Retire the Neocons

The word out of Washington is that the Ukraine war may last longer than expected, maybe several months, maybe a couple of years, who knows? Sound familiar? Like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and you name it, unending wars with no discernible outcome. Not a thrilling prospect, to be sure, but perfectly satisfactory to that hardy band of zealots known as neoconservatives who believe war is an answer to almost anything and in that regard have driven U.S. foreign policy since the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Their aim is to reshape the world in ways agreeable to the U.S. and Israel, preeminent powers at an historical turning point. They got started with the Clinton Administration in the 1990’s. when weakened by scandal, the President was persuaded to add three new members to NATO – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic – in clear violation of a pledge of top U.S. leaders at the collapse of the Soviet Union not to expand the military alliance toward a diminished Russia. The fumbling Russian regime of Boris Yeltsin protested but was ignored.

It was an indication of how the neocons would get their way whatever the obstacles. Then the 9/11 attack provided an unexpected opening not only for more NATO members but also for another prized neocon desire – the invasion of Iraq. This was achieved with the help of a compliant media even though the reason for it was mythical. The target Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, as was charged, or any connection to the instigator of 9/11, al-Qaeda.

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The result was an ill-advised, protracted war that led along with other conflicts to a million civilian deaths and several million refugees in a disabled Middle East. But the neocons didn’t have to say they were sorry or even lick their wounds. Leading a charmed life. it was just on to the next endeavor. Switching from the Republican Party of a confused George Bush to the Democratic ranks of President Obama they showed that party was no obstacle to ideology.

They established an ideological companion John Brennan as the President’s intelligence chief whose main job was to give political protection to the neocons and allies. He lived up to expectations. Ensconced at the U.S. State Department, neocon Victoria Nuland made sure the U.S. had a central role in an uprising that replaced a pro-Russian regime in Ukraine with a pro-American one. There followed the militarization of Ukraine with abundant U.S. aid and weaponry. Putin retaliated by annexing Crimea and encouraging the independence of portions of Eastern Ukraine with a large Russian population.

President Trump initially resisted the neocons much to their horror and pledged not to start new wars. But then oddly, he chose two or three neocons for top posts who in turn persuaded him to eliminate Iranian General Soleimani, an accomplished strategist with whom Trump might have made a useful deal. The assassination was by way of remote-controlled drone, a rather contemptible form of warfare admired by many on the right.

With the advent of President Biden, it was pure bliss for the neocons who have completely taken over foreign policy. The ever-active Nuland pressed for Ukraine to join NATO, thus threatening to cross Putin’s red line. Given the circumstances the Russian ruler chose to invade Ukraine, with the neocons dreaming of a Russian loss that puts it under U.S. supervision like Ukraine. Neocon National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says he looks forward to a “weakened and isolated Russia.”

Dream on. So far neocon dreams have led only to chaos. Why should anything be different now? It’s time to retire the neocons from public service and replace them with competent strategists who exist outside of Washington but haven’t been allowed in by the neocon monopoly. Considering the current danger of confrontation between two nuclear armed powers, there’s little time to spare.

The Lessons of Julius Caesar

Seldom, if ever, have we learned of a major war through the one man who brought it on, won it and then described it. Yet for that we are indebted to Julius Caesar, who was determined to conquer Gaul for Rome and then explain it in memoirs of battle and its aftermath that are unparalleled in military writings.

If only it was left like that. But somehow through the ages Caesar became another worldly figure, for some a demi-god, for others evil incarnate that overwhelmed the sturdy soldier beneath. Let his memoirs tell us what he was – an extremely skilled strategist and leader of men who pursued a clear goal on this earth with little reference to the gods or any other external forces. The war was his alone, to win or lose.

Writing of himself in the third person, Caesar becomes a part, if a crucial one, of the battle scene. There’s not a trace of undue pride except in the army he leads, and – no doubt to the astonishment of contemporary war gazers – he often respects the enemy he faces. He writes that one group of Gauls had “such an outstanding reputation for courage” he avoided giving battle until he decided his own troops could be even braver. He says the Gauls may be volatile and imprudent, but he doesn’t indulge the modern habit of name calling. There’s no moral posturing. The word “evil” is not in his vocabulary. He has his values – Rome – but the enemy has theirs.

Surrender by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix before Caesar

As a result, he is often parleying as much as fighting. Easier to talk an enemy into surrender or compromise than killing or being killed. Not that he would hesitate when the need arose. As he wrote in a rare personal description on the verge of an enemy attack, “Caesar had to see to everything at once. The flag must be unfurled, the trumpet sounded, the soldiers must be recalled from working on the defenses, and all those who had gone some way off in search of material for the earthworks had to be ordered back to camp. He must draw up the battle line, encourage the men, give the signal.” Battlefield victories followed.

