Monday, December 22, 2014

Sand castle geopolitics III

So, size (scale) does matter. It always does, even when it plays not to an advantage but to a detriment. Ask yourself a question where the vaunted Stealth technology came from--the idea was to reduce the "size" (that is the RCS--radar cross-section, among many other physical fields) of the target. So, the logic goes, the more one loses in the war, tens of millions, as opposed to hundreds of thousands, thousands of cities and towns obliterated, as opposed to...none, the more one gets the real feel of the warfare and its consequences. It becomes ingrained in the cultural DNA. Fact is, warfare itself is a cultural affair. Now, consider the contemporary American political class.  

Even famous falsifier of Russia's 20th Century history, Richard Pipes, figured out about Russia that "Such a country tends also to assess the rewards of defense in much more realistic terms." (c) This is not the case with contemporary American political class and, the so called, "intellectual elites", who provide a never-ending stream of a bizarre, supposedly "academic", rationales for the American "leadership" and  unending wars. In general, Eurasian nations and their political elites were conditioned, to a different degree, by the Continental Warfare. Nations themselves were forged by this warfare. And then, yet again, comes WW II--a singular event in the human history. This understanding, that warfare is a defining factor in human culture is sorely lacking among current American elites. They simply have no frame of reference. That is why a curtsey toward Russia in GOP's 2012 Platform looked so bizarre, especially in the Section 7 symptomatically titled "American Exceptionalism":

"The heroism – and the suffering – of the people of Russia over the last century demand the world’s respect. As our allies in their Great Patriotic War, they lost 28 million fighting Nazism. As our allies in spirit, they ended the Soviet terror that had consumed so many millions more. They deserve our admiration and support as they now seek to reestablish their rich national identity."

Well, "rich national identity" of Russians includes in itself a warfare as a major cultural factor. Arguably the greatest prose in world literature, War And Peace, was written about war and it was written by the Russian artillery officer Count Leo Tolstoy. In fact, great Russian literature in large part was created by Russian servicemen, from Tolstoy, Lermontov and Dostoevsky, who was a graduate of military engineering school, to Turgenev, who happened to be a resident of Russian intelligence in Paris.  Not to mention, as an example, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who  wrote some of his notable music while being a naval cadet. A wonderful 1947 Hollywood flick Song of Scheherazade, with incomparable Yvonne De Carlo in it, gives an idealized image of Russian military producing a wonderful art. All those creative forces were unleashed, in large part, because of the events which one way or another were connected to war. I guess Boston Pops playing 1812 Overture each 4th of July has something to do with the war, and not the American one. They were unleashed because of the scale, if to rephrase famous Clausewitz's dictum from Vom Kriege that: "the smaller the range of activities of a nation and the more the military factor dominates, the greater will be the incidence of military genius."(c) This applies equally to art and to science. It also applies to a distribution of attitudes toward warfare, especially after WW II. De-Nazification of Germany wouldn't have been possible if not for the demolition of the country by Allies and its population experiencing en masse  all horrors of the industrial Continental Warfare. USSR, its European part, was simply obliterated by warfare. The scale of suffering, dislocation and losses is simply, in the words of the same Pipes, is  "beyond the comprehension of most Americans." 

Now, consider US East Coast, Ivy League "educated" corps of all those humanities (especially journalism) and political science  Ph.Ds and lawyers who not only do not know what warfare is, but most of whom never spent a single day in the armed forces. Forget, of course, about a simple fact that those good ol' boys and girls are exactly that--good ol' boys and girls. But these are precisely the types who go out and eventually begin to (re)create a narrative. The narrative is one of an American exceptionalism. US is an exceptional country, that is true, its geography, its insulation (being an Island in the words of Admiral Zumwalt), its richness, its beauty, after all, all of it contributed to, indeed, exceptional development of the republican ideas and to an accumulation of incredible material wealth. But that is not the exceptionalism those good ol' boys and girls promote. Forget about this "silly"concept of an American exceptionalism as a derivative of "an idea that mankind can hold to" as J. William Fulbright put it in his The Arrogance Of Power. What those "elites" seek is different, it is legalization of the US as the preeminent military power of the 20th Century, the one which saved the world from both Nazism and Communism. Enter the two (the third being a WW I mythology) most important pillars of the contemporary American exceptionalism. These pillars are:

1. US won WW II by defeating Nazism;
2. US won the Cold War. 

The endurance of the #1 myth is based solely on the lack of any experience with Continental Warfare. I can hear the cries already--how about US Civil War. Not a valid argument. First, it was too long ago to have a serious impact where it matters most for any white boy (that is Europe), second--it is called Civil for a reason. Are civil wars brutal? Absolutely, but US Civil War is unique only in a sense that it was a first, more or less, industrial war. Spaniards, in their Civil War of 1936-39 (less than 3 years), lost approximately the same number of people as was lost in US Civil War, while having the population in 1936 smaller than that of the United States in 1861.  Consider also the area. Then comes Russia with her Civil War of 1918-22. Well, here one has to start counting in millions, granted, of course, that Russia's population was, at that time, close to 90 million. There also was another factor, Russia was invaded by British, Americans, Japanese and even Czechs.  Of course, there are Chinese too, but that is a whole other story (and scale) altogether.  Now that we figured that out, we have to say that WW II was one off.  Nobody invaded US territory (not least because of Russian Navy's squadrons in NYC and San Francisco),  real wars are fought between different nations. They do have what could be termed the spectrum of invasion, by different people, by different cultures.  This is the thing all those good ol' boys and girls don't understand, since understanding the modern warfare is built around nation.  In fact, modern warfare and nation-state are inseparable. Culture does not invade culture to sing Kumbaya, it invades culture to subjugate, or, as our good ol' Karl Von Clausewitz says:  "to do our will". What it entails is a whole other story, or....real (ahem...military) history. 

To be continued..............


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