Bolton’s Blunder: Hubris and Dead Empire Walking

In hindsight, a good teacher can positively affect your life years into the future. When I was a teenager attending a private school in the 1970s, I took a course on Russian history. I remember my teacher well all these years later, but I also remember some of what he taught. Americans think of themselves as the principal cause of the defeat of Nazi Germany, but Russia lost tens of millions of lives defending against her invasion. And my teacher told me that a way to understand the existence of the Eastern Bloc, especially the partitioning of Germany was that Russia decided it would never be invaded at such great human cost by Germany and its allies ever again; if paranoid, there was a reason for the paranoia and the decision was less about Russia expanding and taking territory, which the nation didn’t need, but creating a buffer zone against possible incursion, hence also the partition of Germany so that she could never again become a mortal threat. I also recall his stating that Stalin couldn’t inspire the people to fight and die for Soviet ideals; instead, he returned to historical themes of saving the Fatherland, their homes, their nation from destruction and enslavement by a foreign enemy.

I mention my personal experience because I was reminded of what I learned so long ago in a new book, currently available on Amazon Kindle and in paper by Andrey Martyanov, entitled Losing Military Supremacy The Myopia of American Strategic Planning. Yet the title, although in fact the heart of book, doesn’t do the book justice because for interested Americans Martyanov explains the very different cultures, American and Russian. If “culture” is not a precise word, one should say that both Russia and America have unique experiences and the experiences of America today put her in great jeopardy.  Let me quote an excerpt from the book that makes this point better than I can: Losing Military Suprem... Martyanov, Andrei Buy New $9.59 (as of 02:10 UTC - Details)

While speaking to the US military at Fort Bragg after the official conclusion of US operations in Iraq in 2011, in what can only be described as an acute case of myopia and ignorance, President Obama doubled down on a his dubious “finest fighting force in history” claim, assuring all that “we know too well the heavy cost of that war.” Here was the problem: America doesn’t. With the exception of those who fought and died or were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and their immediate families, America, as it was with every American foreign war, never knew the real costs. Even as bodies of American GIs started to arrive in coffins into the US from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans continued, as if nothing really happened, to go to work, buy lattes at espresso stands, sell and buy cars, go on vacations, travel around the world and pay their mortgages. Normal life went on as if nothing of significance happened. The very phenomenon which was responsible for the United States emergence as a superpower—war, WWII in particular—was never a factor which had a real impact on the nation and created no real inhibitors in the political elites to their often ignorant, boastful and aggressive rhetoric nor created a necessity to study the subject, which was foundational to American prosperity and success after WWII. This still hasn’t been done.

The outcomes, in full accordance to Clausewitz’ dictum that “it is legitimate to judge an event by its outcome for it is the soundest criterion,” have accumulated today into a body of overwhelming empirical evidence of a serious and dangerous dysfunction within America’s decision making process. From the debacle in Iraq, to the lost war in Afghanistan, to inspiring a slaughterhouse in Syria, to unleashing, with the help of its NATO Allies, a conflict in Libya, to finally fomenting a coup and a war in Ukraine—all of that is a disastrous record of geopolitical, diplomatic, military and intelligence incompetence and speaks to the failure of American political, military, intelligence and academic institutions. Moreover, the spectacular failure of several US Administrations and the US “experts” who supposedly know Russia, to build normal working relations, and, ironically, their even greater failure in sabotaging those relations and Russia herself, are a clear indication of an almost complete ignorance of real Russian history and culture among people who are responsible for an increasingly irrational US foreign policy. This failure is more than spectacular—it is spectacularly dangerous. This book addresses some of the reasons for America’s sad and dangerous state today. The pivot of this book is war and power and how these two have been abused and misinterpreted by the American political and military class. Importantly, it is viewed against the background of Russian-American relations and how Russia, the only country in the world which can militarily defeat the United States conventionally, has been reduced to a caricature by the American “Russian Studies” field, so much so that today it makes any meaningful dialogue between Russia and America’s politicians virtually impossible. It is also impossible because of a dramatic difference in cultural attitudes towards war, a gap which policymakers should at least attempt to narrow.

