Russia and the West: A Dialogue of the Deaf
From the desk of John Laughland on Wed, 2008-08-27 11:42
Perhaps the most revealing remark made during the crisis over South Ossetia was that by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who attacked Russia in very strong terms for having reverted to “a 19th century approach to politics”.
Milliband’s hatred of Russia is built into his political DNA. His grandfather, Samuel Miliband, was a Warsaw-born Communist who famously fought in the Red Army but who then left the Soviet Union for Belgium when Stalin became top dog in Moscow. As a lifelong Trotskyite and supporter of world revolution, Miliband was disgusted by Stalin’s decision to create socialism in one country alone and by his de facto restoration of Great Russian nationalism.
Samuel’s son, Ralph, the Foreign Secretary’s father (born in Brussels), became a noted Marxist political scientist. His son David’s embrace now of the neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on American power and the ideology of human rights is therefore a typical illustration of something of which I have written on many occasions in the past, namely the way in which true Marxists find their natural political home in the project of “global democratic revolution” proselytised by George W. Bush.
Indeed, the Foreign Secretary’s remark about Russia reveals more about the speaker than about the matter in hand. Of course the remark is notable for its hypocrisy. Miliband, after all, is a member of a government which has invaded two countries which have in the past been classic destinations for the British troops in the heyday of Empire, Afghanistan and Iraq, and which has also energetically pursued the extension of Western influence into another part of the world famous for being the focus of Great Power rivalry in the 19th century, the Balkans.
But the remark is mainly notable for the mindset it reveals. From Miliband’s point of view, Western policy over the last fifteen years has not been a matter of brute force. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing attack on Yugoslavia have not been military invasions, but instead selfless acts inspired by a desire to promote democracy and human rights, and therefore not even political acts in the classic sense of that term. Instead, they are (he believes) acts carried out in the service of humanity, acts which no reasonable person could oppose. Anyone who does oppose them is probably an enemy of humanity itself.
By contrast, continues his reasoning, Russia’s decision to protect South Ossetia from the Georgian attack on the night of 8 August is a cynical exercise of brute force designed solely to extend Russian power into the Caucasus. Indeed, although Moscow actually did react to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Georgians when they attacked Tskinvali, the language coming out of the Russian capital has tended to focus more on the country’s national interests and security, and less on appeals to universal principles of human rights. This is what Miliband cannot stand. When George W. Bush gave the order to invade Iraq, by contrast, there was of course a certain amount of talk about America’s need to protect herself from external attack (a threat which was purely invented). But the centre of gravity of the American arguments in favour of that war lay in universalist and unpolitical claims about democratising the Middle East and advancing the global democratic revolution.
The great and controversial German jurist, Carl Schmitt, famous adopted Proudhon’s dictum that “Whoever speaks about humanity is trying to deceive.” It’s a good one-liner but the remark is incorrect. Precisely the danger of the Miliband-Bush vision of politics is that it is not based on a conscious desire to deceive others but instead on self-deception – on a genuine belief in the rightness of the universalist and almost Messianic mission which they embrace. Like the liberal imperialists of the, er, 19th century, these people do really believe that what they are doing is selfless and essentially non-political.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union – an artificial political creation based on a negation of Russian history and reality, on bogus internationalism, and on an allegedly universalist political creed which was supposed to embrace the whole of humanity – Russian politicians have long since abandoned any pretence that their own country has any such universal vocation. When I met President Putin last September, he specifically said that Russia had suffered greatly from having adopted Lenin’s universalist creed of communism. (“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-Ulyanov said at one point: Russia matters nothing to me; what matters is to achieve world socialist revolution.”)
Not so the United States and Britain. The neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on human rights and democracy (embraced energetically on both the Left and the Right of the American political spectrum, as the recent nomination of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running-mate sadly emphasises) does require brute force to implement it. Developments like the “independence” of Kosovo grow only out of the barrel of a gun. But the project is supported in London and Washington by people who have utterly deluded themselves about its truly political nature.
It is because the West still deceives itself on this matter, and because post-Soviet Russia no longer does, that East-West relations are a dialogue of the deaf. Both sides are speaking a language the other does not want to hear. The Western vision, based on self-deceit, is extremely dangerous; the Russian vision of politics is far more realistic. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the reassertion of a Russian presence on the international stage will force the Milibands of this world, obviously against their will, to realise a basic fact about the human condition. It is that the world has been divided into different states ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and that politics consists therefore not in fantastic projects to construct a new tower in its place, but instead in making the best job one can out of the bricks which remain.
