The rise and rhetoric of the Neo McCarthyites is now widespread in both the USA and its sycophant in Europe, the UK. Hardly a day passes without a smear on Russia and Putin. Russia has become the favourite whipping boy for the US superseding even Iran and North Korea as “the greatest threat to US National Security”. Amongst other distortions of truth, the media in both countries have adopted the US term, “annexation”, for the reunification of Crimea with Russia, ignoring the historical fact that Crimea was part of Russia for two hundred years before it was given to the Ukraine only in 1954 by the then Soviet Union.
As Jill Stein, head of the Green Party in the US, said, the US invents enemies in order to justify its enormous defence budget and the continued deployment of NATO on Russia’s western borders. NATO, formed in 1949 to defend against the perceived threat of the USSR, a country that has not existed as a government since 1990. However, this is not new, merely a revival of irrational Russia phobia that is well described in the recent Intercept article: https://theintercept.com/2016/08/08/dems-tactic-of-accusing-adversaries-of-kremlin-ties-and-russia-sympathies-has-long-history-in-us/ And this is not exclusive to the Democrats. If anything the Republicans are guilty of worse sins. It is the one area of foreign policy in which both parties find common ground.
And should one, such as Bernie Sanders, have spent time in the Soviet Union several years ago or, heavens forbid, express any sympathy with Putin or Russia, one is labeled a communist sympathiser or appeaser. Shades of the 1950s and Joe McCarthy!
I am increasingly concerned about the US and the West, provoking the Bear. The accusations by UK’s Hammond of Russian aggression ring hollow when it is the West that is the aggressor, ramping up armour and troops in the Baltic states on Russia’s borders. All that will accomplish is a similar response by Russia and increased tension. Russia has no intention of invading those countries. They hold nothing of interest and Russia knows full well that as members of NATO, an invasion would trigger NATO’s Article 5 and World War III. Ditto for the Ukraine. Russia is not interested in taking possession of the west Ukraine and bailing out its corrupt, neo fascist, bankrupt regime. They don’t even want eastern Ukraine. What they want is the Minsk II agreement implemented and a Ukraine that is not a NATO member on Russia’s western border. Would the US want Russian troops on its Mexican or Canadian border? And I was delighted to read today that five EU states do not support a proposed EU Agreement of association with the Ukraine. In fact, the Dutch government held a referendum on that proposal that was roundly defeated.
Without an invented enemy, the US economy would be in even more difficulty than it is. Presently, war, or the prospect of a war, is what fuels the US economy. The US defence department is the largest employer in the US and the largest employer in the world, with 3.2 million employees. Of that number 1.4 million are on active military duty and another 818,000 in reserve units, so a total of 2.2 million military personnel. The US also has the highest military spending world wide, $596 billion. Should the US stop intervening in other countries the US economy would be hard pressed to find employment in the domestic market for even the 1.4 million. Better to create threats. Russia, threat that it is, has a defence spend of a paltry $85 billion and a military force numbering under one million.
Having criticised the American public for what I see as ignorance of international affairs and consequently their reluctance to question the US foreign policy, my interlocutors responded that it is not that the American public is ignorant it is simply that that they do not care, they are simply not interested in what takes place in the rest of the world. At least not until the catastrophes such as Vietnam or Iraq redound on them. As with the US foreign policy establishment, the people are reactive, not proactive.
The fear rampant in America is the fear that America’s claim to exceptional status—in policy terms its primacy—is coming to an end. This fear and accompanying anger find their roots in Renè Girard’s Mimetic Theory. To begin with, we have different kinds of anger and fear. Americans are angry with and fearful of Vladimir Putin, to take the most obvious example. It is virtually impossible to have a rational conversation with another American about the Russian president unless you evince a reassuring measure of anger and worry at the start
Among Girard’s most important concepts, developed in numerous books, was the force of what he called mimetic desire: we desire what we desire because other people desire it. We are mimics, in other words: Our wants are acquired. Borrowing that thought and bending it slightly, we can think in terms of mimetic animosity. We are angry with Putin or Assad or whomever the US government designates its threat du jour, because others are angry with him. No need to understand how he reflects Russian history or culture, or why 90 % Russian citizens consistently support him, or what he inherited from his predecessor the US puppet, Yeltsin or, what he is actually trying to do to rebuild Russia from the ruins of post communist Russia. Being angry with Putin is the thing to do. This is mimetic animosity.
Mimetic animosity has two notable features. One, it is safe. Rarely will anyone challenge it. Two, it is typically, if not always, a sublimation. If you ask someone what he or she actually knows about a figure such as Putin —with certainty, by the evidence, in the proper context, from disinterested sources—the answer, once you get past the astonishing ignorance you have just exposed, strongly suggests you are talking to someone who is unable to direct his or her anger at its true object, loss of America’s global predominance and exceptionalism.
I fear for a world forced to live with the sublimated anger and fear of Americans, which is what US foreign policy delivers.