Yves here. This article by Andrew Bacevich on Ukraine is revealing, and not in a good way. True, Bacevich does challenge the wild-eyed claims about a loss in Ukraine having catastrophic outcomes. In fact, defeat would diminish US power and NATO’s even more so. But it is hardly clear that the emergence of a multipolar world would be a bad thing save for US arms merchants, financiers, and our surveillance state. In the unlikely event we got over our hegemonic aspirations, the US could redirect some of its supersized military spending to domestic needs.
However, while Bacevich does call out the most rabid of Russia-haters, using Timothy Snyder as his object lesson, he still depicts Putin as evil: “…he is indeed a menace of the first order and his reckless aggression deserves to fail.” Bacevich ignores that Putin repeatedly rejected the request of the separatists to join Russia, and that he muscled them into accepting remaining in Ukraine via the Minsk Accords, which Ukraine, France and Germany have confirmed for them was just a ruse to buy time for Ukraine. Nor is there a peep about the idea that even if we put aside the question of Western provocation (would the US have tolerated a hostile major power training and arming a country on its borders) and concede that Putin is responsible for the decision to invade, it was the West that scuppered the peace talks in Istanbul. Their breakdown, and the continuation of the war beyond that point, is on us.
The inability to consider the concerns of the other side, which Bacevich demonstrates is strong even in the supposedly enlightened left when the other side is Russia, is fatal to diplomacy. This piece is yet another proof that the odds of a negotiated end to the war are effectively zilch. The Collective West has done such an effective job of demonizing Russia that any treaty acknowledging Russia’s security interests would be dead on arrival. And that’s before the wee problem that Russia has learned we don’t honor our commitments.
The US arms manufacturers will be the only real winners in this & the Ukrainians the guaranteed worst losers, with NATO also losing along with the European vassals – the neocon dream of destroying Russia is not as easy as the series of cheap massacres in the Amerindian genocide their country was built on.
Perhaps in the long run, but right now it seems like only South Korea has an arms industry with enough capacity to deliver the heavy equipment needed for a war between peer nations. The NATO nations in particular has degenerated after two decades of “police action” against locals using cold war AKs and technicals.
They may not have enough capacity to deliver equipment, but they have plenty of capacity to consume money, so don’t worry, all will be fine.
Considering the amount of funding pumped into the armaments corporations, they should have plenty of capacity. You’d almost think the arms corporations are just a pass through.
Well, American arms dealers AND fossil fuel industry, eh?
And Blackstone, JP Morgan, etc
I have been quite surprised by the ferocity of the denunciations of Putin by Bacevich and his other colleagues at the Quincy Institute who insist that Putin is a monstrous man whose invasion of Ukraine is an unforgivable, empire building war crime. Putin’s years long efforts to avoid a war in Ukraine coupled with the unremitting bad faith of the Ukrainian, French, German, British, and American political leadership don’t merit so much as a footnote in their condemnations. Bacevich, whose foreign policy judgment I once viewed as impeccable, also joined the chorus lacerating the weakness of the Russian armed forces for failing to deliver shock and awe in the early days of the war. Restraint was mistaken for weakness. I expected better from a former professional soldier. If someone as generally rational and thoughtful as Bacevich is blind to the landscape, there isn’t much hope for any resolution other than endless war or unconditional surrender.
It is to avoid getting burned as a “witch”.
Right now there are either multiple witch hunts going on in US society, or one that keep expanding and revising its definition of a witch.
I have been befuddled for months by the lockstep groupthink gripping the “leadership” of the “western world” (including virtually all of the PMC) w.r.t. Ukraine. To buy this propaganda you must be willing to excise 30 years of undeniable history and ignore repeated explicit statements by various US government organs and their pet think tanks that the US aims to foment regime change or dissolution of the Russian state.
This willingness seems to be the crescendo in a sequence: Trump derangement, aggressive wokeism, COVID anti-denialism, and now an orgasm of Russophobia. The only reasonable explanation I’ve stumbled across so far came across this morning in a comment by “The Accountant” at Moon of Alabama (Ukraine Open Thread 2023-38 comment 275):
It appears that anyone who wants to remain credentialed is obligated to declare unwavering faith in the propaganda du jour.
So effectively secular excommunication for the PMC…
IIRC, CJ Hopkins made the point that the value of propaganda as a loyalty test depended on its absurdity. Getting someone to claim 2+2=4 is easy, but only the committed believer will claim 2+2=5. the “Putin is Evil” mantra is de rigeur.
“Credentialed” and therefore funded; Bacevich has an institute to support -regrettably, it’s that vulgar and simple.
He clearly weighs more than a duck
ALM: Bacevich denounced Putin on TomDispatch yesterday also. I’m with you in your comment.
Um, this is a cross post from TomDispatch. Our Policies stipulate reading a post in full before commenting.
tomdispatch is not worth the eye strain, that bacevich is a regular there explains his myopity…
geo-political comment is becoming like economics, poles do not mix….
Check out Arthur Ponsonby’s 1928 classic, “Falsehood in War Time, Containing an Assortment of Lies Circulated Throughout the Nations During the Great War.” The demonization of Kaiser Bill followed a similar path:
“The accusation against the enemy of sole responsibility for the war is common form in every nation and in every war…It is a necessary falsehood based on a momentary biased opinion of one side in a dispute, and it becomes the indispensable basis of all subsequent propaganda.”
“…the next step is to personify the enemy. As the absurd analogy of an individual criminal and a nation may become apparent even to moderately intelligent people, it is necessary to detach an individual on whom may he concentrated all the vials of the wrath of an innocent people – who are only defending themselves from unprovoked aggression.”
He wants to keep his cake while eating it. One cannot be legit think tank (Quincy Institute) and survive in the US.
At least Ron Paul is more honest, and therefore more muted in the public sphere:
That is cross-posted from Unz, but at least the Ron Paul Institute is featuring it. I thought it was a very good summary trying to stay factual for those who have fallen for the “leadership of the Western world” rhetoric.
Incidentally, I am not sure it is down to credentialism, at least not as I understand the word, but w very fervent belief that the “West” is morally superior and on the right side of history. This to me also explains the quasi-religious belief in the narrative noted by several NC’ers in comments in the past and below.
