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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The End of the World Powers

60 years ago an uprising in the Ukraine would have been met with machine guns fired from behind the armor of Communist ideology. With the fall of the USSR, Russia didn’t have much of an ideology to deploy against Ukrainian nationalism. It accused the protesters of being fascists, an accusation with some truth to it, but not one that anyone will take seriously coming from another fascist regime.

Putin tried to replace Communism’s international agents of influence by cobbling together a crude
network of leftist anti-imperialists, paleo-libertarians and assorted conspiracy theorists and exploited it with classic tradecraft. Assange and Snowden showed how damaging this could be to the United States, but Assange, Snowden, Greenwald and all the rest of the gang couldn’t keep the Ukraine in Putin’s hands.

The anti-government sentiments projected by RT can bring in useful idiots, Assange and Snowden are evidence of that, but they lack Communism’s power to influence millions through the medium of a comprehensive ideology whose followers were willing to lie and die for it in unending numbers.

If Russia had set out to suppress an uprising 60 years ago, its talking points would have been on the lips and printing presses of innumerable writers and papers that would have immediately constructed rationalizations and denounced the protesters. Americans would have been told that we don’t understand what is going on there, that the protesters aren’t saints and that angering the USSR would destabilize the global situation and lead to war.

To see what that would look like today, just compare and contrast the coverage of protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. Putin destroyed whatever goodwill he had left from the left by coming out against gay rights. Maduro however is a Socialist in good standing. The media coverage of Venezuela and the Ukraine reflect that ideological disparity.

Russia was able to call on the remnants of its old leftist contacts in Syria, but they made little if any difference. The number of those people who supported it in the Ukraine is even smaller. Russia and China traded Communism for economic productivity, but in the process they lost the ability to project their power through the network of ideological alliances that once bound the left together.

While Russia and China have moved away from the left, the United States has moved toward the left, but Obama is no more able to rally the left internationally than Putin or Xi Jinping. Obama badly frayed traditional alliances with American allies and replaced them with nothing except empty speeches.

Russia and China have imperial visions built on a jumble of nationalism, exceptionalism and internal instability that they have a history of resolving through brutal repression or external conflict. Obama is operating on a jumble of leftist paradigms and existing pragmatic approaches that he inherited from prior administrations. The two often clash, as they did in Syria, because they are not compatible.

Obama’s foreign policy is a Jekyll and Hyde monster with a split personality of Clintonites trying to steer it away from the rocks and leftist extremists with more ideology than experience from the Center for American Progress aiming for the rocks. Neither side really knows what it’s doing and instead of picking a side, the man at the top is often willing to sit back and let them fight it out while the Washington and New York papers decide which side is right.

That’s not a good way to run a banana republic consisting of two shacks and a donkey. It’s a truly terrible way to run a world power.

Obama and the left don’t want America to be a world power. The old liberal consensus was that American power should be used to intervene in world conflicts. American power might have been abused in the past, but it would be a means to a progressive end. The new leftist consensus trashes even that much rejecting American power as a means to a progressive end because of its unilateral nature.

American power contains the potential for unilateralism. The only way to prevent the United States from acting outside a consensus is to dismantle its military and its influence. This is the aim that Obama has pursued over the years. The former community organizer did not do this in a consistent fashion, recognizing that an immediate implosion would be disastrous, but he worked toward it step by step.

The Post-American country no longer has the influence to allow Obama to do much of anything abroad, but he considers it a worthwhile trade, giving up power so that some nebulous anti-American consensus will take up that power instead.

When liberals dreamed of handing over American power to the United Nations or some international governing body, they were at least pursuing a logical plan for enforcing their values worldwide. The dream of that international governing body is long dead. Not even Samantha Power seriously believes that the United Nations is capable of doing what she would like it to.

The abandonment of power is instead the deliberate creation of a power vacuum. The United Nations with its American roots is also tainted. The neo-liberal system that leftists denounce is too embedded in international organizations to transfer power upward. Instead they transfer power downward.

Obama’s post-American agenda is the mirror image of the anti-government ideology that Russian agents of influence project into the West. Both agree that Western power is the problem. And both are not enough to command international influence in any meaningful way. Ideologies that exist in the negative space do not inspire people. They only usher in an age of apathy, cynicism and despair.

The only real difference between Barack Obama and Julian Assange is that the former was given the custody of a great power whose power he distrusts even as he uses it and the latter wasn’t.

The left is motivated by the deconstruction and destruction of every institution in the West, but it has nothing to replace them with except an alliance of likeminded activists. Its rainbow coalitions have become wrecking crews taking the mallet a new institution every day and it is this destructiveness that provides them with their solidarity. The left keeps planting bombs for the sake of planting more bombs, conducting a long march through the institutions in order to destroy them and then doing the same thing again, building institutions whose only purpose is the long term destruction of the West. Its agenda on everything from culture to race treats the destruction of that which is as a liberation.

This has been the traditional cycle of the left from cultural vandalism to a political tyranny that purges the vandals and slowly hardens into another China or Russia as its ideological rulers become the feudal overlords of a formerly Socialist republic. Instead of the caterpillars becoming butterflies, the butterflies, flighty and flashy, become caterpillars, stodgy unremarkable tunnelers, petty tyrants who look the same.

The destructiveness of the left is what allows it to make common cause with Putin or Islam, but that common cause does not extend beyond the immediate act of institutional destruction.

The Islamic movements are the prime beneficiaries of the collapse of the Pax Americana just as they were the prime beneficiaries of the collapse of the Pax Romana. Nomads, merchants and raiders can survive and exploit the fall of an empire better than anyone else, assembling shadow armies, moving vast sums of money around through invisible networks built on trust and invading other territories on short notice as no standing army could do.

