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Red Dusk: Vision and Deceit at Empire's End
Imperialists only true goal is self-perpetuation.
First published in Empire Burlesque yesterday, 12 January 2010
Alternative visions to the grim self-perpetuations of deeply entrenched massive power systems do exist. We must of course deal with the world as we find it; but reality is not destiny. We do not have to accept that the world remains as we find it, that it cannot change, that no alternative is possible.
In the latest London Review of Books, Neal Ascherson provides a revealing vignette of the machtpolitik that is the true guiding principle of the Potomac Empire -- despite all its never-ending evangelical cant about promoting "democracy" and "freedom" around the world. Ascherson shows American leaders confronting the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989 in "Gorbachev Betrayed." Here we see American elites scrambling to preserve the "stability" of Soviet rule across Eastern Europe -- even at one point signalling U.S. approval for armed intervention by the Soviets to control the situation.
In "Gorbachev Betrayed" we see American elites scrambling to preserve the "stability" of Soviet rule across Eastern Europe -- even at one point signalling U.S. approval for armed intervention by the Soviets to control the situation.
But this should not be surprising. In an imperial system, power exists for its own sake; it is not an instrument for the advancement of principles or the public good. Its only true goal is self-perpetuation, and so it seeks to protect itself against any and all possible threats, however remote or minor. "Instability" is always one of the great bugbears of power-systems. Any movements that arise outside established norms are always highly suspect (even those in line with the system's professed ideals) -- and subject to the most strenuous attempts to bring them to heel as soon as possible. (Such as the murderous dose of economic "shock doctrine" that was administered to the former Soviet Union.)
Unfortunately, the LRB piece is subscription only; but here's the relevant excerpt:
Ironically, the Soviets eschewed this proffered collusion for preserving their empire. As Ascherson notes:
Obviously Gorbachev believed, in his own naive and bumbling way, that the purpose of power was not simply its own perpetuation, that when you could no longer even pretend that it was serving a good purpose, when those under your dominion wished to order their own affairs, then you had to lay power down. Contrast this to the far more sophisticated viewpoint of America's bipartisan elite, who believe with evangelical fervor that you never take any option of "national power" off the table, and that armed intervention -- "humanitarian," "defensive," "pre-emptive" or otherwise -- in the affairs of other countries is a righteous doctrine to be applied liberally and continuously all over the world.
And what of the betrayal in the title of Ascherson's piece? This was of course the promise that the West would not extend NATO to the east, in exchange for Soviet approval for the reunification of Germany. This was no small concession for a nation that had lost more than 20 million people in a war against German aggressors less than 50 years before. But as Ascherson notes, the Western "promise" was nothing more than a "historic swindle":
And so died Gorbachev's idea of "a Common European Home": an "enormous association of independent states, socialist and capitalist, stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals," peacefully evolving, with a common security system, no NATO, no Warsaw Pact, no bristling "missile shields" massing on borders, no military encirclement and brutal exploitation threatening Russia and turning it inward toward nationalistic, "strongman" rule. Perhaps even no Yeltsin, no "shock doctrine," no oligarchs, no Chechen Wars, no societal and systemic collapse that led to the ruin and premature deaths of millions of people.
Naturally, there would have been many hurdles to overcome in this approach, as Ascherson rightly notes. But in any case, it was a viable alternative that was not even tried, or even seriously considered by the other power-players in the Soviet endgame.
Yet it does remind us that alternative visions to the grim self-perpetuations of deeply entrenched massive power systems do exist. We must of course deal with the world as we find it; but reality is not destiny. We do not have to accept that the world remains as we find it, that it cannot change, that no alternative is possible. We do not have to live forever in the stunted, blood-dimmed imaginations of power.
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on January 13, 2010.
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