I agree, and in my view it undermines completely what Bacevich purports to be doing as a “realist” historian who draws on his military background to claim the moral high ground. He has done a lot of good work in the past on our own foreign misadventures. But if we are to understand the significance of this war in Ukraine, it is crucial that the full story of US/NATO provocation, and the long history of Russia’s response, be presented with crystal clarity. Instead, Putin’s actions are “those of a vile criminal.” He compares Putin’s actions to Bush’s invasion of Iraq:
“… he had no idea what he was getting into, any more than George W. Bush did in 2003. Admittedly, the two make odd bedfellows and one can easily imagine each taking offense at being compared to the other. Still, the comparison is unavoidable: In the present century, Putin and Bush have been de facto collaborators in perpetrating havoc.”
Bacevich defends his own “whataboutism,” or “both-siderism.” But this is simply a more “realist” version of the usual pseudo-humanitarian bulls**t that reinforces our own massive propaganda offensive. “Putin is a vicious evil criminal thug whose megalomaniacal desire for empire and genocide endangers civilization itself…. BUT, hey, maybe we shouldn’t wage *total* war…” All the good “realists” and “liberals” and “progressives” and “leftists” who claim to want peace but push this crap simply serve power – delivering the propaganda message for the masses while making their own small constituencies feel better about themselves. We did the same thing with Saddam. Same with Assad. Same with Gaddafi. Etc. etc. etc. And especially in this case, as Yves points out, it is a FALSE narrative that mystifies the reality of the Ukraine war. And this war is *not* comparable to Iraq, as bad as that conflict was. It is part of an even larger global project, the effects of which could be much worse. Clarity is essential. What Bacevich gives us instead is obscurantism. It is a variation of what he rightly condemns Snyder for doing. That he apparently doesn’t realize this is quite discouraging.
Going before rational judges, the most reasonable argument usually wins. Bacevich is just doing his job, which is to sound reasonable because too many Americans are not buying the propaganda. But his bottom line is that Russia must be brought to heel. “Putin” is the word we substitute for Russia. Because it’s hard to call a sovereign country a vile criminal when they are clearly defending their own sovereignty. So we are required to vilify Putin in order to attack Russia. So in that sense of twisting reality, Bacevich is giving us high-level disinformation. He never mentions the fact that it was the Duma’s decision to go to war. So does this make the Duma a vile criminal? Similar to our own dear Congress?
I brought this up in another comment while ago, but this view is consistent with what I read in the preface to one of Bacevich’s books. Bacevich described his Damascene moment as his experience as a young officer stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, when he took the opportunity to cross over to (former) East Germany to take a close look at the Soviet Army, and he describes how they looked nothing like the formidable war machine cold warriors of 1980s imagined, but a run down army with disspirited men and poorly maintained equipment. In other words, Bacevich’s worldview presupposes that Soviets/Russians were and still are paper tigers. He opposed US interventionism because he felt US leaders were inventing or, at least, exaggerating threats and other issues abroad to justify interventions, but I don’t think he ever believed for a minute that Russia, as opposed to Iraq or Afghanistan, is not a future threat. So if you believe, as i think Bacevich does, Russia is at least a long term threat but also that its army is still more or less the late Cold War Soviet Army that he remembers, then this sort of argument falls into place.
I guess the question is how many people has Putin sent off to death camps. Survey says zero.
Russia doesn’t have the fairest election system in the world, and there is a fair amount of media control by the State (but people in glass houses and all that). . . but evil?
Russia was a little behind the curve on LGBT (sodomy legal, gay marriage not legal), but nothing like Saudi Arabia. I think there has been a bit of a crackdown of late, but that is a consequence of the war and the US’s adoption of the GAE soft power stance.
It’s all a little strange the need to demonize Putin/RF, but I guess haters gonna hate.
The real concern is that by pushing Russia into a full war footing, ramping up Russian nationalism, and with the West demonizing Russians and Russian culture, especially if Russia prevails by force, NATO may end up creating the monster they say they are afraid of.
Maybe that is a NATO-WEF goal . . . to create a fearful monster Russia to use for social control against the subjects in America and EUrope.
@ALM — I felt Bacevich was just going through the motions in a pro-forma denunciation of Putin, but I could be wrong, and in any case, I share your disappointment and dismay.
“Quincy Institute… Initial funding for the group, launched in November 2019, included half a million dollars each from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations..”
Soros is understandably persona non grata in Russia. IMHO, Soros is one of the leading instigators and funders of anti-Putin narratives, and, given that individuals and organizations that Soros funds typically articulate that narrative, it raises the suspicion that this is a funding requirement.
“The Harvard Boys do Russia”
“….For example, in 1995, in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university’s endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia’s second-largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also invested in Russia’s high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond market.
Even more dubious, according to Williamson, was Soros’s July 1997 purchase of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank’s Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue; the loan now appears to have been used by Uneximbank to purchase Norilsk Nickel in August 1997. According to Williamson, the U.S. assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflicts of interest involving H.I.I.D. advisers and their U.S.A.I.D.-funded Chubais allies, H.M.C. managers, favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates working in Russia’s nascent markets….”
Mark Ames and others also document how Soros helped fund the Maidan coup in Ukraine.
… and the Kochs, right. They used to be non-interventionist lite, at least, but that might have been a ruse to create a sentiment around themselves.
What is Quincy Institute? Is in endowed by a pair of philanthropists so researchers on staff would do whatever these researchers deem right, or more as “who pays the fiddler, he sets the tune”?
Most of paleocons, libertarians etc. share a rather narrow perspective and rather shallow and ignorant analysis. A typical argument is that it is a mistake to base American policy on promoting democracy, because democracy is not good for all society. This is a straw man argument, while rhetoric deployed within American policy refers to the promotion of democracy, it is hard to see that there is any actual effort in this direction, instead giving tags “dictator”, “strongman” etc. to leaders popular in their own countries, while supporting governments energetically repressing opposition, be them absolute monarchs, beneficiaries of a military coup etc. In their usage, the term “democracy” lost any sense other “member or friend of NATO”.
The conclusion they make from the straw man argument is not bad, trying to do better than possible leads to failure etc., but bad diagnosis also leads to failure. You will not convince extremely cynical people to change their ways by chiding them for being to idealistic.
