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A Reckoning with My Past, Ukraine and the War Machine
This time with a surprise ending!
Come, you masters of war, You that build the big guns, You that build the death planes, You that build all the bombs, You that hide behind walls, You that hide behind desks, I just want you to know, I can see through your masks
-Bob Dylan, Masters of War
I turned 11 years old in 1989, which, as I’m sure many of you know, was the momentous year that the Soviet Union fell. From there, it seemed nothing interesting happened for a long time, and as such, my age group was fairly apolitical for most of our formative years. If you look at the headline events of the 90s, it’s shocking how few significant events occurred. Desert Storm, NAFTA, Nelson Mandela being freed, and Charles and Diana getting divorced. All are important to varying degrees, but certainly no assassination-of-Archduke-Ferdinand moments. The most significant events were in technology and culture, with the publishing of the first Harry Potter book, Tim Berner-Lee proposing the World Wide Web, and the founding of eBay, Google, and Napster. However, even those events are only of note through 20/20 hindsight.
The groundwork for what would come later was being laid, but that was all happening below the surface. I barely remember having any serious political discussions with my friends aside from the Clinton impeachment (the guy’s getting impeached for a BJ, that’s bullshit, man!) and, a few months later, the Columbine school shooting. We were demonstrably and understandably far less political than our parent's generation, who were dealing with little things like them and their friends being forced to fight in a war.
Unbeknownst to us, we lived in the least tempestuous time in human civilization…when I was 23, that changed while I was in the shower.
Growing up, we had a small radio in the bathroom to listen to sports radio while we were showering. On September 11, 2001, the hosts broke in to inform me, and my Head-and-Shoulder lathered head, that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. The second plane hit while I was watching the TV in my room, and thus began the global war on terror and my foray into politics.
My innate, deep understanding of geopolitics told me we had to respond (lol), but where? Anywhere. We needed to have payback. I distinctly remember sitting on my buddy’s porch in the following weeks, saying that I hoped they put cameras on the tips of the missiles so we could watch the terrorist’s faces right before they were blown up. Pretty badass of me, huh? More central to the point of this writing is that I wholeheartedly supported the invasion of Afghanistan (I still do) and Iraq (that, not so much).
I tell the above story only to show that I was a pure neo-con hawk at one point in my life, but my “America, fuck yeah” (insert Team America voice here) mentality started changing about a decade ago, and the current conflict in Ukraine has almost completely changed my worldview of on the topic.
Mapping of my evolution in the belief in the US political system. The highlighted events are not the only things that occurred; they are just the ones that stick out most prominently right now.
Before we go any further on this topic, I want to make two points:
First, I will do the required throat-clearing on this topic and say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is beyond despicable. Full stop. Much has been written about what America did to bring this circumstance about and how we should have known this would be the outcome (primarily, the steady move of NATO to the west). Still, none of that can excuse the inexcusable. Fuck Putin.
Second, I know I spend much time bashing the left on these pages (and deservedly so), but the fucked-up-ness of this situation is a cross-aisle issue, with both liberals and neo-cons sucking orangutan dick on this issue.
With those items out of the way, my loss in faith of Ukraine situation stems from two primary places:
The demonization of people trying to find a way to de-escalate/resolve the situation.
The flippant talk of nuclear war by our elites.
There are others I will get into, but the above is the “too long; didn’t read” version (tl;dr - for those familiar with the Reddit jargon).
Let’s dive in
As with most things in the world today (which don’t involve Kanye), let’s start with Elon Musk.
On October 3rd, Musk posted this poll on his Twitter account:
With the following commentary:
Is this a reasonable solution? It seems that it is, but I am not an expert here, so maybe it’s far off-base for some reason. But whether the proposal was reasonable or not was what started the Twitter caterwaul. That shrill noise started because he offered a negotiated position at all.
But why? Before we attempt to answer that, read the following headline:
Now, go back and reread it. Read it again. Again. Again. Read this thing as many times as you need to understand what it is telling you. Business Insider wants you to believe that finding a way to achieve peace in a conflict where the brilliant Swedish scientist Max Tegmark says there is now a 1 in 6 chance (17% for you math majors) of a nuclear engagement is “dangerous.”
As with many concepts, “dangerous” is a relative term. Running in the dark without reflective gear is dangerous, but not like standing in a lion’s pit with a meat sweater. So what would the comparison need to be to make nuclear war not “dangerous”? A supernova of the sun would be one. A hostile alien invasion of Earth? Katy Perry releasing another album? Seriously, what the ever-loving fuck, Business Insider?
