Thursday, January 12, 2017

The current politics of Russia-bashing

Max Sawicky writes about the current politics of US-Russian relations, including the election-interference issue, in Russia to Our Right The Baffler 01/11/2017. He focuses in particular on Russia's ideological and other support for rightwing groups in Europe and the US:

It’s tempting but simplistic to see Russian leaders as a fairly narrow species of nationalist interlopers in U.S. domestic politics. More to the point, they are allied with germinating, reactionary forces internationally, if only lately inside the United States.

Right-wing movements in France, Great Britain, Hungary, and elsewhere do not lack domestic political support, and there is no reason to think they would not exist without Russian backing. In the same vein, Trump’s victory here is owed first and foremost to the Republican Party and its sponsors, to all the usual suspects we have been observing with revulsion for decades. In the context of domestic U.S. politics, Putin is not the dog; he’s the tail. ...

The truth of a Russian alliance with rightists does not appear to be controversial, but it suffers from a lack of deserved attention. These movements, need we be reminded, are viciously, violently racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and homophobic. Similar groups run amok in Russia itself with the apparent indulgence of the authorities. The Trump campaign has brought like-minded creatures out from under the rocks of the U.S. right.
The invaluable Andrew Bacevich reminds us of what the old Cold War was like as a way of cautioning everyone about blundering or charging into a escalating New Cold War (How We Got Here TomDispatch 01/08/2017).

In his introductory note, Tom Engelhardt writes:

It’s easy to forget just how scary the “good times” once were. I’m talking about the 1950s, that Edenic, Father-Knows-Best era that Donald Trump now yearns so deeply to bring back in order to “make America great again.” Compared to the apocalyptic fears of those years, present American ones would seem punk indeed, if it weren’t for the way our 24/7 media blow them out of all proportion. I’m thinking, of course, mainly about terror attacks by various “lone wolves” that tend to dominate the news. You know, the disturbed individuals who pick up a butcher knife or assault rifle and head for the nearest mall or club or college campus, or point a deadly vehicle toward a crowd with mayhem and murder in mind. In 2016, in our increasingly securitized world (and language), such individuals have even gained their own official acronym: homegrown violent extremists, or HVEs. [internal hyperlinks omitted]
Bacevich in this article observes:

American elites might, of course, have assigned a far different, less celebratory meaning to the passing of the Cold War [than the End of History narrative]. They might have seen the outcome as a moment that called for regret, repentance, and making amends.

After all, the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, or more broadly between what was then called the Free World and the Communist bloc, had yielded a host of baleful effects. An arms race between two superpowers had created monstrous nuclear arsenals and, on multiple occasions, brought the planet precariously close to Armageddon. Two singularly inglorious wars had claimed the lives of many tens of thousands of American soldiers and literally millions of Asians. One, on the Korean peninsula, had ended in an unsatisfactory draw; the other, in Southeast Asia, in catastrophic defeat. Proxy fights in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East killed so many more and laid waste to whole countries. Cold War obsessions led Washington to overthrow democratic governments, connive in assassination, make common cause with corrupt dictators, and turn a blind eye to genocidal violence. On the home front, hysteria compromised civil liberties and fostered a sprawling, intrusive, and unaccountable national security apparatus. Meanwhile, the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries conspired to spend vast sums on weapons purchases that somehow never seemed adequate to the putative dangers at hand. [internal hyperlinks omitted]

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