America has Ukraine on the brain right now. I don't think that the neocons want actual war with Putin, but they certainly want a new Cold War. Their propaganda push has invaded all aspects of our national culture.
Consider this interview with Fedor Bondarchuk
, director of the new Imax Stalingrad
film. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm a huge admirer of Fedor's father, Sergei Bondarchuk. The interview is worth reading despite the appalling headline:
“Stalingrad”: A national myth for Putin’s Russia
Fedor Bondarchuk on his eye-popping WWII epic, which helps explain the psychology behind the Ukraine crisis
Why are these words appalling? Because nothing in the interview buttresses the idea that this new movie has any relationship at all to Putin or the Ukraine crisis
. So why did Salon hit us with that headline? It's as if a Russian film critic tried to convince his readers that The Thin Red Line
offered some deep insight into the inner workings of Bill Clinton's mind.
I cite that headline as one small (yet telling) example of what happens when the war drums begin to bang bang bang BANG BANG. Everyone starts bopping and nodding and tapping toes to the rhythm. It's infectious. Insidious. Even people who damned well ought to know better get caught up in the beat.
So why is this happening?
I am persuaded that this crisis was ginned up. But why
was it ginned up?
Many have offered theories involving oil pipelines. While those theories probably have much in their favor, let's not overlook an even simpler idea.
, on its surface, has no direct bearing on Russia and Ukraine. And yet
The nation’s top military commander painted a dark picture Tuesday of future U.S. defense capabilities clouded by shrinking Pentagon budgets and adversaries’ technological advances that he said would erode American battlefield superiority.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided his sobering views as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated evaluation of U.S. military strength issued every four years.
Dempsey predicted that it would become increasingly difficult to balance the competing demands of protecting allies abroad, securing Americans at home and deterring future wars.
“The smaller and less capable military outlined in the QDR makes meeting these obligations more difficult,” he said. “Most of our platforms and equipment will be older, and our advantages in some domains will have eroded. Our loss of depth across the force could reduce our ability to intimidate opponents from escalating conflicts.”
Some of you may recall that, in 2010, I predicted that we'd be seeing a lot of stories like this. I said that the media would overflow with dire warnings of imminent military collapse.
More than a year later, I had to admit that my confident forecast remained unfulfilled. That confession
was difficult to write. I honestly could not understand what was happening:
For decades, the only Keynesianism which the punditry would ever countenance was military Keynesianism. That was Reagan's big trick -- and to be frank, it more or less worked.
I had once predicted that our real rulers would prepare the way for a military Keynesian solution by inundating us with propaganda about the horribly antiquated equipment our soldiers must use. If you lived through the Reagan years, you'll know the kind of ad campaign I'm talking about: "America still uses biplanes and wooden ships and muskets! Our soldiers wear tri-corner hats! We need to upgrade now!"
When that kind of propaganda didn't flood our airwaves, I began to suspect that maybe this crisis was different.
Damned right it was different. Over the past few years, the Ayn Randroids within the Republican establishment have actually been talking about defense cuts. Yes: Cuts.
To the Randroids, military Keynesianism was just as odious as any other kind of Keynesianism.
For the longest time, the hard core libertarians appeared to have won the day. But now, it looks as though the people running this country have finally decided not to give up on the U.S. economy after all. They came up with a new plan to put people back to work again.
This "new" plan is, of course, the old plan -- the traditional plan. It has three steps.
First: Scare America with dark talk of a Big Bad Russian Wolf.
Second: Permit increased deficit spending in order to fund a new peacetime military build-up.
Third: Erect "Now Hiring" signs in front of Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and every other defense contractor.
I doubt that the people running this country bear Putin any actual ill will. It's nothing personal. We simply need a new bogeyman, and Putin will more or less do.
Osama Bin Laden is no longer available for the bogeyman role -- and besides, the War on Terror never sufficed as a justification for a new round of Military Keynesianism. Putin, by contrast, is the head of a major power, and he's an ornery and eccentric old cuss. If Vladimir Putin did not exist, we would have to invent him
What was it Gore Vidal used to say? When politicians tell you that the Russians are coming, hang onto your wallets -- it's just another raid on the Treasury.
My own feelings are mixed. Obviously, I believe in Keynesian solutions. I believe that the government should invest in a jobs program. But must
those jobs be linked to building up our already bloated military? And must the jobs program be accompanied by shady covert ops and dangerously bellicose talk? Can't we at least try
a non-military form of Keynesianism?