The never-ending Cold War

In Orwell’s 1984 Oceania is in a permanent state of war, either with Eurasia or Eastasia. The advantages of permanent war are obvious – it distracts people from the realities of economic stagnation and it’s a perfect justification for more and more political repression. In actual fact the endless wars are largely illusory. People see newsreels of epic battles but in reality these wars are mostly small-scale border skirmishes.

In other words it’s much like the Cold War – lots of fear-mongering but mostly fairly small-scale proxy wars.

In fact it’s pretty much like the world today. It seems like we can look forward to never-ending Cold Wars. It certainly seems that those who shape U.S. foreign policy are determined that there must always be a Cold War. It’s not just for the reasons outlined above. There are other even more compelling reasons to maintain a permanent state of Cold War. War is very profitable. It’s not profitable for everybody of course, but it’s profitable for the people who count. As far as those people are concerned the business of America is war.

The difficulty lies in justifying vast and completely unnecessary military expenditures for a country that has no actual viable enemies and doesn’t actually need to spend more than a token amount on defence. The solution is simple. If the U.S. doesn’t have enemies, make up some pretend enemies. In order to justify the massive spending they have to appear to be at least vaguely credible enemies. There are only two possible candidates, Russia and China. Therefore Oceania (the U.S. and its satellites) must be constantly at war with either Eurasia (Russia) or Eastasia (China).

But wars are messy things and don’t always turn out the way you’d hoped. Sometimes you even lose, as happened to the U.S. in Vietnam. So the best solution is permanent Cold War. It’s just as profitable but a lot safer.

There’s an even worse downside to fighting an actual war. What if you win and there’s no enemy left to fight? How do you continue to keep the money flowing to the military-industrial complex? That was the nightmare scenario facing the American defence establishment in 1945. With Germany and Japan totally defeated the U.S. no longer needed an enormous military. Fortunately an answer was found. The Cold War was like an answered prayer. Pretty soon the money was flowing again in a very satisfactory manner. The military-industrial complex has no intention of facing such a nightmare again so the new Cold War must never end.

It’s important to understand that it makes no difference who happens to be in government in Russia and China or what policies those nations pursue. The U.S. must have enemies, so therefore Russia and China must be those enemies.

It seems highly probable that the Russians are well aware of all this, and have come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no point in trying to negotiate with the Americans. The Americans will never negotiate in good faith. Therefore the permanent Cold War just has to be accepted.

There are certain advantages to this situation for both Russia and China. The biggest threats they face are the economic and cultural menace from the West, especially the cultural menace. If a Cold War encourages anti-American feeling it might provide some protection from the tidal wave of western degeneracy that threatens to engulf the entire planet. Cultural isolationism may well be the only hope for survival for both Russia and China.

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healthy and unhealthy democracies

I’ve had an amusing discussion elsewhere on the subject of healthy democracies. Someone tried to argue that the fact that Vladimir Putin got 76% of the vote in the Russian presidential election is a sign that Russia is not a healthy democracy. Apparently a healthy democracy is one in which there is “competition” – sort of like the free market.

I find this bizarre. The election indicates that the Russian president governs with the overwhelming consent of the Russian people. How could that possibly be unhealthy?

Compare this to Britain, where Theresa May is Prime Minister even though her party got only 42% of the vote in the most recent election, or the U.S. where Donald Trump got 46% of the vote. It seems blindingly obvious that a society in which more than three-quarters of the population thinks the government is pretty OK is going to be a lot healthier (and a lot happier) than a society in which more than half the voters think the government is most definitely not OK.

I am mystified by the idea that we need competition in politics. I’m not even convinced that competition is all that great in the economic sphere. The free market has always seemed to me to be an unworkable utopian pipe-dream. I certainly don’t think free market thinking has any place in politics.

Obviously it is impossible to have a society which makes everyone happy or a government of which everyone approves. On the other hand a society in which roughly half (in some cases more than half) the population disapproves of the current government surely has major problems.

That’s the problem with democracy – even if it worked in practice the way it’s supposed to work in theory (in other words even if there were actual differences between the major parties) it’s still a recipe for trouble and it’s still a guarantee that most people will be dissatisfied.

But if we must have democracy I think I’d prefer to have a democracy in which most people are at least reasonably satisfied. At this point in time Russian democracy looks a lot healthier than democracy in most of the West.