The Coming Existential Threat: Do We Act in Common or Is It Going To Be Every Man for Himself?

I returned to Brussels on Sunday after a month of travels in exotic and warm lands south of the equator. The re-entry shock upon arrival in Belgium was a lot greater than the 27 degree Centigrade drop in outdoor air temperature. After a month of only very limited reception of Russian news, due to satellite issues and hotel service issues, last night I switched on Russian state television’s news and talk show “Sixty Minutes” on and got a full blast of the current state of relations with the US, which are very close to Doomsday.

Allow me to share with you the key point, namely the soon to be announced changes to the Russian doctrine on first use of nuclear weapons and their new more precise red lines that have come about from the plans for Russia’s partition and destruction that seem to be aired daily on US television.

As usual, Yevgeny Popov, State Duma member and host of “Sixty Minutes,” put a lot of video segments from Western television up on the screen, including a lengthy statement by Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, former commander of all U.S. forces in Europe from 2014 to 2017, on how the Ukrainians must be given long range precision missiles for them to attack Russian Crimea and also further into the Russian heartland. The interview from which this declaration was made does not yet appear in Google search, but from interviews posted in 2022 it is clear that Hodges is no madman, and his statements must, as Popov said, be taken with utmost seriousness.

The context, of course, for the radical escalation now being discussed in the United States is the expectation of a massive Russian offensive to begin shortly as the anniversary of the Special Military Operation approaches. The imminent defeat of Ukrainian forces has focused minds in Washington.

One of the regular panelists on “Sixty Minutes” then faced the cameras directly and said that Russia’s nuclear doctrine is under revision in light of these aggressive plans being aired in the United States, so that Russia is headed towards a policy of ‘preventive’ tactical nuclear strikes, similar to what the United States has. Moreover, if Ukraine targets Crimea and heartland Russia, then Russia will respond according to plans now being laid down. These plans foresee counter strikes against US military installations in Europe and in the Continental United States using hypersonic missiles. The panelist calls for this threat of counter strikes in Europe and the US to be made public and explicit, so that no one is in doubt about what to expect from the Kremlin.

So here we are. The Russians are stripping away the fiction of a proxy war and revealing the co-belligerent status of the US and its NATO allies in preparation for a kinetic war with NATO. As our illustrious former President, a man of few words, would say: “Not good!”

Allow me also to share with my readership the bitter medicine that I just shared with our daughter: look for an escape hatch!

Either, as I fervently hope, there will be an antiwar movement in the USA, in Europe arising from the shock therapy news now developing with respect to the coming kinetic war between NATO and Russia, OR failing that, it will be every man for himself.

Back in 1937 there were Jews in Berlin who decided they could ride out the storm and stay put. There were others who took the first boats out, to England, to the US, to South America. All of us in the Northern Hemisphere now may be facing the same existential choice.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book is Does Russia Have a Future? Reprinted with permission from his blog.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2023

23 thoughts on “The Coming Existential Threat: Do We Act in Common or Is It Going To Be Every Man for Himself?”

  1. 1. You gave your daughter bad advice. In the event of nuclear war, head for ground zero. You’re going to die soon anyway, and it’s much better to die quickly at ground zero than slowly and very painfully from radiation poisoning. If you can’t get to ground zero in time, find another way to end your life quickly and as painlessly as possible.

    2. In the horrific event of nuclear war, there would be nowhere to hide, as the massive amount of radioactivity would poison and kill everyone everywhere. Delusional people who think they could live in underground bunkers are just fantasizing; I figured out at 8 years old during the Cuban Missile Crisis that this isn’t possible (food, water, bathrooms, etc.). So no, we’re not facing the same choice as German Jews before WWII.

  2. Step 1 in avoiding nuclear war is to appreciate the reality of it, because few of us would survive. Step 2 is to stop electing babbling psychopaths, and if we make it to the next cycle let’s give that some thought.

    1. As to step 2: People get the government they deserve. So long as people lust after material things and want aggressive leaders with big egos, we’ll continue to have psychopathic leaders. We agree that the leaders are psychopaths, but it’s clear to me that they’d be outcasts instead of leaders if the people over whom they rule were a lot better.

      1. If you formed an arbitrary society from only ‘good’ people and then set up one of them to ‘rule’, the corrupting, debasing and perverting effect of that activity on the chosen one would inevitably taint their character. If the ruler was one who had desired to have the task, the rot in character would be immediate, if not pre-existing. The only legitimate and proper exercise of authority is self-control. Even the necessary directed education and stewardship of a child by a parent during their dependency is fraught with peril and subject to abuse. The exercise of such authority by one adult over other adults, absent even the restraining influence of blood kin affection, is the source of all the evil in human society.

        1. I fully agree that the system is rotten. I also agree that only people who don’t want positions of power should be allowed to have them, to the extent that those positions should even exist. Where we seem to disagree is that I strongly believe in personal responsibility also. The problem isn’t individuals or the system, it’s both. I have this argument with leftists all the time, because they think that only the rich and the system are problems, and they let everyone else off the hook. But hey, there are a lot more of us than them, so where does “them” get their power? Answer: from us. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem, and we have to solve both problems. Individuals need to become a lot more mentally and spiritually evolved. If they were to become so, they wouldn’t tolerate these psychopathic leaders for a second. Every competent adult has to take at least some responsibility for their lives and actions. Of course the richer and more powerful one is, the more responsibility one has, but everyone has at least some responsibility.

