Some produced videos take a long time to germinate, this one did not. This script crystallizes a concern I’ve been struggling to express for a couple months now. Sure, the United States has thrown a lot of money at the Ukraine problem, but do we have a strategy? Do we have one at all? I don’t doubt that there are capable people in the Biden administration who could execute such a strategy. In fact, they proposed one, not formally, but with their initial actions, that looks a lot like what today’s video demands. Unfortunately, they were too easily dissuaded from it. In the coming months we’ll begin to hear more about how the world’s options are hyper-inflation and starvation for the poor or some kind of Ukrainian surrender to Russia. But we have, and had more choices than that. As today’s video points out, all this horror could be a great opportunity… but I’m afraid we’re letting it pass us by.
Video Transcript after the jump…
The world changed on February 24th. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ended the post Cold War era. This war is in the process of destabilizing everything, leaving the dynamics of the world to come more up for grabs than they have been for decades. For most of ten years now this channel has focused on the sordid origins of the Ukraine crisis, and laid out how elements in the United States set the trap that Vladimir Putin walked into in February…
…But none of that matters. It’s Russia that made the choice to start the most intense fighting the world has seen since the Cold War. It’s Russia that made the choice to take a world that was already suffering from the pandemic and plunge it into a nightmare of rising fuel and food costs. Many credible analysts believe that Putin’s choice could bring widespread starvation to the world’s poorer countries by this winter.
It’s probably amoral to talk about opportunity in the face of all this actual and potential destruction, but that’s what I feel I have to talk about. Because it’s an opportunity I think the United States may be missing. This year, this month, this minute represents an extraordinary opportunity for the United States to step up and change the trajectory we have been on for the last thirty selfish, stupid years. It’s an opportunity for the United States to live up to it’s best ideals about itself. We can truly become the defender of freedom and world leader we have often failed to be over the past three decades. And shockingly, we don’t even have to reform ourselves much to do it. The Military Industrial Complex can make even more money doing good, than it did doing evil over the past 30 years.
There is a new world being born, and the United States is once again, maybe for the last time, best positioned to shape and lead it. But in order to do that, we have to recognize and rise above old patterns that no longer serve us.
“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence, economic, political, even spiritual, is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
President Eisenhower was exactly right about the persistent malicious power of that military industrial complex. It grew for thirty years after that speech, spreading far beyond the military and Congress. The MIC is the journalism most people see at this point, forming the foundation of the cable news infotainment sphere that has grown up over the past four decades. Almost every Washington DC think tank, and a surprising number of foreign policy focused academic positions nationwide are funded by the Pentagon and/or weapons manufacturers. This slow metastasis of a war-based economy and society did help us fight the Soviet Union, the problem that we have never surmounted is the fact that by the early 90s we won that fight.
This “permanent arms industry of vast proportions” now had to find something to do. It needed to pick fights so everybody in our vast foreign policy establishment, military and civilian could continue to pay their mortgages. Unchallenged US empire has resulted in the greatest flourishing of wealth and population this planet has ever seen, but at the same time our superannuated defense establishment has generated horrific stupidity and violence all across that same planet. The Middle East and Africa were hardest hit, but the desperate urge to start fights with everyone, personified by figures like John Bolton, gave birth to a North Korean nuclear bomb, a pointless drug war in Latin America that has killed a million people, and the rightly terrified Chinese and Russian publics rushing into the arms of idiot strongmen like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Like the Athenians who led the fight to free ancient Greece from Persia, we have been devolving into an empire that might eventually be a greater threat to freedom than the Soviet evil we defeated.
Honestly It’s been a god damn tragedy, with Washington DC acting as the greatest threat to the miraculous world Washington DC built. I would love to cut out the cancer that is the US military industrial complex, but I have come to accept that that’s not going to happen. But what we can do, is point it in a better direction.
Vladimir Putin, whose entire career is 100% a reaction to US aggression, has given us that direction, if we are only smart enough to see it. With vastly fewer resources and capabilities, Putin’s poor man’s George W. Bush routine in Ukraine both shows us how ugly our own behavior has been, and provides a path towards better behavior, if we can only take that path.
When I was younger, I believed the United States was about protecting the world from aggression. In the first Gulf war, when I was starting middle school, we intervened to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, in service to the noble principle that nobody should be able to invade their neighbor. After 9-11, as a 20-something I was angry and dumb enough to believe that our invasions were somehow helpful to the Iraqi and Afghan people. By my 30s, when the US destroyed Libya, Syria and Yemen in the name of freedom, causing wars that imposed a lost economic decade on over a billion of the world’s poorest people, I no longer believed these pleasant myths.
But what’s miraculous about the war in Ukraine, is that the myths of my childhood are true there. Unlike the Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, Afghans, Libyans, or Somalis, a majority of Ukrainians actually want us in their country. For the first time in my adult life, we really are defending sovereignty and indigenous government instead of crushing it.
