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The New Cold War Isn’t the Old Cold War

The New Cold War Isn’t the Old Cold War

By Dennis Loo (5/29/17)

In its March 2017 issue the New Yorker magazine ran a lengthy essay entitled “Trump, Putin and the New Cold War.” In a prior article I quoted what I consider that article’s essence:

“What we have is a situation in which the strong leader of a relatively weak state is acting in opposition to weak leaders of relatively strong states [the latter being Trump leading the US],” General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said. “And that strong leader is Putin. He is calling the shots at the moment.” 

I am using that same quote to introduce you to a novel way to make sense of what is going on.

From the latter 1940s until 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, we had the first Cold War between the US-led camp versus the USSR-China-led camp. This pitted the capitalist camp against the real or pseudo-socialist camp[1] and led to many things, including the John F. Kennedy effort to boost science and education after the USSR launched Sputnik – making them first in outer space - and the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Both decisions were designed to make the US more appealing to Third World and non-aligned nations because socialism gave people for the first time a choice between capitalism and something radically different. JFK's initiative to make Americans smarter has with the socialism's decline and thus capitalism's alternative no longer real, made bright Americans no longer a good thing. Free education (e.g., California's 1960 Master Plan) has given way to educational plans for saddling students with debt as their primary goal, credulity a plus for businesses' sales, hoodwinking people ideologically (right-wing media), and a brain drain out of the US (for example, to India rather than from).

We now have a different situation: the capitalist camp won the Cold War. Billions of people no longer can choose capitalism or socialism but have to accept whatever capitalism offers. A number of consequences flow out of that.

The nation-state is being challenged as an organizing factor in a major way and matters may lead to a very different outcome. The defunding of education and the dumbing down of much of the American populace, with the Right benefiting from and promoting stupidity has reached its logical endpoint where a child-like Trump can be elected. Fox News, in trying to ignore Trump’s scandals, is losing viewers.

The Old Cold Warriors, such as Sen. John McCain, Obama’s ex-CIA Director John Brennan, NATO, and the Intelligence Community (IC), grew up with and are basically nationalists, appalled to have the White House’s current occupants see Russia as their friend instead of adversary.

The New Cold War is very different than the Old Cold War. The reason, for example, why the Trump team colluded with the Russians and the reason why Trump himself and his closest advisers are going to be driven out of office is because billionaires and the other ultra-rich now have much more in common with each other across national boundaries than they have in common with their nation’s own people. To say it in a slightly different way: Trump and his team are very much more alike their Russian oligarch friends than they have in common with Americans. This is not just how the ultra-rich live similar lives no matter where they live, though there is that. Trump, Kushner, Flynn et al are not committing treason as they see it: they are simply following the money. Kushner’s money, like Trump, was initially inherited and Kushner made his money in part as a heartless slumlord. This is what he thinks of and how he treats his fellow Americans.

Most Americans cannot believe how Trump and his camp are colluding with Russia, but for Trump et al there are no major ideological or national interests: there is money to be made and the Trump brand has never had so many opportunities. The reason why candidate Trump could not be stopped - despite the Republican and Democratic establishments’ best efforts at every stage to forestall that outcome - is itself an indictment of their system. Mitt Romney to Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Trump’s book, warned us, but they could not stop Fox News’ gullible folk from voting him in. Now we are almost all suffering the consequences: of both Trump and the Fox viewers’ stupidity. Most of Trump supporters still have not woken up, but eventually some more will or be forced to by circumstances.

A small percent of Trump voters (6-7% as of about 10 days ago) now regret their choice but most have stayed loyal to their guy since the typical Trump follower will believe virtually anything. Fox cannot be surprised at this because it is precisely what they have been contributing to: gullibility and the inability to recognize a concealed truth.

But what will Fox News do, now that for the first time in seventeen years they find themselves no longer leading in cable news, trailing third behind MSNBC and CNN?[2] Megyn Kelly already has fled; Roger Ailes is dead; O’Reilly is gone; and Hannity is losing advertisers, though not dozens like O’Reilly, and Hannity was forced by Fox staff to abandon his week long effort to breath life into a conspiracy theory involving Seth Rich’s death, may be next. Even if Hannity survives, does Fox News survive in the way we have known it? Ailes and O’Reilly were undone by a sexism so severe that they were outed by Fox News’ own reporters and staff. Fox News has been presenting “alternative facts” while the rest of the media has been covering the biggest stories in their history. Investigative journalism is enjoying a renaissance such as they have never before seen.