Even President “Weekend With Bernie” Biden admitted to a group of Democrat donors in early October that “[for the] first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if, in fact, things continue down the path that they are going […]we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis."
Remember that Biden wrote in a June 1st New York Times op-ed.
I know many people around the world are concerned about the use of nuclear weapons. We currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine [emphasis added], though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible. Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.
So in four months, the leader of the free world went from no indication that Russia intends to use nuclear weapons to the verge of nuclear armageddon?
In a very concerning article in the blog War on the Rocks, Jeremy Shapiro makes the terrifying case that we are, indeed, on the path to nuclear conflict:
No rational or even sane leader plans to start a nuclear war. And for all of the Russian regime’s risk taking, it does not show signs of suicidal tendencies. The essence of the problem is more insidious than mere insanity: Once an escalatory cycle begins, a series of individually rational steps can add up to a world-ending absurdity…[t]he likelihood of escalation, in other words, has stemmed from developments on the battlefield, not from the crossing of some arbitrary red line. Experts on the Russian military have long suspected that Russian nuclear signaling is an elaborate bluff meant to instill fear and caution in a weak-willed Western enemy. But events in Ukraine and the possibility of a catastrophic military loss may have changed that calculation. Nobody really knows. Likely, the Russians don’t know either. [emphasis added].
Those last two sentences should be shitty-pants inducing.
While the Business Insider example is the most clearly deranged, there are many, both from the corporate media types and politicians, calling people like Musk, Trump, venture capitalist, and All-in podcast host David Sacks and others as being Russian puppets for trying to figure a way out of this situation, which doesn’t involve nuclear armageddon.
Should Ukraine have to make concessions to a bully in a perfect world? No. However, we live in a world with the threat of Katy Perry making new music eventually…so we undoubtedly do not live in that world, and realpolitik must rule the day.
Instead, these warmongers seem intent on a one-way ratchet up until the point there is a nuclear cloud somewhere. Biden talks about regime change in Russia…which, as with virtually every burp that comes out of his mouth, was walked back by non-dementia-addled people in the administration, but was he saying the quiet part out loud? Zelinsky has now said negotiations with Russia are “impossible” while Putin is in power. Gee, another regime change guy. I see a pattern here.
What makes the talk even more irresponsible is that if Putin is deposed, we have no idea who will take his place, though there are indications that he is getting massive pressure from the Russian war hawks. If that is indeed true, whoever replaces him could be substantially worse.
What do our other NATO allies think about this madness?
As with any conflict, there are really three sides: your side, your enemies side, and your allies side. People assume that because all allied guns are pointed in the same direction, they are on the same side of a conflict. While in a general sense, that may be true, in a broader sense, it’s not. Look at the Allies in World War 2; were the US, UK, Australia, Poland, and Russia's interests all aligned? They were at the highest level of defeating the Axis power, but just slightly below the surface; they were not. Ukraine is no different.
As I wrote in my previous column (and has been written about extensively in many other places), the Ukraine conflict has potentially dire consequences for Europe, particularly on the energy front, with winter fast approaching. One reason they would want (need) the war to end is that Europe gets 40% of their natural gas from Russia…or rather did.
There was much speculation about Europe pushing for peace as winter neared because they needed the energy to heat their citizens’ homes. Well, that is an irrelevant point, as someone blew up the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines last month. This was sabotaged, as the steel pipe was 4.1 cm thick and was coated with another 6-11 cm of steel-reinforced concrete, with each section of the pipe weighing 24-25 tons. So no, someone didn’t just kick it accidentally trying to find the toilet in the dark.
Who benefits from the destruction of the pipeline? Contrary to some commentators, I do think Russia had something to benefit from in the pipeline’s destruction. While they could have simply turned down, or off, the gas to Europe, they have been using the excuse of “repairs,” and blowing up the pipeline means they no longer have to make excuses. However, while this is possible, it seems unlikely to me because the conflict will end eventually, and the gas would have started flowing.
The most likely situation is that the US was at least involved for the dual purpose of punishing Russia and keeping its allies in the mix. Now that the pipeline is out of commission, the benefit for other NATO members to push for peace is minimized (aside from, you know, avoiding NUCLEAR WAR., But who cares about that anymore…it’s so passé.) It is inconceivable that something of this magnitude would occur without US involvement in some form or fashion. And, of course, there was the former Polish Foreign Minister and current EU MP who wrote a Tweet immediately after the bombing, simply saying, “Thank you, USA,” along with a picture of the gas bubbling up to the surface. I’d link to it for you, but the account has since been deleted. Ho hum…nothing to see here.