Sorry, but nobody is promoting democracy, ever… During the English Revolution, reasonable representation went first out the door, same with the French Revolution and same with the Russian Revolution. See Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast.
As for the American Revolution, one founder had this to say:
On the morning of May 29, 1787, in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Edmund Randolph, governor of Virginia, opened the meeting that would become known as the Constitutional Convention by identifying the underlying cause of various problems that the delegates of thirteen states had assembled to solve. “Our chief danger,” Randolph declared, “arises from the democratic parts of our constitutions.” None of the separate states’ constitutions, he said, had established “sufficient checks against the democracy.”
Which is why the US is a Republic. The founders envisioned the “ship of state” to be led by a class of men who had the time and composure to “do the thinking”, and act. This was precisely so that the “will of the people” wouldn’t just run amok and whipsaw governing to whatever the current fad would be.
It makes perfect sense why america’s leaders ALWAYS felt entitled to be “more equal” than the rest of us.
Too bad they never had the inclination to “do what’s right”.
I have the impression that “civilization is at stake in Ukraine” is how things look from the Russian side; from their perspective they are fighting for, in addition to their own future independence, the freedom of the rest of the world from subordination to US hegemony.
Perhaps the US left denunciation of Russia is necessary to avoid seeing things from the R point of view, or from considering that there might be some validity to that point of view.
MoonOfAlabama requests us to view The 3rd world war has begun: Escalation in Ukraine will change everything- Emmanuel Todd (YT, 1:45, French with English subtitles)
E. Todd (among many other things) says that the US actually still has a bit of free speech, but is no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy. Russia, on the other hand is much more autocratic, but still a democracy: governing by the people for the people. So he says we should oppose “the liberal oligarchy of the West against the autocratic democracy of Russia” (and elsewhere).
And his rant against Journalism is food for thought also (“Journalism” as an ideology like Communism, Capitalism, Catholicism, …)
It looks like https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2023/02/tanks-for-nuttin.html is a bit of duplicate of the article above. One more thinh Todd remarked is that the whole debat about tanks was not so much about Russia or Ukraine, but about Germany, which had to give in. He starts from the hypothesis that the whole conflict in Ukraine was US-instigated to tame Germany, the boss of Europe.
Nothing new for many readers here at NC, but he has a number of interesting views.
I have been watching that in installments, given the length. Excellent video in my view.
Interestingly, he noted that Russian infant mortality is lower than the US’s now. That really surprised my but maybe should not.
Also interesting that he linked traditional family structures in different parts of the world to political structures. I think there is mileage in this and it helps to explain why the globalist “one size fits all” model for society is a recipe for disaster.
Marcel’s comment about the tanks also stood out for me. Encircling Germany has always been a crucial element of all this. Fascinating that the politicians there go along with it. Still, the British Empire found plenty of princes to collaborate with on the Indian sub-continent too.
Todd has been known for many, many years, to analyse political systems and preferences across the world based on the type of family unit most common in respective societies, such as more or less patriarchal, more or less hierarchical or egalitarian (in terms of inheritance structures, for instance), more or less individualistic or collectivist, and it makes for fascinating reading.
Note also his explaining that for the vast majority of the world, based on societal anthropological structures, the particular obsession that western liberals have about LGBTQ rights et. al. tend to make the rest of the world take Putin’s side.
All of this is of course bad news to the liberal order, as it tends to show that societies are a lot less amenable to change as it would wish, and because it is a clarion call for a “realist” worldview rather than the “absolutist” one that the liberal world order is the be-all and end-all of history, and those who haven’t gotten the memo yet are condemned to be swept away by the “there is no alternative liberal order”.
Yeah, I don’t fully buy that idea of family structure and political structure. By that account, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan don’t fit the mold, just to start with.
I am also not sure how different Ukraine and Russia are in that regard, given that across the steppes the differences in peasant cultures (and languages) were likely gradations not discontinuities from one place to the next. But I am no expert so others who know would need to comment.
As with all these hypotheses, it rarely explains everything and there are always exceptions. A helpful frame of reference but not to be applied slavishly I think.
Then there countries where the traditional family structure has been different in different parts of the country. Vertical (primogeniture) in the west, lateral in the east (shared, often non-partible inheritance).
Todd has explained in his books that this is the reason for the tensions in France between a tendency towards authoritarianism (monarchy, fascism with Pétain) and another towards egalitarianism (repeated revolutions and importance of left-wing parties): some regions (notably the center) traditionally have nuclear families with egalitarian inheritance practices, while others (e.g. Southern France) see families organized according to hierachies with inegalitarian inheritance practices (e.g. the eldest son inheriting the entire farmstead and the others having to move out).
As for Japan and other Eastern Asian countries, especially China: Todd did investigate their family structures in depth, and yes, they fit his model of traditional family structures determining the political perspectives of the society.
I’m not so sure about that: while superficially similar to the West as supposedly “liberal” democracies, politics of South Korea and Japan (harder to say the same about Taiwan, where things are more complicated) have a lot of quirks in how parties are organized and electoral campaigns are conducted, as well as how policy gets made (and who bribes whom when and how.) While the details are hard to tease out quickly, I thought Todd’s claim about linkage between family structure and political organization makes intuitive sense vis a vis these countries.
Beat me to it! This is a wonderful talk. He covers everything and it all fits together nicely.
Fits with Michael Hudson´s analysis too
I’m halfway through (I hope that I can comment). It is very good and he speaks very well. Does anyone know if his new book published in Japan “The 3rd world war has started” is written in French or Japanese? If the former, I’ll try finding a copy. He was asked why did he publish in Japan and he sort of waffled there. It sounded like, reading between the lines, that he found it hard to publish in France. This is frightening as I think that the French publishing scene is much less consolidated than the Anglo-sphere one and there are more small publishers who are quite willing to publish something that will be a success-de-scandale.
It seemed to be that he was clear in indicating being ostracized and vilified in France. Also, he mentioned at the end questions about how he will be treated following the interview – not expecting anything good.