What Martyanov also describes in depth is the mindset and experience of the Russian people, which I also described in an earlier piece, a people who have known war and the intense suffering that war causes. America has been fortunate never to have faced war and its catastrophic devastation and mass death—so far—on its own soil.

In addition to the writing this book, Martyanov also blogs on this site: Reminiscence of the Future.  He recently provided an excerpt from his forthcoming book discussing the “Thucydides Trap” pertaining to China but I believe also might be relevant to America’s perception of Russia: Persian Fire: The Firs... Tom Holland Best Price: $2.68 Buy New $11.61 (as of 06:15 UTC - Details)

But while there are few more-or-less competent and influential people who speak about [the] fallacy of Allison’s Trap, one has to point out a simple fact that the Thucydides Trap of sorts is known to mankind since the very dawn of human civilization, way before Ancient Greece, and it was observed in [the] animal world, in which aging leaders of a herd are challenged by younger and more ambitious competitors. It was and is also observed in human world all the time, enough to consider sports whose very premise is built on challenging the status quo, be that boxing, track and field or soccer. In general, Allison’s Thucydides Trap is known to humanity as competition and not all competitions end up in wars. This is not to mention the fact that Athens, Sparta and Thucydides himself did not operate with the knowledge of nuclear weapons, net-centric warfare, stand-off high-precision weapons and combined arms operation, which even in purely conventional form can paralyze and defeat [the] modern nation-state, or can cause human losses on [an] unimaginable scale. These factors are the ones which must change any kind of generalizations related to military and war. This brings us to more important issue—historical parallels.

Drawing historical parallels is an extremely dangerous business wrought with huge risks of miscalculation and learning [the] wrong lessons. History, certainly, does provide some valuable lessons but at this stage the whole term history, as it was understood even fairly recently, does not reflect an immense complexity of human development and activity for the last roughly hundred years and those developments cannot be described anymore within [a] traditional framework because more and more causalities are being affected not just by human nature but by technology attached to it. Technology becomes increasingly complex and thus remains beyond the grasp of many humanities educated historians who lack [the] cognitive apparatus for understanding and describing it and technology’s effect on the events. Modern war is highly technological. What used to be [a] few tactical and operational factors to be considered by a military leader such as Napoleon, Kutuzov or Grant, today becomes a vast and complex set of variables needed to be considered by leaders while making a decision. There is a reason why contemporary military leaders have very strong backgrounds in fundamental sciences and many of them have serious engineering backgrounds.

While general principles of warfare and what is called strategy since the times of Clausewitz remained largely static and generally similar for many modern armies, the approach to application of those principles grew in complexity exponentially.[vii] In times of muskets and linear tactics, an officer commanding a company or battalion would have had little trouble understanding a general plan on the battle or even campaign. Today, such understanding requires long years of highly specialized education and very serious background in military technology. Without this background there is no serious understanding of modern warfare—it is simply a hard fact of life. This is where drawing historical parallels becomes a very dangerous business. Many even non-military people understand this danger and, in fact, some even reflected this danger in the modern art.

A 1980 sci-fi Hollywood flick The Final Countdown, with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen starring in it, is an excellent example of such an awareness. While [the] movie deals with the possible time paradox when nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is transported, due to a freaky storm, from 1980 to December 7, 1941, few hours before Japanese aviation attack on Pearl-Harbor, [the] historic ramifications of such an event become clear immediately. Even the most unsophisticated observer could easily arrive to the idea, without understanding even basic technological principles, that a single US Navy’s nuclear aircraft carrier and its air wing which included F-14 Tomcat fighters would have very little difficulty with destroying 360 Japanese piston aircraft due to modern American carrier advanced electronic sensors and overwhelming advantage modern jet aircraft had over 1930s-designed combat planes in speed, maneuverability and weapons. It came down to a complete tactical, operational and technological mismatch, even if portrayed in a fictional setting.

