“Bear With Us”
For the younger readers who do not adequately remember the era of unpleasantness commonly referred to in the west as the Cold War, please get yourselves to the library and do some reading on what it was like back then. Even better, talk with people who remember the era well and who can describe what it was like in terms of its effects on popular society, the economy, expectations for the future, politics, education, and so on.
Older readers will recognize the character of the bear in this story:
One of the many things we learned after the fall of the Wall was that our erstwhile asymmetrically-opposed enemies in the east, the Russians, systematically and methodically bankrupted themselves while appearing to be a bold and healthy monolithic entity. (For a fine explanation of the how & why of what they did to their own means of production, please see the section in “Empire of Debt”, freshly reviewed on CFN by Rubber Toe.) In this regard they were sort of like a dead triceratops, very dangerous looking, that simply hadn’t keeled over yet.
All during the latter part of the Cold War era, the Russians were very hard up for “hard currency”, meaning gold or oil or something of high intrinsic value to be sold on the export market. Russia’s consumer goods have never been a hit in the rest of the world, except perhaps Stoly of course, because of their system of prioritizing their production abilities.
For nearly twenty years now we’ve enjoyed having a moribund, poor, disorganized Russia in the east, a Russia that’s lacked the means (diplomatic or otherwise) to oppose the interests of the industrialized western nations ~ even when the action is practically right in its own backyard.
This is a heads-up call to everyone in the room: the era of the poor, drunk, moribund bear is over. No more nice bear. We need to stop thinking of bears as these cuddly, cute, clownish things at the zoo. The bear is an intelligent opportunistic omnivorous apex predator, with emphasis on the “apex” part.
Back during the Cold War era, the Russians (in the form of the USSR) exerted their will over a whole panoply of satellite nations, extending as far west as the former DDR. (OK, that was a strange postwar situation that’s not likely to be repeated.) Where they did not have the means to exert force through economic dominance, they did it through military dominance.
What Russia is very quickly becoming is basically the same sort of nation as before (for all practical purposes, as evidenced by its external actions) but made much richer through oil/gas exports and through the sales of high-tech armaments.
(I’ll skip the usual tired old racist schtik about Russians in general being more prone to accepting commands from a strong leader. The Russians I know personally do not appear to exhibit that characteristic. And I’m ruefully remembering how many so-called “patriots” [not to mention news organizations] here in the UPL lined up behind Bush when he spewed lies about Saddam and incited a war under false pretenses. The “you’re with us or you’re against us” campaign was especially Stalinist in nature ~ and we call ourselves the land of the free? Puh-leaze.)
So much for the unipolar world our neoCON overlords have been imagining for us. Nature abhors a vacuum just as much as she abhors a monopoly on force. Nature likes competition, healthy or otherwise.
I think we’re overdue for some very interesting chess moves from the east. You must remember that some of the very best mathematicians and scientists in the world come from Russia. Their very best is on par with the very best of the west, differences in industrial base notwithstanding. They’re an oil exporting nation too; we’re importing.
If you can imagine something like a reborn USSR, minus the communistic schtik (which, frankly, hobbled Russia in certain ways), plus internet, plus high-tech computer stuff just as good as ours, plus oil wealth, and plus a space program so much better than ours that we rely on it when our own fragile stuff fails ~ well, then maybe you can see where this is going.
With the UPL now spending more than the entire rest of the world (combined) on our military, we are perhaps well along on the process of following the USSR’s example of bankrupting ourselves through wars of aggression in the ME. (Afghanistan is just the frosting of irony on the crow cake.)
My favorite example of east vs west thinking was the matter of writing instruments for cosmonauts or astronauts. Where we spent millions making zero-gee ink pens, in some astronomically boondogglish waste of money, they sent their people up with pencils. Duh!