It’s in Japanese:
When Le Figaro asked him about publishing this in Japan instead of France, Todd replied:
The Japanese are just as anti-Russian as the Europeans. But they are geographically removed from the conflict, so there is not a real sense of urgency, they do not have our emotional connection to Ukraine. And there, I do not have the same status at all. In France, I have the absurd reputation of being a “rebel destroyer”, whereas in Japan I am a respected anthropologist, historian and geopolitician, who speaks in all the major newspapers and magazines, and whose books are published. I can express myself there in a serene atmosphere, which I did first in magazines, then by publishing this book, which is a collection of interviews.
His comments on “England” are spot on and his framing of the war posture as being elites looking for a solution to internal problems and their own lack lack of confidence feels a good one too. He applies that most specifically to England I felt but to other countries too. The term “parody of war” (it may have something in translation) was apt too.,
Clearly, he sees victory for the west as purely victory for the US which would then enhance its dominance over Europe. His rejection of some form of conspiracy theory encompassing European elites, but rather the loss of confidence referred to above also feels sensible.
I struggled with an early part of the video where he seems to say that the US wanted a short war, did not expect Ukraine to resist and that simply driving a wedge between Germany and Russia was the desired outcome. Then said that the US is now in a trap of its own making with a bigger and longer war. I could not easily square that with the US / clown Churchill wannabe Johnson scuppering peace talks last year. Maybe by then they had already gone too far and the trap had closed on this interpretation? They felt they could not back down? But that element was less satisfactory for me.
Re: ” …. Churchill wannabe Johnson …”
Jeffrey Sachs, in an aside during his recent interview on The Duran, comments snarkily that Johnson fancies himself as Palmerston, the British PM during the Crimean War. “Into the Valley of Death’ and all that.
I remember that he did say that. I was super impressed that Sachs knew of him!
I don’t think it was that the US didn’t expect Ukraine to resist. I believe that the US counted on a “quick” war in terms of the major action and then a drawn out insurgency against the Russian occupation. In April, with negotiations ongoing the wedge wasn’t fully driven between Russia and Germany because Russia didn’t prosecute the war the way the US expected. So scuttling the peace talks may have been a poorly thought out “plan” since plan A didn’t proceed as expected. But stepping into a full blown proxy war and having it be fully conventional wasn’t thought through.
If Russia had overthrown the government in Kiev (taken Kiev in three days) any peace could be called illegitimate. But with the US proxy still in power a deal could/would be deadly to US plans. There’s also the possibility they go rope-a-doped. Because Russia didn’t act like expected and Russia’s worst mistakes were (like any military) front loaded, they got a little greedy and thought they might be able to really deal Russia a serious defeat. I have to assume that the intelligence given to world leaders tends to be only as good as those leaders want. Not to mention between Biden and Johnson we’re not talking about the sort of people who graduated top of their class in law school.
Thanks. I over stated not resist: should have said not so strongly.
Your read of what happened feels correct I think.
Not enough damage had been done in April and an agreed peace with Ukraine at that point could have enabled business as usual going forward.
Todd does also say that American plans might have gone too well, which is also consistent with the further interpretation that the US got over confident and adjusted their war aims when it seemed that Russia’s military was a paper tiger. .
I believe by the way that Johnson has a first class mind if he chooses to apply it. Greats at Oxford seriously requires that. But your point is right. To quote David Starkey: he is lazy, wants to be liked and only cares about Johnson. That is a toxic combination in a PM, especially at such a moment.
Not clear why, but my perception is that the US and the Europeans really believed their own B.S. about sanctions crippling Russia, and so people were expecting RF to become an economic basket case in short order and revolt. Hard to tell what is really going on, but anything America really cares about such as destroying Germany and selling overpriced weapon platforms has been accomplished. Its not clear what the benefit is in letting another 400,000 Ukrainians die before ending this madness, except Biden is probably convinced he can’t survive politically if this thing ends in a perception of Russian victory, especially after the Afghanistan debacle, so let them slog it out until after 2024.
“people were expecting RF to become an economic basket case in short order and revolt.”
Perhaps they did but that seems exceptionally stupid. Venezuela did become an economic basket case under sanctions and the revolt there was a whiff. Results in Cuba and Iran seem even less encouraging. Why would they expect it to work better in Russia, even if there was an economic collapse?
(Hell, Ukraine is in a much worse place economically for other reasons but there is no revolt there either.)
“And while Vladimir Putin’s crimes may fall well short of Hitler’s.”
Is he serious when he writes “may”? Even making this comparison is laughable for anyone who has studied history. He then writes about George W Bush but recoils from making such a comparison with respect to him, of course.
Underlines your point though. If this is the state of the embedded propaganda then any form of negotiated settlement is a pipe dream.
I agree that leaving out Putin’s lack of enthusiasm to incorporate the Donbass republics back in 2014 and his initial reluctance in 2022 is relevant, of course. As Richard Sakwa in “Frontline Ukraine” has noted, he also had good geopolitical reasons for doing so. Arguably, a federal Ukraine with Donbass remaining inside it but with considerable autonomy would have been a smart way to make sure that Ukraine stayed neutral and could not join NATO. This would be by maintaining the voice of those with a more pluralist conception of Ukrainian statehood rather than the exclusive monist view of Maidan.
There also seems to be evidence that many of the inhabitants wanted this solution too. For example, the Pew Research Centre in May 2014 found that 70% of easterners wanted Ukraine to stay intact, including 58% of Russian speakers. It seems that the desire for separatism or to join Russia came about because of the extremism that the Ukrainian authorities pushed in 2014, driven by the forces that Maidan had unleashed. In 2014 one gets the sense that Putin was genuinely wrong footed in Donbass and was in two minds as to how to deal with it. He allowed (or at least failed fully to stop; evidence seems mixed) volunteers to cross the border but did not go all in with respect to military support either. All of which reinforces the point that he is simply a realist statesman seeking to navigate tricky issues, not the demon that western propaganda portrays him as. Nor is he omnipotent either, of course.
Over the past few months we have heard mention of the Thucydides Trap which these days refer to the coming conflict between the US and China. The definition of this trap is ‘an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power threatens to displace an existing great power as a regional or international hegemon.’ With all this talk of civilization being at stake, I do think that we need to create a new term – the Ukrainian Trap. My definition of that is when one power entraps a second power – using a proxy – into an existential fight for its life. But when the results go catastrophically wrong, it is now the first power that finds itself in an existential fight for its life.
