April 12, 2014

A century ago, crowds in Paris were cheering, “on to Berlin!” Crowds in Berlin cried, “on to Paris.” World War I, the supreme example of nationalist/militaristic stupidity, was about to begin.

One hundred years later we hear cries across America to “get tough” with Moscow over fragmenting Ukraine. A dozen US F-16 fighters are being sent to the Baltic, a squadron of F-15’s to Poland, and a US warship to the Black Sea. In short, just enough to spark a war but certainly not enough to win one.

No one seems to have remembered – except Vlad Putin, of course – that the roughly 50,000 US troops and officials now based in Afghanistan are in large part at the mercy of Russia which controls their major supply and exit routes.

As the Ukraine crisis continues to build, it’s absolutely horrifying to recall that most of the American politicians and general public now lustily shouting “on to…where was it again?….oh yes….Kharkov” had no idea where Ukraine is, never mind Kharkov or Luhansk.

Ignorance is a primary fuel of nationalism and aggression. Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrel, as Dr . Johnson observed, and the first platform of fools.

Three professors from Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard University just did a poll that found only 16% of Americans queried could find Ukraine on the world map. Actually, that’s better than I expected, given American’s notorious geographical illiteracy. Seeing Ukraine’s map on TV every night no doubt helped.

Worryingly, but hardly surprisingly, the poll also found that the further a poll respondent thought Ukraine was from its real location, the more likely he was to support US military intervention in Ukraine. Few Americans could find Iraq (Eye-raq to most), Afghanistan, or Iran (Eye-ran) on the map.

“Let’s get those dirty Commies,” goes the latest wave of war fever to sweep the US, “if we can only find them!” Some respondents put Ukraine in Australia, or South America.

Interestingly, the poll found that the group least able to locate Ukraine was +65 year olds – core Republican voters.

Why are Americans to poor in geography? I was in the last class at Georgetown University Foreign Service School to be taught world geography. Though essential for understanding international affairs and history, geography has vanished from America’s educational curriculum as an antique irrelevance. So, too often, has history. Even many well-off, educated Americans are deeply deficient in these subjects.

An influential Republican friend and former presidential advisor told me, “we’ve got to stop Putin from taking over Crimea!”

“Before you go to war,” I advised, “ask your big-time Republican supporters to name the top four cities in Crimea.”

Of course. War fever feeds on ignorance. If mobs in Paris had known in August, 1914, that they would die on the mud of Flanders few would have been so eager for war. All sides in World War One mistakenly believed in a short, sweet military victory. The great French voice against the folly of war, Jean Juares, was assassinated by nationalists.

“The proportion of collage grads who could correctly identify Ukraine (20%) is only slightly higher than the proportion of Americans who told Pew (the respected polling outfit) that President Obama was Muslim in August, 2010,” found the Ivy League professors.

About the same percentage of Americans believe that Elvis is still alive, or that an Islamic Caliphate will shortly rule America. Ever since the Bush administration, stupidity and ignorance have become fashionable.

Leading US newspapers – “The Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” – have been beating the war drums. The most-watched TV network, Fox, is a mouthpiece for the War Party. Millions of Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian background are naturally deeply concerned by events there. Israel is now involved in Ukraine.

Too few voice urge calm and restraint. President Putin is being demonized into America’s leading hate figure. Few in the media dare say that Putin is reacting in Russia’s interests to NATO’s foolish push right up to his borders.

Republicans are blasting President Barak Obama for being a cowardly wimp. I like cowardly and wimpy when it comes to nuclear weapons. Thank goodness Sen. John McCain is not president or we might well already be in World War III.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

This post is in: Ukraine, USA


  1. solum temptare possumus says:

    Vlad can still (through referendum) seize the areas of Ethnic Russian majority; quite easily in fact.
    With sanctions from Washington and Brussels having no teeth one wonders why Britain, France and Germany did not bluster loudly.
    Britain has 480 russian Oligarchs residing, and banking in Great Britain.
    France has a billion dollar plus contract with Russia to supply the newest military weaponry.
    Germany gets 1/3rd of its natural gas supply from the Russian Federation, travelling through Ukraine via pipeline. Reliant more so on petroleum energy with their dismantling of their nuclear reactors.
    Money and economics in Europe talk. Far better to keep silent.
    If President Obama had better advisers, he would have kept his mouth shut too.
    ad iudicium

  2. KeninCanada says:

    Republicans don’t really care where Ukraine is; all world events are simply an opportunity to score domestic voting points. They have no concept of personal or professional honour; they believe they can tell any lie they want as long as their hearts remain true to Jesus. As long as domestic political concerns rule their thoughts, the rest of the world should beware.

  3. George Rizk says:

    As I see it. The wiseman always says follow the money?

    So, who will win from belligerence with Russia? The military industrial complex, which will sell the government equipment for the war? Well we all know that part. But, there is another party that makes money on the deal too – that is the Federal Reserve Bank? Actually when we get into war we typically need to get loans to fund that war? Like any business, the Feds make money when the government ask for loans! The Feds cannot take an ad in the Wall Street Journal urging the citizens to pressure the government to get a trillion dollar loan? Basically because we are up to our eye balls in debts? So, the Feds send their agents the neocons to sell the sheeple on a war?

    Once the ignorant majority are sold on getting into a war, then the loan comes AUTOMATICALLY without anyone thinking about the debts. Indirect sale and marketing of war. Any war!

  4. If all countries were to print and issue their own money and loans instead of a group of private bankers, we would not have any financial turmoil and recessions, nor would wars be financed by the same entity on both sides of the divide. The interest on loans would flow into the public coffers of ‘we the people’ and there would be no run-away inflation and clove between rich and poor. There is no need to argue about Republicans and Democrats, because they are two parties cut from the same cloth and worn by the same person. The difference between this two-party system and a totalitarian state is the notion, that your vote counts, while in reality it is meant to maintain the old formula of population control, initiated by Julius Caesar and subscribed to and maintained by the different empires since.
    In evolution the primordial instinct of ‘survival of the fittest’ gave way to cooperation among the members of the human species to enhance their chances of survival, which became known as civilization. What is now ruling supreme is a regression of what was attained before in earlier times.
    Democracy is the highest attainable level of civilization, which cannot coexist with the present day form of survival of the fittest. If we don`t slay this Hydra, we will be strangled by it.

    • solum temptare possumus says:

      “The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous, he cannot believe it exists”
      J. Edgar Hoover
      Imagine the potential if one does not come face-to-face; nor is told by your elected representatives or educated elite!
      ad iudicium

  5. Vlad blew it… he should have taken over the states that were pro-Russian and allowed them pass a referendum saying they wanted to be part of Russia.
    He should have done this two or three weeks ago. He’s already been vilified for Crimea want to join Russia… it would have been just a little more ‘heat’ and he could have accommodated it.
    Now, it’s a little more difficult, but not impossible.

  6. Those who scream the loudest for war are those who then cry for us to “stand behind our troops”, and it has always been my experience that those who scream the loudest to “stand behind or troops” are the one who would never stand beside of them.
    I always said there should be a law that says those who scream for war will be instantly drafted into the military regardless of their age or position and be the first sent into battle. Utterly no one would be exempt. That’ll make them shut up.

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