Calls for military escalation do nothing to help the Ukrainian people, and are advanced by people drunk on ideas of western power
David Jamieson is a journalist, writer and socialist activist based in Glasgow. His writing can be found at Jacobin magazine, Bella Caledonia and ConterScot, a new anti-capitalist platform of which he is an editorial board member.
Cross-posted from Conter
Photo: US Air Force
The chorus of irresponsible war rhetoric, unleashed in recent days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has reached a new level of hysteria. A war party is rapidly emerging either implying, or downright advocating, military action against Russia, pitting nuclear armed states against each other.
Calls for a so-called ‘No Fly Zone’ (NFZ) are emerging around the world, from Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy, to former senior military figures in Britain like General Sir Richard Barrons, ex-head of Joint Forces Command. They have been echoed by an increasingly crazed mob of pundits and ‘analysts’, in calling for a policy which would mean shooting down Russian air planes over Ukraine, and which could only lead to war.
Nato powers, including the US and UK, have ruled out any such approach for now. They understand all too well what war with Russia would entail. It is a grim truth about the present situation that some on the left are presenting a more pro-escalation and even warlike posture than the Biden and Johnson administrations. In the United States, leftwing Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised the idea of military action on day one of the invasion, saying it should only be used if approved by congress.
Besides direct calls for war, a range of ideas for escalation have been advanced. The SNP, Green and Labour leaderships have all positioned themselves as more hawkish than the Tory government, demanding harsher sanctions that are already having a devastating impact on the Russian people through currency devaluation. They are joined by a liberal commentariat who are now feral and obsessed with a defence of western state power. Between these groups and some on the Tory backbenches, plans for action include sending more weapons into the war zone, slapping yet more sanctions on a Russian people who have evinced no enthusiasm for this war, and punishing Russian citizens in the UK with forced loyalty tests (electing British citizenship) or deportation.
Pundits, like the Spectator’s Scottish editor Alex Massie, rubbish the idea of negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russia governments – even as they are in session – arguing that there is nothing to negotiate. These armchair generals and diplomats are more interested in looking tough from the safety of their Twitter accounts than ending the attack on Ukrainian towns and cities.
Bad history is in vogue, providing the thinnest intellectual support to these arguments. Articles across the media are full of claims of fascism and appeasement. The fantasy role-playing of Munich and World War 2 can be found everywhere. In Scotland, the National newspaper publish an exemplar from Gerry Hassan, who wrote that the Russian invasion:
“…comes after years of Western misjudgment and appeasement of Putin. It follows Russian aggression in Chechnya, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbass region of the Ukraine in 2014, leading to full-scale invasion last week.
“How often do we have to learn the same lessons? The need to stand up to dictators and bullies; to oppose fascism; to not collude and connive with its platforms and propaganda; and to demonstrate solidarity with democracy, especially with a democracy under attack.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a horrifying spectacle. But Russia is not a Third-Reich: an expansionist power bent on European domination through successive invasions.
We can see now the purpose behind determination to exclude any discussion of the Nato military alliance from the context of this war. It is to deny that we are witnessing war as a product of international competition between states.
Rather than see a Russian state acting from a position of global weakness but regional strength to shore-up its position against an encroaching western sphere of influence, we are to imagine a ‘Hitler’, whose actions relate solely to megalomania and evil (this wasn’t even true of Hitler’s wars, which whilst certainly deranged by his world view, largely reflected traditional German military pre-occupations).
It is only the general public who are expected to accept this narrow interpretation. Policy makers in the establishment have long understood that Nato’s expansion eastward threatened conflict, and debate has focused on how to pursue Nato interests without it back-firing.
In 2014, at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, no less a figure of the Atlantic establishment than Henry Kessinger was prepared to accept the obviously mutual responsibility for the worsening situation in eastern Europe:
“A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.
“Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”
The reason why this council – which speaks to truths universally recognised among thinking people – is no longer acceptable is simple: the version of events we are being force-fed is propagandistic in character. It is about managing a population for escalation abroad and compliance at home.
And this is why calls for NFZs and other punitive measures are so dangerous: because this is only the beginning of a new situation in European and, likely, world diplomacy and conflict. Measures set aside by governments now can be revived later, having already enjoyed an airing in public. The demand now must be for a ceasefire and negotiations, with no escalation on Nato’s part.
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