Perhaps more apt term would be The Civilization Trap? All the way from ancient times there’s always been the division of the known world into “Iran” and “Turan”, civilization and barbarism (or garden and jungle, if you please).
And it’s always been the one that exploits the other to call itself the civilized world whereas the other part has always been the barbarians – since they operate their societies differently.
It seems that all civilizations that have seen themselves as The Civilization, the one and only, have eventually submitted to the “barbarians” trough their inherent inability to understand the world around them.
> or garden and jungle, if you please
Poodle and wolf?
Ukrainians are fighting an age-old battle against aggression and domination. It’s a battle Americans have fought proudly time and again, and it’s a battle we’re going to make sure the Ukrainians are well equipped to fight as well. This is about freedom. Freedom for Ukraine, freedom everywhere.
–President Biden, Jan. 25
Or perhaps the Ukrainian Reverse.
By refusing to be drawn into an all out invasion of Ukraine, Russia has basically flipped the conflict around.
The “Thucydides Trap” is a bizarre and ahistorical reversal of the Peloponnesian War, apparently designed to flatter the US.
In the actual Peloponnesian War, established power Athens went after rising power Sparta and lost bigly. That is what the actual Thucydides wrote up.
This is the key juncture:
Thucydides Trap creator Graham Alison perverts history to depict Sparta, the actual rising power in ancient times, as the big dog….so as to reassure the US that it will win v. China:
That is why I deliberately omitted Graham Alison’s name from that quote. Because that term can mean what you want it to mean. But it does illustrate a situation of contests between rising and declining powers.
Also, “a tendency towards war” seems a bit understated or passive when applied to USA vs China.
For me, this one never gets old:
“The choice that we faced in Ukraine — and I’m using the past tense there intentionally — was whether Russia exercised a veto over NATO involvement in Ukraine on the negotiating table or on the battlefield,” said George Beebe, a former director of Russia analysis at the CIA and special adviser on Russia to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “And we elected to make sure that the veto was exercised on the battlefield, hoping that either Putin would stay his hand or that the military operation would fail.”
In a larger sense, the U.S. “right” to make an agreement with anyone it wants to, regardless of the opinion of any third party. This seems to be the primary issue, with things like greater control over Europe or the destruction of Russia secondary or tertiary at best.
It is worthwhile to consider a wider context for Thucidites Trap. Athens got hegemonic position in Aegean and to extend it through all Hellenic lands, they provoked a war that ultimately lost. That lead to Spartan dominance, arrogance and fall etc. Now the West is making up for its decreasing position with increasing arrogance which is “rule based” (the very concept reflects intellectual depletion as a degenerate form of “international liberal order”, hollowed down to appease those who hate “liberal” label).
“All of that said, defending civilization is an honorable and necessary cause that deserves the support of every American”
What exactly is the civilisation that should be honourably and necessarily defended?
A civilisation with mass homelessness and beggars in every city? A civilisation of monoculture agriculture that is destroying the soil, destroying eco-systems? A monoculture keen to use laboratory gene modified seeds, of which the first step was to make them sterile and therefore increase farmer dependency? A farming system where livestock live abnormally cruel, short and terrible lives, with overcrowding, debeaking, ridiculously small cages, no natural daylight or natural feed? And with the end result of food on the table being bland, mediocre and obesity causing.
A civilisation where culture is money-driven and full of propaganda? A civilisation where mass media are mere propagandists for the status quo?
A civilisation where your health depends on being able to pay for overinflated and absurdly expensive healthcare? Where obtaining tertiary education means incurring massive debts? A civilisation where nepotism is increasingly the norm?
A civilisation where sport has become the bread and circuses for the masses? Where people are increasingly depressed and addicted to soul destroying substances?
A civilisation where there is all the money in the world for military adventurism and nothing like enough to enable people to be paid a living wage.
All the above is what I see the US and increasingly the EU stands for and supports.
Russia is winning in Ukraine and either the west accepts this or the west launches a new world war for real. And even at the end of that, if anything is left standing, I would wager Russia, China and multipolar supporting countries will emerge in less bad shape than the hideous Nato alliance members.
That nice talk about civilization seems very self-flattering. To my mind, she sequence of visualisations in Anders Sundell’s article “Visualizing Countries Grouped by Their Largest Trading Partner (1960-2020)” at “Visual Capitalist” [visualcapitalist.com] tells everything one needs to know about the motivation behind US fuelled conflicts.
In the spring of 1774, two members of the Shawnee tribe allegedly robbed and murdered a Virginia settler. As Thomas Jefferson recounts in Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), “The neighboring whites, according to their custom, undertook to punish this outrage in a summary way.”
Credentialism is a good term for this.
Every piece about Ukraine has to include “Of course Putin is an evil empire builder” or it won’t get published or read.
Canada’s National Observer, which covers environment and oil pipelines fairly well, suddenly had a report about Putin supporting the Freedom Convoy that tied up Ottawa last year. It called RT a propaganda arm of the Russian gov’t, without mentioning that the CBC is the equivalent in Canada.
Not every piece:
But of course Ron Paul Institute is not credentialed…
Is Basevich part of the “controlled opposition?” He trafficks in the conventional biases of the neocons. Stephen Walt does the same thing. I think they know that to get published–or get invited to harvard symposia– you have to be a closet imperialist. Basevich is a major disappointment.
Bacevich, like Pat Lang, is ex US military. Both have been willing to criticize the nuts and bolts of the MIC but at the end of the day accept the underlying premise that justifies it. After all being willing to put your life on the line in battle requires a pretty big psychological commitment.
Doubtless they would call this commitment “patriotism” and the lack of it cowardice. Perhaps it’s really a kind of ID Pol but in this case about manhood. Unfortunately it’s easily manipulated by those who lie and pretend to be patriots and but never fight anyone personally. They are accurately known as Chicken Hawks.
