“We are going to do the worst thing we can do to you,” wagged Russian political scientist Georgi Arbatov, with purring relish, just as the Soviet Union was set to breathe its last…
“We are going to take your enemy away from you.”
A superpower needs an enemy as a cop needs robbers… the Church needs sinners… or a commie needs capitalists. How else does it justify itself?
The Soviets heaved the towel over the ropes on Christmas Day 1991. For the next decade, America was undisputed heavyweight champ of the world. Its fleets commanded the Seven Seas, its armies policed the four corners of the globe. And was there a spot on Earth where you couldn’t catch a rerun of Baywatch? It was the Pax Americana.
But the gods are a jealous lot. And if there’s one thing the gods won’t abide is a mortal grown too big for its britches. What they won’t abide is hubris…
So they hatched a plan. They got some guttersnipes to fly planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Then they put the popcorn in the microwave… put their feet up… and settled in for the show…
Bush Jr. rose to the bait. First, he invaded Afghanistan. The gods knew there’s a reason why Afghanistan is called “the graveyard of empires.” That’s how they did in Alexander the Great over 2,000 years ago. They got him to invade Afghanistan. It was the end of the line for old Alexander.
The Soviet Union was the last empire to end up in the Afghan graveyard. America’s still there, digging away. But for how much longer?
That was just the beginning…
Bush decided in 2003 the Middle East needed a good stiff dose of American-style democracy. Tyrants would fall, markets would rise, terrorism would end and freedom would bloom in the harsh deserts of Araby. He found the perfect candidate: the hated Saddam Hussein. What could go wrong?
The gods practically busted their ribs laughing. Hubris?
As Daily Reckoning founder Bill Bonner said of Napoleon’s ill-starred invasion of Russia, “Nothing could stop Napoleon. So everything did”…
Almost 14 years, 4,500 American lives and over $2 trillion later, Iraq is a democracy in name only. A tyrant or two has fallen in the Middle East… but a bunch of head-choppers going by the name of ISIS rose in their place.
America’s reputation is tattered, its Treasury depleted, its armies weary. Its people have said enough and elected a president who said the same.
But it’s not only the gods who laugh at America. The Russians are having a good chuckle of their own. The Soviet Union is gone, but the Russian bear has emerged from hibernation. First there was Crimea and Ukraine. Then it took over in Syria — wasn’t that Uncle Sam’s job?
Now they’re saying the Russians “hacked” the presidential election. Even Trump says it: “I think it was Russia.”
Such a grave transgression against American democracy demands retaliation, the usual voices thunder.
In what form? We don’t know, exactly. Here’s what we do know:
Last week, Washington deployed the first thousand of a 4,000-man force to Poland — the first time ever that American combat boots will be permanently planted along Russia’s western border. St. Petersburg is already within artillery range of U.S. troops posted in the Baltics.
A Pentagon mouthpiece on why: “The United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO allies and partners of America’s dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.”
Just so. But glance back to 1999, when Russia was still nursing its wounds and NATO was expanding right to the Russian doorstep. Pat Buchanan had this to say:
If the United States has one overriding national security interest in the new century, it is to avoid collisions with great nuclear powers like Russia. By moving NATO onto Russia’s front porch, we have scheduled a 21st-century confrontation. Europe’s sick man of today is going to get well. When Russia does, it will proclaim its own Monroe Doctrine.
And when that day comes, America will face a hellish dilemma: Risk confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia determined to re-create its old sphere of influence, or renege on solemn commitments and see NATO collapse.
Someone might want to give Pat a cigar. Or three. And we mention — en passant of course — that Russian bombers and subs are menacing American shores for the first time since the Cold War.
A new U.S. intelligence report came out recently. Reuters:
The risk of conflicts between and within nations will increase over the next five years to levels not seen since the Cold War… Overconfidence that material strength can manage escalation will increase the risks of interstate conflict to levels not seen since the Cold War [reads the report].
Strike a match somewhere in Eastern Europe and the whole thing could potentially blow. A prediction? No. But a possibility. For what, exactly?
“Empires have a logic of their own,” Bill Bonner and our fearless leader Addison Wiggin wrote in Empire of Debt. “That they will end in grief is a foregone conclusion.”
So it would seem. But if the American empire is to end in grief, we only hope it’s a quiet type of grief… not the type that goes bang.
In the meantime, the gods are munching popcorn, plotting their next move… and laughing their tails off. Boy, are they laughing…
This story originally appeared in the Daily Reckoning