The West’s own worst enemy is itself. Or more precisely, the intellectual bankruptcy of its political and military leaders and their dominant public discourse.
This week Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa reportedly condemned the US for descending into “political and intellectual poverty.” He said: “The consequences are predictable: China and Russia are taking the positions that the US is withdrawing from, gaining political and economic influence.”
Perhaps the clearest expression of Western intellectual impoverishment and dishonesty is the relentless Russophobia touted by American and European politicians, military leaders, think-tanks and mainstream corporate news media.
Hardly a week goes by without repetition of this tired old trope alleging that Russia is a threat to Western societies. Russian President Vladimir Putin is portrayed as some kind of “evil genius” hellbent on undermining the West – without a plausible explanation ever being given for why the Russian leader would harbor such alleged dastardly designs.
And if it’s not Russia, it is some other supposed malevolent foreign force, such as China, Iran or North Korea. Yes, the latter has a nuclear weapons program. But the Western public rarely hears that North Korea has embarked on developing these weapons due to decades of warmongering threats from Washington and its allies.
Arguably, though, it is Russophobia that most preoccupies official discourse in the US and Europe.
For the past year and more, Russia is accused of “interfering” in US and European elections, “subverting” democratic processes, and “sowing divisions” among allies with “fake news.”
© AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik
Even President Donald Trump, who has at times dismissed claims of Russian meddling in the US elections, has at other times jumped on the Russophobia bandwagon. He signed off the US National Security Strategy last month in which it is asserted that “Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies… Through modernized forms of subversive tactics, Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world… The United States and Europe will work together to counter Russian subversion and aggression.”The relentless Russophobia – an irrational, morbid fear of Russia – is now worse than at any time during the former Cold War, says Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
British Prime Minister Theresa May glibly accuses Russia of “sowing division”; French President Emmanuel Macron alleges that Russian news media interfered in his country’s elections last year. The EU’s Commissioner on Security Sir Julian King last week casually smeared Russian news media outlets RT and Sputnik as “Kremlin-orchestrated disinformation.”
© AFP 2018/ JUSTIN TALLIS
All these claims are never substantiated with hard evidence or credible analysis. They are simply asserted in the realm of speculation and fantasy.Surely, if there were any standard of intellectual and journalistic integrity, the claims made against Russia should be tested for objective credibility. But they never are tested or challenged. They are simply mouthed, echoed and amplified by politicians, think-tanks and media.
Of course, that’s not to say the West is devoid of intelligent thinkers. Russian scholars like Stephen Cohen, media analysts like Ed Herman and journalists like John Pilger are indeed there and admirably outspoken in their dissent. But their voices of sanity are drowned out by the cacophony of nonsense that dominates public discourse.
US-based political analyst Randy Martin says that Washington’s political class is especially bankrupt in intelligence.
He says the American narrative of accusing Russia “has become exhausted” from lack of credibility. “It has become so tired from lack of facts and credibility, ordinary common-sense citizens have become weary of it. The official Washington description of the world has no longer any relevant application to international relations.”
Martin asks: “How can any country chart a viable direction when its strategic thinking is so fundamentally false and, in effect, based on paranoid delusion?” He adds: “It is inevitable that if a nation or group of nations construct policies and allocate resources based on a fundamentally erroneous assessment of the world then such a direction is bound to result in disastrous failure and collapse.”
We have already noted the US National Security Strategy signed off by Trump. Another example is seen with the latest US National Defense Strategy unveiled by Pentagon chief James Mattis last week.
The Pentagon is claiming that Russia (and China) is now a greater security threat to the US than non-state terror groups. To counter Russia, the US is planning to increase its annual military spending to even more astronomical levels – some $700 billion a year. Such expenditure will inevitably lead to fatally crippling national debt and decay of social conditions from the cutbacks necessary to pay for it.
Also, this week, the head of Britain’s armed forces General Sir Nick Carter made the same pitch as Mattis. In a telling repetition of narrative, Carter reportedly claimed too that Russia presents a greater threat to Britain’s national security than terrorism.
Again, the bottom line is for Britain, as with the US, to allocate more resources to military spending to “confront” the alleged Russian threat.
A core problem, says analyst Randy Martin, is that Western public discourse is dominated by think-tanks which are closely tied to the military-industrial complex and the US-led NATO alliance.
These think-tanks, such as the Atlantic Council, the American Enterprise Institute and Royal United Services Institute, set the parameters for public discussion, which is, in turn, adopted by politicians, military chiefs and news media.
However, because of the intellectual bankruptcy in official Western discourse, there is no rigorous interrogation of the false premises and claims.
“There is no intelligent self-reflection,” says Martin. “Without honest self-reflection the result is eventually a form of collective paranoid delusion.”
It is as blatant as this: Western capitalism is so dependent on military industry and financing, the ideology must be constructed to shore up this warped economy. That, in turn, requires casting a world of enemies and threats. For that purpose, countries like Russia must be demonized and slandered, otherwise, the whole charade would fall apart.
© AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo
The function of think-tanks, politicians, military chiefs and the corporate media is to maintain the fiction of “enemies and threats” to justify what is otherwise an obscene waste of economic and social resources. This travesty of discourse can only be maintained because of intellectual dishonesty and bankruptcy in the US and its NATO allies.Why is that deplorable? Because such systematic deception is endangering the entire world by fueling tensions and risking all-out war. It is also literally killing societies in the West from poverty and social deprivation. Just think of how much more humane and civilized this world would be if economies were directed away from militarism towards improving life for the mass of ordinary citizens.
The deception is so outrageous, it can only be achieved through massive intellectual corruption in the West. The enemy to these societies is not some foreign entity. Ironically, Western elites who claim to defend their nations from foreign threats are the ones who are actually inflicting the fatal damage.
The views and opinions expressed by Finian Cunningham are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.