Recent wars and crises show us how dangerous it can be when dishonest political elites unite with a powerful media to direct an uninformed public. It might be difficult to comprehend the combination. But unfortunately, even tragically, that’s exactly the combination that enabled wars to be launched in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and is now being used in the case of Ukraine.
The West’s Middle Eastern Playbook
Remember the Gulf of Tonkin lie? It cost more than 3 million Vietnamese their lives, murdered in cold blood, using the most lethal weapons American war industry could produce and sell. An identical modus operandi was used as recently as 2003 to start the Iraq War. The lies about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs cost the lives of a million Iraqis, and counting. Last year, the US finally drew the curtain on its 20-year war in Afghanistan, at a cost of over $2.3 trillion and nearly 50,000 civilian lives. How is that possible? Because the public is ignorant and, therefore, easily fooled by decision-makers and powerful media.
It’s the same playbook, again and again. The media refocus public attention from a country to a specific individual, presenting them as a bogeyman from whom the people are to be liberated. Now the war is not against a nation in which millions will die but against an individual. It’s easy to turn your ignorant people against one person. In Vietnam, it was Ho Chi Minh, in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar and his Taliban, and Hussein in Iraq.
Take a look at the Ukrainian crisis: The conflict is not with Russia — it’s with Vladimir Putin. The narrative is, will Putin invade? Why is Putin amassing his — not Russia’s — army? The Russian president is the new bogeyman. And what do the nice people at NATO want? Just freedom for Ukraine to join NATO, which incidentally includes Kyiv’s right to allow NATO armies to amass on its territory, on Russia’s doorstep. How could there possibly be something wrong with that? Right? Wrong!
Here are some real thoughts for our domesticated friends on the other side of sobriety. It might even help free them from the confinements of their media and actually take a global, rather than a parochial, view of their problems.
Suppose Ukraine, after joining NATO, becomes emboldened and decides to challenge Russia (or is it Putin?) in Donbas or Crimea? Both have a sizeable Russian population and, like all of Ukraine and Russia, were part of the former Soviet Union. What will NATO do? Trigger Article 5 and embark on a direct military confrontation against Russia on Ukraine’s side? Or will it unprecedentedly abandon a NATO member in war and risk breaking up the alliance, giving French President Emmanuel Macron’s description of NATO more credence?
If war breaks out over Ukraine, as some never-seen-action, gung-ho rocking-chair warriors want, what will happen in Asia? What if China decides that the moment is right to take over Taiwan and the whole of the South China Sea? Will our Western warriors start a war with China while fighting Russia?
In the Middle East, where Washington’s client states are on the run, will they be able to rely on American protection, which they desperately seem to need despite hundreds of billions spent on military hardware? What will happen if their regional adversaries decide to go full scale on them, creating a wider conflict across the Arab world because all hell has broken loose in Europe and the South China Sea?
And who is doing the actual saber-rattling? The leadership of major European countries — the front-line states — is scared, not by Russia invading Ukraine but of their own Anglo-Saxon war-mongering allies in London and Washington. The Europeans realize that these are the same people who pushed the world to disastrous wars repeatedly, killing countless millions but losing each one of these conflicts — unless, of course, the purpose of war is exclusively to kill and destroy.
Trusting these same people with decisions of war and peace is like using the same failed mindset and same failed plan but hoping for different results. This has never worked. It will never work.
Sitting on a Powder Keg
These are realistic scenarios in a world sitting on a powder keg with everyone wanting to redraw geopolitical maps. Are these global ramifications even considered in the West? Does the public in the West even know or understand these global realities? The media there are busy entertaining the public with war scenarios and military hardware. No one is telling them that if the war starts; we will know where and when it started, but we won’t know where or when it will stop. Of course, we will be able to estimate how destructive it will be, assuming that it still matters.
The path to war is littered with bravado, brinkmanship and ego. We then lose control of events, and all that is required is a spark, or a single bullet, like the one that murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand and created an uncontrollable chain reaction leading to a war that killed 40 million people.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, we drifted from a bipolar world that maintained decades of no major wars to a destructive unipolar system of unstoppable wars and invasions. With the reemergence of Russia and the rise of China, we now see a tripolar world in the making, with a number of regional superpowers such as India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey coming into their own. There is no going back on this.
Attempts to prevent others from rising will only result in destructive wars. The sooner our friends across the big pond recognize and learn to coexist with that new world order, the better it is for everyone. This is not to say their time is up, rather that time has come to share power, and they must accept that new reality. The alternative is disastrous. Germany tried to control the world and become its dictator. We know how that ended. Lessons learned — time for sobriety.
And here is a thought: Taking one’s nation to the edge of the cliff requires brinkmanship. Taking a step back requires leadership.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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