John Maynard Keynes: A Prophet for Our Times

He Predicted the Tragedy of World War II

His Warnings about Versailles are Valid Today

As I witness the American President Joe Biden strutting about like the Alpha male of the Western herd, with NATO and the EU subject to his command, as he gloats and brags about how the economic sanctions he is imposing will bring Great Russia – a nuclear super-power – to her knees, my mind harkens back to the Versailles Treaty and Dr. Keynes’ prophetic treatise: “The Economic Consequences of The Peace.” In this brilliant deeply insightful work, Dr. Keynes warned that the economic sanctions imposed on Germany at the Versailles Conference of 1919, held in the aftermath of World War I to establish the new world order, would set forces in motion within German society that would lead to another even more devastating war. And history has verified the accuracy of his prediction.

Although historians are wary of the analogy, and rightly so, because the devil is always in the details and what seems like history repeating itself often proves untrue upon close inspection. Yet there is merit in Mark Twains observation that “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”  And the oft repeated axiom of the late Harvard Philosopher George Santayana is altogether fitting for Bumbling Biden and his vassals in the EU and NATO to heed at this moment:” Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”

Alas, even after considering the particularities of the situation that prevailed in western civilization in 1919, and the crisis we are facing a hundred years later, if we think of the problems as a general class of political phenomenon some vital lessons can be drawn that, if properly understood, could guide our statesmen from leading the world into a worse disaster than World War II.  Indeed, western civilization has reached a stage of technological development where wrong decisions can lead to the destruction of civilization and even the extinction of all life on this planet.

Hence the compelling question is: What can we learn from the scribblings of a British economist a century removed. Well, the most important lesson is Keynes’ warning that imposing crippling economic sanctions on Germany would lead to a resurgence of nationalistic anger and resentment that would spark another war that would be more destructive than the “Great War” that had just devastated Europe, physically and psychologically. With uncanny prescience he wrote, the victors:

“run the risk of completing the ruin, which Germany began, by a Peace which, if it is carried into effect, must impair yet further, when it might have restored, the delicate, complicated organization, already shaken and broken by war. And invite their own destruction also, being so deeply and inextricably intertwined with their victims by hidden psychic and economic bonds.”

Angry and disillusioned after witnessing their civilization – which many Europeans believed was the apex of human achievement – descend into barbarism, the victors were in no mood for reconciliation, they wanted to punish the vanquished Germans, whom they blamed for starting the war. And the sanctions they imposed were designed to accomplish just that. Keynes, who was a senior economic advisor to the British delegation at Versailles, argued for a different approach, one that would allow Germany to rebuild their economy in a post war European system that would promote peace and prosperity for all.

When his proposals were ignored, and dismissed as naïve wishful thinking by many, he resigned his post at the British Treasury, retreated to a house in the countryside with his fellow artistic and intellectual luminaries in the Bloomsbury Circle, and wrote his scathing critique of the folly that passed for diplomacy at the Conference, and the Treaty they produced, considering it both inhumane and a barrier to constructing a peaceful world order.  Keynes published his views as “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” in which he predicted the Second World War.

He denounced the Treaty of Versailles a “Carthaginian Peace” – a reference to the destruction of the ancient North African nation of Carthage by Rome – and warned that it would lead to chaos and yet another war.

“If we aim deliberately at the impoverishment of Central Europe, vengeance, I dare predict, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for very long that final civil war between the forces of reaction and the despairing convulsions of revolution, before which the horrors of the late German war will fade into nothing, and which will destroy, whoever is the victor, the civilization and the progress of our generation.”

Written in exquisite prose, with characterizations of major players who crafted the Versailles Treaty that won the admiration of his literary cohorts in the Bloomsbury Group such as the novelist Virginia Wolfe, and the writer/critic Lytton Strachey. In fact, conventional wisdom has it that Keynes’s irreverent portrayals of British Prime Minister  Lloyd George, US President Woodrow Wilson – whom he called “slow witted” -and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, was influenced by Strachey’s satirical  portrait of the British elite in his book “The Eminent Victorians.”

The Economic Consequences of the Peace would become the first best seller penned by an academic economist. And just as Dr. Keynes predicted war again descended upon Europe within a generation. It was generated by German resentment over the dire economic conditions imposed upon Germany by the Treaty, and fueled a ultranationalist movement that put a deranged autocrat in power.  And as the historical record testifies it sparked a world war that resulted in the slaughter of 50 million souls!  Twenty- seven million in Russia alone.

