“Do as I say, not as I do”, an old parental refrain we kids hated. I assume kids still do although they seem so much different than we were. Of course, Plato made the same refrain two and a half millennia ago.
It’s a pretty day high in the central range of the Colombian Andes from which I view ugly developments far way, but which may all too soon impact us all. The situation today is not the result of sudden, unpredictable events. Rather, it’s as though the Trojan seeress Cassandra had returned to once again prophecy while no one cared or listened. The mad leading the mad to our mutual perdition. Kind of like what Simon and Garfunkel described when they recorded Ian Campbell’s desperately beautiful but horribly sad song, “The Sun is Burning”:
The sun is burning in the sky; strands of clouds go slowly drifting by; in the park the lazy bees are joining in the flowers among the trees; and the sun burns in the sky.
Now the sun is in the West; little kids go home to take their rest; and the couples in the park are holding hands and waiting for the dark. And the sun is in the West.
Now the sun is sinking low; children playing know it’s time to go. High above a spot appears, a little blossom blooms and then draws near. And the sun is sinking low.
Now the sun has come to earth. Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death. Death comes in a blinding flash of hellish heat and leaves a smear of ash. And the sun has come to earth.
Now the sun has disappeared. All is darkness, anger, pain and fear. Twisted sightless wrecks of men go groping on their knees and cry in pain. And the sun has disappeared
Since the overthrow of progressives and liberals in the Democratic Party as a result of the Clinton coup of 1992, and the resulting consolidation of the neoconservative-neoliberal Deep State in the United States, the European Union and NATO (now spread substantially outside of its original borders and actively engaged in offensive rather than defensive operations), a number of countries have been dismembered by that unholy alliance. They include Palestine, Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria, while others have been invaded and conquered totally (Iraq and Afghanistan), at least temporarily. In the case of both Iraq and Afghanistan, involuntary dismemberment were seriously considered. In addition, the Soviet Union was, of course, dismembered, but with a promise that NATO would not move in to fill the vacuum, a vacuous promise. Each such disaster involved serious violations of international law, which was shown to be little more than an aspiration and the United Nations Charter just an illusion.
The shoe now seems snuggly ensconced on the other foot, something totally predictable based on the “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” school of geopolitics.
One wonders why it is almost always the Democratic Party in the United States that leads us into major wars (major characterized by tens of thousands of United States casualties): World War I, World War II, the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam? And also into other wars, wars that while to us may not seem major, to the countries we’ve destroyed are devastating, wars like the “interventions into Libya and Syria. Not that they’re not backed by the GOP (although it is frequently the GOP that inherits the aftermath). And that of course does not include countless coups throughout the Western Hemisphere, Middle East and Africa orchestrated by the boys from the “Company” (as some call the Central Intelligence Agency and its myriad progeny). Today, it seems that we in what we call “the West” are being led by two stooges the Keystone Cops would not accept, the United States’ Joe Biden and the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, but there are plenty of bit players in the European Union as well. And of course, there’s the Ukraine’s own autocrat, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On the other side sits Vladimir Putin, apparently holding all the cards and playing chess while Biden, Johnson et. al., play checkers. And on the other side of the world, with another deck of cards at the ready, sits Xi Jinping.
This morning a close and admired friend and Citadel classmate posted a message on Facebook comparing the Russian recognition of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics to Hitler’s forays into formerly German territories lost as a result of the Entente’s victory in World War I, a resemblance which, as a very loyal member of the United States’ Democratic Party, he has not noted with respect to the comparable, earlier situations described above. Of course, not all actions that bear some aspects in common are analogous. Hmmm, unless maybe they are.
A bit of context:
The situation in the Ukraine did not start yesterday but rather in 2014 when the United States, the European Union and NATO orchestrate a coup d’état in the Ukraine, overthrowing a democratically elected pro-Russian president and installing a puppet government tied to their interests, ironically, in the name of democracy and the elimination of corruption. If that was the goal, it’s been an utter failure. Autocracy rather than democracy remains the rule in the Ukraine with opposition media shut down and opposition leaders imprisoned. On the other hand (think sleight of hand) corruption, always endemic in the Ukraine, is at least now shared with the families of Western leaders (think Hunter Biden). The 2014 Ukrainian coup d’état was rejected in the Crimea and in the eastern parts of the Ukraine bordering the Russian federation. There, two regions declared independence, the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics. After a plebiscite overwhelmingly in favor of union with the Russian Federation, the Crimea returned to the status it held prior to its administrative separation from Russia during the middle of the last century. The situations in the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics, however, were not so easily resolved.
Until yesterday, the declarations of independence by the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics were not formally recognized anywhere. One wonders what the United States’ founding fathers would think of that, especially Thomas Jefferson, author of the former British colonies’ declaration of independence. The Russian Federation, until yesterday, insisted that the controversy be settled through negotiation and implementation of settlement proposals agreed to by the Ukraine and the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics in 2015 under the mediation of France, Germany and the Russian Federation, the so called Minsk Agreements. However, rather than implementing such agreements (which called for a Ukrainian federation with autonomy for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions), Ukrainian government forces, supplemented by highly armed semi-independent anti-Russian militias, have occupied a majority of the disputed territories from which constant low key attacks have been continuously launched against the separatist forces and their civilian populations. No military forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics have engaged in military activities outside the borders of such regions although they frequently exchange fire with occupying Ukrainian and militia forces.