Caesar was famous for fast forced marches that caught the enemy unawares and for rapid construction of imposing structures of assault by the enemy’s walls. On one occasion he writes that “never before had the Gauls seen or heard of such immense siege works, and they were so disturbed by the Romans’ speed of action that they sent envoys to Caesar to negotiate surrender.” In ten days with great effort he constructed a bridge to allow his army to cross the Rhine. After spending eighteen days intimidating the Germans on the other side to his “honor and advantage,” he returned to Gaul and tore down the bridge.

Early on, he faced rebellion within. His own troops were intimidated by the size and ferocity of the Germans they were about to face and panic set in. Rather than execute every tenth man Stalin-style, he gave a long reassuring speech in which he cited the weaknesses of the enemy and the firmness of purpose of the Romans. Besides, if they chose not to accept his lead, he would be willing to face the enemy with only those who remained loyal. In the event they all did and won a hard-fought battle.

In eight years Caesar achieved his goal of bringing all Gaul into the Roman polity, an area comprising present day France, Belgium and parts of Germany and the Netherlands. It was an extension that led to empire and the lasting reputation of the conqueror at the cost, to be sure, of untold lives and the occasional barbarity not unique to Caesar.

Instigators and enthusiasts of U.S. wars and proxy wars, by all means read “The Gallic War.”

The Emperor and the Poet

In the dawn of our first century Emperor Augustus brought marble to Rome and peace to the empire after a series of destructive civil wars from which he emerged the victor. At first he pursued vengeance but later turned to forgiveness, a quality that marked his strong, one-man rule over a vast terrain.

One of those he forgave was the poet Horace, who fought against him at the climactic battle of Actium but not very well. He lost his shield in the middle of battle and withdrew in some humiliation. Not one to let politics interfere with poetry in the golden age of Latin literature, Augustus knew Horace would add luster to his own rule and befriended him, even though the poet had a far different view of the good life – not triumph in war or politics but the simple pleasures of close friends and ample wine in a relaxed country setting and not a care beyond.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 BC), commonly known as Horace, Venosa, Italy

Snugly terse Latin is not easily translated into expansive English, but author David Ferry brings it off. Horace rebukes a friend for telling too many war stories:

But Telephus, you’re no good at all at telling
How much the wine is going to cost or who
Is going to make the fire to heat the water,
Who’s going to give the party, under whose roof
We’ll be invited in out of the cold.
Let’s have a party. Come, let’s celebrate.

That means with wine which is duly praised:

Your gentle discipline encourages
The dull to be less dull than usual,
And Bacchus, joyful deliverer, reveals
What the sober wise man really meant to say.
You bring back hope to the despairing heart
And you give courage to the poor man, so
He’s neither scared of tyrants in their crowns
Nor soldiers brandishing their scary weapons.

Horace will not budge from his way of life:

The splendid lord of the riches of Africa
Mistakenly thinks he’s better off than I
With my little farm whose crops I’m certain of’
And my little quiet stream of pure brook water.
I don’t have hives of bees from Calabria
Busily making their honey just for me;
I don’t have jars of rare Laestrygonian wine
Slowly maturing itself just for me.
Want much, lack much. That man has just enough
To whom the gods have given just enough.

With Augustus perhaps in mind Horace pays tribute to Rome:

Let the name of Rome be heard across the sea,
Over to Egypt where the great river swells.
Let the Romans go to the limits of the world,
Not for the sake of plunder but for the sake
Of extending Roman knowledge everywhere
From the dervish heat of the desert raving and dancing
To the dripping mists and fogs of the northern swamps.

He and Augustus died about the same time with similar lasting legacies:

I have finished a work outlasting bronze
And the pyramids of ancient royal kings.
Some part of me will live on and not be given
Over into the hands of the death goddess.
I will go on and on, kept ever young
In the praise in times to come for what I have done.

Ending the War in Ukraine

Day after day Ukraine is pounded by Russian artillery, giving the world a graphic picture of modern war. The U.S. continues to send military aid to the heroic Ukrainians resisting the Russian attack, but prolonging the war only leads to more death and destruction whatever the eventual outcome. The solution is negotiations now that will resolve the issue in dispute – whether Ukraine joins NATO.

The anomaly is that the Biden Administration and the NATO chief don’t seem to be all that committed to the matter. They say, well, Ukraine may or may not join NATO. We aren’t sure right now. Let’s wait and see. By contrast Russian leader Putin wants an iron-clad agreement right now in writing that Ukraine will not join.