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It is important to understand that one of the major sources of German resentment was that they did not feel they were the sole cause of World War I, nor did they start it. Hence, they were convinced that the ruinous economic sanction imposed on them at the Versailles Conference, were unjust and those responsible for it should be made to pay. Hence, “Death to the October Criminals!” referring to the German officials who signed the Versailles Treaty, became the most effective slogan around which Adolph Hitler mobilized the masses into a movement that eventually transformed Weimar Germany from the most enlightened, tolerant, democratic society in the world  – where Afro-American Jazz was the background sound animating the cultural milieu; more books were published and read than anywhere in the world; homosexuality, interracial dating, and cocaine use was common fare, and Jewish life flourished at the highest levels of society – to Nazi Germany, where racism and anti-homosexuality became official government policy. Jazz was deemed the nefarious work of degenerate Untermensch like Blacks and Jews, books were banned and burned, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and gassed.

Although Jazz was officially banned by the Nazis as decadent, and a danger to the moral health of German society, it remained popular with many Germans, who listened surreptitiously at great risks to their safety. Just as many people in the Communist Soviet bloc countries would do after the Communist Party deemed Jazz the cultural product of a decadent capitalist society. However, both Jazz and cocaine continued to flourish among the Nazi elite as Rutgers Professor, John A. Williams, brilliantly portrays in his illuminating novel “Clifford’s Blues,” set in the Weimar Republic that preceded the Third Reich.

Setting the stage for the modern tragedy of Nazism, in which Germans murdered six million of their Jewish countrymen who had contributed mightily to German society, was the horrendous economic conditions that impoverished the German masses due to the impositions of Versailles. Which resulted in the twin evils of hyperinflation and depression that rendered the German Mark almost valueless.

Obviously, when we look at the draconian ruinous economic sanctions the Biden Administration is presently imposing on Russia, and with ostentatious glee, it is all too obvious that the lessons of Versailles have yet to be learned by our President and his enablers in this dangerous folly. To begin with, the Russians consider the sanctions imposed on them by the US to be “the moral equivalent of war,” as President Jimmy Carter put it when he warned the oil producing nations of OPEC not to  engage in a proposed oil boycott. And furthermore, even before their invasion of Ukraine, Putin had publicly stated that he believed the US was trying to provoke Russia into taking actions that could then be used as the raison d’etre for imposing crippling sanctions against Russia to stifle their economic development. Which is exactly what has happened from their perspective, and thus cause for deep resentments and impassioned hatred for the US, EU, and NATO. The great Russian /American Journalist, Vladimir Posner, says even at the height of the cold war Russian hatred of Americans never reached this fevered pitch! Not to mention their animosity for Ukrainian collaborators with the US. All of this makes for a combustible situation, especially when we consider the nature and extent of the sanctions.

In a recent announcement from the US Treasury Department, we are told:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today imposed expansive economic measures, in partnership with allies and partners, that target the core infrastructure of the Russian financial system — including all of Russia’s largest financial institutions and the ability of state-owned and private entities to raise capital — and further bars Russia from the global financial system. The actions also target nearly 80 percent of all banking assets in Russia and will have a deep and long-lasting effect on the Russian economy and financial system.

Building off of President Biden’s initial sanctions announcement this week, today Treasury is taking action against Russia’s top financial institutions, including sanctioning by far Russia’s two largest banks and almost 90 financial institution subsidiaries around the world. Treasury is also sanctioning additional Russian elites and their family members and imposing additional new prohibitions related to new debt and equity of major Russian state-owned enterprises and large privately owned financial institutions. This will fundamentally imperil Russia’s ability to raise capital key to its acts of aggression. These actions are specifically designed to impose immediate costs and disrupt and degrade future economic activity, isolate Russia from international finance and commerce, and degrade the Kremlin’s future ability to project power.”

The Russians consider these measures acts of war, as would the US government if such measures were-imposed upon them. So here we go again, off to war without a declaration from Congress, as the constitution clearly  mandates by assigning the war making powers to the representatives of all the people. Alas, it is abundantly clear that our Statesmen are dancing in the dark, and nobody knows what morning light will reveal.

One thing is clear to Putin, however, should a Russian missile or bomb intended to interdict arms shipments to the Ukrainians at the border, misfire and lands on the territory of a NATO country, he will be facing attack from a thirty-nation military alliance that includes the United States.  In which case, Russia’s national existence will be at stake because he could not hope to defeat the NATO alliance in a conventional war, since Article 5 of the treaty commits all members to war should any member enter a state of war.  Recognizing the situation his nation is in, Putin has been increasingly candid about his willing to deploy nuclear weapons if Russia is attacked by NATO, either in the Russian Federation or Ukraine!

First the Russian leader warned that if any country attempted to intervene on behalf of Ukraine, there would be unimaginable consequences, then he announced that his “Strategic Nuclear Weapons” had been placed on “high alert.”  And as the war drags on, and he warns the EU and NATO to stop arming the Ukrainian forces with the latest killing machines to deploy against Russians, the world moves closer to Doomsday. Just two days ago Putin flexed his nuclear muscles at the West in a televised statement announcing the successful testing of a new inter-continental missile capable of carrying MIRVED – Multiple Independent, Reentry Vehicles – nuclear warheads with the explosive power of two million tons of TNT.

