadic clans. The best
solution, as Russian "isolationists" such as General
Alexander Lebed have long argued, is separation: build
up Russia’s border defenses, but let Chechnya go.
BEAR IN THE CHECHEN QUAGMIRE
the terrorist attacks on major Russian cities have changed
the equation. In the perfervid world of Russian politics,
theories are the conventional wisdom, the speculation
is rife that Putin and his cohorts had a hand in the attacks,
or at least knew about them in advance. In any case, the battle
for Chechnya is no longer a question of preserving the Russian
empire; it is a matter of preserving the physical safety and
integrity of Russian citizens, on Russian soil, and that is
why the nation has rallied behind Putin: reformists, nationalists,
Communists, the nomenklatura and the gangsters, as
well as ordinary people. And so the scene is complete, and
the actors are ready to appear on the stage: Putin, the Hindenberg
of Weimar Russia, is the bridge between the Russian military
and the reformists. Faced with defeat in Chechnya, Putin will
fall as quickly as he rose – and the vast power vacuum could
be filled by anyone.
Western media swoons at the sight of Russian fascists, such
and thrills to the bizarre exploits of Zhirinovsky
and his misnamed "Liberal Democratic Party." They are sure
to give the rise of Russian nationalism banner headlines.
Certainly, after all those phony Hitler sightings over the
years – Noriega,
all, you’ll remember, were given the "he’s another Hitler"
treatment – journalists will gasp and even thrill at the sight
of the real thing. At last – they will think an enemy
worth fighting! Finally a morally unambiguous battle,
a replication of the one our parents fought with honor: now
we can redeem ourselves for the sin of obstructing the war
effort during the Vietnam era. It will be the final expiation
of the baby boom generation, and mark their ultimate transformation.
While remaining true to their leftie "ideals," in the end
they wind up as replicas of their parents, antifascists all.
ATTACK OF CONSCIENCE?
Western media has already imagined the rise of Russian "fascism"
1998 particularly, just as the Russian economy was melting
down – but portrays this as somehow endemic to the Russian
"soul," and not at all the result of Western intervention.
The Chechen war is, in large part, a Russian response to Western
incursions into the former Soviet republics in the Caucuasus.
Without Chechnya, which occupies a strategic strip of land
between Georgia, Russia, and Azerbaijan, Russia loses its
last foothold in the southern tier of the region and
acquires a permanent irritant. And remember that, for years,
Western governments have subsidized the Russian campaign with
loans and loan guarantees and all sorts of other goodies and
special privileges. We are expected to believe that, now,
suddenly, the West has been stricken with an attack of conscience,
and "discovered" that they were propping up gangsters.
and when the Russian Right takes power and the cold war is
back on again, please review the following paragraph from
Congressional Research Office report on NATO expansion
and don’t say you weren’t warned:
key U.S. interest in Europe is ensuring Russia's continued
democratization and integration into the community of nations.
Enlargement will humiliate Moscow and create a 'Weimar Russia,'
vulnerable to Russian nationalists hostile to the west who
believe that the country's interests are being sacrificed
by weak leadership."
is no threat to the US, or to our vital national interests.
As long as we leave the Russian bear in his den, he is harmless,
because he is almost mortally wounded. As Alexander Konovalov,
a historian and political analyst on Russia’s influential
ORT television network, put it, not only has Russia lost the
cold war but it has also, like Germany in 1919, "lost its
dignity, and tried to become a democracy under the worst possible
conditions." Russia, he points out, has "lost huge amounts
of territory, one half of its domestic product, and
10 years of male life expectancy." It is a lot to lose,
and the revanchist dream is a powerful one. That it has been
US policy to stoke those embers, like a fire at the heart
of the Russian collapse and to set out plenty of kindling
is fated to become one of the great mysteries of American
diplomatic history the answer to which we will not
learn until long after it is irrelevant to anyone but historians.