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Mon, 2008-09-01 18:03.
Q: "How much longer will people persist in avoiding the issue and identifying them for who and what they truly are without exception?"
A: I really don't know. You tell me. (You could do this, quite easily, by answering your own question). Well, what IS the answer?
Another inconvenient truth
Submitted by DavyUK on Mon, 2008-09-01 17:16.
Quote: "Milliband’s hatred of Russia is built into his political DNA. His grandfather, Samuel Miliband, was a Warsaw-born Communist".
How much longer will people persist in avoiding the issue and identify these for who and what they truly are without exception?. After all, you only have to substitute the word 'communist' for 'jew'. Is it really that difficult or are we all now just to terrified to speak the truth.
Submitted by Pankukas on Mon, 2008-09-01 18:17.
Unless Mr. Miliband's Jewish ancestry has something to do with the hatred (what? how? why?) he supposedly harbors for Russia, what truth could anyone be hiding, and exactly who are those "we"?
Submitted by traveller on Sun, 2008-08-31 09:04.
The stupidity of European politics doesn't excuse the Russian/Putin agressions.
Submitted by Mimi on Sat, 2008-08-30 22:56.
"The great and controversial German jurist, Carl Schmitt, famous adopted Proudhon’s dictum that “Whoever speaks about humanity is trying to deceive.” "
Someone I knew used to put it this way: "whenever I hear about humanity I feel my pocket to see if my wallet is still there."
You know my name...
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Fri, 2008-08-29 06:04.
Other posters are up in my grill - tossing my name about in an unconstructive way...
Oh well, if people are talking 'bout me, I guess I'm doing something right, as Paul Wall might have it.
Comparisons # 3
Submitted by marcfrans on Fri, 2008-08-29 04:56.
@ Maple Syrup
You are now engaging in all sorts of wild speculation, and I advise to await future events, and not to take too serious any of our speculative comments beyond the confines of my original 'bet'.
Concerning some of your points:
-- I doubt very much that the US army is "bogged down" today in Iraq. On the contrary, that army is cementing its ties with certain political and military forces in that country. It could also leave tomorrow, if it wanted to, but I do not think that it would want to. It would be interesting to see if Obama would be able to make it leave, over the 'strategic' objections of Republicans and of 'Pentagon-Democrats' in Congress.
-- I think that the Saddam regime, if left in place and after undermining of the international sanctions regime, could (and would) have done much more "damage" than any islamists in Iraq could do today.
-- The Iraqi army today is rapidly developing into the strongest force for 'stability' in that country, and a situation similar to the Pakistani (and Turkish?) one may well be developing, in the sense of the army being the real state. Given high oil prices and the rapid rise in oil revenues, perhaps the greater danger today is some kind of Preatorian Guard coup (probably in combination with some political forces), to get control of these resources, rather than any "islamist" threat. The sunnis have clearly turned away from the islamists, and the shiites seem now very divided (with the more radical party on the defensive and Sadr living in exile in Iran). If the coup can be staved off, some kind of normal politics among disparate forces will continue to develop. Perhaps the biggest immediate concern is the inability of Arabs and Kurds in Iraq to reach agreement on the disposition of Kirkurk (given the legacy of ethnic cleansing by Saddam in that area).
-- As to "the gates of every major city in Western Europe", Armor is the man to consult. He will blame it on..the jews! But the problem lies elsewhere, and goes much 'deeper', because it is cultural.
Submitted by Maple syrup on Thu, 2008-08-28 22:24.
The U.S. forces will pull out of Iraq because they are seriously overextended, both financially and in manpower. They will also pull out because the rest of the world is starting to realize just how powerless the U.S. has become -- with its army bogged down in Iraq.
Come to think of it, maybe those troops should stay on. It will keep them out of mischief elsewhere ;-)
In any event, it doesn't really matter when or how they pull out. The damage is already done. The Islamists now have a freer hand in Iraq than they did under Sadaam. Just look at the current Iraqi administration. It is already dominated by the Islamist party, even though it is nominally under U.S. control.
An Islamist regime under U.S. tutelage? That prospect is not as absurd as it may seem. The more intelligent Islamists (such as the ones who govern Turkey) know they cannot overcome the West in a conventional war. But they do know that Western nations are guided by short-term interests. And they will exploit those interests to achieve their own long-term vision.
Yes, we will open the gates of the Caucasus to them just as we opened the gates of the Balkans to them, as well as the gates of every major city in Western Europe. We're really that stupid.