Lest we forget, the two atomic bombs that created the unspeakable horrors in the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the details of which are easy to access on-line* – equaled only 20, 000 tons of TNT each. Hence the new Russian Rocket, with its amazing stealth features, is aptly named Satan II.  In a statement rife with swagger and braggadocio the supreme Russian leaders said:

“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defense. It has no analogs in the world and won’t have for a long time to come.  This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.”

Although Putin’s message is abundantly clear, there remain some Mighty Whitey, American Exceptionalist, rah rah USA types, who think we should call his bluff like Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry.” But this is madness! The idea that anyone thinks the right for Ukraine to join NATO or the EU is worth playing Russian Roulette with the fate of the earth is unimaginable. But if it is to some people, then nuclear war with Russia is also imaginable. And attempting to strangle the Russian economy over a proxy war that the Russians believe the US has instigated in Ukraine, could well produce the results that Dr. Keynes forecasted for Europe when they wrecked the German economy with the Treaty of Versailles.

Keynes predicted the next World War would be far worse than the last, and the NAZI horrors certainly were. One need not possess the power of prophecy to accurately predict that a nuclear war between NATO  and Russia will make World War II – the last big military conflict to break out in Europe –  look like a playground brawl. I can envision only one way out of this murderous mess. First there must be an immediate cease fire. The NATO countries must stop arming Ukrainians. The neutrality of Ukraine successfully negotiated and all sanctions against Russia rescinded. The alternative is a protracted war, and one miscalculation could lead to Doomsday! Hence the prophecy of John Maynard Keynes in the second decade of the 20th Century, remains frighteningly  relevant as we approach the third decade of the 21st century.

 

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Playthell Benjamin

The Village of Harlem

April 30, 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Statesman Bungle and The Media Babbles

Fleeing the Apocalypse?

Doomsday Looms Closer

Ever since I sat in that briefing room on the Strategic Air command base at Glasgow Montana, watching the horrifying secret SAC films on the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 100 thousand defenseless civilians in a flash, then witnessing the Colonel who was our tutor strut about with a smirky smile proudly announcing:” Oh these bombs were like fire crackers compared to the ordinance we have on this base, “ I got a dreadful feeling that I was witnessing the means by which the fires predicted in the Book of Revelations, that will engulf and incinerate the earth, shall be delivered.

It is a feeling I feel as I write, fully aware that the magnificent city I am looking out upon from my perch on Harlem’s Sugar Hill, could become a pile of radio-active Rubble, along with the other five boroughs, in ten minutes! It only takes one mirved missile fired from a Russian Nuclear submarine sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean.  And the US, with all our marvelous technology, is powerless to stop it.  But that is just the beginning of my nightmare.  Then will come the poisonous black rains that will persists for weeks, the radiation polluted air, the onset of the nuclear winter that will soon follow, no food, no water, and no medical care.  It is no wonder that people who have studied the aftermath of nuclear war have concluded: ”The living will envy the dead!”

The thing that surprised, indeed shocked me most, when I returned from life in the Barnum and Baily world of the DEW line – Distance Early Warning – a position in the Great Plains of Montana bordering on the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, where the first nuclear strike on Russia would be launched – was the fact that nobody I talked to had any idea that they could be incinerated in a nuclear fire at a moment’s notice.  Since I had a Top-Secret security clearance, and was therefore privy to US nuclear war strategy, I was acutely aware of the holocaust hovering over their heads…but having sworn myself to secrecy under penalty of imprisonment, I could not speak on it. But then two things happened that allowed and compelled me to talk about the real possibility of nuclear annihilation without divulging classified information: The Cuban Missile Crisis and the movie “Dr. Strangelove, which was released shortly thereafter.

Knowing how close the mad men that controlled the nuclear arsenals, and the automatons they command, came to blowing up the world, I have been ever aware that the apocalypse is one human error or mechanical failure away.   Anyone who doubts that the decision to incinerate the earth with nuclear weapons hinged on a single decision by one individual – Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev – should carefully watch Robert F. McNamara’s frightening account  in his confessional film “The Fog of War.”   As McNamara was the US Secretary of Defense tasked with giving the nuclear attack order, he is an unimpeachable source.

Yet, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the world is in greater danger just now.  Since I Regard the Bulletin as the most informed source of public information on the probability and consequences of nuclear war, I pay close attention to what they have to say.  Founded in 1949, a few years after the atomic bombing of Japan – one of the greatest crimes against humanity on record – by Dr. Albert Einstein and other scientists who had played a role in the creation of the bomb, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist introduced the “Doomsday Clock.”

