Supremacy, and delusion

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In his 2006 seminal opus, titled “The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present“, Christopher Layne, Professor of International Affairs and Robert M Gates chair in National Security at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, exposes the fallacies of a US foreign policy continued through all administrations since before the onset of WWII. “Does the United States need to pursue hegemony to gain security (offensive realism), or should it be an offshore balancer (defensive realism)?” asks Layne in the first chapter of the book. 205 pages later the reader is clear for the reasons, the logic, and the illusions. The successive US administrations have sought to maintain hegemony, especially through military supremacy, in order to maintain the “Open Doors” dogmatic strategy, the right to influence, exploit, preserve the US worldview, its corporate interests, the influence of its culture, and above all, prevent its isolation. Wayne concludes: ” Unless it undergoes a Damascene-like intellectual conversion, as long as the present foreign policy elite remains in power the United States will remain wedded to a hegemonic grand strategy. It probably will take a major domestic political realignment – perhaps triggered by setbacks abroad or a severe economic crisis at home – to bring about a change in American grand strategy.”

We now know that this change could not be brought about, neither by the 2008 financial crisis, nor by the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. In the meantime, NATO’s enlargement to the former Warsaw Pact’s countries and encirclement of the Russian Federation, backed by relentless economic sanctions, have brought Europe and the world to the brink of war. As observed by John Helmer, in a post reviewing Tariq Ali’s book on “Lenin’s Dilemmas“, the  military situation now is analogous to that of 1922, when western armies encircled the young Soviet Union. But this is a different Russia, and the Soviet Union is no more.

The perspective presented by Andrei Martyanov‘s “Losing Military Supremacy: the Myopia of American Strategic Planning“, in many ways confirms Layne’s analysis, and draws the conclusion further. According to Martyanov, the American elites and their allies are about to experience a brutal awakening. Whereas, in the West, there is no shortage of literature about the Soviet, and now, Russian “threat” and agression (inclusive of “Russian military deception“), Martyanov explains that in the last decades, in parallel with the financialisation of western, particularly anglo-saxon, economies, real expertise in Russian real power has disappeared. In the present circumstances, and since WWII, the reference line is on military power. Martyanov blames the decay of the US education system, undermined by the fictitious, as opposed to real, economy, the disappearance of diplomacy in the classical sense, for delusions going back to a Hollywood interpretation of the victory over Nazi Germany in WWII by Pattonesque generals and politicians, as well as the so-called “victory” in the Cold War. He quotes distinguished US officers in the Navy and Intelligence who anticipated and deplored these developments: deluded elites relying on pseudo expertise by unqualified individuals without the prerequisite knowledge and understanding. As a result, political miscalculations – the Kiev putsch, the destruction of Libya, terrorism in Iraq and Syria, Iran sanctions etc. –  are a real threat to peace. The Russian economy is underestimated – for if GDP has been historically a measure of real power, its value in de-industrialised economies based on (particularly financial) services are of no relevance to a comparison of military power. Yet, policy decisions continue to be made in Washington, and elsewhere, based on a gross underestimate of Russian real military power. The evidence is there to be seen, beyond the veil of fake news and increasingly absurd claims, in the Ukraine, in the Middle-East, in the Pacific. Martyanov identifies long range and hypersonic missile technology, electronic countermeasures, submarine warfare and air-defences, among others, where it is claimed, Russia has now a lead over the US.

Some observers have for some time concluded that Russia, and China, are now preparing for war. On the day when more war-mongers have just been elected to the US Congress, I, for one, cannot blame them.

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