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World Gone Wild

Don't read Spengler when you're grouchy. Or maybe that's the best time. Anyway, here he is on Russia's perception of the U.S. these last ten years or so:

Could the Americans really have been such idiots?, the Russians ask. Of course we could. George Bush and his advisers actually believed that we were going to bring democracy to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The Russians understood matters differently. Fyodor Lukyanov writes:

In the summer 2006, when then-President George W. Bush came to St. Petersburg for a summit of the “Big Eight,” an interesting dialogue took place between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference. Bush drew attention to the challenges posed by democratic freedoms, especially freedom of the press, in Russia — and then noted that things had gotten much better in Iraq. Putin immediately responded, “Well, we really would not want the kind of democracy they have in Iraq.” The room filled with applause, and not everyone heard Bush’s response: “Just wait, it’s coming.” What Bush had in mind was increased stability in Iraq, but it sounded more ominous: you’ll see, democracy will be brought to you as well…

If the Russians sound mad, consider this: there is another substantial body of opinion that sees an evil conspiracy behind American blundering in the Middle East, and it votes for Ron Paul and Rand Paul. I am not suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul is a paranoid, I hasten to clarify: I have never met the man and don’t presume to judge his state of mind. But his popularity stems in no small measure from conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. government really is planning to criss-cross the continental United States with killer drones and pick off American citizens on their home soil. A lot of the same people think that America invaded Iraq on behalf of the oil companies (who would make a lot more money if Iraq were zapped by space aliens) or by the Israelis (who never liked the project from the outset). A fair sampling of such paranoia gets posted on the comments section of this site.

Thus we have the strangest pair of bedfellows in modern politics, the Russians and the rubes.

A dozen or more years ago I read James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg's The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age. It's a fascinating read, and just as relevant today as it was when it was written in the late '90s. There are two points in it of particular salience today.

The first is their argument that the reduced cost of offensive weaponry had changed both the parameters of warfare, and its participants. At the time, this part had me shaking my head at how wrong two smart gentlemen could be. Tanks and planes cost more than ever. It takes months and millions to make an infantry leader. "What the hell are they talking about?" I wondered.