Is it safe to say that in the last analysis Fox News’ owner Rupert Murdock is a businessman and not primarily an ideologue and that perhaps he has to rethink Fox’s whole nature? I don’t know; we will have to see, but while the Right is emboldened by Trump (Greg Gianforte’s body slam and minorities, Jews and the LGBT community facing a major increase in attacks), the Right are also facing unprecedented fire and distancing. The situation is more polarized than ever, but unlike at the early stages of this polarization when Trump won the election, he has discredited conservative and reactionary thought like no one else, except perhaps Hitler, and for likely a long time.

Trump says he is outraged by all the classified and unclassified information being released. But he is responsible for most of it himself, creating dual centers of power in the White House itself and different individuals fighting each other in part through leaks to the press (Kushner, Preibus and Bannon, we see you!) Moreover, he sets the standard himself as Leaker-in-Chief, the mother of all national secret bombs he drops for the sake merely of puffing himself up before other world leaders or even in front of audiences he wants to impress!

If the existing system proved itself unable to stop Trump and is so far at least unable to stop the hemorrhaging, what is the alternative? They knew he was unqualified to begin with but couldn’t stop it. DC bureaucrats and government people serve their country first and foremost, as they see it, and are outraged by his malice and his incompetence. But within the system rules their hands are tied, except for leaking like crazy.

Various answers have been offered. Nearly all public responses rely on impeaching him. The private things people are saying?[3] US nationalists such as McCain and enough of the GOP are embarrassed by Trump that he simply cannot remain in office for long. Mike Pence is also neck deep in this and eventually his fate is tied up with Trump’s actions.

Impeachment will take too long, however. What other national state secrets will Trump unknowingly spill in the next week? His proposed budget is unbelievably ghastly. The empire cannot sustain so much damage from one man. Consider all the apparatus to project (they say “protect”) US power that they have spent so long and so many resources to build. There are 700-800 US bases outside the US. Consider the lives that secret agents risk, only to then have a braggart get them outed and killed? Israel and the UK have publicly declared they no longer trust the US to share intel with. Germany's Angela Merkel can't rely on the US now. Imagine what US’ own IC think?

The same system that gave you Trump as POTUS, however, cannot be the same system that then fixes what it did in the first place. They regret it and they hope to fix it, but the rules they play by circumscribe what they can do. Even if we wait till the start of 2018 with a House chamber dominated by Democrats, should that happen, that’s too long to wait. Think about how much he has wrecked in a few months and what he can do in one meeting!

The GOP is incapable of doing what must be done. The Democrats no matter what you think about them (look how Nancy Pelosi, then in-coming Speaker of the House ruled Bush’s impeachment off the table) will take at best much too long.

It is up to the people through an upwelling and uprising.

It is capitalism and (mainly Russian and Chinese) state capitalism versus the people. That is our situation worldwide. You meet the inadequacies of nationalism not with another form of nationalism, as with the Trump team siding with and being manipulated by Putin, or “our side” of US Cold Warriors, but with internationalism. An answer from the people is called for. As hard as that may sound, it is the only realistic path.

An insurgency inevitably starts small. The earliest marchers against the Vietnam War were pelted with eggs and other things. The protests persisted, however, and came to rival the US government. The old Cold Warriors are now trying what they can to dismiss the Trump disaster but in this New Cold War where capitalist camp faces capitalist camp, we don’t share anything in common with them, no matter which nation these ultra-rich come from. We will have to strike out on our own, in some ways as the Bolsheviks led by Lenin did when there was not yet a precedent for a nationwide socialist victory when they emerged victorious in 1917.

To return to the New Yorker article that I cited at the start: the authors state that in the new stage where the Internet and computing is so integral to just about everything, including war planning and war making, Putin has perhaps put 1,000 people to work on cyber attacks. The authors point out that this is a very rough guess since information about this topic is hard to come by. It is true, however, that for a relatively small amount in investment, cyber attacks offer a weak state a rare opportunity for outsized gains, especially against a strong state headed up by easily manipulated and very naïve leaders.

Jared Kushner, for example, approached the Russian Ambassador Kislyak on Dec. 1 or 2, 2016, with a desire to set up a secret communication channel of the Trump transition team to the Russian government. Kislyak reported to his bosses Kushner’s proposal, initially struck by Kushner’s apparent naivete: did Kushner not know that any conversation between the Russians and Trump’s team would get around, at least on the Russian end? Why was a foreign senior official who had the ear of the POTUS approaching Russia as if he was talking with allies? Why was Kushner trying to keep this a secret from the US side?