Since then, the hands have been positioned on the clock as a warning of how close we are approaching Doomsday, with the witching hour of midnight signaling the point at which mankind self-destructs.  It is enough to know that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the hands on the Doomsday clock were set at 7 minutes to midnight…now they are set at 100 seconds to midnight!

 

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The paramount questions that beg accurate answers now are:  How did we get ensnared in this planetary dance of death…and how do we get out of it while avoiding a nuclear catastrophe?  Viewed from the flawless vision of hindsight one could credibly argue that the roots of the present crisis lay in how the US and its lackeys in NATO and the EU responded to the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991.

At the time Secretary of State, Jim Baker, had pledged that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not move “one inch to the East – i.e., toward Russia’s borders, in return for Russia’s agreement to not oppose the reunification of Germany.  This was a momentous decision for Russia,  because a unified Germany had invaded  and slaughtered 27 million Russians just 46 years earlier – a number equal to the entire population of Afro-Americans!

Yet the Russians consented to German Unification only to be repaid by NATO expanding right up their borders, even incorporating former members of the Warsaw Pact, the Russian led military alliance formed on May 14, 1955, as a deterrent to NATO, which was founded six years earlier.  When NATO began its dramatic eastward expansion in 1998 under President Bill Clinton – a Rhodes Scholar who was reputed to be savvy about foreign affairs – Dr. George Kennan, the Nation’s most influential Russian scholar, a policy wonk whose ideas had formed the basis of the “Truman Policy” in 1947, the aftermath of World War II, that guided US policy toward Russia until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, said the following:

‘’I think it is the beginning of a new cold war, ’I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.’’

The prescience of Dr. Kennan’s analysis has been verified by the motion of history, so where do we go from here?  How do we avoid nuclear catastrophe?  That is the Question of this moment!

 

The answer certainly does not lie in the boastful blather of clueless cadaverous old white guys like Biden, bragging about what he is doing to bring Putin to his knees, forgetting the lessons John Maynard Keynes taught us about the disaster unleashed on the world from the crippling sanctions imposed on Germany in the 1919 Versailles Treaty, which  he brilliant predicted in his book “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” or Lindsay Graham calling for the assassination of Putin and establishing a NATO enforced no-fly zone for Russian planes over Ukraine. Both of which are fast tracks to Armageddon.

The framework all interested parties must now follow seems obvious:

I-Negotiate and immediate cease fire.

II- Draft a treaty between the Ukraine, Russia, NATO, and the EU, that Ukraine will remain a neutral state, unincorporated into the EU, NATO, or the Russian Federation.

III – End the sanctions against Russia.

IV- Disband NATO

V- Empower the United Nations with the legitimacy in international law to settle disputes between nations and provide the military muscle to carry out UN decisions.

VI-The US should lead an effort to assemble a Conference of nuclear armed states with total disarmament as its objective.  Poison Gasses and  Biological Weapons are already banned by international treaty, but they are child’s play compared to the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons.

VII -The Citizens of nuclear armed nations should organize to lobby their governments to support the banning of all nuclear weapons on this planet and outer space.  It will be task of this movement to convince fellow citizens to support the struggle for total nuclear disarmament because the fate of our planet depends upon depends on its success.

As Mao Tse Tung – who organized the greatest mass transformative movement in history and guided too victory – said: “Either man will destroy the bomb…or the bomb will destroy man!”  Viewed from the perspective of the raging war in Ukraine, Mao’s prediction has the ring of prophecy, especially in light of Dr. Albert Einstein’s pessimistic observation after the first successful atomic explosion: “Mankind now has the ability to destroy the world…but human nature has not changed.”

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Playthell G, Benjamin

Live Commentary

“What’s going On,” Produced and Hosted by Jim Dingman

WBAI FM, New York City, WBAI.org on the Web

** This show can be heard online in the WBAI Archives

 

 

On Pompous Piffle and Ahistorical Bullshit!

A Hapless Victim of NATO/Zelensky’s Folly

Denying NATO Expansion as Root Cause of Ukraine War is Folly

As one who spent some years writing for major newspapers and commenting on current events in broadcast media in the US and Britain, as well as having held a professorship in Journalism, I have never been so disappointed at my colleagues in the press for their superficial biased reportage on the Russian/Ukrainian war.  The old axiom:” The first casualty of war is truth,” has never been truer!  Alas, the reportage and commentary is mostly sappy sophistry and ahistorical bullshit, as defined by Princeton philosopher Dr. Harry G, Frankfurt in his pathbreaking treatise “On Bullshit.”

The Princeton philosopher describes the bulk of media coverage in the mainstream media with uncanny accuracy:” It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”  Since most of the chattering wags commenting on the Ukraine/Russian conflict on local and national media are innocent of any in-depth knowledge of the facts, they are given to spouting bullshit.