I think it is an identity crisis for the entire military. They are not stupid. They see the same big contradiction we all see, which is that our system of government based on footloose capitalism must change. At least if we want to live sustainably and not go extinct. And I just wish we could all come to Jesus here and admit it. We could give the military a new and effective mandate for the future. The reason we are messing around in Ukraine is for one thing only – IMO it is to grab control of the rich oil resources in southern Russia in order to keep the EU “capitalist” and in our sphere of influence. And I’m a little sorry to say I think it’s already a lost cause. We need to move on and we could certainly use the military to achieve peaceful goals.
Bacevich often still has things to say worth paying attention to. Meanwhile Lang has completely lost his freaking mind.
Wikipedia: “Initial funding for the [Quincy Institute], launched in November 2019, included half a million dollars each from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and Charles Koch’s Koch Foundation. Substantial funding has also come from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. The institute distinguishes itself from many other think tanks in Washington, D.C. by refusing to accept money from foreign governments.”
In short, some American plutocrats have, quite sensibly, second thoughts about what is going on, and Quincy formulates an alternative acceptable to THEM. So this is opposition controlled (or selected, Bacevich did not have to change views to join this project) by a specific group of people who did not want to rely exclusively on the products of hive mind of Deep State and its myriad of cloned think tanks.
Perhaps it is like with breeding corn: it is beneficial to have more than one strain.
I have always thought Bacevich was mostly correct. Our forever wars have been devastating to his family, which is good motivation to examine all priors. But this piece could be evidence of the insidious and multifocal character of Trump Derangement Syndrome? TDS as a gateway drug? A rabbit hole that is really a Venus flytrap for unsuspecting bugs. Sorry. I will retreat to the corner now.
It is not just credentialism. It also meets the internal psychological demand to fit with one’s cohort and the external demand on all “policy” intellectuals to remain within the range of acceptable opinion to have any hope at all of ever exercising or influencing any power. Bacevich is the best of this group, but that is not all that good. The brilliance of the American system of thought control is that it requires relatively little coercion, at least when managing our intellectual and policy elite. Careerism and the self regulation that is the product if a high class education (and they are all well educated, at the best places, with the best and brightest teachers) is all it takes to keep the herd of independent opinion in line.
My former father in law, publisher and editor at one of the publishing houses in socialist Romania, told me that censorship had been abolished in 1974 by law. However, he said, auto-censorship was a totally different thing…
It is not just credentialism. It also meets the internal psychological demand to fit with one’s cohort and the external demand on all “policy” intellectuals to remain within the range of acceptable opinion to have any hope at all of ever exercising or influencing any power. Bacevich is the best of this group, but that is not all that good. The brilliance of the American system of thought control is that it requires relatively little coercion, at least when managing our intellectual and policy elite. Careerism and the self regulation that is the product of a high class education (and they are all well educated, at the best places, with the best and brightest teachers) is all it takes to keep the herd of independent opinion in line.
Can the US pivot to negotiating with Russia after all this demonization (leaving aside the reasons Russia might be unwilling)? I think it’s possible. Our collective concern for women in Afghanistan faded as soon as the media moved on. I’m reminded of friends who never left a boyfriend or girlfriend until another was lined up, they were never single. We know who our next “partner”is.
Seems like you might have to put a Nuland or two out to pasture first though.
Nuland needs to be joined by Kagan, Holder, Killary and several others. Retired, or merely ‘retired’, makes no difference in the DC world where words mean whatever they need to mean.
an aside: Is it too much to wonder if this is real question: Is civilization at stake on Wall St.? / …
Snyder is a fanatic, a free trader. in their eyes they are doing gods work, the end justifies the means. you could see this with the group that came into power in 1993, the future is ours, everything is for the 21st century, free trade will lead us all to the promised land. and nothing will stand in our way as they gazed at the stars.
if you don’t get educated and big, you will lose, and tough s##T, you deserved it.
they came so close this time. but their own idiotology got them. in turns out the deplorable and protectionism, the anti-christ to free traders, was in actuality, their power.
the author needs schooling. it was bill clinton that gutted international law on sovereignty, yugoslavia(which was the opening salvo for free trade at the point of a gun), and it was bill clinton that could have untangled us from iraq, and instead signed into law that irag must be invaded.
bush was nothing up stairs, cheney took over from bill clinton.
why is haiti in such rough shape, just ask bill clinton and his idiotic free trade policies that destroyed haiti’s home grown food, or the destruction of the pharma plant in the sudan.
the serbs are not going to take it this time laying down, and Hungary looks like they want out of this so called golden 21st century.
yep, the idiot thinks that the century can be turned around. i am sure the central european fascists said the same thing.
it was not 911 and after, it was 1993 and after.
Bacevich never bothers to define this civilization in question except that it’s white, although he makes small mention of its apparent failings in discussing that we ignore the internal contradictions so dangerous to “civilization” by focusing on external enemies. But if we cannot or refuse to define our “civilization” in any terms less broad than White people, I’m not so sure there’s much worth defending.
What should be read into this use of the word civilization is as a replacement for European empire. Of course the US refuses to use the word in the same way it insists on declaring it is not a party to the conflict in Ukraine. But what we’re really talking about is 500+ years of European empire and global control being jeopardized.
I’m coming to the conclusion that normally rational people like Bacevich are on board with the destroy Russia/China goal because there’s a subconscious understanding of the threat to White empire and it’s terrifying. So terrifying that few are even willing to think deeply about the end of that empire might well benefit the majority of European (including the US) citizens. But that takes us right back to the whole define “civilization” question which probably ends up as liberal, finance capitalism. And, yeah, that ain’t worth saving.
Yeah… Tom Dispatch, gah…
Bacevich was one of the first Putin haters which The Nation also trotted out at the beginning of the conflict in an effort to whitewash the truth about Ukraine. He’s been double downing on the Putin is Hitler meme ever since, securing his place as one of too many journos who have constantly, and for years, wrapped themselves in flags of western “democracy” while failing to notice that such wrapping includes around the head, thus covering the eyes from seeing the partisanship which makes them stupid and the nose which obscures the stench of the burnt waffles their editors try to pass off as tasty progressive pancakes.
The Nation was, for a while, publishing Aaron Maté (also a refugee from Amy Goodman’s turn to willful ignorance on Democracy Now) and will allow the occasional contrarian voice to sneak through, like the formidable JoAnn Wypijewski who has tried her best to counter the idpol sex panic over the years. Otherwise The Nation has gone from bad to worse, especially since the “liberal” Obama love fest hammered the final nail into a liberalism that had already been failing for years, before his master stroke of deception, sealed the deal.
