Big events don’t make small minds any bigger. Words uttered in passion usually produce drivel. So, if you are to understand the meaning of the American events, listen carefully to this old, cold man.
In 1968, when I was an editor on Madison Avenue, New York’s magazine row, I hired a man called Edward Luttwak to write an article on how terrorists could seize control of New York City. His plan of attack focused on showing how vulnerable Manhattan was because it’s an island. Luttwak’s hypothetical terrorists used small amounts of explosive to blow up the bridge and tunnel approaches to the city.
Luttwak himself went on from there to make a career of persuading U.S. governments to do what is in the best interests of Israel’s military establishment. That’s exactly what one of Luttwak’s old friends, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, is doing at this moment. If Secretary of State Colin Powell doesn’t stop him, the United States will follow Ariel Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, into the latter’s bloodthirsty schemes. U.S. governments have been tempted, but none has ever been that foolish.
American war makers
In 1973, when I was an academic at Harvard University, I published a book called “Bringing the War Home.” It was a sociological study of a large group of American infantrymen I interviewed after they returned from combat duty in the Vietnam War. The book uncovered several important reasons, not thought of then and not remembered today, for the collapse of the American army’s will to fight in Vietnam.
Remember that was a conflict that cost about 50,000 American lives, and millions of Vietnamese. At the time, casualties on the scale the United States suffered last week caused an irreversible loss of confidence in the American ability to win. That translated into reluctance to fight on the ground; and support to end the war at home. The refusal to accept that lesson characterizes that era’s war-maker, Henry Kissinger. He started the United States down the track of committing war crimes in pursuit of national interest. His students in Washington have adapted his lessons, thinking they could get away with their crimes with a minimum of American losses. In time, they were bound to hit on reality. Reality struck on Sept. 11.
In 1977, I was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s staff, with the job of analyzing what happens in White House decision-making that can send the country down the wrong path. With a U.S. air force colonel, I did studies of how Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski had been conducting his role. But when Brzezinski learned what we had discovered, he applied pressure on our superiors. The colonel and I were told that, if we said a word about our findings when we met Carter, the colonel would be cashiered, and I would be fired. We kept quiet. Brzezinski is another of the band of passionate haters like Kissinger, who believe the United States can extract benefit from the destruction they like to dream up. Wolfowitz is one of them; Sharon is their puppet.
If there is something fundamentally new for Americans in what happened last week in the United States, it is the interpretation, not the fact of violence as state policy. That, of course, depends on who is on the receiving end. It is hardly surprising that retaliation and revenge are now splitting the Bush Administration.
It has always been so. Even Franklin Roosevelt, a much wiser man than George Bush Jr., believed symbolic revenge for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was necessary, at least for public morale and presidential ratings. Watch the film “Pearl Harbor,” and you will realize that the Jimmy Doolittle raid on Tokyo that followed Pearl Harbor was a suicide mission dressed up as a symbol of resurrection.
Unfortunately, it is as difficult to convince a generation of American-haters in the Middle East that this isn’t so, as it is to convince Americans that the Doolittle raid wasn’t a victory. But an attack on Osama bin Laden can’t succeed, even if bin Laden himself is killed, because those who are attacking the United States don’t need bin Laden’s ideology or his money. A U.S. attack on Saddam Hussein, or Israeli attacks on Palestine and Lebanon, are just as doomed to repeat and intensify the cycle, not terminate it.
If you understand that the United States is now engaged in a war that will last as long as Britain, France, Spain, and many other states understand, then the implications for Russia, and for Russian business especially, become clearer.
Although the United States is heaving itself on to one of the worst waves of anti-Semitism ever seen in the country – Arabs are Semites as well as 3ews – Americans will soon lose patience with ineffectual war-fighting and unsated thirst for blood. They will realize they are being led to the slaughter for reasons they don’t support. In reaction to that, they will get used to terrorism as a calculated risk, like they have understood AIDs, teenage muggers, and cigarette companies. Because there is no alternative, they will get on with their business. If war-making doesn’t achieve prosperity, they will insist it does. This sentiment is already obvious, as the insurance, airline, and construction industries troop to Washington to demand a share in the $20 billion to $40 billion-dollar benefit fund the Bush Administration is promising the economy.
This injection may not revive consumer confidence and corporate capital spending in equal measure throughout the U.S. economy. But for sheer size and speed, the volume of cash that is likely to be pumped into the U.S. economy soon will boost a number of sectors in which the Russian economy has a prime interest. So Russia stands to gain from the new U.S. boom, if not the thinking that is behind it at the moment. Can Russia, can anyone talk the Bush Administration out of thinking the worst, in order to secure the best that is now possible?
Russia the big winner
As a producer of oil and metals, Russia will gain directly from the combination of policies now being assembled in Washington and New York. If oil prices rise on Middle Eastern supply risks, then Russian policy benefits. Who now says a pipeline to carry Caspian Sea oil across Turkey would be more secure for U.S. interests than a pipeline across Russia?
If the U.S. dollar weakens, and foreign risks begin to converge toward the level of Russian risks, Russian capital currently held offshore is likely to accelerate its return home, where investment will pay higher rates of return. A decline in safe havens abroad can initiate more capital inflow into Russia than most Kremlin policies, although annua! 5 percent GDP growth rates can’t hurt. In a world of cheaper dollars, and rising real commodity export prices, repaying the Yeltsin debts should be easier.
If international banks and investors must reassess their global risks, at the same time as Washington starts priming the pump to record levels, then in emerging markets, Russia and perhaps South Africa will stand out. Turkey, Taiwan, Argentina are out of the question. By attacking the World Trade Center last week’s attackers were hoping to start a revolution in the distribution of international capital, and not simply strike at an object of political or ideological hatred. Again, if prudence in the pursuit of national interest prevails, Russia will gain.
There is nothing especially novel about that either; certainly not for Russia, which has been undergoing its own capital revolution for a decade. Wall Street has faced concerted attack before too. There is thus a chance for the two to benefit more equally than was true here since 1991. But if the Wolfowitz gang prevails, Wall Street will be the loser; Russia’s gains will persist.