Last Two Decades Explained in Two Quotations

These two pieces, although relatively recent, have a certain timeless quality about them: they could have been written at any time in the past two decades and would be both predictive and explanatory. They succulently explain the thinking that has brought us to today’s war talk. In essence, they are different ways of saying that We, the West, can do things that others are not permitted to do. And, do it by God’s good Grace. To take offence at these claims of supremacy and superiority is, ipso facto, a proof of hostility.

The first is by the Cheneys and is a hymn to American exceptionalism. (Originally at the Wall Street Journal 28 August 2015 a version can be found here). It begins with the obligatory lament: “President Obama has dangerously surrendered the nation’s global leadership, but it can be ours again—if we choose his successor wisely.” (An interesting feature which we often find in these discombobulations and atrabiliousnesses is the fear that the USA, the greatest, the mightiest, the most wonderfullest, the bestest is in danger of losing it all in a trice. But how could that be possible?)

A few selections are enough:

America has guaranteed freedom, security and peace for a larger share of humanity than any other nation in all of history. There is no other like us. There never has been…. It [the position as “the world’s sole superpower”] is ours because of our ideals and our power, and the power of our ideals…. Our children need to know that they – the citizens of the exceptional country, the most powerful, good and noble country in the history of mankind. They need to know that they are – the heirs of a great past and a great debt.

A couple of peculiarities of this are worth mentioning. By word count, a third of the piece is a rant against the nuclear agreement with Iran which is, to them, as so many things are, “eerily reminiscent of the Munich Agreement”. Iran is their focus; Russia is mentioned once in passing in a generic list of threats. And Putin not at all. A distinction without a difference: an identical piece – including the obligatory “eerily reminiscent of the Munich Agreement” – could effortlessly be extruded by the two about Russia, China or, come to think of it, Venezuela.

Another point that it is worth noticing is that the “exceptionalism” of the USA was, using their examples, mostly manifested in the Second World War and the immediate aftermath. They do not glory that the US selflessly brought democracy to Vietnam or El Salvador, nor do they congratulate themselves on the order and peace brought to Iraq or Libya. Their examples are rather old.

Now there are many people out there who are perfectly prepared to admire the USA of seven decades years ago but who think that it has rather gone astray since then. (One might be tempted to suggest that if even these cheerleaders cannot come up with anything much later than the Marshall Plan as an example of America’s goodness and nobility they themselves are perilously close to the sin of doubt.)

The creed of American exceptionalism is here laid out. The USA is simply the best, the brightest, the noblest. What it wants is requisite for all to want and its actions are exemplary; secure against error: its opponents are ever evil, it is ever righteous. Deserving of supreme power, whatever it does is for the best; no criticism is possible, no criticism is to be tolerated.

A very dangerous mindset indeed.

The next piece for your consideration was uttered by the former Secretary General of NATO: “The Kremlin’s Tragic Miscalculation“. (By the way, Rasmussen is now working for Goldman Sachs; a perfect closing of the circle that should make any conspiracy theorist faint with joy.) Writing more than sorrow than in anger, he says that Russia’s “tragic miscalculation” was not understanding that NATO is its friend:

In short, thanks to the EU and NATO, the stability on its Western borders that Russia has sought for centuries has now been achieved. Russia should be celebrating – and it should be seizing the opportunity to deepen its ties with the West.

There’s no need to read any further and it’s instructive that most of the commenters on the piece see this for the nonsense it is. NATO is a military alliance, it’s not a glee club, and it accounts for over half the world’s expenditure on weaponry. Who would be dumb enough to think that a country that finds NATO moving ever closer to its doorstep (while, at the same time claiming that Russia is on its doorstep), that is continually demonised by a strident and united media would not be concerned? Silly Russians indeed!

So, Dear Readers, I submit these two short pieces for your consideration as a quick guide to the thinking that has brought us, and continues to bring us, ever closer to the Last World War.

First, the deeply embedded conviction in Washington that the USA is so wonderful, so noble, so pure of purpose and clean of intention that it cannot do wrong. And second that NATO is a peace alliance dedicated to bringing peace and prosperity (rather than, as Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine et al show, the reverse).

And finally, there is the unstated, but nevertheless attendant, assumption that the Russians (and Chinese) aren’t smart enough to understand that the consequences of these two beliefs are 1) that their interests are not worthy of consideration and 2) that war is peace.