Thursday, May 25, 2006

More on Cold War 2

I already wrote how Dick “Sharpshooter” Cheney gave Russia a very powerful signal – what it should really do to become democratic. Mark Ames has an excellent article (one of his best, I think) on the very same topic “How Dick Cheney Got His Cold War On: A Cold War Timetable” published in eXile.

Cheney's speech raised a lot of questions and a lot of debate, but no one asked one of the most obvious questions of all: Why did Cheney choose to flaunt his hypocrisy in everyone's faces? Why not try faking it, the way most Western leaders operate when they mix righteous words with rapacious policies? Why didn't Cheney choose to put a bit of space in between his speech attacking Russia's record on democracy and his visits to the despotic Central Asian states?
Or put another way, what if it wasn't a mistake. What if the blatant, insane hypocrisy WAS the real message...and always has been all along?

So it was a huge risk for Putin to cozy up so closely to America post-9/11. He went out on a limb, made a bold move against his own powerful base, in the hope that the benefits of a mutually-supportive relationship with America would in the end prove him right and make him, and Russia, stronger.And at first it looked like he might be right, as America was undergoing Pootimania.
But then America won the war in Afghanistan much more easily and quickly than we or anyone else thought. And that war victory went to our heads. Suddenly, we decided we didn't need Putin's help anymore. In fact, as the Newsweeks triumphantly declared, we didn't need anyone's help anymore. America was not just a superpower, it was a hyperpower, perhaps the most powerful (and benign) empire that the world had ever seen.

On December 13th, 2001 after it was clear that Afghanistan had fallen to our allies Bush announced that America was unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.
Putin went on national television, clearly stunned and weakened, calling Bush's move a "mistake." It was a painful broadcast, egg dripping from his face. I've never seen Putin so clearly bitch-slapped before or since.

I remember being shocked at what assholes we'd turned out to be. I couldn't understand why Bush didn't wait even, say, two or three months, at least for the victory dancing to settle down in Afghanistan, maybe throw Russia a bone or two. What was behind the timing?

I contacted a good friend of mine in the Defense Department to ask him why we chose to withdraw from the ABM treaty in such a time and manner as to maximally embarrass Putin for having sided with us. Why didn't we wait?

My DoD friend seemed surprised. "We didn't even consider the effect on Putin," he answered. "We only considered what's in our own interest, which is to withdraw now. Besides, we got rid of the Taliban, that was a favor enough for the Russians in our opinion." At the time, Russian anger over Bush's decision to start building a missile shield was dismissed as old Russian paranoia, a holdover of Cold War thinking. Russia had "nothing to worry about," we said.

Democracy isn't about voting. It's about serving America's interests. And serving America's interests is more tightly defined a serving the interests of the oil oligarchs in Houston, where Cheney spent the previous ten years. In fact, it's even more simple than that it's personal. America's interests are Cheney's interests. Il est l'etat. In that sense, Putin is indeed a genuine menace. And that's what makes this Cold War so different. Whereas the last one was a mortal struggle over two different systems, this is a struggle between two short, balding, bloodless men, and the oil other people's oil that made them as powerful as they are today.

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