The great powers have thought of Islamic raiders, in their various incarnations as corsairs, terrorists, bandits and madmen, as weapons to be used against each other. That is still the way that they think today, repressing domestic Muslims and arming foreign Muslims, encouraging Islamic terrorism against their rivals and striking back when it’s directed at them.

Like Russia and the China, the United States is eager to include Muslims in its consensus, without recognizing that they have entirely different agendas of their own. And it’s not as if our consensus is especially compelling now that we have jettisoned everything except the international projection of the left’s politics of resentment.

The Russians offer Muslims a place in Eurasia and China offers them a role in its People’s Republic; neither offer is particularly compelling. Russia and China will always exist for the purposes of the majority group and its elites and neither particularly bothers to disguise it. That is why few of Russia’s neighbors, Christian or Muslim, are especially enamored of the idea of recreating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the Eurasian Union, but without the Communism.

But paradoxically a post-American order has even less to offer them. Russia and China stand for something even if it is only their own power. The Post-American order stands for nothing except its own dismantling. That is why Obama sets red lines that he won’t enforce and issues threats that he doesn’t mean.

The only thing less appealing than selfishness is the complete absence of self. The only thing less appealing than empire is an anti-imperialism that so thoroughly negates its own power that it has no influence and no reason to exist.

Post-American America exists to destroy itself. Until that changes, it has nothing to offer the world except membership in a suicide pact.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Russian and Chinese Communist may have "lost the ability to project their power through the network of ideological alliances." The American and European left, however, do have the power to influence hundreds of millions through the media of mass communications whose leaders are willing to lie (but not die) for their ideology.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

But the ideology's only meaningful component is self-destruction

Anonymous said...

‘After the collapse of the USSR, the main enemy of the USA will be the Russian Orthodox Church’.
Zbigniew Brzezinski

Anonymous said...

We are strapped onto the gurney. The slow drip of the barbituates into our veins is clouding our vision and slowing our reactions. The coroner will be called shortly!

Joan of Argghh! said...

Nomads, merchants and raiders can survive and exploit the fall of an empire better than anyone else

I can see I have to update my resume.

Anonymous said...

Brzezinski can be such a jackass at times. The only 'religion' that is a true enemy of the USA is Islamic terrorism.
If the current crop of pundits have their way, soon Americans will be sure they are seeing fanatical Lutherans lurking in the shadows of mosques. The mosques will be funded through the efforts of community organizers and various social justice organizations.
Imo, We are our own worst enemy, even






Ziggy can be such a jackass. The main enemy of the USA is Ourselves, to misquote Pogo, second to ourselves is radical Islam..
If the current crop of pundits have their way, soon Americans will be on the lookout for fanatical Methodists lurking in the corners, anything to avoid the two elephants in the room, namely ourselves, and a large group of 15th Century cowards.

sophie

Anonymous said...

Great essay as usual, Sultan. Joan, thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

ROFL Joan!

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry for poor editing above.

Anonymous said...

A well known fact is the Progressives’ vast disconnect with reality as it is perceived by the rest of ‘non believers’. This problem is compounded with an extremely distorted self image. Like a bad teacher lacking, often deservedly, the respect of pupils and pretending to be tolerant with misbehavior when in reality he (most probably she) is unable to lay down the law, similarly the current administration is being mocked by every bully in the class from Iran, and Venezuela through Korea.

marstaree said...

Remembering the CS Lewis book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the boy had to fight to not fall asleep (never to awaken) in the underworld, it seems that evil has power to lull us into complacency. It seems so hard to combat forces so much more powerful & what can one person do to make a difference? It would be sooo much easier to fall asleep.

Anonymous said...

"But the ideology's only meaningful component is self-destruction."
Destruction of the US and the West is their goal and their policies can only be understood in that context. They are motivated by irrational jealousies and hatred and they motivate their followers by stirring these destructive emotions.

StukaPilot said...

Snowden/Putin have certainly thrown a wrench into your neo-con global Death Machine. Excellent. And Grunfeld shouldn't count on the Euro-Jew BanksterSquid getting its blood-funnel into the Ukraine, either. Putin's going to win this one too.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Stukie, you do realize that the actual Neo-Nazis in the Ukraine are against Putin? Also Putin has more Jews around him than the Euros do.

Anonymous said...

In almost everything he touches, O's biggest flaw may be his complete inability to surround himself with sophisticated, strong, smart people. Many weak kneed managers have been saved by a good staff. This of course, necessitates being able to hear an opposing point of view.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Obama's best people are from Clinton's admin. So enough said. The standard for competence is extremely low.

The Bear said...

Brilliant article - need to check your editing a bit though. Otherwise ... outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Obama 'pivots' so much he must have permanent whiplash. From voting rights, to income inequality, and finally, the plight of young Black men. Anything will do, as long as it distracts from O care, and the ongoing disaster of the 'Arab Spring'..
In trying to escape his acts of overreach, he has made himself nearly, if not wholly, irrelevant.
sophie

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

"Look something shiny over there" /Obama

meema said...

Daniel, I hate to contact you this way but I tried the email contact and I've tried the email contact on Frontpage and no response. Either I have done something wrong or there is a problem with the donate link for your book. I clicked, I filled, I donated. I got a confirmation email and a confirmation number but no instructions, no place to use it. What am I missing? My intention was to buy the book. Am I the only one with this problem? Help!

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

My email is sultanknish@yahoo.com. I didn't see an email from you. Can you email me again so that I can pass along your email to FPM.

An email with a download link should have come to those who donated.

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