COUNTERPUNCH, Weekend Edition
March 28-30, 2014
Obama on a Roll
Massing for Global Confrontation
by NORMAN POLLACK
This was the week to bring Europe
and the US into a unitary mold of fighting trim. If Crimea had simply been
offered to Russia as bait to be nibbled, then Russia hauled in, the result
could not be better. As it is, the US structured the Crimean coup in anticipation
of Putin’s necessary response, not, as in American practice, to show toughness
and demonstrate credibility, but, admittedly more prosaic, to prevent the
movement of NATO forces, via Ukraine, to the Russian border. US
gamesmanship had for its purpose to reenergize the West and make it, according
to Obama, more aware of its “responsibilities” in helping shoulder the
burden to confront the Soviet Union (oops, Russia)
with the drawing of another red line. Obama in Brussels, exhibiting a necromantic
aura, yet one—all the more chilling–garbed with winning smile and glad
hand, invites Europe
into participation in America’s favorite ritual: the reaffirmation of war
as a permanent foundation
for the expression of Exceptionalism. By implication, without
an Enemy by which to differentiate one’s own moral goodness,
the ideological house of cards would collapse. War
is the glue cementing the national character.
The walk-ons in this high drama,
like Poland and Lithuania,
must feign panic, enabling the US to send
in fighter jets and missile systems in defense
of freedom, while Germany, Britain, and France are asked to cough up more
troops and appropriations to assist in the noble cause. Obama, Nobel Peace
Prize as the credential validating statesmanship from which he has derived
astonishing mileage (however much his vitiating its meaning), is on a mission
to gather a Grand Alliance in opposition to Russia. His message to Europe
is one of simple exhortation: Rearm, Stand Firm, Advance, Conquer, through
sanctions if possible or more active means if necessary. Deny the use of
force, whilst building prodigiously (embarrassing the EU and NATO to fall
into line) from ground up its basic components, and hence creating the
context for its potential use. Russia becomes the Goths of our time, entitled
to no mercy—or even negotiations. Do I exaggerate?
The week began with excluding
Russia from the Group of 8, so abrupt and categorical the change that by
two days later, Group of 7 became a routine designation. The next day,
Russia “a regional power,” yet still pressed
the EU and NATO to expand the latter’s military capabilities.
And with an appearance at Flanders Fields the day after, he conjured up
the specter of mass deaths in World War One as somehow connected to Russia’s
actions one hundred years later in Crimea, given its tenuousness a linkage
based on innuendo (his way of instilling
fears), the propaganda technique of choice perfected in the
campaign of counterterrorism. And by the
close of the week, he was emphasizing two conflicting world views, invoking
the Iron Curtain, expecting images of slavery to dance before our eyes,
on one side, as meanwhile pristine democracy lies on the other —
very much the unreconstructed Cold Warrior at every turn.
carefully drafted rhetoric, there
is the reality of confrontation, Crimea, I
strongly suspect, the pretext for the reincarnation of Dulles’s rollback
theory and practice, and even then, never forsaking the “pivot”—as though
back to a two-directional war paradigm and orientation. Only now,
Russia itself is receding from view, replaced in geopolitical thinking
by China as Enemy # 1 (conceptually, fairly
crude, an undisguised encirclement
backed as well by the Trans-Pacific Partnership), the
furor over Russia in Crimea a
means of strengthening the US military even more,
though resources will merely
add to the Pacific-first strategy.
These are indeed exciting times, America as the fusion of three closely
integrated formations, all significantly accelerated by Obama and the Democrats:
the National Security
State, the Garrison State, and the Surveillance State, all structurally
simpatico with the highest stage of wealth-concentration in American history,
the distillation therefore of the
militarization and financialization of US capitalism.
My New York Times comment on
Michael Shear and Paul Baker’s article, “Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment
to NATO Alliance,” (March 27), which serves as an example of the week’s
reporting, follows, same date:
Wonderful NYT, Go for it, treat
Obama as a distinguished world leader and a demigod, replete with Shear’s
“neutral language,” to wit: “Russian aggression,” “ways of reassuring Poland,”
“intended to explain and honor Europe’s role in the global democratic movement,”
“threatens to undermine the rules that free nations have fought to establish,”
etc. Never mind drone assassination,
the invasions into Iraq and Afghanistan,
global paramilitary efforts toward regime
change, the undisputed
Nazi/fascist elements in Ukraine,
who led the coup and have high places in the
interim government; the move
to place NATO forces on the Russian border.
Never mind any of that. Just stick to your guns (bad pun) and fuel the
of permanent war.
Demonize Putin and Russia, otherwise
Obama’s rhetoric today about a US-NATO military build-up in Eastern Europe
might sound shrill. Beat the drums, turn on the patriotism spigot. Even
allow a source pushing the administration line anonymity despite widespread
quotation. Was it Rhodes? Readers are entitled to know the identity of
officials, those whom you permit to hide – consistent with Obama’s
despication of transparency.
NYT once stood for responsible
journalism under A.O.S. and Scotty. Where
are we now but in the slime of White House
propaganda. If you present news coverage, get rid of emotionally-loaded
descriptions and one-sided interpretation – that, or forfeit your place
in the front-ranks of journalism.
Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are
social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He
can be reached at email@example.com.
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