Someone should write this down so we can all remember it next time: whenever humans fail to learn the lessons history’s trying so desperately to teach us, it’s a dead certainty that humans will repeat those exact mistakes again and again. Megalomaniacal “leaders” who think they can “rule the world” ALL inevitably fail. No one alone can fix anything. However, as Vladimir Putin is demonstrating with this “master class” in authoritarian brutality he’s giving in Ukraine, one person sure can make a catastrophic mess of the whole world all by themselves. Hitler was never going to succeed at subduing Europe. In the end, a spreading insurgency would have undermined the entire enterprise. Napoleon was never going to take – or hold Moscow. The goal was always the obstacle at the exact same time. Overreach is overreach is overreach. Ask any James Bond villain.
Ernst Blofeld may manage to keep himself in the game somehow, but he never walks away the ultimate winner. His dreams always turn out to be delusions. The same is true for Vladimir Putin. How lucky for us – we’ve got our own personal Bond Villain. FFS, he even “plays” like one…
Vlad, don’t forget, came into this world a cold warrior doing the one kind of warfare that Russia’s really, really good at: espionage (as we’re learning, Russia’s army and tactics suck because they’re rigid, short-sighted and under-supplied, its actual foot soldiers poorly trained and lacking all motivation; their only advantage over Ukraine’s army and Ukraine is sheer numbers). Vlad has referred to the Soviet Union’s collapse as the single greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. Duly noted, Vlad, duly noted! Want to know what Vlad’s ultimate intentions are? Listen to him! He’s already said! And his actions – and lack of commitment to any international agreements including the Warsaw Conventions of War – confirm that he means what he says. A man willing to spread terror for terror’s sake is a man quite willing to use a nuclear weapon if he thinks it could get him what he wants. Can we punish Vlad any more severely for launching a nuke than we can for murdering Ukrainian women and children?
Look at this from Putin’s point of view. Once you’ve gone full Hitler – invading your neighbors and brutalizing them while the whole world turns on you – what have you got to lose? You think Putin worries how the rest of the world sees him now or in posterity? He worries how Putin will see Putin in posterity and, to Putin, if there’s no posterity with Putin in it, there’s no posterity with anyone in it. Kaboom!
Even in the worst worst case scenario, Putin can’t literally kill everyone but he sure can make surviving the nuclear conflagration he sets off extremely unpleasant. And wiping everyone out isn’t “subduing us”. He will have wiped us out because he couldn’t subdue us. The nuke is an angry little boy taking his ball and going home (to Valhalla).
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. Cooler heads in the Russian command structure (those that survive Ukraine – several have died in that folly of a war already!) will have found ways to slow or stop any launch order from ever being followed just as cooler heads did in our command structure while Trump was POTUS. We do have back channel communications with Russia’s military where the “professional” soldiers share vital information with each other; neither side wants an accidental war to happen. That’s why America and NATO won’t go near a formal “no fly” zone over Ukraine. The real question is: are we doing it because we think it will trigger Putin or because we understand it’s irrelevant; Putin is already provoked; all we’re doing today is buying valuable time.
My guess is Team Biden and Team NATO hope like hell that the time we’re buying by NOT giving Putin an easy excuse to launch will give the Russians around Putin time to find their courage and DO something if only to save themselves. Putin may fear NATO, but he fears the Russian command structure even more because all NATO can do is bomb Russia. “Traitors” inside the command structure can kill him dead personally. That’s not the “glorious ending” Putin has in mind for himself. But, alas, he can’t really launch nukes – or wage war on Ukraine – all by himself.
At some point, every authoritarian knows, they need others to crack the whip on their behalf. And if those others suddenly decide to stop doing that? The authoritarian’s whip becomes useless. And a “whipless” authoritarian is a dead authoritarian.
Putin can’t subdue Ukraine all by himself and neither can the entire Russian army subdue Ukraine all by itself. This war’s ultimate winner was determined right at the war’s outset. The road to that unstoppable outcome is already hideous. It won’t get any less so. Perversely, every atrocity Putin’s army commits only makes his goal that much less attainable. It’s the takeaway from history no authoritarian monster ever takes. I guess that makes them stupid, too.
America has its authoritarians and ours are no more forward-thinking or sufficiently analytical than Vladimir Putin – a man many on the right here used to think of (until ten seconds ago) as a “genius” because he invaded Ukraine.
At the very same instant that Putin is brutalizing Ukraine because it won’t give in to a schoolyard bully, America’s right wing is brutalizing America’s democratic systems – because America’s voters won’t give in to a schoolyard bully. Gosh… I wonder if those two things are connected. I bet they are.
The Republican Party is now entirely Trumpist – and Trumpism is entirely treasonous. As this blog notes pretty much every day, The Republican Party officially became The Treason Party on June 25, 2016 when current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy entered a meeting of Republican leadership by insisting – “Swear to God!” that he thought “Putin pays [Rohrbacher and] Trump.” The ONLY reason you would then go and nominate such a person – who you’ve identified as a grave national security threat because he’s financially compromised – is because you’re working for the same side: the other side. The wrong side.
