Trouble is breaking out all over.
- Ukraine – This is the epicenter of the latest cold war eruption. A gang of thugs backed by Russia is contending with another gang of thugs backed by the US and the EU for control of this bankrupt, historically problematic former Soviet republic. As the gateway to the oil rich steppes of Central Asia, Ukraine is a big prize in the battle for control of energy production and distribution – and neither side shows any sign of backing down.
- Venezuela – After the death of strongman Hugo Chavez, a longstanding feud between the leftist government of this resource-rich but politically poor South American nation and Uncle Sam is boiling over into violence. With US aid pouring into the coffers of the anti-Chavista opposition, and the government cracking down ever harder, a peaceful resolution of the crisis seems unlikely.
- Syria – So you thought the threat of US military intervention passed when the American public rebelled at the prospect of President Obama ordering US warplanes into the fight? Well, you were wrong: in addition to stepped up aid to the rebel forces, the Obama administration is building runways in Jordan ostensibly for "reconnaissance" purposes – although officials haven’t ruled out air strikes against al-Qaeda-affiliated forces as well as Syrian military installations. And of course the "humanitarian" interventionists in the media – and US officialdom – are still lamenting Washington’s inaction.
And that is just the beginning: add to this the ongoing turmoil in Iraq and the complete collapse of the Afghan front (aided by the antics of Afghan President Hamid Karzai), and the world situation begins to greatly resemble that which occasioned the outbreak of World War I – the "Great War" which devastated European civilization, saw the rise of totalitarian ideologies on the right and the left, and set the United States on a course of empire and perpetual overseas conflict.
Of the above listed trouble spots I would rate Syria as potentially the most worrying. This is true for two reasons: 1) Geography – the country is smack dab in the center of the world’s most contentious region, the Middle East, bordering volatile Lebanon, conflict-torn Palestine, and the shaky regime in Iraq – with US-aligned Jordan adding a base of US operations to the south. Another important factor is: 2) Politics, i.e. domestic US politics, which is always the decisive factor in determining how and when the War Party will strike. The interventionist lobby, concentrated as it is almost exclusively within the political class, doesn’t take defeat easily, and they are running true to form in this case. Prominent voices have called on the President to reconsider his stance, and the pro-Israel lobby in collusion with the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both stepping up the pressure.
US military intervention in Syria would have serious consequences for the region, first and foremost the derailing of the US-Iranian peace talks. Assad’s Syria is one of the mainstays of Tehran’s defensive alliance, the other leg being Hezbollah: air strikes or other US military moves against Assad would give Iranian hardliners all the excuse they need to call for an end to the negotiations – and the Supreme Leader would be under considerable pressure to take heed.
The end of the peace talks would set the clock ticking again on the prospect of a US and/or Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. As I wrote here, Iran is the biggest foreign policy issue the US faces in 2014, and the reason is fairly simple: war with Iran, a country twice the size and population of Iraq, would make "Operation Iraqi Freedom" look like a Sunday school picnic. Every nation in the region would be drawn in, with Russia not likely to stand on the sidelines.
War with Tehran would mean economic disaster for the West, with the price of oil skyrocketing, shortages, and real suffering here at home. "Sticker shock" doesn’t even begin to describe the consequences: sticker trauma is more like it.
With the possible exception of Venezuela, none of these multiple crises can be considered in isolation: the key connecting factor is Russia. Vladimir Putin has set himself up as the antipode to the US and its dream of constructing a "new world order" based on unipolarity and America’s undisputed military dominance. Ideologically, Putin has positioned Russia as the conservatizing factor in world affairs, as opposed to the "progressive" and revolutionary character of American influence abroad. In effect, Washington and the Kremlin have switched positions as a new cold war breaks out, with the former leading a global effort to overturn the old order of sovereign nation-states and the latter resisting US-backed revolutionary movements throughout the world.
For the moment, China sits on the sidelines, affecting a studied neutrality, but beneath this discretion a fierce strain of nationalism occasionally bubbles up to the surface. These outbreaks occur whenever a conflict with the US and its allies makes headlines, and as the US continues its "Asian pivot" these occasions will no doubt grow more numerous and severe. The current Chinese leadership is taking their policy template from their Russian cousins: as in Russia, Marxist ideology has long since lost its allure, and in place of Maoism the Chinese Communist Party has ensconced … nothing. But ideology, like its brother, Power, abhors a vacuum, and what is rapidly filling this great empty space is a deep-seated nationalism of grievance. When this sense of historical grievance collides with Obama’s "Asian pivot," the results are bound to be dramatic.
How can ordinary Americans – preoccupied as they are with the increasing difficulties of getting along from day to day – possibly keep up with all this, unaided? The question seems to answer itself: they can’t. That’s why we here at Antiwar.com are doing it for you. And there’s no charge – or, at least, the cost to you is strictly voluntary.
The threat of a new world war has never been greater, as demonstrated above. That’s why the continued existence – and expansion – of Antiwar.com is absolutely necessary.
You’ll recall that last time the President announced he was going to bomb Syria a national campaign aimed at stopping it forced him to backtrack: Antiwar.com was a vital part of that effort. We mobilized our worldwide readership of many thousands to call Congress demanding a "No!" vote – and the effort succeeded.
The problem, as anyone who keeps up with these things can tell you, is that our victory promises to be very short-lived. Which is why we can’t let up now – and why we need your help in order to keep the peace, however shaky it might be. Because nothing less than organized and massive pressure from grassroots America can restrain our voracious rulers – and that means Antiwar.com is needed now more than ever.
Won’t you please help us? I would venture to say that the cost of whatever contribution you make is more than offset by the projected costs of yet another major war.
I am not the first to remark on the similarity of circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the Great War and our present predicament. As we approach the centenary of that horrific catastrophe, we would do well to contemplate what a repeat would have to mean – and how to prevent it.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.