The Sovietization of American Politics

Take that ... and that ...

The Sovietization of Washington politics is nearly complete.  Strong arm rule, political surveillance and the show trial threatens to replace the orderly alternation at power which characterized elective government.  Watching the Beltway is now disturbingly like watching an unfolding power struggle at the Kremlin.  Richard Arenberg writing in the Hill asks: “is there any hope of pulling out of the “nuclear option” death spiral before the Senate inflicts permanent damage upon itself and the Supreme Court?”  There’s growing concern the acrimony will permanently poison the atmosphere by locking both parties into a cycle of retaliation.


Senate Democrats set the stage for a confrontation this week that likely will change how Washington works, as they assembled more than enough votes to block President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee under the current rules. …

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear Gorsuch will be confirmed one way or the other — even if that means further eroding decades of Senate traditions that have forced the majority to compromise. To deliver on his promise, McConnell is likely to invoke what’s known as the “nuclear option” — changing Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold and end filibusters on high court nominees. McCain said he will vote for the rule change.

“I guarantee you, just as the Democrats regretted what Harry Reid did, we will regret doing this,” McCain of Arizona told reporters. He was referring to then-Democratic leader Harry Reid’s decision in 2013 to end the filibuster for lower-court and executive-branch nominees.

Hope looks like it just left town. To boot there are now allegations that Susan Rice actively requested the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition official’s names from intelligence reports.  That makes a “dual track investigation” inevitable according to law professor William Jacobson.  “I don’t see how the Obama administration does not now become a target of congressional investigation after this revelation.” Both sides are in a race to see who can jail or politically cripple the other side first.  Although the pawns will fall first the game won’t end until checkmate traps one of the two rival kings.


No one is backing down, certainly not the Democrats.  “Why is Trump flailing?” writes Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, “because Americans hate his agenda, and it’s based on lies” .  Uncompromising stands are nothing new for the Democratic party.  The difference is that this time the Republicans aren’t giving way.  The strange guy with orange complexion has put the progressives out of reckoning by being just as unreasonable as the conservatives thought the liberals were.  The strategy of “by any means necessary”, so effective when the Democrats enjoyed a monopoly on its use is now transformed into a pact of mutually assured destruction as the other side adopts similar methods.

Obama and Trump are in a game of chicken that neither seems ready to abandon. The crash has been a long time gestating.  As Sean Davis pointed out “it started with Bork. Democrats escalated with Estrada. GOP normalized nuke in 2005. Reid made it official in 2013.”  Now the crisis has arrived full blown with no obvious way out.

Yet it is in neither side’s interest to complete the smash but because none dare show any weakness the antagonists are locked into an unwanted confrontation hoping someone — something –will turn up to save them.  One possible way out of this seemingly inescapable escalation trap is a bizarre strategy appropriately pioneered by Russia misnamed “nuclear de-escalation“. It relies on the fact that if one of two parties in a fight cares more than the other about collateral damage then to de-escalate an unwinnable fight all the losing party has to do is set the house on fire so his opponent has to stop to put it out.  This idea, not surprisingly, was the product of Putin-era strategic thinking.


Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia … By the next year, Russia had issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of “de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike….

Russia’s de-escalation strategy provides instead for infliction of “tailored damage,” defined as “damage [that is] subjectively unacceptable to the opponent [and] exceeds the benefits the aggressor expects to gain as a result of the use of military force.” The efficacy of threatening tailored damage assumes an asymmetry in a conflict’s stakes.

For example “in a scenario that would resonate in the West, Russia might decide to carve out territory from one of the Baltic states through a hybrid conflict, beginning with a swift conventional move to create a fait accompli before Allies could react with conventional forces. Then, it would threaten a limited nuclear strike to prevent NATO members from invoking Article 5 and coming to the aid of the stricken country.”

It will inevitably occur to someone that the advantage in an escalation trap belongs to the side which cares about America less since there is no point at which it will desist for pity’s sake. If you wanted to bet, put your money on the most ruthless.  To avoid this tragic outcome the two-sided conflict must become multi-sided.  But more on this in later posts.


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War With Russia: An urgent warning from senior military command, by General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Russia’s invasion and seizure of Georgia in 2008 was our ‘Rhineland moment’. We ignored the warning signs – as we did back in the 1930s – and we made it ‘business as usual’. Crimea in 2014 was the President’s ‘Sudetenland moment’ and again he got away with it. Since 2014 Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Baltics could be next. Our political leaders assume that nuclear deterrence will save us. General Sir Richard Shirreff shows us why this will not wash.

Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results At Home, In this comprehensive cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen editors break down the often intimidating art and science of bread baking, making it easy for bakers of all levels to create foolproof, bakery-quality breads at home.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961, by Nicholas Reynolds. This newly released book is the stunning untold story of an American literary icon’s dangerous secret life — including his role as a Soviet agent code-named “Argo” — that fueled his art and his undoing.


Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, Authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. They make the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because technology has stagnated, but because we humans and our organizations aren’t keeping up.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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