As envisioned by the crafters of the First Amendment, the role of the press is to accurately inform the citizens about the critical facts regarding issues that will affect the quality of their lives, so that they can make good decisions.  Since in a popular democracy, where ultimate power resides in the people, an informed electorate is essential.  In fact, Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the American Enlightenment, and arguable the wisest of the Founding Fathers, declared: “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate.” And he prescribed a free and compulsory education for the citizenry sufficient to live as a responsible citizen a in a free society, buttressed by a free press, which Jefferson thought so important to a viable democracy that he once remarked that if given a choice “between a free press and no government, and a government and no free press,  I’ll take the free press and no government.”

Clearly, both institutions Jefferson thought so vital to American democracy have failed miserably in the role he assigned to them.  And in the present instance, that failure, coupled with our political leadership refusing the heed George Washington’s warning in his Farewell Address to the nation that Americans should “avoid foreign entanglements,” has placed us on the path to “Doomsday.”  Which, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist, the world’s foremost authorities on the probability and consequences of Nuclear War, we are only 100 seconds away.

Instead of thoughtful, fact driven, even handed analysis aided by the added dimension of historical perspective, the public is force fed pompous pious prattle, duplicitous drivel that confuses rather than enlightens.  Which is fairly easy to accomplish when the mind of the masses is a tabla rasa – empty slate – upon which any jingoistic jive can be inscribed.  And like the “cheerful robots” poignantly described by Dr. C. Wright Mill’s in “The Sociological Imagination,”  they march on as directed by mass media without question or protest.  This work followed Mill’s forgotten 1956 classic, “The Power Elite,” a book Americans could profit immensely from just now in order to better comprehend the forces that shape the message we are getting from mass media.

Dr. Wright pointed out that since the leaders of the major power sectors – political, corporate and military – hail from similar backgrounds, receive similar training and share objectives, they can arrive at similar conclusions about policy without engaging in a conspiracy of collusion. Hence the pervasive disinformation about the Ukraine War need not be the result of the editors and producers in major corporate news organizations  getting together in covert meetings and deciding to convey the same message, which is perhaps best described as an exercise in obfuscation and mass distraction. It is quite enough to recognize that the mass media is owned by large corporations, whose owners and director’s concerns are in sync with the fundamental interests of the political and military elites.  All of which are committed to furthering the objectives of the EU and NATO – European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Hence the master media driven narrative about the causes of the war proffers spurious ideas that have quickly become conventional wisdom in the absence of convincing evidence.  On the contrary, much of this narrative fall in the categories of what professional  historians call “special pleading” at best, and blatant propaganda at worse.  For instance, the dominant media narrative is that the best explanation for Russian actions in the Ukraine is to be found in the personality and character defects of Vladimir Putin, the strong man ruler of Russian government.  Defects which compel him to act out fantasies about restoring the Russian Empire.

For some of these wags the Russian invasion of Ukraine is inexplicable, it is presented as unrelated to anything the Ukrainian leadership and NATO has done.  And while the ignorance and self-censorship of media shills can be accounted for if not excused, the repetition of this silly sophistry by jingoistic pontificators among the Professorate ensconced behind the pristine Ivy Walls of Academe is shameful…and dangerous!   The danger lies in building up so much hatred for Russians that the US populace may push politicians into taking reckless actions abroad to satisfy a blood lust among the American public that they created with inflammatory rhetoric and ahistorical bullshit!

There is no mystery what is going on here: It is a clear case of Realpolitique!  The imperative of nation states to pursue policies that serve its national interests.  In this case, it is the national survival of Russia.  And the constant expansion of NATO, an anti-Russian military alliance of 30 countries whose raison d’etre was the containment of Russian style  Communism – thirty years after the Communist system has been eliminated in Russia –  threatens their existence.  That is certainly the way it looks from Moscow.  And by no objective standard can this concern be simply dismissed as a paranoid delusion on Putin’s Part the way the ignorant irresponsible talking heads in the media are doing.

Indeed, some of our most knowledgeable observers of Russian affairs have admitted that Putin’s security concerns are justified, and that no American President would tolerate the situation that a US led NATO and the EU has placed Putin in!  After all, the US still operates under the Monroe Doctrine, a 192 year old policy that was crafted in the third decade of the 19th century during the Presidency of James Monroe, which forbids a hostile foreign power from forming an military alliance with any nation in the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Chile!

