Back in 2004, I probably didn't know most of the things about John Kerry and his way of thinking that I know today. Today, it looks utterly insane to me that so many people in the U.S. – and perhaps 95% of Harvard faculty – would vote for this guy who is completely detached from reality.
Today, Kerry declined a meeting with Putin. It's probably not an important enough work for the U.S. Secretary of State these days. Or perhaps, Kerry believes that Putin will be so sad that he isn't allowed to meet Kerry that he will order all the Russian and Crimean troops and self-defense units to commit seppuku. After Putin suggested a meeting with Kerry, Kerry rejected it and his spokesgirl explained the step by saying that Kerry first wants to see evidence that Russia wants to be engaged in diplomacy. Huh!? ;-)
The events around Ukraine are not sufficiently interesting for Kerry so he just revealed his #1 priority: over the weekend, all U.S. diplomats were ordered to press case for "climate action". It's apparently not enough that no one else than the U.S. Secretary of State seriously believes the decadent postmodern religion about the need to "fight climate change". All U.S. diplomats will probably be required to unanimously parrot this complete pseudoscientific idiocy, too.
The pathologically twisted priorities in John Kerry's brain were recently intelligently discussed by the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. After Krauthammer criticized Obama for presenting the climate threats as a settled science, he quickly became a target of the climate activists' inquisition – despite Krauthammer's "lukewarmer" attitudes. But the observation by Krauthammer that I want to spend some time with came just a week ago.
You may watch the video where Krauthammer made some good observations. He's arguably not a terribly charismatic speaker but some of the content is right on the money. And I say it despite the fact that we may be rooting for "different players" in this so far nearly bloodless confrontation. But the main point is that Kerry tries to deny the very fact that there are important interests involved:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It wasn't the weakness of Europe that precipitated all of this. And it wasn't Obama's flinching on Syria. When Putin had to make a calculation whether to go into Ukraine – and Ukraine isn't Georgia, a small republic that is sort of on the fringes of the west, Ukraine is at the crossroads, a huge country. To go into Ukraine and to take over, to invade Crimea, is a huge step. And he would only have done it with a president who has shown from the very beginning that he is living in a fantasy world.LOL. In a widely mocked CBS interview, Kerry indeed said:
Remember the speech he gave at the U.N. when he started his administration? He said no nation can or should dominate another. I mean, there's not a 12-year-old in the world who believes that. And he said the alignment of nations rooted in the cleavages of the long ago Cold War make no sense in this interconnected world.
As our Secretary of State said today, or yesterday, after all this, this is a 19th century action in a 21st century world. As if what he means his actions where governments pursue expansion, territory domination, no longer exist in this century, as if that hasn't been a constant in all of human history since Hannibal.
They imagine the world as a new interconnected world where climate change is the biggest threat and they are shocked that the Russians actually are interested in territory.
You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.If you think about the 2003 invasion into Iraq and dozens of other similar interventions, it sounds really funny for Kerry to say that one just doesn't invade another country on completely trumped up pretext. But this hypocrisy is obvious and has been discussed many times.
What I want to focus on are Kerry's ideas about the 19th century vs 21st century. Kerry apparently believes that some fundamental aspects of the relationships between nations and countries have qualitatively changed between the 19th century and 21st century. Kerry is already living in a pinko commie utopian world without any interests and conflicts.
Why would someone believe such a self-evidently idiotic meme such as the claim that countries' interests in other countries and invasions can no longer occur in the 21st century? We have new technologies, new media, new wordings of treaties, and so on. But these are just details. This kind of "decoration" has indeed been modernized. But what really drives the political decisions in foreign policy are still the same human interests and desires.
People and nations want (or need) some dignity, freedom, territory, capital, control over things that affect their life, and pride, among other things.
They sometimes team up with other people or other nations or press or invade another country if it is seen as desirable or necessary. In most cases, an apparently stronger country collides with a weaker one and they typically use different strategies. The dependence of the strategy on the size of the country hasn't really changed for millennia, either. Even though every country tends to create some ties and coalitions with others, smaller countries tend to complain a little bit more and they are looking for some help from third parties, perhaps countries that are even stronger than the stronger side of the conflict. Larger countries are more likely to talk about the "restoration of order" because chaos is viewed as a threat. Smaller countries often thrive on chaos – or something that looks like chaos from the larger players' viewpoint. When smaller countries are already fighting, they may be forced to use some principles of asymmetric warfare. Politicians have to think about all the goals they have and tools that may help them to achieve the goals – including all kinds of "trade" where the costs and benefits must be carefully compared.