The extent of Russian penetration into the US is unknown, but we do know certain things. First, Russia by 1996 had first succeeded in hacking into US military computers, stealing a military network, troop configurations, etc. In 2008 they succeeded in gaining access to a Pentagon computer with highly sensitive information. The Pentagon computer was thought unhackable because it is not hooked up to the Internet. How did the Russians gain access then? They set up a booth frequented by US military personnel in Kabul to sell cheap flash drives, figuring rightly that at some point one of those personnel was going to attach that flash drive to that Pentagon computer, thus allowing the virus to immediately spread in the hard drive. [4] Second, the Russians have succeeded in generalized shutdowns of an array of a country’s infrastructure.[5] Third, the Russians back up every statement with regard to Russia that Trump made during the campaign and after. And Trump has done the same. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we thus know that Russia has the means, motive, and successes on this cyber-front to at a minimum possibly affect the US presidential race in 2016 which was extremely close, and have at least an ally with Trump, if not a readily duped fool.

The US’ IC and ruling class generally have been caught with their pants down by Putin. They have an “Oh shit!” look on the faces of the more aware rulers. Not only do they have a wily adversary in Putin, they must somehow contend with a hostile, authoritarian, at least pro-Russian, if not worse, POTUS.

Even if Hillary had won and it was a Clinton Administration today, there would still be a huge problem that the IC would be dealing with. The US has had its way for so long as the sole superpower that they simply don’t have the incentive to try something relatively new or applied the effort that Putin has.

This just underscores two points. First, the extent of Russian penetration and influence is unknown but it is far, far too much. Second, in order to even get a sense of the problem is a major undertaking and one wonders if they can or are able to do that.

One of the very first things that the Bolsheviks did when they took power in 1917 is publish for the world to see all of the diplomatic secret deals that Russia had made under the Tsars and the Kerensky governments with foreign powers. This was deeply embarrassing to those involved in those deals. Why did they do it? Because they had no interest in secret deals. These are the attitudes, abilities, and resolve that now must be brought to bear here.

Who has the ability to do that? Revolutionaries and internationalists only can lead such a fight. The rivers Alpheus and Peneus that Hercules diverted to clean the Augean stables is what is called for.

 


[1] State capitalist in the USSR’s case after some point after Stalin and in China’s case after Mao’s death in 1976.

[2] “Fox News ranked number three in primetime in the key demographic [adults 25-54] for five straight days with 497,000 viewers, the longest streak at number three the network has had in that measure in 17 years, since June 2000. CNN finished second in the demo with 588,000. Fox was second in total viewers, however, with 2.41 million, beating out CNN’s 1.65 million.” https://www.yahoo.com/tv/msnbc-hits-ratings-milestone-fox-news-drops-third-205835259.html

[3] “[I]t’s clear from the transcript that the hack of the Democratic National Committee has made the members of Congress uneasy, because the similarities between the United States and Ukraine were suddenly so crystal clear. Maybe Russia is ‘financing our populists, financing people in our government to undo our governments’ in the United States, just like in Ukraine. Maybe Russia is trying to ‘turn America against itself.’ But that’s ridiculous! Absurd! And so they laughed.” This is the June 2016 meeting of GOP leaders where Rep. Kevin McCarthy jokes that Rep. Rohrabacher and Trump are paid agents of Putin. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/05/18/between-the-lines-of-the-gop-russia-transcript/

[4] “By 1996, however, a new generation of hackers in Russia had achieved the first state-directed penetration of America’s military network, pilfering tens of thousands of files, including military-hardware designs, maps of military installations, and troop configurations. In 2008, according to ‘Dark Territory,’ a history of cyberwar by Fred Kaplan, Russian hackers accomplished a feat that Pentagon officials considered almost impossible: breaching a classified network that wasn’t even connected to the public Internet. Apparently, Russian spies had supplied cheap thumb drives, stocked with viruses, to retail kiosks near NATO headquarters in Kabul, betting, correctly, that a U.S. serviceman or woman would buy one and insert it into a secure computer. In the past decade, cyber tactics have become an essential component of Russia’s efforts to exert influence over its neighbors.” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war

[5] “’What Estonia showed was that Russia was going to react in a new but aggressive way to perceived political slights,’ Michael Sulmeyer, a senior Pentagon official in charge of cyber policy under Obama, said. ‘What was the offending act? The Estonians moved a statue.’” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war

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