And our history is filled with examples of how the US enforces this doctrine from the Spanish- American War in the late 19th century, to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the middle of the 20th Century – and numerous covert actions conducted by the CIA that has assassinated leaders of movements and overthrown governments the US deemed hostile to their interests.  And these kinds of actions – covert and overt – have also been carried out all over the world, as the US has deemed itself the global policemen, responsible to no one.  Korea, Vietnam, the Congo, Ghana, Chile, Iran, Iraq, Grenada, Panama, Guatemala, Venezuela, et al are poignant examples.  To discuss the present Russian military action against Ukraine in the absence of this historical perspective, is the essence of dangerous ahistorical bullshit!

Among those who concede that NATO poses an existential threat to Russia are Professors John Mearsheimer and the late great Russian specialists Dr. Stephan F. Cohen. Dr. George F. Kennan: a distinguished scholar, diplomat and policy wonk who was America’s most influential thinker on Russian affairs for most of the 20th century.  Ambassador Jack Matlock was the staff person in the US embassy that translated the communiques between President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, during the harrowing days when the world hung on the razor’s edge of nuclear destruction.  Matlock was also the Ambassador to Russia when Gorbachev led the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

Among these outstanding analyst Dr. George Kennan deserves special mention.  He was one of the earliest Russian specialists in the US State Department, being stationed in the US Legation at Latvia during 1931, before it became part of the Soviet Union.  Equipped with a fluency in the Russian language, Kennan monitored Russian economic policy. He would later serve in diplomatic post in several Easter European countries that would become part of the Warsaw Pact, and was assigned to an important post as a Russian specialist in the Moscow embassy in 1944. In 1952  he served a brief stint as Ambassador to Russia before he was declared “persona non grata” by the Soviet government – due to an article he wrote –  and recalled.

After leaving the diplomatic service he would go on to get his doctorate and become a long time Professor of Russian history and politics in the Institute For Advanced Studies at Princeton.  An elite multi-disciplinary academic haven that had once employed Dr. Albert Einstein.  There he would become arguable the nation’s most able scholar on Russian affairs, authoring many important articles and books, twice winning the coveted Pulitzer Prize, and a prestigious National Book Award.

But most consequential analytical treatise he ever penned, to his later chagrin, was the famous “Long Telegram/Memo” from Moscow in 1946.  The 8000-word policy paper was published in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, under the by-line X.   Since the journal is widely viewed as the voice of the US Foreign Policy establishment, and Kennan was stationed in the Moscow Embassy upon publication, he thought it best to conceal his identity.   The policy recommendations laid out in this memo – capsulized in the term “Containment Strategy,” prescribed a policy of active American opposition to the expansion of Russian Communist influence on all fronts: Economic, Diplomatic and Militarily.   The ideas put forth in this memo became the basis of the Truman Doctrine on Russian Communism in 1947, and guided American policy toward Russia until the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, nearly half of the 20th century.

Hence, when the US decided to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance into Eastern Europe, incorporating countries that had once been members of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Past, Tom Friedman – the three times Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, to solicit the views of Professor Kennan on the move. In a May 2, 1998 column titled, “And Now A Word From X, “ Freedman tells us Professor Kennan viewed the decision of President Bill Clinton – a Rhodes Scholar who was often lauded for his foreign policy acumen – to expand NATO thusly:

”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war, I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. NATO expansion was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs. What bothers me is how superficial and ill-informed the whole Senate debate was”

The analyst cited here comprise the deepest and most objective thinkers on the causes of the Russian/Ukraine war.  From carefully listening to their analysis several indisputable facts become clear:

A- Actions by the US, EU and NATO are the to blame for the present military conflict.

B-The troubles began when the US failed to honor US Secretary of State Jim Baker’s pledge that NATO would not move “one inch” to the East toward the Russian Sphere of Influence.

C-From 1991, when the Soviet Union was voluntarily dismantled and the Russian Communist Party was removed from power, until 2008 when Russia invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, to prevent their incorporation into NATO, there was  no armed conflict between Russia and their neighbors.

 

D- The 2014 coup that drove the democratically elected pro-Russian Ukrainian President Victor Yevtushenko out of office was orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, the Under-Secretary of State for European Affairs.

E-The refusal to take Russian security concerns seriously, as demonstrated in their refusal to agree that Ukraine should not become a part NATO or the EU. And NATO’s refusal to honor the Russian demand to back up their forces from the Russian border.

Statements by all of the analyst mentioned here are linked at the bottom of this essay, which makes this a multi-media presentation, a marvel of the cyber age.  However, as with all technology, Cyber-Science can be used for good or evil.  It all depends upon the objectives of those employing it. Emil Sayegh, a leading authority on Cyber-Security, has warned us of the destructive capacity of this technology.  In an article published by Forbes 8/16/2021, “When Cyber War Becomes Real War” he tells us: “Threats against the country and infrastructure are on a exponential rise and the nation now considers a tangible military response to a cyber attack as a potential and appropriate course of action.”