I will be the first to admit that I lack Martyanov’s expertise in military history, mathematics, and capabilities of modern weaponry. However, I would like to point out that Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins propounds a different reason for the origins and escalation of the war as noted by reviewer Dennis Showalter, Professor of History at Colorado College: “This provocative and persuasive analysis of the Peloponnesian War’s first ten years shifts focus from the ‘realist’ aspects of the conflict’s causes and conduct. Lendon stresses instead the centrality of honor, tîmê, manifested by reciprocal acts of destruction and revenge. Humiliation, not conquest, was the primary war aim—an aim so vague it made expanding the war easier than making peace.” This thesis is discussed on an excellent John Batchelor program where he interviews the author. My contention is that the current American initiated conflict with Russia does indeed have aspects that reflect this thesis, thus the centrality of tîmê to the situation, that is not treating Russia with respect and considering her interests, notwithstanding America’s and the United Kingdom’s military and political and financial elites’ ignorance (including of the capabilities of Russian military hardware and the nature of modern warfare). And this drive for dominance by principally the Neoconservatives who control American Foreign policy makes the potential for military confrontation more likely, despite the potentially dire consequences.

I write this in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent address to the nation. While America and the West, as usual, portray Russia as the aggressor, this translation by Gilbert Doctorow shows that Putin seeks that America treat Russia with respect and that it has not acted honorably but spread falsehoods; some of these concerns are in the below excerpt in which he addresses Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the INF Treaty: America: The Farewell ... Hedges, Chris Best Price: $5.18 Buy New $12.49 (as of 11:10 UTC - Details)

In closing out the subject of the unilateral withdrawal of the USA from the INF Treaty, I would like to say the following.  In the past few years, the USA has been conducting towards Russia a policy which one could hardly call friendly. They ignore the lawful interests of Russia. They are constantly organizing various kinds of anti-Russian campaigns which are absolutely unprovoked, and I emphasize this, from our side. They introduce more and more new sanctions which are illegal from the standpoint of international law. They are dismantling unilaterally practically all the treaties and legal basis of international security that developed over recent decades, and at the same time they just about call Russia the main threat to the USA.

I will say directly that this is untrue.  Russia wants to have full-bodied, equitable and friendly relations with the USA.  Russia is not threatening anyone. All of our actions in the sphere of security bear an exclusively reactive, meaning defensive character. We are not interested in a confrontation and do not want it, least of all with such a global power as the United States of America. But it would appear that our partners are not noticing how and with what speed the world is changing, where it is headed. They continue their destructive and clearly erroneous policy. It hardly corresponds to the interests of the USA itself. But that is not for us to decide.

We see that we are dealing with business-like, very talented people. However, among the ruling class there are many of those who are excessively captivated by the idea of their exceptionalism and their superiority over the rest of the world. It stands to reason that they have the right to think so if they wish.  But do they know how to count? Surely they do. Let them calculate the range and speed of our upcoming weapons systems. We only ask one thing: let them first do their calculations, and only after that take decisions which can create serious threats for our country, understandably leading to actions in response from the Russian side to reliably ensure our security.

Moreover, I already spoke about this and want to repeat it:  we are ready for negotiations on disarmament, but we will no longer knock at a closed door. We will wait until our partners mature, come to understand the need for equitable dialogue on this subject.

An excerpt of Putin’s speech with English subtitles can be viewed here. This recent video from Russia’s Vesti News also explains Russia’s position and how Washington was the one to violate the INF Treaty: Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Address Was Sternest in Years! Russia Done “Knocking on Closed Doors!”

A recent video on the capabilities of the hypersonic Zircon missile, is here:

Russia Today’s perspective on the Western response to Putin’s address and his actual intent are in this video:

Therefore, Putin’s response is not as Fox News and its Neocon “experts” describe—saber rattling—but instead he is informing the rulers of the United States that there will be dire consequences to their actions and explaining once again Russia’s actions are purely defensive, a response to aggression and not a provocation.

