Monday, August 11, 2008

Rogue states and police states - and their defenders

The Anschluss in South Ossetia has been harrowing. The numbers dead are disputed, but probably in four figures. The numbers of displaced are so far in five figures. Russia has accused Georgia of wanting to initiate genocide. Certainly, what we are seeing now is ethnic cleansing, as ethnic Georgians flee areas the Russians have occupied or are near.

Putin's offensive has been defended by Stalinophiles like Neil Clark, who describe support for Georgia as Russophobic and/or neocon war-mongering. The Clark analysis is fuelled by many conspiracy theories, many of which lean close to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, such as those promoted by the antisemitic Truth Culters.

Martin Meenagh, a blogger who is very knowledgeable about the geopolitics of Central Asian oil and who I regard very highly, has given some credence to some of the conspiracy theories, although he puts very clear blue water between his view and any possible antisemitic view.

I am wary of articulating the sort of strong solidarity with Georgia that Marko Attila Hoare has put forward, because Saakashvili's government is not exactly a model of democracy. But my basic sympathy for their position is only strengthened by the disreputable red-brown alliance that has sprung up in defence of Putin's invasion: alongside Clark, the semi-fascists Justin Raimondo and Lew Rockwell and his Ron Paulista supporters. And my sympathy is strengthened too by the decent advocacy of people like Dennis MacShane and Mark Kleiman.

Clark (who also defends genocidaire Karadzic) describes Western criticisms of Russia as the application of "double standards". This "double standards" meme is common in the left. While it is true that the West has done horrible things, the "double standards" argument effectively means we cannot criticise anyone else who does bad stuff, an issue Nation of Duncan takes up from a Harpymarx post I commented on. There, the issue is the Chinese Olympics, an issue that Modernity has had a couple of good posts on (1 and 2). My bottom line in that instance is that China is a police state, and we need to oppose it.

Last week I commented on the critics of Solzhenitsyn, who often turn out to be defenders of the Stalinist regime he criticised. Sultan Knish returns to that issue here, compellingly making the case that Solzhenitsyn is a detestable figure:

Solzhenitsyn was an informer who pinned his crimes on others drawing thinly disguised literary sketches in his writing of the men who had helped him, as despicable figures. He died just too soon to see Russia invade Georgia, but it is exactly the sort of thing that Solzhenitsyn who praised Putin and put Russian nationalism above the freedom of the former Soviet republics would have wanted and celebrated. The true legacy of the dissidents of the USSR is opposition to the current Russian tyranny, a legacy that Solzhenitsyn betrayed, just as he betrayed the dissidents under the USSR and his fellow inmates who rose up against their tormentors in the Gulag.
I was wrong to defend Solzhenitsyn because his critics included Stalinists and their apologisers. Similarly, anyone who defends either Beijing or Putin because their attackers are "neocons" is wrong.

Distantly related: Thanks to Arieh for this article on Lithuania, a country which hunts down octogenarian (Jewish) ex-Partisans, for alleged war crimes in the fight against Nazi occupation, while letting at least three real Holocaust war criminals go free.


Martin Meenagh said...

Thankyou for the comment Bob. I appreciate it. I think that the Israeli connection, if there is one beyond an arms relationship, is just incidental in this war.

I've tried on my posts to keep well clear of anything but verified and demonstrable points about Russia's energy policy, which has been very consistent under both the Putin Presidency and his premiership.

I have to say this--I know Neil Clark, and in one little job I had when I was teaching sixth-formers and undergraduates in Oxford, I worked with him. I have never heard him utter an antisemitic word and I don't believe he ever would.

Incidentally, if you think blogland is hard on 'neocons' you should hear some of the American officers and ordinary soldiers I've chatted to in the past year. The American military hates them, as far as I can tell, and uses the term quite freely.

Sultan Knish said...

I didn't know the Ron Paul crowd were backing Russia, but I can't say I'm too surprised

I would have been genuinely surprised if it was the other way around

I'm not sure what their logic is, but it seems to involve figuring out what the neo cons support and doing the opposite, or perhaps there is just some sort of instinctive support of tyranny

bob said...

To be 100% clear, I don't find anything dodgy in what Martin has written; it is stated very carefully and is useful background to the conflict.

I don't even think that Clark is himself a conspiracy theorist in the same way the Ron Paulistas or Truth Culters are. And I have never seen any evidence of antisemitism in his writing. I hope I don't give the impression of tarring him with that brush!