          Additionally, our gross overpopulation prevents us from having decent government. With so many people, elections become a contest of who can lie and manipulate people better more than anything (this is generally done by buying office through private campaign contributions, but that’s another issue). When societies are naturally small, everyone knows each other to at least some extent, and lying and manipulation become much harder if not impossible.

          1. I believe in personal responsibility emphatically. It is inseparable from personal liberty and like the heads and tails on a coin, the one can’t be had without the other. It is precisely for this reason that any delegation of authority to another is a shirking of both liberty and responsibility. I think you see problems where they are least likely to reside while ignoring or minimizing the ‘elephant in the room’; that one person exercising control over others rather than only justly over themselves results in corruption and perversion to the person doing it as well as diminishing and harming the people thus directed and controlled. All rulership is evil and to refrain from throwing it off until everyone has been transformed into angels is not only to indulge in the fantasy of perfection but to tolerate and accept the wicked who erroneously assert a claim to a sovereignty they have no right to.

          2. All social animals have leaders, and humans are no exception. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the system and the type of leaders it produces that’s the problem, and the ultimate cause is humans in general.

          3. A leader is someone who provides an example to freely follow. A ruler is one who forces and coerces obedience. If the example of the former is good, then there is nothing wrong with it. Any system of rulership is wrong due to its being an expression of authority beyond its proper and just limit, the acting individual. It appears we must agree to disagree.

          4. Yes, we definitely have to agree to disagree on this. I believe that no one deserves rights without fulfilling the attendant responsibilities. The ultimate conclusion of your position is that people should be able to do whatever they want without consequences. Like not disciplining children, this doesn’t work and is guaranteed to provide a very bad result.

          5. “The ultimate conclusion of your position is that people should be able to do whatever they want without consequences.”

            Wrong. I believe that individuals should be free to do what they think best and to be wholly responsible for whatever the resulting consequences of that turn out to be.

            If you want to argue about my positions then by all means do so, but don’t fabricate a strawman of your own creation to contest because you can’t successfully dispute mine.

          6. Without rulers, who will force the irresponsible people to face consequences? That’s the flaw in your position. You claim that people should be responsible, but without an enforcement mechanism, that’s meaningless.

            And BTW, why shouldn’t people have alphas who tell them what to do and not do, like every other social animal and all natural societies have? I agree that leaders shouldn’t be tyrannical, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t rule.

          7. The enforcement mechanism could be mutual rather than hierarchic. There’s no particular reason to believe that would produce worse results than letting sociopaths order everyone around.

          8. In a good society, the leaders wouldn’t be sociopaths. They would be the wisest and smartest people and would rule for the good of all.

          9. As others have pointed out, “leading” and “ruling” are two entirely different things. The possibility of doing the latter naturally selects for sociopaths.

          10. I get the difference. But without rulers or adequate constraints, the most aggressive a-holes will run amok and run everything. Humans are nowhere near evolved enough mentally and spiritually to not have rules and face consequences for breaking them, as should be quite obvious.

            It’s one thing to say that a ruler should be smart, wise, benevolent, and rule for the benefit of all. It’s quite another to say that there should be no rulers. I support the former, and I oppose the latter until and unless humans can evolve enough mentally and spiritually to not need rules, laws, or rulers.

          11. The notion that “rules” require “rulers” is a non-sequitur, as any group of four people agreeing on how to split the bill and what toppings to get when they order pizza together includes the former but not the latter.

            It is a fact pretty much un-contradicted in human history that “rulers” are the most aggressive assholes running amok and running everything.

          12. Maybe most leaders, but not all, and probably not originally. The early leaders of Ancient Egypt were leaders because they understood how the Nile River flooded and receded, and how that could be used to plant crops.

            I don’t disagree that it would be infinitely better to rule with the agreement of everyone, but there are unevolved people who need rulers. I also agree that the most aggressive people usually end up being rulers, and that totally sucks. The only people who should be made rulers are those who don’t want to be, so I think we can agree on that. But not holding people responsible for their actions, whether it’s rich people or anyone else, is a huge problem, and if it takes rulers to do so, then we need rulers. Your analogy about splitting a restaurant bill is a bad one for that reason, because no one has to hold the other diners responsible.

          13. “Without rulers, who will force the irresponsible people to face consequences?”

            Absent the interference of other people, reality will assure that consequences fall on those who have utilized their freedom to make bad decisions (i.e. the irresponsible). Regrettably, in a world with ‘rulers’ perpetually interfering, they usually act to protect the irresponsible from the consequences of their actions. The people who choose to steal or kill are largely spared the immediate and proper consequences of their actions because the State treats self-defense primarily as a usurpation of their privileged monopoly on the use of force. Most of the subsequent ‘punishments’ it imposes more generally resemble rewards (food, board, education and training) than just consequences for wrongs; and all paid for by the victims being victimized again by the State. The irresponsible who fail in being self-sufficient are shielded from its consequences by State subsidies forcible extracted from those prudent enough to pull their own weight.

            So, your fantasy that rulers are necessary to force the irresponsible to face consequences in fact does almost the opposite. The necessary brevity of a blog comment precludes my even attempting to address the fact that Rulers are the most irresponsible of all and never (with rare exception) are required to face the consequences of their actions.

          14. People will definitely not face consequences without a ruling system in place that forces them to do so, and the head of that system is called a ruler.

            I get your point about how things actually play out, and I agree with it. I’ve always said that in order to have a truly representative government, we need to greatly lower our population and live in small communities where everyone knows each other to at least some extent. That’s the root of this problem, and without lowering population we’re just discussing lesser-of-evils choices.

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