SAVING U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

In the aftermath of World War Two, George Kennan enunciated his containment policy toward the Soviet Union that set the course of U.S. foreign policy for the Cold War ahead. Now Jeffrey Sachs, a leading U.S. economist, offers his appraisal of U.S. foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He believes it’s a record of broken promises and missed opportunities that has led to the current impasse of two heavily armed nuclear powers on the razor edge of a conflict that can threaten the globe, a crisis unnecessarily contrived. It did not have to be.

In a two and a half hour interview with Tucker Carlson, Sachs makes clear his close observation of the Russian rival. He recalls the day he was face to face with newly elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin who informed him that the Soviet Union was no more. Imploringly, Yeltsin said Russia now wanted to be a normal nation, a dramatic climb down from imperial pretensions. As a young economist sent to help post-communist Russia, Sachs wondered who could ask for anything more? He pitched in with some well intended, if controversial policy recommendations that were soon overtaken by Americans with a far different approach.

Once Russian President Gorbachev permitted the reunification of the two Germanys that characterized the Cold War, U.S. leaders pledged that the NATO alliance would not move one inch eastward toward Moscow. The confrontation was over. Yet within a few short years, the Clinton Administration announced that three East European nations formerly under Soviet control would join NATO. More were added in the years ahead much to Russian consternation, a promise of geopolitical implication rather casually broken. How did that happen?

By human agency, says Sachs, and a very peculiar kind of humanity. A small group of political zealots called neoconservatives decided their time had come. They had dreamed of the U.S exercising global hegemony. With the collapse of the Soviet Union it could now be achieved. Who could say no to the one remaining super power? Starting with the Clinton administration, they seized control of U.S. foreign policy under a series of inexperienced, rather ineffectual U.S. Presidents who weren’t sure what they wanted while the neocons had no doubts.  There followed numerous wars that had no clear purpose other than to display American might. None were won while one was clearly lost to Afghanistan’s Taliban.

The neocons reached their apogee of success in the current Biden administration. Nothing would demonstrate U.S. hegemony more than undermining or even causing the collapse of Russia. Ukraine would lead the way. Sachs notes the U.S. Government said Russia, “unprovoked,” started the war in Ukraine. No, says Sachs. The U.S. started the war in 2014 by provoking Russia. It engineered a coup in Ukraine that replaced a leader favorable to Russia with one obedient to the West. On top of that the U.S said Ukraine would join NATO, which Sachs says is akin to putting foreign forces in Mexico. With that threat Russian troops invaded Ukraine. It was, he says, a defensive act, not an offensive.

Since then, the two sides have not spoken. President Biden has not made a single call to Russian President Putin which could bring an end to the conflict and start negotiations. Diplomacy, says Sachs, is dead. The U.S. has got in the habit of using the military to solve its problems abroad.  Why not? As the sole super power we can do as we please. Lesser powers cannot and must make some accommodation with an enemy. Thus we engage in one war after another despite the dubious outcomes. “We’re the country of perpetual war.”

We must learn to talk again, says Sachs, not just to our enemies but even to ourselves. The U. S. Government doesn’t talk to the American people, just provides meaningless announcements disguising the truth. He recalls how he was put off the air by saying the U.S. had destroyed the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. That was the truth, but he had contradicted the U.S. that the Russians had destroyed their own pipeline.

George Kennan had advised a certain realism about our policies toward Russia, not to demand too much while upholding our own values. He warned that expanding NATO was a tragic mistake, but his words had no resonance in the neocon hubris making policy. Whether Sach’s words will have the same impact as Kennan’s at an equally perilous time remains to be seen, but they have a similar eloquence and persuasion. 

The Enemy Within

These days it can be dangerous to cross the U.S.-Mexican border as the drug cartels make their presence known by their customary violence in a region that was once considered relatively safe. An open border lures them in. What’s to lose and plenty to gain from drug sales and migrant needs with human casualties a by-product.  Recently, three surfers – two Australians, one American – were shot on a beach south of San Diego. Their bodies were found at the bottom of a well. At the eastern end of the border, south of Brownsville, Texas, two Americans were killed in a crossfire, two others kidnapped until released by the Gulf cartel which apologized for the mistake. Harming Americans is bad for business.

This represents a significant, unfortunate change. While reporting on drug cartel activity, I never ran into any hostility in Mexican border towns or objections to the information I was gathering. A year ago I crossed the foot bridge from El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, once known as the murder capital of the world, where I was greeted by a security guard – no doubt a cartel appointee – who was amiable and helpful as I interviewed a group of Venezuelans awaiting a signal from a drug cartel to cross to the U.S. With the increase in violence can Juarez reclaim its exceptional title?

The drug cartels are doing their best. More than ever, thanks to a U.S open border, they are swamping their northern neighbor with illicit drugs and unknown migrants, many of whom are in their employ. It’s truly an anomalous situation, perhaps near unique in human history.  It’s not the country receiving the immigrants that decides who will enter but the country – Mexico – sending them. The drug cartels, who hardly constitute a normal country, now control the total 2000-mile border, an organizational feat. Nobody crosses without paying them a hefty fee of well over ten thousand dollars for which they are given suitable equipment for the trip and a guide to show them the way.  If they fail to pay, they cross at their own risk which is considerable. U.S. Border Patrol reports seeing bullet ridden bodies in the Rio Grande that were not shot from the U.S. side.