Phil Ochs, in his most famous song, alluded to The Nation (and its readers) for fecklessness way back in 1966:
I cried when they shot Medgar Evers;
Tears ran down my spine.
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy,
As though I’d lost a father of mine.
But Malcolm X got what was coming,
He got what he asked for this time.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
I go to civil rights rallies.
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy,
I hope every colored boy becomes a star.
But don’t talk about revolution,
That’s going a little bit too far.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
I cheered when Humphrey was chosen;
My faith in the system restored.
And I’m glad the commies were thrown out,
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board.
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros,
as long as they don’t move next door.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net
The people of old Mississippi,
Should all hang their heads in shame.
Now I can’t understand how their minds work.
What’s the matter don’t they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children,
I hope the cops take down your name.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
Yes, I read New Republic and Nation,
I’ve learned to take every view.
You know, I’ve memorized Lerner and Golden,
I feel like I’m almost a Jew.
But when it comes to times like Korea,
There’s no one more red, white and blue.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
I vote for the Democratic Party,
They want the U.N. to be strong.
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts;
He sure gets me singing those songs.
And I’ll send all the money you ask for,
But don’t ask me to come on along.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
Once I was young and impulsive;
I wore every conceivable pin.
Even went to the socialist meetings;
Learned all the old union hymns.
But I’ve grown older and wiser,
And that’s why I’m turning you in.
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.
…he’d have added Tom Dispatch by now, for sure
Civilization is indeed at stake but not in the way Bacevich portrays. The way Putin tried in good faith to negotiate a solution is more representative of civilized behaviour, the way the West negotiated in bad faith, never intending to honor Minsk, fully intending to go to war, is precisely uncivilized.
Putin’s emphasis on rule of law, international law and the role of the UN is principled, whereas the West now spits on this concept, has rejected international law outright – because it’s in the way of what it wants to achieve. Rules based = whatever the G7 says. The UN, formerly League of Nations, was created precisely to prevent another world war – so what does it say when this organization, the UN, is more of a hindrance than a help to the West, which side do we say is barbarian and which civilized?
The US and NATO keep attacking and invading countries? At every turn preferring violence to peaceful mediation? At every turn destroying other cultures and societies, at every turn preferrring to bomb to the stone age, the preferred prescription. Is this civilized?
The Russians see the Ukrainians as family, see it as possible to be both Russian and Ukrainian, whereas certain non-Russian Ukrainians do not, consider all Russians to be “Orcs”, to be crushed like insects. Meanwhile, the West encourages this view of Russians being less than human, is open about its desire to see see Russia destroyed and dismantled, bombed to the stone age. Which is the more civilized view, which is barbarian?
The Americans will be the first to use nukes in this conflict, just as they were so eager to use nukes on the Japanese and Agent Orange on Cambodia. The Ukrainians are already using nerve gas. The Ukrainians filled an unsuspecting truck with explosives, didn’t care about civilian casualities. The Americans (or Brits in cahoots with Danes, Swedes and Norse, depending on who you ask) blew up a pipeline releasing massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, in one move setting back the whole earth, everyone on the planet. Who is civilized, who is barbarian?
Civilized would be caring about both Ukrainians and Russians, ending this conflict. Civilized would be taking a humane view. Barbarian would be wanting to extend and increase the conflict.
And on and on…
CIvilization isn’t an emotion. It’s a mode of human habitation.
Europe kicked out of paradise by Russia
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg:
I believe [the Russian invasion of Ukraine] has dramatically changed Europe. I sometimes cite Robert Kagan, the American political scientist, who said about 20 years ago that Europeans are living in a post-historic paradise of peace. But outside, power struggles are ongoing.
To a certain degree, you could say on the 24th of February, 2022, we were kicked out of paradise. And nobody likes being kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
We might have dreamt about the fact that Francis Fukuyama might be still right — that we have a post-historic, post-national world where one way or another, our model of life will be progressing.
But we have found out that the very way we live is considered an act of aggression by others, including Russia. And they believe they have to use tanks and rockets to invade another country because simply this country might be about to embrace our model of life.
So it was like a geopolitical ice bucket thrown in our face, brutally tearing us from our daydreams. (quoted in the WP, Feb.13)
“Our way of life is in danger” is such a popular lens for this conflict on both sides, though it seems completely unimportant compared to military realities (both before and during the SMO). Everyday life on both sides of the frontlines does not seem particularly different as far as I can tell: atomised individuals with historically immense private freedom and very little public power mainly trying to get on with their lives. I suppose it is emotionally resonant to pretend otherwise though.
So Ukraine is Satan and Russia is G*d to Europe’s Adam/Eve?
As always Bacevich has some good insights. Yet, it’s quite possible that Russia saved western civilization in WWII and it might be doing so again today.
It’s strange to hear someone who says, for example, that Hitler attacked France and therefore, Putin is like Hitler and should be stopped. This is misleading to the point of doing more harm than good because it obscures certain facts which prevent us from seeing, as they say, the big picture.
When the Nazi army marched west it attacked the French, Belgian, Dutch, and British empires. These countries had significant positions in Africa. The Brits and French each had a piece of the ME with the British controlling Suez and Egypt. The British controlled India which was bigger back then, Burma, now Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. The French controlled SE Asia, and the Dutch the oil and mineral rich Indonesia.
The Japanese decided to become an empire too, and they controlled Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and invaded China in 1937.
When the Nazis invaded they severed the French, Belgian, Dutch, and British empires from their home countries. This gave the Japanese empire a green light in Asia.
However, what caused the US to go into full blown panic mode is when the Nazis invaded Russia because both the Nazi and US high command thought the Nazis would win. If so, there would no longer be any country in Europe or Asia capable of amassing an army large enough to check Germany and Japan; Russia was also an Asian power. And for a brief moment it seemed possible the entire Eurasian land mass and surrounding waters would fall under two fascist empires. Once solidified, the US would be unable to safely ship an army large enough across either ocean to unseat either empire.
Nobody thought the Third Reich would last a thousand years but it might easily last 50-75 years and western civilization might never be the same. Except that the Russians never gave up and they defeated the Nazis.