Considering the increasing sense of desperation and feelings of rage at the US led Sanctions against his country, which Putin has already called “an act of war,” we should all be afraid for the future…very afraid. Dr. Roderick Wilson, a leading Computer Scientist/Engineer, in response to a question about the demonstrated destructive power of hostile cyber-hacker attacks upon American banks, corporations, and critical infrastructure- such as the Colonial Pipeline that nearly paralyzed the East Coast of the USA for a week – told this writer in a recent interview:

“The thing that will be different this time is that when you are dealing with someone who feels he has nothing to else to lose then it becomes a suicide mission.  In the cyber world this hasn’t been experienced because cyber criminals were always looking for monetary gain or to influence an outcome of a situation.  It was never just outright destruction of a country’s infrastructure, as in a time of war, where nothing is off the table to make your adversary suffer.”

There is one voice that should be heard above all others at this dangerous moment in world history, and that is the voice of Robert McNamara.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the world came within a single decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev of being incinerated by nuclear bombs, Mr. McNamara was the US Secretary of Defense charged with giving the order to launch a nuclear attack on Russia.  He was fully prepared to issue the order and the experience haunted him the rest of his life.

He later became so depressed from prosecuting the War in Vietnam, that President Lyndon Johnson became concerned that he might commit suicide, like a former Secretary of Defense, James V. Forrestal had done in 1949.  It should be noted that Forrestal was Secretary of the Navy when the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, a hideous crime against humanity!  Although Johnson took McNamara out of the war business and appointed him head of the world bank, where he spent the rest of his professional career helping developing nations to achieve their economic goals, he never got over the fact that he had once come very close to making a decision that would have destroyed the earth.

Hence, decades after the Cuban Missile Crisis, McNamara was still haunted by the realization that “intelligent, college educated, sane men” had nearly destroyed the world.  And he set out to contact his counterparts and interview them to finally discover if they were also ready to launch their nuclear weapons…because he surely was.  The result of this fascinating quest was the Academy Award winning documentary film: “The Fog of War.” The most important lesson that McNamara learned from his investigation was that a lot of killing could have been avoided if we could learn to view conflict situations through the eyes of our adversaries.

One of the shocking things that McNamara reveals in his discussion with his North Vietnamese counterpart is the near total ignorance of the US government of what the Vietnamese resistance were fighting about, what the war meant to them. And the fact that this misunderstanding led to three and a half million Vietnamese being slaughtered by Americans. Which would be equivalent to 27 million Americans based on population differentials!

That is the same number of Russians killed by the Nazi invasion during World War II.  Yet the Nazi slaughter is regarded as a great crime against humanity, while little is remembered of the atrocities committed in far more recent US invasion of Vietnam.  Some of which – like the cancers and deformed babies born long after the war due to the saturation of Vietnamese soil with the chemical Agent Orange – they are still suffering from.  There can be but little doubt that one reason for this collective amnesia is that Russians are white, and Vietnamese are brown. This is especially true in America, and to a great degree in Europe, where most issues are viewed through the lens of color.

This also explains the different reactions to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the US, with the clearly stated goal of “regime change” in that small far away country that posed no threat to the US, and the US/EU response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a country on Russia’s border where they have critical issues of national security.

A Critical Caveat

In critiquing the character and quality of US press coverage of this conflict – which, if a diplomatic solution is not soon found, could degenerate into an accidental nuclear war – my intention is neither to endorse nor justify the Russian invasion, but to add the kind of historical perspective and objective analysis that will enable Americans to better understand it.  And a big part of understanding it is to recognize that Putin has done nothing that any American president placed in similar circumstance would not have done.  And several have done worse without nearly the provocations that the EU and NATO has presented Russia with.  Demonizing Putin as a deranged monster will only make matters worse, and the world deserves better.

I also recognize that the Russians are  even worse in terms of objective reportage and commentary by their mass media.  But then, the Russian government is far more repressive in their actions toward journalist.  Fortunately, American Journalists are protected from government coercion by virtue of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press from government censorship.

However, the censorship imposed by the capitalist corporations is no less effective because they can kill your stories or fire you.  And they can effectively silence Russian media presenting the Russian view like RT –Russia Today.  Which was easily accessible before the outbreak of this war but has now been forced out of the US media market – a practice that is roundly denounced when the Russian government blacks out western media.  But it is deemed acceptable that corporate America has the last word about what we shall hear or say in US mass media.  That’s why when the great Frederick Douglass – an escaped Afro-American slave who became one of the most able and courageous Publisher/Editor/Journalists of the 19th century – was asked while on a European tour, if there is “really a free press in America?” Douglass answered: ”Yes, if you happen to own one.”