During the current domestic political crisis being suffered by the administrations in power in the United States and the United Kingdom, Ukrainian forces and the related semi-independent anti-Russian militias have been reinforced with substantial military armaments through NATO, the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom, and such armaments have been supplemented by a constant barrage of anti-Russian propaganda to the effect that the Russian Federation was about to invade and conquer the Ukraine and murder and imprison its anti-Russian leaders. Apparently it was hoped that an international crisis could ameliorate the tenuous domestic political climate in both countries, and it certainly would not hurt Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron’s prospects in the pending French presidential election. In the Ukraine itself, the situation was mare tenuous and confusing. On the one hand, the Ukrainian government sought to distance itself from such propaganda, while on the other, the semi-independent anti-Russian militias fully bought into it and this past week dramatically increased their military activities against the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics.
The consequences have proven completely predictable. Baiting the bear on a consistent basis and crying wolf incessantly led to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Russian Federation has, following in a very limited manner the example set by the United States and NATO in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics and entered into related mutual defense treaties. Unlike NATO in the former Yugoslavia however, it is not bombarding Kiev and the other parts of the Ukraine, but that may occur in the not too distant future, depending on how carefully reactions are measured. While the world’s financial markets are generally down, armament industry stocks and gold are flying high, as are oil futures.
The echoes of the summer of 2014 sound all too clearly and things may quickly spiral out of hand, especially given the stupidity and cupidity of the current power mad United States administration and its puppets in Europe. There is a worst case scenario that I hope is improbable. But as in the tumbling dominos of the myriad military alliances that characterized Europe at the beginning of the First World War (some secret and some open), our world presents a bizarre mirror image of that sad season. One mostly orchestrated by the United States which continuously forms alliances and understanding with a large number of countries (against the wishes of most of their citizens) seeking to contain the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China, such alliances now supplemented by de facto economic warfare through “economic sanctions” against a host of countries deemed “enemies”. In addition to the two super powers referenced above, such “enemies” include the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. It reminds me of a clumsy waiter trying to bring a huge pile of dishes to the kitchen, while snickering customers stretch their legs to try and trip her. Only we’re the plates.
Prospects for another world war, to some extent, depend on a mirror image situation on the other side of the planet, the unresolved issue of the estranged Chinese province of Taiwan. That issue is always threatening to blossom into an inferno, more so now that the United States deems the Peoples’ Republic as serious a threat to its economic primacy as the Russian Federation poses to hegemony in Europe, but it is only simmering at present. That could change very quickly and that, in my opinion, depends on whether or not the Peoples’ Republic of China, the Russian Federation’s de facto ally, recognizes the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics and then, whether in retaliation, the United States and its allies recognize the independence of Taiwan. That would almost certainly lead to an invasion of Taiwan by the Peoples’ Republic forcefully reintegrating Taiwan into the Chinese state, somewhat the opposite of what is occurring in the Ukraine.
One would assume Western leaders would not be so abysmally stupid as to make that scenario possible but the hubris of current leaders may be worse than that of Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas, H. H. Asquith, Raymond Poincaré and, of course, the duplicitous Woodrow Wilson.
The situation in the Ukraine is regretful on many fronts, all instigated by the unholy alliance of the governments of the United States, the European Union and NATO (much to the detriment of their people and to the people of the Ukraine). These include the 2014 Maiden Coup, the refusal of the Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreements, the abuse of economic sanctions against the Russia Federation and other countries outlawed under the Charter of the United Nations, their constant penchant for foreign intervention and NATO’s disregard for promises made to the Soviet Union with respect to German unification and NATO expansion when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. They have brought us to the brink of disaster. That is as obvious today as the then pending disaster should have been in the summer of 2014, but perhaps nothing was really learned from the War to End all Wars and its sequel, the Second World War, and its sequel, the Cold War, and its sequel, the War on Terror, and its sequel, the Second Cold War, other than perhaps, how to utterly and constantly distort the truth and to pervert journalism, and how to make trillions of dollars for the military industrial complex against which Ike warned us almost sixty-two years ago.
So, here we are, nervously listening to shoes dropping, geese berating ganders and immature adults crying wolf, as the world turns. Not a very comfortable place in which to find ourselves. “The Sun is Burning” is a beautiful song with horrifying lyrics. The same year that it was recorded by Simon and Garfunkel, 1964, the Democratic Party’s National Committee, on behalf of the Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign, produced and played, on one occasion, a political advertisement perhaps inspired by that song, the so called daisy girl ad. It featured a little girl playing with a daisy in a field, then suddenly consumed in a nuclear explosion. The ad was massively successful and changed advertising history. Unfortunately, it was utterly hypocritical as the Johnson administration shortly thereafter orchestrated the infamous Vietnam War.
Perhaps it’s time to take Pete Seeger’s anthem, “When Will they ever Learn” (also known as “Where Have all the Flowers Gone) and Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” seriously. Perhaps it’s time to change the bellicose world order before we, as humans, are unable to change anything again.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.