One might make the case that the American empire is not quite as innocent and lily white as it imagines. And the America of 1940 is nothing like the rabid, predatory, violent, raving, finance driven capitalism of 2023; To quote Jagger/Richards, “Mad bull, lost its way.” Russia’s win in Ukraine just might put an end to the US empire’s dream of dominating the Eurasian land mass and save western civilization once again.
us’ (neocon/neolib cabal) hegemony is at stake in ukraine!
hitler, ending the farce war that meandered from sep 1939 until may 1940, he saw a time limit,
with france finally getting its political house together. hitler had to move before france and britain armed up
i suspect biden’s advisors see the same time limit to their eurasian scheming.
note trump having none of this precipitated the russiagate farce from 2015 on.
“Trump having none of this” was true, but the foreign policy establishment that Trump criticized was having this and it had a world view—liberal hegemony—and the capacity to defend it.
It contrast, Trump had bold ideas but he lacked a well thought out alternative foreign policy as well as a deep understanding of world affairs in order to defend himself and his plans.
‘honorable and necessary’
a phrase not consistent with us diplomacy at least since potsdam, where churchill busted any post war order envisioned by fdr.
i have followed bacevich for years, he tends to waffle.
Maybe Bacevich might increase his scepticism about US motivations in the Ukraine war if he would consider more carefully another point E. Todd made in his interview above, mentioned by Marcel and others in their comments on the Bacevich essay.
Todd argues that he believes that the West and in particular the US is now facing what he calls a metaphysical crisis consisting of feelings of emptiness, disarry and a void of meaning.
This void is now be nicely filled by a continuing and escalating euphoria of destruction in Ukraine which gives our lives new meaning but ends up concealing the nihilism of our real goals.
Three minor observations:
1. “Civilization.” I am plodding through the Graeber & Wengrow tome, “The Dawn of Everything,” where one of the first points the authors make is that ‘civilization,’ or the supposed absence of it, has been the excuse of conquerors for dominating and even for wiping out non-Western societies. “These folk are not ‘civilized’ and so are lesser specimens of creation and may be obliterated.” See: European colonizations of North America, India, Africa, Asia. (I don’t believe that Bacevich subscribes to this Western view; his laying out of the argument is more of a description of how the power players view ‘civilization.’)
2. Snyder’s reason #13 for wishing an Ukraine win, is to protect food supplies and guarantee prevention of future starvation. Abundant food supplies are not a sure bulwark against famine. Often, famine, the decision of which group gets to die, is a political decision. See the Great Hunger in Ireland, where grain was being sent to England. Or even the famines of the early 1800’s in Sweden, where oat harvests supposedly went to feed the horses in England. Or contemporary USA, where 40% of food is discarded, yet a large portion of the population eats food that results in disease and earlier death: a form of slow starvation.
3. Bacevich equates the belligerent actions of Bush and Putin, and castigates both for invading smaller sovereign nations. In doing so, he removes the Bush invasion of Iraq from the category of, ‘whoops, we kinda goofed,’ where it has been for the last decade or so, to the category of crime against humanity. Where it belongs. However, Bacevich ignores the mitigating circumstances in Russia’s actions: they were provoked, repeatedly and for decades. Russia is, in a sense, defending its borders. They attempted negotiation, but were reportedly rebuffed. The crime of Bush and his cabal was much much more heinous.
There is so much wrong with his statements I don’t even know where to start?
So called? modern western civilization needs to look in the mirror
“Is Civilization at Stake in Ukraine?” Certainly. Consider this unpleasant scenario. Biden currently has a visit to Poland scheduled this month, this to mark the one year anniversary of the Russian SMO. If something were to happen to him just think about Kamala’s itchy fingers on the football. I’m actually a bit concerned about this.
Strange, maybe just a technical issue.
Before I came here I opened the Tom DIspatch posted article by Andrew Bacevich .
I read Tom’s introduction and was just starting the article and the article was overwritten by an article on football.
I will check later to see if it comes back. With the aliens and other stuff, one can’t tell about anything these days.
If Putin is a criminal, then what is Biden? A super-criminal?
As for civilisation being ‘at stake’ ,it has been this way for thousands of years, in various forms. When its stability and survival are threatened by actions and events that progressively get more powerful then it is even more at stake than before. Right now, the threats are escalating rapidly. We might destroy all life on the world in half an hour!
The whole world has caused climate change by its economic behaviour, western countries the most. And the west is now collectively threatening the peace of many countries around the world. Ukraine is just one of them caught up in the cross fire.
The US and its western allies are by far the biggest threat to this planet, in multiple ways. Of that, there can be little real doubt.
The use of the Hitler comparison ignores history, and is merely an emotional appeal to subvert logic and rational thought. Its use is a contradiction that negates any following argument.
The Western “civilization” has proven itself to depend upon emotional irrationality. Is this a civilization or dressed up barbarity?
I am not hopeful.
Let us be realistic:
People will die for Democracy, World Socialist Revolution, Racial Purity, the Pope, the Dar Al-Islam, the Bible in the Vernacular.
No one is going to get themselves killed for civilization.
Why not? It looks to me like for some people, [Western] Civilisation is precisely of a piece with those others. Nor is that new. The British in particular liked to think they were defending civilisation in both world wars – it was a prominent bit in their rhetoric. Most of their soldiers may have died for King and Country instead, but I would not be surprised if some in the upper classes did believe in defending Civilisation.
I believe the British Empire was created using Civilization as a driver. The word itself was created in the 18th century to separate civilized (also from 18th century) people from the barbarians.
Robert Fisk’s excellent (and thoroughly depressing, due to its subject matter) book “The Great War for Civilisation” takes its title from the inscription on his father’s medal from the First World War.
Yes, I was thinking about those medals (though haven’t read that book). Clearly it was on some people’s minds as something worth fighting for…
Wars are fundamentally based upon tribalism, a precursor to racism. Them vs us.
The ideology of ‘Manifest Destiny “, was justification for an act of “civilizing” the American Indigenous.
Josep Borell’s infamous speech about “Europe being a garden, that must flourish within the jungle”, continues that colonial trope.
It’s not about dying for civilization , but to justify killing for it.