In his blog post after the address, Martyanov explains, again with technical expertise that I lack: Son of Thunder: The Sp... Yvonne Lorenzo Buy New $12.00 (as of 04:45 UTC - Details)

Four, Three, Two, One—Experts”!

OK, I am being facetious but [the] truth is—expect the wave of Western and Russian “military experts” in full blown damage control mode trying to undo President Putin’s address to Russia’s Federal Assembly. I didn’t have the chance to review it yet in full but I am sure many people will do it for all of us shortly. Having said all that, I couldn’t have missed this:

Путин уточнил, что эта ракета способна развивать скорость полета около девяти махов, а дальность ее полета может составить более 1 тыс. км. При этом она способна поражать как морские, так и наземные цели.

Translation:  Putin specified that this missile (Zircon) is capable of speeds around M=9 and its range could be in excess of 1,000 kilometers. It is capable of hitting both sea surface and ground targets.

Well, what can I say: 3.14 x 1000^2=3.14 million square kilometers of potential search area for a single submarine carrying Zircons. For comparison, 3+ million square kilometers is the area of India. Good luck coming up with the location probability density mapping for this one. Putin went further and simply confirmed that any carrier of Kalibr family missiles is capable of carrying Zircons. OK, the picture of a modernized (that is Kalibrized) pr. 949A (Oscar II-class) SSGN carrying somewhere between 20 to 50 Zircons is kinda the stuff of nightmares for any surface combatants, but it is what it is.

Then Putin went even further and stated that recent tests in adverse weather conditions with already deployed Kinzhal demonstrated its ability to hit a passenger sedan size target from 1,000+ km away. The fact that Zircon comes along nicely was circumstantially confirmed by India, whose representatives today confirmed that hyper-sonic Brahmos-2 will be ready by 2024. Putin concluded about the United States:

“There are a lot of those in the ruling class of the United States, who are obsessed with the idea of their exclusiveness and superiority over the rest of the world. This is certainly their right to think this way. But can they make the calculations? Undoubtedly they can,” Putin said. “So let them calculate the range and speed of our advanced weapon systems.”

Obviously Vladimir Vladimirovich should know that political “scientists,” lawyers [Bolton], ethics “specialists”, philosophers and other financiers and sociologists constituting this very ruling class have their calculating abilities limited to calculating stock options and debit with credit but not what constitutes serious and complex values defining modern highly technological warfare. As General Latiff (himself a Ph.D. in Physics) formerly of DARPA and other advanced Pentagon’s R&D programs noted in his latest book:

Make no mistake: the willful ignorance of the American public and its leaders will have dangerous consequences. Most Americans, including many of our political leaders, pay scant attention to military issues until a situation arises concerning our armed forces. Then they act based on emotion and political expedience rather than on facts, and that rarely ends well….Much of what the public knows or thinks about the military derives from entertainment.

In other words, and that is my position for decades, really—one must be seriously educated and trained in modern military to even have a remotely competent point. This education and training is absent in US ruling class of good ol’ boys and girls most of who see the war and military on the TV screen at best and didn’t serve a day in uniform, forget operational zones. Those people also have issues with understanding what real American military professionals tell them due to this ruling class [with] a rather grossly exaggerated intellectual and cognitive capabilities. As per Poseidon thingy, I don’t even want to go there—it is still covered with a complete shroud of mystery and let fanboys deal with it.