It sounds pedantic, but he has his reasons. On the verge of collapse, the Soviet Union agreed to the reunification of Berlin in return for a U.S. pledge that NATO would not advance eastward toward Moscow. But ten years later that pledge was violated when President Clinton, under pressure from the war-inclined neocons in his administration, brought in three nations to NATO from the former Soviet bloc. Over the protest of Putin, others later followed until reaching today’s total of thirty, four of them on the Russian border – a resolute defense.

At that point Putin drew his red line on Ukraine. He could also cite another intrusion as he sees it. In 2014, neocons in the Obama Administration got involved in an uprising in Ukraine and gave crucial support to the overthrow of the pro-Russian government and its replacement by one friendly to the U.S. Some say they have similar plans for Putin.

Yet so far Putin has not been unreasonable in his demands. Along with a neutral Ukraine, he wants independence for two parts of eastern Ukraine largely populated by Russians and the removal of some weapons directed at Russia from NATO nations. He says he does not want to remove the current government of Ukraine. President Zelensky can continue to stand.

But this is now. Opinions can change along with circumstances as the war progresses. Not too surprisingly, Putin has become a figure of hate. He started the war and, as they say, he has blood on his hands. TV host Sean Hannity asked ex-President Trump if he would declare Putin “evil.” The Don demurred, but there would be a chorus of “yes” in Washington, where support for Ukraine is near total. Hannity and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham have even called for the assassination of Putin.

There remains the possibility of a larger war. The Biden Administration says it doesn’t want any U.S. military involvement, but a growing number of members of the U.S. Congress call for the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine which would lead to shooting down Russian planes and therefore war. That suits the indignant writer of an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. He urges putting NATO troops in western Ukraine to show Putin we mean business, and he may be too intimidated to react.

Looking further afield, the Biden Administration has disclosed that Russia has asked China for military help. The Asian nation will be duly punished with U.S. sanctions if it obliges. This opens the question of a two-front conflict with these increasingly allied nuclear powers. Don’t worry, we’re told, we can handle it and also try to avoid Armageddon.

Let’s instead try negotiations and make sure they succeed.

A Third World War?

It was only twenty-one years after the First World War that the Second World War began. Perhaps it was not time enough for the horrors of total war to sink in. So, it was tried for a second time in 1939 with even more devastating results. The world has not been the same and not necessarily for the better.

Now it has been seventy-six years since World War Two, plenty of time for serious reflection. There’s the added incentive of the danger of ever advancing nuclear weapons whose impact was demonstrated by the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two – its only use but sufficiently instructive.

But has this intervening time been put to thoughtful use? Today’s national leaders appear to have a weak grasp on history, even of recent years. In the internet age knowledge is quick to come by but perhaps too much too soon. We are nothing if not present-minded. Spare us the complicating past.

So, the Ukraine war is the fixation of the moment. A pressing event it is but not seen in context. Like all wars it’s brutal and should be ended as soon as possible, but emotions unrelated to history keep that from happening. Weapons pour in along with rousing rhetoric to keep Ukrainians fighting and also dying with little chance of defeating larger Russia.

There’s understandable agony over civilian deaths which occur in every war, especially from bombing, as the U.S demonstrated in its recent wars. In World War Two – often called the “good war” – Germany, Russia, Britain and the U.S. deliberately targeted civilians in order to break the morale of the enemy population. It didn’t work but the slaughter was prodigious.

Firestorm cloud over Hiroshima, U.S. Army, Aug. 6, 1945

Much-demonized Putin must be judged in the context of Russian history. No easy going, sociable democrat could have pulled Russia out of the chaos he faced on assuming office in 2000 with the legacy of oppressively brutal communism and financiers from abroad looting the country. It took a seasoned operative. Yet he is more vilified by the historically ignorant than the mass-killing Stalin who in his pursuit of world conquest crushed one people after another, including his own. By contrast Putin is a cautious autocrat

The media must read some history so that it doesn’t rediscover Russia time and again. The New York Times, which failed to report the massive starvation caused by Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s, is breezily egging on Ukrainian troops today. A recent piece in the Sunday Times declared that the cold war with Russia today is worse than the one occasioned by Stalin, who imposed his tyrannical regime on all of Eastern Europe and half of Germany after World War Two and later ordered North Korea to attack the south, leading the U.S. into another war. In fact, Stalin and communism are not even mentioned in the piece. It all begins with Putin.

The two world wars at least had the excuse of entangled alliances and clash of ideologies. Today’s Ukrainian war is simplicity itself for which there’s a simple solution: keep Ukraine out of NATO and let serious negotiations bring an end to the war with as little outside interference as possible. The only losers will be those who want to elevate the conflict into a world-shaking event to the detriment of the world.