However, the way he uses the word "neo-con" has more than a whiff of conspiracy theory paranoia about it.

Nothing, of course, compared to the odour the Paulistas and Rockwellites give off. They support Russia in this only because anything that the neocons do is wrong.

(By the way, most people who use the word "neo-con" in this rabid way seem to think the malignant Dick Cheney is one, which is a good case for euthanising it as a word, as he certainly isn't one by any sensible definition.)

Anonymous said...

Neil Clark probably labours under the same ideological mindset that operated on the lib/left back in the 1930s and 40s -- blind support or opposition based on where the "anti-imperialists" are as opposed to western capitalists.

Anonymous said...


It's understandable that US officers and soldiers are critical of the "neocons". After all, it was the "neocons" who favoured military action and tried to intervene on a scale that would be tolerated if not supported by the electorate.

Blaming the continuing problems in Iraq on the Security Council members who opposed the invasion while taking Saddam's coin, or the elements stoking the sectarian warfare in aid of their own agendas requires a level of sophistication that ain't that common.

TNC said...

Greetings, Bob.

You might be interested in reading this:

Exile said...

Justin Raimundo and Lew Rockwell are libertarians, which is as far as it's possible to get from fascism. I realise that tossing dirt out in the hope that some will stick is a Nu-Lab tactic, but that one is just plain daft.

So for that matter was the smear about Neil, which you have backtracked on in the comments.

Martin Meenagh said...

Thanks for the clarification Bob, though not necessary. I think that what the past few days shows us most of all is that we--Britain and Europe-- need a serious energy policy and we need one quickly.

bob said...

On the semi-fascism of the paleo-libertarians Justin Raimondo and Lew Rockwell. They pose as libertarians, which one might think is opposite to fascism. But, as with Lyndon LaRouche, all is not what it seems on first sight.

I have a tiny amount of respect for Lew Rockwell, who is somewhat less of a crank than Raimodo, but Raimondo is an out and out wingnut. Neither may be outright fascists, which is why I used the phrase “semi-fascists”: they are fellow travellers of American fascism, sharing many of the same politics.

OK, here's the rumpus. Raimondo and Rockwell are tightly involved in the fringe right-wing network that includes American Renaissance, VDARE and the Robert A Taft Club.

Raimondo purveys antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the Israelis knew about 9/11 before it happened and chose not to stop it. His website purveys more such Protocols of the Elders lies, for example calling the American media "Israeli-occupied". In fact, Raimondo more or less believes the Protocols tell the truth: "The Protocols are forgeries, and are not true in any sense. But why is the Israeli government doing its best, these days, to create the impression that they are true?" Chip Berlet of has shown how the Raimondo 9/11 position directly echoes that of the militia movement and other far right groups.

Lew Rockwell regularly publishes Joe Sobran, who was fired by William Buckley for writing antisemitic articles and who regularly references the Holocaust deniers at the Institute of Historical Review.

Rockwell is obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, who he sees as the fount of socialist in America. This has allowed him to attract into his orbit many who are also in the orbit of the KKK, people who are still fighting the Civil War on the Confederate side. (Indeed, the paleo-libertarians could just as well be called the neo-Cons: neo-Confederates.)

Rockwell has been closely aligned to Ron Paul for decades now, and has been the conduit for a number of the unsavoury connections between Paul and the extreme right. As revealed by Jamie Kirchik (TNR Jan 8), Paul’s newsletter, penned by Rockwell, shows ’decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.’ Paul has failed to make a serious effort to distance himself from his far right support base (for instance, he did not return campaign donations from neo-nazis), and this weakens the credibility of the Rockwell/Paul camp. The white supremacist Vanguard News Network endorsed Paul, and urged it to come out as racist, attributing racist comments in the Ron Paul newsletter to Rockwell. Ordinary right-wing libertarians, like anti-affirmative action advocate David Bernstein of the Cato Institute, refuse to have anything to do with Rockwell’s shady outfits, because the latter “play footsie” with fascist kooks.

Raimondo has also defended Milosevic's regime and the Ba'athist regime, both fascist states. The Putinism of Raimondo and Rockwell is an extension of this sort of pro-fascist politics: has outgrown its Stalinist roots and has embraced a pure Greater Russian nationalism, and the Rockwell/Raimondo right have embraced this.

Ironically, of course, Rockwell and Raimondo call their opponents fascists: TNR “has a long and checkered history of pro-fascism” (Rockwell at LRD blog). Churchill, Roosevelt and Lincoln are fascists. Bush is a fascist. Etc etc etc.