This is a fact that is barely understood by the average American as I write.  But it is a dirty little secret among journalists, the most thoughtful among whom routinely practice “self-censorship.”  Which means that they understand that there are several hot-wire stories they are not to interrogate in their reportage, and opinions they must not express in their editorial commentary. Anyone who denies this is either a charlatan or a clueless fool.  And there is the wreckage of careers to prove the veracity of my narrative: From Chris Hedges, to Dan Rather, to my own.  Hence, I know firsthand of which I speak.

Any journalist worthy of the title ought to know that the Russian invasion was sparked by the purposeful actions of President Zelensky, more than any sudden fit of madness by Putin.  It was Zelensky’s decision to try and gain membership in NATO and the EU for Ukraine, a former member of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, after repeated warnings from Putin that such an alliance would pose a grave threat to their national security. Hence this outcome was predictable, but then, Mr. Zelensky is not a seasoned statesman, he is a professional fool, a comic actor who used to play the president on television then became president in real life.  Sorta like Americans electing Dirty Donald Dimwit, a bonafide fool with no experience in public service of any kind.  And like Ukraine, we are paying a dear price for it.  I suppose the moral of this story is: If you elect a clown you are going to get a circus!

Of course, the western press – US and EU – is so busy casting Zelensky as the hero of this deadly tragi-comic fiasco to even mention this possibility.   The result of this one-sided coverage is that it impossible for the American public to empathize with the Russians, to view the conflict from their point of view, to see their side of the story.  This is kind of political blindness is exactly what Secretary McNamara said led the world to the brink of destruction in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

I experienced this event with a deep sense of apocalypse because only a few months earlier I had been stationed on a Strategic Air Command base up on the DEW – Distant Early Warning – line in Glasgow Montana, on the Canadian border.  Since I held a Top Secret security clearance, I was well informed about both the weapons and the mission of the base, which was the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union.   That was 60 years ago, yet here we are again alas.  Never was there a time when the wisdom of one man could make such a great difference in world affairs, if only Robert McNamara could be heard!

Linked below are selected videos of lectures and interviews from scholars and political actors who, in their own words, illuminate and enlighten by their deep knowledge and objectivity.  It is a welcome counter-narrative to the pious piffle and ahistorical bullshit that media during this crisis.

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 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem New York

March 13, 2022

 

Unimpeachable Sources

Lessons On the Roots of the Ukraine/ Russian War

 

Ambassador Jack Matlock:

Served as diplomat in the US Embassy during Cuban Missile Crisis and was US Ambassador, during the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

https://youtu.be/e5F0JSy-HHY

 Robert McNamara:

Secretary of Defense During Cuban Missile Crisis and Escalation in Vietnam

Excerpts from “The Fog of War”

https://youtu.be/nU1bzm-BW0o

Eleven Lessons

https://youtu.be/MHdMeHxDg90

 Dr. Stephen F. Cohen

Was Director of Russian Studies at Princeton and Columbia and Putin’s Biographer.  One of America’s most distinguished Russian scholars, he was like the watchman of Russian/American Affairs, constantly warning that US policies was leading us into another “Cold War” that was unnecessary and dangerous!  On this Video, excerpted from a lecture at New York University, Dr. Cohen puts the question of American hypocrisy regarding NATO expansion.  No one has said it better in so few words!

On What NATO Expansion Means to Russians

https://youtu.be/mciLyG9iexE

 Dr. John Mearsheimer

John Wendell Harrison Distinguished Professor of Political Science U of Chicago

A brilliant and unconventional thinker, Dr. Mearsheimer has provided some of the clearest Analysis on the causes of the present Russian/Ukrainian war.  He has been sounding the alarm for years that NATO expansion towards Russia’s borders would lead to this.

On the role of the US/EU in Sparking Ukraine Crisis

https://youtu.be/oSw7X5v-_kU

Vladimir Posner

Mr. Posner is unique among journalists, the rare bi-lingual reporter/commentator who possesses a deep understanding of both Russian and American culture, society and politics.  I first became aware of him when he and the enormously popular US talk show host Phil Donahue, hosted a series of joint TV shows called “Town Halls,” in which ordinary citizens of the US and Soviet Union expressed their views on contemporary issues of mutual concern.  These were enormously important, because it provided an opportunity for the two peoples – citizens of nuclear armed nations locked in a “Cold War,” which would lead to the extinction of our species if it ever grew hot – to get to know each other as human beings.  These programs helped pave the path to better relations between the Russian and American people at the end of the cold war.  But, alas,  the American government’s policies toward Russia resulted in an intensification of Russian nationalism.  Here Mr. Posner gives his views on how these policies helped to empower Putin.  A phenomenon of which an overwhelming majority of Americans are oblivious.  The highlight of this highly informative and insightful Yale lecture is his warning about the increasing danger of accidental nuclear holocaust!

How the US Created Putin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X7Ng75e5gQ

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