Once they have crossed there’s no stopping them. They move according to plan. Some fan out to various cities where they help direct the drug trade, subversion within by pill. Others join the illegal marijuana farms proliferating throughout the American west – small chunks of violent -prone Mexico transferred to the U.S. to the dismay and terror of Americans living near them. If anyone gets too close to a farm, a guard emerges with a gun. More than drug profits are involved. Some ambitious cartel leaders say they envision reclaiming land lost to the U.S. in the 1840’s war. The marijuana farms are a start.

The U.S. media takes little interest in this. It’s almost as if the cartels have become an acceptable part of the American landscape, unwelcome but tolerated. It’s significant that no cartel leader has been singled out for denunciation as is usually the case with a genuine enemy. The one drug boss who has been apprehended and locked up, El Chapo Guzman, is almost a mythical figure, not to be taken too seriously. The rest are hard to hate because they are faceless. No evil Putin here. Relax.

 

Current U.S. border law enforcement is no match for the drug cartels. It’s undermanned and cannot take serious action against the well armed cartels who are in the habit of randomly shooting across the border or tossing small children over the border fence. Is any other border in the world so casually defended? There’s occasional reckless talk of bombing cartel labs or even invading Mexico, a tall order considering Mexico is three times the size of equally mountainous Afghanistan with which U.S. forces couldn’t cope in a guerrilla war.

Given the insatiable U.S. demand, the drugs can only be stopped by sealing the border which requires manpower. A thirty foot high steel fence is helpful, but as we’ve seen, skilled invaders can go under, over and through it. Manpower is readily available. There are over 35 thousand U.S. troops still stationed in Germany, an artifact of the Cold War. Not even a fire-breathing Stalin, arisen from the grave, would be tempted to invade today, much less a more restrained and non-expansionist Putin. So the troops in Germany could be transferred to where they are needed – defending the U.S against its principal enemy right on the border.

 When a nation’s border is effectively violated, it ceases to exist. We have the familiar example of Rome where the barbarians, as they were perceived, poured across with heavy weapons and ended the empire. Today’s drug cartels are armed with pills, contemporary killers in the case of fentanyl. Disarm them by cutting off the pills at the border, where almost all of them arrive. Their profits slashed, the cartels will weaken and then Mexicans, including the outstanding brave journalists among them, will take matters into their own hands and reclaim their country from the drug lords who have wasted it.

The Forbidden Writer

Alexander Dugin must be one of the most dangerous writers in the world. Why would U.S. publishers combine to prevent his philosophical books appearing in any American bookstore? No Amazon overnight delivery. No delivery at all. Instead his words can be found only in books critical of him by authors clearly chosen for that purpose. Typical is “The American Empire Should Be Destroyed” by James D. Heiser.

Those inflammatory words were written by Dugin, but don’t really illustrate his more reflective, less impassioned philosophy. He is at pains to explore the contrasting Western and Russian cultures and why they are at odds today. Inevitably, they blend into today’s politics, aggravated by war. The fact that he is held in high regard by Putin may explain some of the animosity.

But does it explain the censorship?  There’s nothing like knowing the mind of the enemy so as to form at least a useful strategy. For example, The Communist Manifesto, definitely subversive, is readily available at Amazon. It has helped us understand some of our great antagonists – Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin among many others. Without it they might have been a blank given mindlessly to violence. Why not give the same attention to Putin, whose favorite philosopher has also written a manifesto, somewhat garbled in this Heiser book. Why not read it in his own words?

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Professor Dugin explains some of the basic differences between the West and Russia. Foremost is the Western obsession, as he would call it, with individualism at the expense of the collectivism in which people are embodied. Unrestrained individualism liberates itself from one impediment after another until today it even threatens to discard humanity, anything that gets in the way of self. He favours a rising Eurasian society governed by traditional values in which individualism has a place but not a supreme one.

He’s not talking about communism which he opposed at cost in Soviet times. But as Heiser quotes him, he seeks” a golden mean between the hyper-individualism of the bourgeois West and the hyper-collectivism of the socialist east.” He seems to say, without my having read him thanks to censorship, that all ideologies have something to teach us and must take their place in a more uplifting, unifying whole which he calls Eurasianism.  

In the meantime the West has been ascendant since the collapse of the Soviet Union. With this new found power Dugin says it’s trying to erase all national distinctions and impose a similar government from above on a global basis. Heiser and other critics whom he quotes more often he does Dugin call this “paranoid. But Dugin writes that U.S behavior is “an organic part of another civilization alien to Russia. This is well understood in the West where the preference is to see not a prosperous and safe Russia, but a weakened Russia submerged in the abyss of chaos and corruption.” Hence his attack on its center, the American empire.

These days people pay a price for views out of the ordinary. Dugin’s daughter Darya was killed in a bomb blast in her car that perhaps was intended for her father. Reconciliation of cultures still seems a long way off.