Truckers Face the Great Reset

On Prime Minister Trudeau’s orders the police have moved against the striking truckers in Ottawa. Using batons and pepper spray, some on horseback, occasionally smashing truck windows, they have arrested over 130 protestors and hauled away some 50 trucks. Throughout the truckers have remained peaceful and determined to stay despite police state tactics.

It’s this harsh over reaction that has gained sympathy for the truckers not only in Canada but also in the U.S., where a similar convoy is set to start from California in late February and head to Washington. Its members declare solidarity with their Canadian brethren. So far convoys are under way in France, Australia and New Zealand. They have apparently tapped a wellspring of resentment to state oppression that’s moving swiftly across borders. It wasn’t expected but the truckers are leading the way to freedom from the excessive control brought on by the Covid epidemic or rather the over wrought response to it.

All this could easily have been avoided by a simple compromise over the Covid restrictions on the truckers. But Trudeau didn’t budge. He wouldn’t even talk to the truckers but continued to denounce them as if they were somehow beneath him. Asserting emergency powers, he resorted to such extreme actions as seizing their fuel and bank accounts, confiscating donations to them, even threatening to take their pets and crypto currency, if they have any.

Protesters show signs of support for the truckers on Feb. 7 in Ottawa, Canada during the ongoing Canada Freedom Convoy protests. (Photo: Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Why is this leader of a liberal Western democracy treating his fellow citizens this way? A slim rather debonair fellow, he doesn’t look like Mussolini while imitating some of his behavior. The Wall Street Journal editorializes that he justifies his tactics by “inflating the protest into a terrorist plot to overthrow government. These extraordinary measures are a needless abuse of power.”

Trudeau is under the influence of what’s called the Great Reset, a creed of self-proclaimed elitists, including wealthy notables like Bill Gates and George Soros, who seem to have a hankering to try to govern the world. This can’t be left to such insignificant nobodies as the people who continue to pollute, over consume, fail to cooperate with their betters and stay in thrall to such outmoded concepts as the nation state. A striking example of this deficiency is demonstrated by the truckers who are getting what they deserve. Happily, they may disappear in the Great Reset along with other offending members of the lower and middle classes.

One offending member has already been disappeared. Pastor Artur Pawlowski has been a frequent critic of the Covid lockdown which he compares to his experience under communist rule in Poland. Does Covid come before God? he asks. For that he has been repeatedly arrested and now sits in solitary confinement in a squalid prison cell in Calgary, charged with “mischief.”

The Great Reset at work and don’t mention Stalin’s Gulag. Truckers, keep trucking.

Is Revolution Ahead?

After career criminal Darrell Brooks, a black American, drove his car into a group of white people in Waukesha, Wisconsin, injuring dozens, killing six that we know of, a supporter said it sounds like the revolution has started. What kind of revolution does he have in mind? He doesn’t say, but there was one notoriously based on crime; namely, the Russian Revolution of 1917. Does that serve as a model for Darrell Brooks?

A top leader of the revolutionary Bolsheviks was Josef Stalin, who in his native  Georgia had pursued a career of crime almost without compare m the region. You name it – robbery, arsen, extortion, murder – he did it. Then he transferred those skills to the budding Russian Revolution in the middle of the turmoil of the First World War.

Whatever its ideological motivation, the Revolution would not have succeeded without Stalin’s criminal genius. That in turn took him to the top of Russia’s new communist government from where he compounded his crimes by massacring much of his own population, including fellow revolutionaries. Such is his example.

It may seem ridiculous to connect a minor American career criminal with the mighty ruler of the Soviet Union, but as Stalin well knew, revolutions have to start somewhere. The communists liked to portray the Tsarist regime they overthrew as uncompromisingly tyrannical, but compared to the state they constructed, it was carelessly permissive. Again and again, Stalin escaped serious punishment for major crimes, and his exile in Siberia was almost a holiday, a lapse he corrected with his own horrendous labor camps, the gulag.

Back to our local criminal. Brooks, too, was never seriously punished for his crimes, as he moved from one to the next, perhaps encouraging others to do the same. And he was one of many leniently treated by prosecutors financed by billionaire George Soros, a parallel to the wealthy backers of Bolshevism in Stalin’s time. America today is particularly viulnerable because many feel it must make up for past racial injustice by going easy on black crime today; hence, the lax treatment of  Brooks. But is that any favor to blacks or whites other than laying the groundwork for the hoped for revolution?

There’s no denying the deliberate attack on a group of innocent white people, largely women and children, aggravates already high racial tensions. That is what our would-be revolutionies want. This overlooks the fact that people of all races continue to work peacefully together on a daily basis in contemporary America. A small minority objects to this and always will. Just think if somewhere along the way, Stalin had actually been stopped. No revolution, no communist takeover, and the world might be a better place today.