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Friday, October 26, 2018

How Arms Control dies, 1933-36 and 2002-18

This week's post appears here--another parallel with the 1930s.


Ed Boyle said...

The usual background great game of secret agents and proxy wars is giving way to more open hostilities between the two superpowers. This is chilling. Russia has historically been defensive since mongol invasions onward and inward looking. Their external battles are forced forward defensive postions. Western powers were always on ower mad conquest. See sweden, poland, germany, france. Britain was also expansive colonial power. It seems that in the West we develop more quickly. Russia is prmanently comparatively backward culturally, economically. We in the West seem to use it as a projection surface for evil. I read an analysis of the Crimean War which fits the current situation approximately vis-a-vis Ukraine-syria nowadays. The Black Sea/Ottoman Empire were important then. It seems this area has come into play again. Napoleon went to Egypt, Russia, Hitler did about the same. America keeps pushing eastward with various invasions since Bush II and Nato expansions in Easten Europe. Noone ever beat Russia. Regardless of opinion anyone has of Putin he is certainly not a poor Russian leader by any historical comparison. And the neocons seem quite reckless similar to Napoleon, Hitler, swedes, poles historically. Just looking at it from Russian history it looks bad for any attacker. There is nothing to win here and no reason to try beyond psychological problems or distraction from own internal difficulties like current internal dissent. This is not unique to right or left parties. Trump/Hillary would do same. Basically in all those historical cases we can say the generational crises in all those countries peaked and they sought an external enemy in Russia. This is suicide. We must hope common sense prevails. I hope not too long or opinionated. Screeds are nerving I know. Focusing purely on the WWI/II scenario reduces the perspective to a Western one. We were the good guys. Aggessors are always the bad guys. Underdog is on defensive.

You paint a disturbing picture. I hope Trump can defang neocons but most of the hopes his voters placed in him have not been fufilled. He seems erratic. Short trerm oriented. Things seem chaotic now. Like if mid terms go this or that way or markets totally crash or china trade fight goes bad. It is all pretty scary. Power balance is shifting everywhere quickly. Like in Germany coalition is getting very fragile. Which way would a change there move things? Europe is a mess with Italy, Brexit. So West is self absorbed and neocons still playing like we are in 1950s. Pure growth, economic expansion policy has met end point and debt is killing us. Russia plays final scapegoat.

Bozon said...

Interesting gloss on this history.

Arms control: Utopian liberal Tar baby.

'Arms Control': reductionist fragmentation of more complex history.

Arms control: The best way to have gotten nuclear arms control would have been nuclear monopoly, the Patton Solution. Many factors here were ranged against that alternative, within the FDR Administration, some of them covert.

Given the subsequent political and social disaster of Russian takeover of Eastern Europe, (Liulevicius does a great series of lectures on the ongoing post WWII war in the East) that seems to have been the obvious alternative. The great military commanders on the ground certainly thought so at that time.

You all can say I am, must be, quite wrong, for various reasons. But if so, I am still in very good company.

All the best

Bozon said...

One of the big parallels, for me, of the 1930s and the 2000s, having casually studied a little of the extensive Soviet infiltration of the FDR administration, is that 1930s parallel to the Russian inroads, both overt and covert, into American domestic politics and government, once again, including at the highest levels, in the 2000s.

All the best

Bruce Wilder said...

There were actually three waves in the movement to constrain arms and limit war. The first wave happened before the First World War and was expressed in the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907. But that detail in no way detracts from the extraordinary power of your analogy.

There has been a push-pull struggle in the evolution of global politics over the place and function of war in the politics of domination and conflict among states since at least the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It is a fascinating pageant, which I expect you as an historian of state development, may be especially adept at narrating. There are certainly elements of generational turnover in the seeming inevitable turn of attitudes and expectations.

I expect that, like me, you can call to mind the seemingly persuasive analysis of Tom Schelling, popular in the 1960s, that did so much to inform the shared understanding of great power conflict in a nuclear age. And, yet that analysis has been overturned apparently in favor of aggressive neocons in both Parties. I have watched the way Stephen F. Cohen has been used and abused by the news media as he has pled for a balanced and realistic view of Russia and Putin, being cynically featured by Fox News and slandered by malignant ignoramuses like Jonathan Chait, and I cannot help but think his belonging to the nearly extinct generation born during and just before WWII plays no little part in the "dialogue" (or lack thereof).

All that is by way of saying that I hope you will choose to revisit this frame of yours with more examination of detail. It is a rich vein.