Another suspicious item is that the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 's behavior has evolved from being grateful for NATO support to outright entitlement. I can’t imagine the constant strain he has to endure on a day-to-day basis right now (not enough apparently to avoid doing a Vogue profile and Annie Leibovitz photo shoot), but that said, I can’t stand the guy any longer.
(side note - Check out Zelenskyy’s couch in the background with a photo of himself. A self-portrait within a self-portrait…very meta.)
From going to Israel and trying to shame the Knesset for not militarily supporting Ukraine because the war is tantamount to the holocaust (it’s not), to applying for NATO membership (they can’t join), to telling NATO, they must do pre-emptive strikes within Russian boarders (actually insane) to claiming that Elon Musk now supports Russia (he doesn’t), even though he donated Starlink terminals, to the tune of $80M per month out of his own company’s pocket, to the aforementioned refusal to negotiate with peace terms Russia…something is up.
He is acting like a guy who knows he has the unquestioned support of the US, no matter what insane, end-of-life-on-earth proposals he puts out there. And you know what? He probably does.
I know I said this would be an equal-opportunity thrashing of left and right alike, but I have to get one ding it at the left. Where the hell is the anti-war left? Remember when Code Pink was a staple at all George Bush events? Where have they gone? Finally, last week AOC, of all people, was made to look a fool (I know it’s just another day Biden wore his Depends, but still) by two anti-war protesters at a town hall in her district. Where are these people?
So, in summary, we have media and political elites in the US who now acknowledge a dangerous escalation in the war, are hell-bent on keeping our NATO allies aligned with our interests, a foreign leader who seems to think he has a right to US money and resources (and maybe soldiers at some point) and claim anyone who proposes a way out as being a Russian puppet. Why are all these things, which are leading us to an unspeakably horrific event, all happening? I can think of three potential reasons, with an aggravating factor.
The first reason leads me back to the famous Eisenhower “Military Industrial Complex” speech, which I never gave much heed to in my neo-con days. After all, just because war is good for defense contractors' bottom line, checks and balances are in place to prevent unnecessary wars from occurring. Right? Just like I used to be confident, I’d be six feet tall…now I’m not so sure.
Second, and maybe scarier, is that they just don’t care. They have their bunkers, so that they will be fine. But the final reason is the most terrifying.
Remember after 9/11; we got the Patriot Act? If there is a nuclear war, what sort of powers do you think will be ceded to the government then? A nuclear war would be the greatest power-grab opportunity in world history. Remember what former Obama Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel once said, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” What better crisis for a power grab than a goddamn nuclear war?
The aggravating factor, and possibly the answer to my question on where the anti-war left is, is that it doesn’t seem anyone really gives a shit about what’s going on. Check out the Google Trends chart below for the terms Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Vladimir Putin.
At the start of the conflict, there was a short spike in search interest, and now it’s back down to nearly the same disinterest levels as before it started. Additionally, if you look at a recent New York Times poll, which asked likely voters, “What do you think is the MOST important problem facing the country today,” the war in Ukraine received a resounding 2%, tied for 10th place. As one would expect, the economy and inflation are taking the air out of the room, but the fact that it’s behind things like abortion, climate change, “the state of democracy,” “polarization/division,” and “Trump/Republicans” demonstrates how unseriously the average American takes the threat of nuclear war.
After a long overdue reckoning with my past faith in the system, I now see that these people (primarily the elitists in the DC, but also the citizens who are allegedly responsible for keeping the elitist in check) can not be trusted. The uni-party in power in DC cares about three things: their power, your acknowledgment of their power, and getting you to submit to their power.
I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to come around…but at least I am here now.
Even though I am second to only Dickens in the mastery of the English language (Hooked on Phonics worked for me!), I nonetheless use an editing tool called Grammarly to help tighten up my writing. My typical writing process is that I write the first draft directly in Substack, then carry it over to Word to do the final edit. When I brought it over and hit the start button, would you imagine what I saw?
Holy shit. These bitches are reading my article, probably seeing the skepticism in my writing and telling me to reconsider. I couldn’t have asked for a better example of how the elitists are in the bag for nuclear conflict.
Thanks for making my point, Grammarly! Now stick to spell-checking my shit, telling me where I put a sentence in the passive tense, and fuck off.