These basic considerations and many others have been constant for quite some time. They haven't qualitatively changed since the 19th century, i.e. for 200 years. In fact, they haven't changed for 2,200 years, since the times of Hannibal, as Krauthammer said. And one could probably go even deeper to the global history. The only exception was Genghis Khan who owes the expansion of his empire to global warming from the medieval Mongolian SUVs, according to a new paper in PNAS. ;-)
Is it OK for the U.S. Secretary of State to be incompetent in all this "art of geopolitics" because we already live in a new world where none of these things is needed anymore? Have all these things become history? They haven't. Conflicts keep on emerging, wars keep on being fought, and so on. The idea that the people's and nations' sentiments, desires, and decisions to transform desires to reality has fundamentally disappeared sometime in the 21st century or earlier is a postmodern kitsch. For a politician, this postmodern kitsch is nothing else than a lazy schoolkid's excuse that "his dog ate his homework" from geopolitics.
Europe has looked quite peaceful since 1945; it has only witnessed a couple of "regional" or "local" conflicts which only involved two, usually small enough, parties (think about the conflicts in former Yugoslavia). The warless period 1945-2014 (or more) has been relatively long. The fear of a destructive nuclear warfare may have been a key driver behind this extended period without wars. But does it mean that we may use mathematical induction and prove that there won't be any new conflicts and changes to the national borders anymore? It's silly, of course.
Trade within a working capitalist economic area is the main factor that reduces the frequency or probability of wars. But the world is sufficiently heterogeneous – and will be heterogeneous for quite some time – that such uniform capitalist areas can never be as large as the whole world. So while the "internal" conflicts in an economic area may nearly disappear, the "external" ones don't disappear and may even become more likely, more global, or more bloody. And even if the whole world (or huge regions) became a uniform enough area, the non-uniformities are guaranteed to grow and reappear, anyway. This evolution revives the potential for internal conflicts.
Is the length of the peaceful period 1945-2014 unprecedented? Well, it's not. First of all, the years 1871-1914 were also peaceful but you could say that the peaceful period 100 years ago was shorter, anyway. However, I can point to a longer period of peace: Pax Romana [Roman Peace], also known as Pax Augusta, lasted for 206 years between 27 BC and 180 AD. That's 2,000 years ago and so far, we are very far from matching the long period of peace that was established by August, the founder of the Roman Empire. Note that the period of Pax Romana included the whole life of Jesus Christ, too.
I sort of hope that our peaceful period will continue because generally speaking, I do prefer peace although from my perspective, it is not an "ultimate dogma" that is infinitely more powerful than any other value. But we don't know. Even if the peace continues, the same pressures that have sparked wars in the past still exist and operate.
John Kerry could just mean that the "civilized world" no longer works as it did in the 19th century. But it does. The main difference is that the goals that the leaders of countries such as the U.S. are often fighting for today are dreams dictated by kitschy postmodern religions such as the global warming ideology. By pushing the diplomats and making them to push other countries, John Kerry is also doing some imperial politics – he is making similar steps as the Russian politicians to protect what he considers his interests. The only difference is that Kerry's priorities – such as the "fight against climate change" – don't make any sense whatsoever while e.g. Vladimir Putin's behavior is rational and attempting to achieve things that actually do make sense.
One might say that in this respect, the early 21st century is indeed different than the previous history of the mankind. There are tons of politicians who are fighting for goals that don't make any sense. In the past, most of the politicians were thinking "rationally egotistically" when it came to their relationships to other state entities. So the principles were more logical and universal. These days, we see lots of "politicians" like Kerry who are completely clueless and who consider things like "global warming" to be the most urgent issues during the very same weeks that arguably see the highest geopolitical tension and the strongest potential for fast and dramatic enough changes in the international politics since 1989 if not 1945.
I guess that people like Putin – and perhaps even many people in much less Western countries such as Iran – do understand pretty well how Kerry and his likes "operate" inside. Similar Kerries are rather simple-minded gadgets, indeed. It's sort of annoying to see that "our" world is intellectually degenerating in this way. Is that really necessary? Does the high degree of prosperity of the West make it inevitable that clueless folks living in an utopia and detached from reality get to the power? People who can't understand what will happen if they irritate the Russian bear, for example? People who consider a "fight against climate change" to be the #1 priority of foreign policy?
Or is the fundamental misunderstanding of wars and pre-war situations a consequence of the fact that the U.S. hasn't experienced a war on its territory for 150 years? Maybe a war per generation (or two generations) is needed for politicians in a nation to keep touch with the reality. Maybe the proliferation of religions dreaming about hypothetical problems such as global warming or ocean acidification is an unavoidable consequence of its believers' having had no real problems since 1945? I guess it must be partly true. It seems to me that the people who tend to believe junk such as the global warming ideology are mostly people who have been born into luxury, who have never experienced any serious "real" problems, and who are still experiencing no serious problems. This "problemlessness" could very well be the quantity that is most tightly correlated with the belief in the global warming orthodoxy, among other crazy things.