Incredibly, this isn’t just a moral opportunity, this is a financial opportunity for the Military Industrial Complex as well. For seven years, the United States has been supporting the modern day Saddam Hussein’s of Saudi Arabia, in their cruel invasion of their Yemeni neighbor, all to sell a consistent trickle of missiles. But that looks like chump change compared to every European country now being eager to buy into all of the US’s most expensive weapons systems. Tanks, artillery, F-35 fighter jets, top of the line anti-air and missile defense. It’s a trillion dollar opportunity. These are real militaries building real capabilities to protect themselves from a real war, not Saudi princes blowing up school buses. The moral and monetary incentives to prioritize Europe over the middle East are perfectly aligned.
In fact the only thing that could possibly derail this European defense procurement bonanza is our reminding the world where Putin learned his horrific behavior. We can only make that mistake by starting another trillion dollar war in the Middle East, this time with Iran. War with Iran means trillions spent by US taxpayers not European ones. Switching our world reputation from aggressor to defender isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. So how would we do that?
Well the first thing to do is actually prioritize the European conflict that makes us look good, while sweeping away the toxic trash of our Imperial Middle East and Latin American policies. This is also the best possible way to improve our positioning against China. We want Malaysia and the Phillippines to be thinking about our generous support of Ukrainian heroes, not about the next million Iraqi and Syrian corpses we would generate if we chose war with Iran.
The prioritization of conflicts that make us look good, and the sweeping away of the pointless conflicts we chose to keep ourselves busy, would also help us keep the world economy functional. The isolation we imposed on Venezuela and Iran’s oil industries, and the chaos we have maintained in Libya, was only possible in the easy oil market we had from 2014 until February 2022. With a Russian oil and gas industry we plan on isolating further, we simply no longer have the luxury of picking all of these stupid little fights. We don’t need to pick on Iran and Venezuela anymore, those fights make us look like the bad guys, and our limitations on those oil industries make worldwide mass starvation and ten dollar a gallon gas much more likely.
To its credit the Biden administration seems to recognize that prioritization is necessary. Russia’s invasion prompted a quick push to improve relations with both Iran and Venezuela. To it’s eternal shame, the Biden administration has chickened out entirely, bowing to short sighted hawks in both parties, who have profited too much from the bad old days to let them stop. This is the opportunity I believe we are missing.
For four months now it has been obvious what we need to do to get petroleum prices under control and start cleaning up our act. And for four months the Biden administration has been too cowardly to make peace with Iran and Venezuela. It wouldn’t have solved everything, but if we had gotten back into the Iran Nuclear Deal and allowed investors back into Venezuela four months ago, a barrel of oil would probably be 20 dollars cheaper. Sacrificing these dumb old policies would have set a tone of seriousness. A seriousness that could have helped us persuade our allies to make other necessary changes, like Germany reopening its nuclear plants, as just the most important example.
Last week the Biden administration started to float the idea that sanctions against Russia may be failing, and that the cost in food and fuel and broader inflation may be too high. This is a text book example of the the old joke. We haven’t tried anything, and we are all out of ideas.
There is still a little bit of hope on the Venezuela front, but on Iran the hawks have insanely been allowed to remain in the driver’s seat, with US client states like Israel and Greece being encouraged to carry out assassinations and piracy against Iran. This is pure lunacy. The only thing that can save Putin at this point is a war between the US and Iran, and Washington DC seems hellbent on giving it to him.
People seem to believe that this is Just Washington DC, and it’s crazy to expect any better. I refuse to believe that. We can absolutely change for the better. We have done it before, at least twice.
When World War I ended British influence in South America, the United States responded with an orgy of violence. By the 1930s US troops had occupied Nicaragua and Haiti for most of two decades, the Dominican Republic for a decade, and had performed numerous smash and grab expeditions in countries like Mexico, Honduras and others. With the Great depression, it became clear that this approach wasn’t sustainable, and FDR was always more concerned with larger world politics, than he was with racist little crusades for the benefit of US banks and fruit companies. So he inaugurated the Good Neighbor policy, ending the occupations, and dramatically slowing the pace of interventions for two decades. This policy was so successful that for the first decade or so of the United Nations, most of the Americas voted together as a block, in service to US interests. Short sighted CIA morons eventually ruined that coalition during the cold war, but FDR showed that the US can be better, and can profit by being better.
In the 1990s we cleaned up our act as well. This decade set the stage for a lot of catastrophe to come, but it also cleared out a lot of cold war evil too. We abandoned our dictators and monsters from Angola to Nicaragua, Indonesia to South Africa, and many places in between. The more peaceful world we allowed in the 1990s has prospered mightily, in the places that haven’t been ruined by our war on Terror.
We have changed for the better before, and we can change again. Four months ago, Russia gave us the best chance for positive change we have had this century. We can do it. We can be the good guys, we can lead the world into a brighter future again. Or we can do what we have been doing for the past four months, and watch this opportunity sail away.