Friday, August 26, 2022

A Friend Of Mine...

... sent me Daniel Larison's piece at his blog Eunomia where he contemplates economic sanctions. He refers to The Economist piece titled: Are sanctions on Russia working? My friend correctly states and I quote him:"Sanctions are another example of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Western ruling elite. Like a child with a hammer in a room full of glasses and dishware. As you never cease to point out, almost no one in Western top circles has a well-trained mind. Way too many law and business degrees (or worse, in political voodoo science!), with very poor background in math, physics, chemistry and such. They do not understand the energy-material world -- thermodynamics and the importance of those 92 elements." And Larison's piece, while concluding correctly that:

The flaws of broad sanctions have been well-known for a long time, so it wasn’t as if it took imposing them on Russia to recognize their limitations and ineffectiveness. It was entirely foreseeable (and foreseen) that waging economic war on a country as large and powerful as Russia would have adverse consequences for the senders of the sanctions and for the entire world. We know from experience that targets of the harshest sanctions regimes also tend to be the most intransigent, and broad sanctions often backfire and produce more of what they are supposed to discourage. We also know that sanctions usually do not really “work” at all in the sense of changing the target’s behavior in the way that the senders want it to change. Given all that, it should not come as news that the “sanctions weapons has flaws.” The question should be why we continue to use a weapon as blunt and crude as sanctions at all.

Is misplaced and, in fact, is somewhat misleading, because Larison's statement 'It was entirely foreseeable (and foreseen) that waging economic war on a country as large and powerful as Russia would have adverse consequences for the senders of the sanctions and for the entire world', is utterly false. Foreseen by who? If Larison has a short memory, for all my respect for his generally humanist aspirations, facts testify to exactly opposite. The whole Ukrainian "strategy" of the United States and EU since 2013 was and is based on a complete miscalculation and inability to recognize either the scale or power of Russia be that in economic or military terms. The Economist, as well as most of Western publications related to "economic" affairs (Forbes, WSJ et all) have been consistently wrong on "foreseeing" anything and, in fact, played a crucial role in creating an alternative universe narrative on economy of Russia and impact of sanctions. 

As Russians say today, when responding to the question of if economic sanctions work, 'yes, they do--as a boomerang'. But the best example of a systemic failure of Western economic, military, intel or media institutions to "foresee" anything is his very own (I guess he is employed there) Quincy Institute for (allegedly) Responsible Statecraft. Materials published in it re: SMO are the Exhibit A of a complete detachment from the military and economic realities of Russia. If a complete sophomoric delirium about SMO provided there by such "scholars" as Anatol Lieven is understandable, the position of a former cadre officer of the US Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich hardly differs from propaganda being spewed by other US military "experts" such as generals Petraeus or Keane. And that brings us to my position of the last decade at least--the West has a systemic cognitive problem, which, in the end, is a problem of competencies and professionalism. In foreign policy the United States is utterly incompetent because, and I quote Larison himself:

Unfortunately, the U.S. is remarkably bad at understanding these things accurately. This is not just a Trump administration failing. Most American politicians and policymakers routinely misjudge the intentions and goals of our adversaries, and they often invent a fantasy version of the regime in question that leads them astray again and again. One reason for this is that it is simply easier to project our assumptions about what a regime must want than it is to make the effort to see things as they do. Another reason is that many of our politicians and policymakers mistakenly think that if they try to understand an adversary’s views that must somehow mean that they sympathize with the adversary or condone its behavior. Instead of trying to know their enemy, our leaders would prefer not to for fear of being “tainted” by the experience. This lack of knowledge is compounded in some cases by the absence of normal diplomatic relations with the adversary. Our leaders are encouraged to take this self-defeating approach to international problems by a political culture that rewards the people that strike tough-sounding-but-ignorant poses about a problem and marginalizes those that seek to understand it as fully as possible.

And as Larison's "own" Responsible Statecraft outlet exhibits consistently, not only the US is "remarkably bad" in understanding its "adversaries", but truth is--often doesn't know basic facts of real economy, modern warfare, history and diplomacy, but most remarkably, fails to understand its own status, scale and position vis-a-vis the world outside. This huge issue cannot be rectified by mere "rethinking", US machine in producing real statesmen is broken completely and requires a complete removal. It failed miserably to react and adapt to tectonic shifts of modern world and exceptions in "foreseeing" things merely confirm the rule of modern American "elites" being a failure across the board. But then again, what did one expect with "scholars" like Lieven. 

In related sanctions matters, however, this is funny: 

Aw, poor-poor dears, they cannot sleep knowing that Russia can afford to do so, because Russia is not going to supply her enemies who conduct proxy war against her, and the window is closing fast. This, not to mention the fact that Europe has been written off by Russia, is what really matters. The US is next, but only after some necessary arrangements. 

UPDATE: Michael Hudson, after reading this piece sent to me (initially through Andrei Raevsky) this addendum: 

I have a comment ....about ... column today saying that sanctions don’t work. I think that’s not the point when it comes to U.S. sanctions. Suppose a bully is seen beating up people. Someone tells him, “This won’t change that guy’s behavior.” The bully will reply: “I don’t care. I like to hit people. That’s my philosophy.” I think this is the spirit behind US sanctions.

I agree, it is a philosophy. Especially, as Hudson adds these comments sent to me:

After I wrote it, I thought of some more examples. Take torture. Every country (and religion) has its own signature mode of torture). It’s pretty much known that torture gets false confessions. But nations still do this. Iran under the Shah has a “hot plate,” tying victims to what was a big frying pan and turning on the heat. The US has water boarding. It was pointed out to me that one country was exceptional. Russia simply used sleep deprivation to break down resistance to giving information. Apparently the Americans found that this was simply no fun. It’s like air force generals who like to bomb, and find opportunities everywhere. I’ve known plenty of these guys – and when it comes to Russia, it’s really part of a psychodrama of anger and revenge.

Pay attention to the highlighted conclusion by one of the best economic minds of our generation. He gets it 100%. Remember this? 

Never underestimate the drive to be "the best", when you know you cannot be. The psychodrama unfolds...

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