Comparisons # 2
Submitted by marcfrans on Thu, 2008-08-28 18:23.
@ Maple Syrup
Your interesting comments go way beyond the bounderies of my proposed bet.
1) If we limit or rephrase your comments to the suggested bet then it would appear that you believe that in a few years:
-- (a) there will be no longer any British troops in Iraq and that no parts of Iraq will be annexed to the US, and that
-- (b) there will be Russian troops remaining in parts of Georgia, and these regions will be de facto annexed to Russia (which means inter alia that everybody remaining there will get Russian pasports).
So, maybe you have taught something to Mr Laughland and to Kapitein Andre about the difference between genuine "imperialism" and phantom imperialism. The difference has to do with 'values'.
2) As to the rest of your comments, they are highly speculative, and I cannot subscribe to them nor disprove them.
-- Whether Iraq will have an "islamist government" (as a unitary state) is possible, but far from certain. The probability of that will increase substantially if Obama gets elected.
-- Your speculations about "Turkish troops" and about "Armenia" strike me as possible, but also as improbable. In any case, they have nothing to do with my bet.
Reply to Marcfrans
Submitted by Maple syrup on Thu, 2008-08-28 15:20.
1. In 5 years time, most American/British forces will be gone from Iraq. Large numbers of Iraqis will have been resettled in Western countries. The country itself will have an Islamist government.
2. Russian troops will be stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These regions will no longer be part of Georgia (just as Kossovo is no longer part of Serbia). The U.S. will be backing the entry of Turkish troops into Georgia and elsewhere in the Caucasus 'to ensure stability'. Armenia, in turn, will ask for Russian military protection.
That's my prediction of the future. Frankly, I don't like it one bit.
Submitted by marcfrans on Thu, 2008-08-28 00:50.
The presumed "hatred of Miliband for Russia" is but a poor copy of Laughland's real hatred for America and for American ideals. And the mulicultural follies of the same Miliband are comparable to the absurd moral equivalency implied by valueless nationalists like Laughland and Kapitein Andre.
This will all be much clearer in a few years time, when real intentions will have been confirmed. Who wants to make a bet on whether (1) there will then be any British soldiers left in Iraq, or that parts of Iraq will be annexed to the USA? And who wants to make a bet that there will then be any Russian soldiers left in Georgia and that parts will be annexed to Russia? Any takers? We would have to wait, though, a few years to unmask who the real fools are here. And it will not be 'JimMtnVwCalUSA', despite him being from the left coast in California.
easy to oppose now but wait till later
Submitted by JimMtnViewCaUSA on Wed, 2008-08-27 17:25.
Some remarks on how the Georgia/Russia conflict flared:
I don't see the equivalence between Russia/Georgia and England/Iraq. The latter took much longer to start, there were many warnings, the UN was involved and so on. Russia appears to be a simple bully and resurgent imperial power by contrast.
It is easy for Euros to oppose the US and its allies now. But the time will come when the Bear stretches out its paws to the west. Already Poland is threatened with nuclear war if it installs a few defensive missles on its own territory. Euros may regret the lack of friends in the not too distant future.
Submitted by Maple syrup on Wed, 2008-08-27 16:06.
"Eurabia is created by people like you even more than by people like Milband."
If anything, the reverse is true. John Laughland is a citizen with no power over immigration policy. David Miliband is a high-ranking member of a government that has increased Muslim immigration to record levels.
communists and others
Submitted by dimitrik on Wed, 2008-08-27 15:16.
Europe always has to choose between angry deaf communists and angry deaf anti-communists. Same happened in 1932 in Germany. Milband is a communist, that's true. But who is Laughland?
You say, the threat to US (and the West) after 9/11 is pure imagination? Come on Mr. Laughland, who are you going to fool? You pretend that you are not ideologically motivated. But clearly you are, because you ignore the obvious threat coming from your friends. Eurabia is created by people like you even more than by people like Milband.
@John Laughland RE: "Russia and the West"
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Wed, 2008-08-27 14:19.
My thoughts exactly re: Miliband.
Interesting that his grandfather betrayed his country - Poland - by fighting with the Soviets during their 1919-1921 invasion. I imagine that Samuel was encouraged by the pre-eminence of his co-religionists in the Communist Party, something Stalin would have none of. Moreover, David's father Ralph/Adolphe was an illegal immigrant to the UK. Apparently, 'broken borders' are not a new problem for Great Britain...