The side of a war criminal. That’s what Putin is and always will be in the world’s remembrance of him. No one thinks fondly of Hitler’s coterie of chums. Not even in the “good ol’ days”. Same goes for Stalin. Anyone who partnered with Putin along the road that got us here now has a massive problem – both from a PR perspective and a legal one. I’m looking at YOU, America’s Right Wing Money.
The Kochs, the Mercers, Peter Thiel, Steve Bannon (who has access to scads of Right Wing Money) – they all backed Putin in the lead up to this war. That’s how we’ll soon come to see the years that lead to the war. That’s how we’ll see the events that contributed to the river that became the flood that rushed headlong to the sea and to catastrophe. It’s a funny thing about bombs and bullets. You don’t really need them to fight a war any more. You don’t need them to win a war. Ask Russia.
It wasn’t just Donald Trump who took over the Republican Party, you understand. Donald Trump had and has no interest in controlling the GOP. Trump only cares about Trump. But the GOP wasn’t Trump’s means to the end – controlling the GOP was Putin’s means to that result. Trump isn’t our Bond Villain; Putin is. Just as Putin always has been. And anyone who helped Putin achieve his goals here (unattainable as they are) is now officially a traitor.
America’s diverse and diversifying culture did not declare war on America’s Right Wing. America’s Right Wing literally declared war on America’s diversifying culture. Google “Newt Gingrich” and get back to me. You’ll be laughing when you do. Trust me. But there’ll be no joy in your laughter.
Just as Putin’s war on Ukraine was total, so too was Newtie’s war. There would be no compromise. Oh, there’d be “compromise kabuki” to be sure! There’d be every attempt to foster “bipartisanship” but only a fool, a journalist or a Democrat believes such a thing as “bipartisanship” actually exists. No practicing Republican thinks such a thing. Invest that in some bitcoin Ponzi scheme and prepare to get filthy stinking rich!
As the warm glow of Reaganism cooled and Clintonism demonstrated a Democratic capacity for cynicism equal to a Republican’s, the Right Wing money took stock of the future and didn’t want what it saw. America was diversifying far more rapidly than anticipated. That meant that white people would stop being the majority of Americans in the relatively near future. That meant that – if those now diverse Americans voted in sufficient numbers – they could impose their political will over the political will of rich, white, Christians like them. And that, they determined, was never going to happen – not on their watch.
The Right Wing money has a strong religious bent to it. There are Dominionists in the club. Hey – these people insist on having a “national prayer breakfast”; do not think for two seconds the intended prayers are anything but Christian. Same goes for the beneficiaries of those prayers. The real beneficiaries, I mean. These people are walking-talking proof that monotheism is dangerous to the world; not a one of them believes IN God, they all think they ARE God. Every last one of them thinks they know better because they are better.
They’re delusional is what they really are.
But rich. And voila le probleme! The Right Wing money itself couldn’t care less about abortion or saving babies. That was always a cynical calculation anyway after school desegregation became an untenable right wing organizing principle in the 1950’s. Babies replaced keeping Black people in their place. The height of Right Wing cynicism (and gall) always was right wingers trying to claim abortion was genocide.
Oh, shut UP!
The entire LGBTQ community has endured relentless rocket fire from Right Wing pirates. Voting rights is under constant assault – from a rickety dark force that would succumb to even a rudimentary assault by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice entering the fray against Donald Trump and his Republican co-conspirators is the direct analog of NATO declaring a “no fly zone” over Ukraine.
The right wing in America would be triggered to a “full” war footing as quickly as Putin would. That’s not even remotely coincidental.
The right wing via Trump made a right mess of America. Cleaning it up will take a generation but we have no choice but to clean it up and use that as the basis for the better America we all want. The Ukraine that emerges from this will be even more committed to being a democracy than it was at the start. And America will surge toward becoming the very “socialist paradise” the right wing has always feared more than dying. The racist right would literally bring back slavery if they thought they could get away with it. They hate the minimum wage because it makes literal slavery impossible. You have to pay all your workers something.
Hitler himself couldn’t make his Third Reich last anything like its promised “thousand years” – not even within Germany’s borders. Conservatism may dream of denying Progressivism but Progressivism is simply diversity’s voice. Conservatism now represents only white, Christian, male America’s voice. Slavery’s voice, if we’re honest about it. That’s the world conservatism has in its mind’s eye – America circa 1850 when everyone knew their place.
It’s how Vlad Putin thinks of Ukraine and its place as part of the Greater Russia of his dreams. Sorry – of his delusions. Ukraine has no interest in being part of Russia’s world and the majority of Americans have no interest in being part of what the Right Wing has in mind for us.