I have been thinking these days more and more about Dr. Strangelove, and how the attitudes and rhetoric in the American centre-left-to-centre-right with regard to Russia more and more resembles the anti-human arithmetical logic of General ‘Buck’ Turgidson in that film. And the reasoning we give for this idiotic sabre-rattling, all woven from the same century-old ideological tissue of Wilsonian Whiggery and interventionism which this blog has opposed from the very start, all drawing from the same tainted wells as the boosters of the horrific wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, resembles nothing so much as the unbalanced obsession of a certain fictional general over the imagined threat to the purity of his bodily fluids. But the ramifications of this rhetoric, risible as it is, are deadly in tenor, and this brinkmanship game against a power which is not directly threatening our national interests (but which is fully capable of defending itself) on the part of NATO and the American elites heading it, is an act of sheer strategic stupidity.
It seems no one gets this as well as the notably-cantankerous British Labour journalist Rod Liddle at the Spectator, who understands both the moral stakes and the history in the current dust-up (again) over Syria. He understands perfectly well that
- There is no competent governing authority in Syria apart from Assad;
- Russia’s actions supporting Assad may be heavy-handed, but they are in fact defensive, have standing historical precedent, and are well within the realm of international law;
- Our governments’ actions supporting a fantasy of ‘nice moderates’ (but a reality of head-lopping Wahhabi extremists), on the other hand, are not;
- Those actions are ‘done in the name of dippy, well-meaning, liberal evangelism’; and
- These actions have ‘cost far more lives than can be laid at the door of the Russkies and Vladimir Putin’; and
- The quickest way to end this most uncivil war with the least possible loss of human life is to ensure an Assad victory.
Or rather, they want to go back to the more comfortable black-and-white logic of 1964, when there was a clear-cut ideological enemy that really was out to destroy us. Such logic, however convenient, is not without its flaws – as Rod Liddle points out something quite important: ‘[y]ou cannot divest a country of its empire, its political system and raison d’être, its industry, its jobs, its money, its prestige and world stature in five or six short years and not expect some sort of rebound, some sort of hankering after the old way of life … a hankering after Putin’. But here’s the thing. Putin was not, at first, an anti-Western politician. He was part of the Eltsin administration; and he took over in the hope of reaching some kind of conciliation with the West. But the West repeatedly frustrated his hopes with the needless provocations of a recklessly-expanding and increasingly-hostile NATO. Putin simply arrived at the same conclusions as any self-respecting national leader would do after meeting with incessant insults, provocations and military encroachment. I say this as someone who has never been entirely convinced of the goodness of Putin’s policies. But Putin now has a ready and willing base of support in the shape of eighty per cent of the Russian populace, which he never would have had if we hadn’t continued our arrogant hegemonic policies in Russia’s near-abroad, which any Tory worth his realist salt back in the day would have told you was a bad idea.