Tuesday, March 25, 2014


In every crisis since WW II, those eager for a military response are apt to resurrect their version of history while calling up the old aphorism: ‘Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.’

Almost invariably, there is a villain, be it an individual, a country, or both, that is supposed to remind us of Hitler, Nazi Germany, and failed efforts at appeasing the aggressor. Now the designated villain is Putin; there is hand ringing over the ‘weakness” of the West that supposedly has encouraged his aggression. I even heard someone say, ‘this is the Sudetenland (which Hitler annexed early on) all over again.’

The point though is not whether history is “ignored”, but what lessons we learn. Perhaps we should look at the run-up to WWI and the aftermath of that terrible bloodletting, which had much to do with the rise of fascism. Imperialist competition over “spheres of influence” and control of markets underlay the vying scenarios of nationalist propaganda that fueled the outbreak of WWI. Afterward the crushing price and humiliation imposed by the victors begot the conditions that brought on WWII.

Much has changed and history can never really be replicated. But the themes of “spheres of influence” and the hubris of  “winners over losers” echo eerily in what’s going on now. So do the counter claims of strident nationalism.

Since the end of the Cold War, US presidents and their European allies have pushed military (NATO) and economic (European Union) fronts further to the East with no limits in sight. We are committed, as George H. W. Bush announced, to setting up a “new world order.” Its benefits to the people of European countries have been questionable, with austerity aggravating extreme inequality between and within nations. What is without question is the essential “leadership” of the US within the alliance, its expansive military presence, and the dominance of Western banking and monetary institutions over economic policy.

Russia for its part has developed its own oligarchy in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. Not surprisingly, it is unwilling to surrender its own national interests and pride by accepting the “new world order” on our terms.

Given conditions in much of Europe, unrest and popular protest are not unique to the Ukraine. When it occurs in Greece, or Cyprus, or Spain, or Italy, the powers that be in Europe simply say “live with it” and no Congressman demands US intervention. But big powers are not unwilling to play with fire when it serves their ambitions. The fuel for the fire is the appeal to nationalist antagonisms, but the underlying conflict is over “spheres of influence” and control. That, and the ultimate folly of imperialist war (cold or hot), are lessons I see in history.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


We hardly made it up the lowest reaches of the hill. Is it possible to slide back down into the Bush/Cheney abyss, or even lower?

In the NY Times (3/17/14), David Sanger musters the arguments of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Condoleezza Rice and the neocon pundits in and around the Administration itself: ‘we have a foreign policy disaster because Obama has made the US look weak, because of the reluctance to throw American military power into Syria, against Iran, and now into Ukraine against Russia.’

Echoes of the “news” stories by Times reporters Michael Gordon and Judith Miller leading up to the Iraq War — the neocons never quit pushing confrontation rather than diplomacy, promoting force and conflict, disrupting all efforts to find common grounds on any difficult problem. For them, the Cold War can’t be put to rest because the impossible dream remains: a US constructed “world order”, an “American Century”.

The fact is that every world power — Russia under Putin, or Britain under Thatcher, or the USA whether under Reagan or Obama — acts without anyone’s permission when it deems its “vital interests” directly challenged. Extreme nationalism is a plague whether it presents itself under Russian or Ukrainian banners or as the conceit of “American Exceptionalism”.

Neocons to the contrary, repeated failures at terrible cost have convinced most people that war, cold as well as hot, only makes matters more impossible. What a tragedy if barely begun efforts at negotiating some of the most difficult international problems were to be sabotaged in favor of a renewed Cold War!

I try not to let the voice of Cassandra take over my expectations. But there it is. Unbelievable. The wreckers who presided over economic collapse and disastrous wars have succeeded in making a shambles of even meager efforts at reform. Now the havoc they have wrought actually gives them the hope that they may soon take over the Senate as well as the House…. and what comes next?

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Granada? Panama? Nicaragua? Cuba? Guatemala? Chile? Iraq? Pakistan? Somalia? and how many more?

What country has staked out the world’s largest “sphere of influence”?  Which claims its “vital interests” are threatened to justify military intervention within sovereign nations in every part of the globe?

Putin claims a “vital interest” in Crimea. WE’RE SHOCKED!

Will imperial intrigues ever give way to the urgent need for cooperative attention to the problems that plague humanity? The last thing we need is a replay of the Cold War.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Somehow I don’t feel the urge any longer to say my 2 cents every time a new storm erupts in international power relations. It’s not that there isn’t a great deal to be said concerning all the important actors — their conflicting motives and the dangerous possibilities. But while things are always changing, so much is sickeningly the same. So much intrigue, posturing, and recklessness in the corridors of power…. all camouflaged as virtue on each side as against evil on the other.

The standoff in the Ukraine is reminiscent of crises that were once prelude to the monumentally tragic imperialist World War I. Hopefully, there is enough experience with the futility of war, enough hatred of war, so that today’s multiple crises may be contained politically and diplomatically. For that we’ll have to depend on the will and power of people everywhere. But an end to the games imperial powers play is not on the horizon, not mine anyway.