Gil said...

Hi Bob,

In regard to your addendum on Lithuania's 'investigation' of Jewish partisan's, Crossing Continents on Radio 4 covered this story a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to it here.

Sultan Knish said...

the idea that libertarianism is the opposite of fascism is only true when it is authentic libertarianism, rather than libertarianism used as a vehicle to clear the way for the rise of grass roots fascist groups, which is what Lew Rockwell and that bunch are about and what the Ron Paul campaign was about

these are the same people who would argue that the Confederacy was libertarian and justify slave ownership on libertarian grounds, as one of the Rockwelloids got caught doing

for that crowd being libertarian means being able to dismantle the existing government in order to create political and social institutions that systematically violate other people's rights

Sultan Knish said...

the key to their "we're libertarians so we can't be fascists" argument seems to be that fascism is collectivism, which they use as a catch all term the way communists use imperialists

and since they've defined fascism as collectivism, "clearly" they can't be fascists since they're not collectivists

The New Centrist said...

SK and Bob, Rockwell and Raimondo are LINOs (Libertarians In Name Only). They are actually paleocons who are angry their ideology is so marginalized in the Republican Party today. So they wrap themselves in the libertarian flag in the hopes of duping useful idiots like "Exile".

Exile said...

Er, OK, "they pose as libertarians," but then the rest of your comment, which should have explained the difference between a pose and the reality of libertarianism, did nothing but show that Raimundo and Rockwell associate with folk that you don't like. They can do that for a whole host of reasons, the main one probably being short-term self interest in certain policy areas.

The fact that both are in favour of such libertarian touchstones as a gold standard, limiting the state and abolishing federal income tax suggests to me that they are what they say they are.

Sultan Knish said...

Lots of people are in favor of abolishing the income tax and limiting the power of government, when they're not the ones in control of government.

We're talking about allies and supporters of Pat Buchanan, a man who openly boasted that he'd show everyone what a real right wing dictator is.

Nothing says libertarian like supporting a fascist wannabe dictator.

bob said...

I can't say whether they are "real" libertarians or not - what does that term mean anyway? If they are libertarians, then I don't want to have anything to do with it, because they're unsavoury people, who associate with even more unsavoury people, many of whom are very far from any meaningful definition of libertarian, such as Pat Buchanan.

How they are close to fascism is: (a) their style of politics is paranoid: they indulge in fantastical conspiracy theories about the real controllers of the world, who often turn out to the da jooz; (b) they are isolationist, ultra-patriotic and at least close to "white racial nationalism" (they don't like black people and have fantasies about re-creating the Confederacy); (c) they are anti-democratic: they have nothing but contempt for ordinary people; (d) they are anti-liberal, a key element in mid-20th century fascism; (e) they draw on the language of radical anti-capitalism while ultimately being anti-working class, just like the Nazis; (f) they indulge in bizarre leadership cults around their fuhrers (currently especially Ron Paul). I'm sure I could go on, but that's probably enough.

Richard Brodie said...

I would like to advise against perpetuating the use of the term "genocidaire" to refer to an alleged perpetrator of genocide such as Karadzic, and for a number of reasons.

First, my syntactic objections. It is truly an abortion of an attempt to mangle the English language. There are only a handful of words ending in "aire": millionaire, legionnaire, questionnaire, and debonaire, in all of which cases the suffix is added to a two syllable base, yielding an easily pronounceable 3 syllable word accented on the first and last syllables. In English the only four syllable words with the first and last syllables accented are compounds such as overreact, videotape, etc. Most four syllable words with accent on the first syllable are followed by three unnacented syllables (literary, optimism, television, etc.) with the remainder accented on the third syllable (navigation, subcommitte, etc.)

And the pronunciation of the "i" is ambiguous. It is long in the root "genocide", but in the only other example of an -aire word preceded by a "d", namely the trademark Figidaire, the "i" is short. So we are left to wonder which it should be.

Second, my semantic objection. All of our existing -aire words have connotations ranging from neutral to positive. And thus "genocidaire", with an emphatically negative connotation, has a semantically dissonant ring to it.

And finally, my ethical objection. While it would be linguistically clumsy, it would not be inappropriate to label a CONVICTED perpetrator a "genocidaire". But it is completely wrong in a society that embraces the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" to apply such a term to someone who has merely been charged with the offense. To use this kind of language is to be a participant in the practice known as "railroading", one which international tribunals are of course notorious for.