War with Russia?: From... Cohen, Stephen F. Best Price: $8.99 Buy New $8.50 (as of 02:15 UTC - Details) There is another factor to take into account when taking into consideration America’s delusion of exceptionalism and will to dominate: that despite Neocons delusional thinking, America is an Empire in an extreme state of decline. I recently started reading Christopher Hedges book, America: The Farewell Tour, and in it he details the advanced state of decay the nation is undergoing; while his thesis is the “financialization” of the economy has led to parasitism and its devastation may be challenged, his descriptions of people without hope, the suffering and despair resulting in tens of thousands of overdose deaths from heroin, the lack of work and poverty with record numbers of suicides, sexual sadism where inflicting pain and humiliation are the goal (especially difficult to read), and racial hatred and prejudice (although his depiction I find one-sided and imbued with his ideology) are compelling. Nevertheless, in the anecdotes told the America he depicts is very far from the “exceptional nation” mantra repeated mindlessly by its leaders, from Obama to members of the Trump administration. But even if Hedge’s book didn’t exist, I think by honest observation from one’s surroundings, the average American can see that the country has changed drastically, and not for the better. Even Martyanov who lives in America has blogged with sympathy on this topic, based on his observations of where he lives and works. He also writes that despite the trillions and potentially more trillions to be spent in the Trump agenda, America will not have the technology to match what Russia has and will develop; its industrial heartland is crippled and lacks the capabilities and capacity to do what Russia has done at a fraction of the cost. There is the potential for plasma defensive weaponry; Russia is highly advanced in that area. See this video of rocket technology under development that America hasn’t even contemplated on a drawing board:

Another Russia expatriate, living in America, Dmitri Orlov, wrote about America leaving the INF treaty and its implications, without the military technical depth of Martyanov, but he comments on the state of America today in his post RIP INF Treaty: Russia’s Victory, America’s Waterloo:

Not only has the US lost its ability to attack, it has also lost its ability to threaten… The Essential Saker: f... The Saker Best Price: $16.37 Buy New $27.95 (as of 09:30 UTC - Details)

Without the shackles of the INF treaty, Russia will be able to fully neutralize the already obsolete and useless NATO and to absorb all of Europe into its security sphere. European politicians are quite malleable and will soon learn to appreciate the fact that good relations with Russia and China are an asset while any dependence on the US, moving forward, is a huge liability. Many of them already understand which way the wind is blowing.

It won’t be a difficult decision for Europe’s leaders to make. On the one pan of the scale there is the prospect of a peaceful and prosperous Greater Eurasia, from Lisbon to Vladivostok and from Murmansk to Mumbai, safe under Russia’s nuclear umbrella and tied together with China’s One Belt One Road.

On the other pan of the scale there is a certain obscure former colony lost in the wilds of North America, imbued with an unshakeable faith in its own exceptionalism even as it grows ever weaker, more internally conflicted and more chaotic, but still dangerous, though mostly to itself, and run by a bloviating buffoon who can’t tell the difference between a nuclear arms treaty and a real estate deal. It needs to be quietly and peacefully relegated to the outskirts of civilization, and then to the margins of history.

Trump should keep his own company in his “big, beautiful room,” and avoid doing anything even more tragically stupid, while saner minds quietly negotiate the terms for an honorable capitulation.

Tom Holland in his book Persian Fire describes “lunatic behavior” and the Greek word for it, hubris. He quotes Aristotle’s Rhetoric: “For this is the crime committed by any man who gains his thrills by trampling on other people, and feeling, as he does, that he is proving himself pre-eminent.”

If that isn’t a pitch perfect depiction of how the ruling elites view America, the “exceptional nation” I don’t know what is.

Russian blogger and author The Saker wrote about how Americans generally like war so long as they “win” and are oblivious to the fact that wars of aggression are war crimes in his post Thanking Vets for Their “Service” – Why?

Now Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas are hardly heroes of mine, but they are considered as very authoritative in western philosophical thought. Yet, when checked against this list of criteria, all the wars fought by the US are clearly and self-evidently totally unjust: all of them fail on several criteria, and most of them (including the attack on Iraq and Afghanistan) fail on all of them!

But there is no need to go far back into the centuries to find authoritative western thinkers who clearly denounce unjust wars. Did you know that the ultimate crime under international law is not genocide or crimes against humanity?

Robert H Jackson

Nope, the supreme crime under international law is the crime of aggression. In the words of the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Robert H. Jackson, the crime of aggression is the supreme crime because “it contains within itself the accumulated evil” of all the other war crimes. He wrote: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” 

The Saker also interviewed Orlov and wrote about the collapse of America in Placing the USA on a Collapse Continuum with Dmitry Orlov

At this point it is important to explain what exactly a “final collapse” looks like. Some people are under the very mistaken assumption that a collapsed society or country looks like a Mad Max world. This is not so. The Ukraine has been a failed state for several years already, but it still exists on the map. People live there, work, most people still have electricity (albeit not 24/7), a government exists, and, at least officially, law and order is maintained. This kind of collapsed society can go on for years, maybe decades, but it is in a state of collapse nonetheless, as it has reached all the 5 Stages of Collapse as defined by Dmitry Orlov in his seminal book “The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit” where he mentions the following five stages of collapse: The Cloak of Freya: Th... Yvonne Lorenzo Buy New $14.00 (as of 04:45 UTC - Details)

  • Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost.
  • Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.
  • Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.
  • Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost.
  • Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost.

Hedges book argues that we have well into Stage Five (in many geographic areas, irrespective of race); The Saker believes that Stage 5 has begun. But how is a nation in such a state of decline capable to fight a war with Russia, or China for that matter? From Daisy Luther’s piece, Depravity, Frivolity, and Dissent: Are We Watching the End of an Empire?

where she discussed Sir John Glubb’s essay, The Fate of Empires and The Search for Survival, and included this video, The 7 Signs Of An Empire In Decline it’s clear America will never be as it was decades ago:

However, I am concerned that the faceless ruling classes of the West, whose servants are the political class like Bolton, are quite unhinged and incapable of rational thinking; see this report of this New Year’s Eve event. The propaganda arm of the elites, Hollywood, has made a fetish of Apocalyptic films that have continued unabated over the years. Would they relish a nuclear exchange that they think they can manage?  Southfront investigated who owns the Military-Industrial complex, which appears to be investment funds that own each other. We don’t know who or what the real power in the shadows is. But as Professor Stephen Cohen writes in his book, War with Russia: The Five Stages of Col... Orlov, Dmitry Best Price: $4.27 Buy New $1.99 (as of 03:30 UTC - Details)

The title is a warning—akin to what the late Gore Vidal termed “a journalistic alert-system”—not a prediction. Hence the question mark. I cannot foresee the future. The book’s overarching theme is informed by past and current facts, not by any political agenda, ideological commitment, or magical prescience.

To restate that theme: The new US-Russian Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor, which the world survived. The chances are even greater, as I hope readers already understand, that this one could result, inadvertently or intentionally, in actual war between the two nuclear superpowers. Herein lies another ominous indication. During the preceding Cold War, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe was in the forefront of American mainstream political and media discussion, and of policy-making. During the new one, it rarely seems to be even a concern.

If minority rights and opinions are center stage in the legacy media, let them consider a new minority; the minority that believes there is nothing to be gained by war with Russia (or China, for that matter) and everything to lose. Let them realize that the patriots are the ones wanting to spare their nation the evils of war. I see no other alternative. A spiritual renewal does not appear in the offing; quite the contrary. And time is growing short. Yes, we should follow the work and writings of Professor Cohen, The Saker and Andrei Martyanov. But we should also make our voices heard. After all, our rulers number only in the thousands. But time is growing short.

In any event, our illiterate “elites” forget the salient point Tom Holland made regarding hubris: where there is hubris, Nemesis is not far behind. And not only Chris Hedges’ but I think if we were to confess honestly our own observations of our surroundings—at least those of us not in gated communities—we see that she is just beginning.

Links for future reference: (Orlov’s Blog) (The Saker’s site) (Martyanov’s Blog)  (Professor Cohen’s site)

Future War: Preparing ... Latiff, Robert H. Best Price: $2.01 Buy New $8.00 (as of 06:00 UTC - Details) America: The Farewell ... Hedges, Chris Best Price: $5.18 Buy New $12.49 (as of 11:10 UTC - Details) Song of Wrath: The Pel... Lendon, J. E. Best Price: $3.95 Buy New $18.43 (as of 04:00 UTC - Details)