Greedy Goblin

Monday, June 26, 2017

The one case where democracy really matters (and that's enough)

Maxim is still not convinced that it's enough that the Western people don't hate Russia at all. "The only thing you need to convince me of is that what the West actually does is consistent with the will of its people."

He has a point. Many things happened recently in the West that the people did not approve. Migrants, multiculturalism, international trade, bank bailouts and the abolishing of death penalty are things where the popular opinion is strongly opposing the view of the elites. And we have to see that in most Western countries these things were successfully forced on the people. So why should he be comforted that the Trump voters are openly pro-Russian?

Because there is one thing that needs democratic support, even in the most bizarre dictatorships: war. Oppression is based on indifference. The ordinary guy keeps his mouth shut as long as he has his home, his food and his booze. So he won't do anything when journalists or politicians are arrested, when women are forced to wear burka or everyone must march on May 1. He can be upset, but he won't risk his pitiful life by resisting the oppressors. But war takes all of it anyway. He isn't at home, he is in the trenches while back his family is in danger of bombs. He can't just close the door and ignore politics while getting drunk front of the TV. Politics came to his life and he has to participate.

When the Nation agrees on the war - even if they don't agree on other things with the leadership - they fight. When they don't, they revolt. The best example is World War 1 Russia where the czar ordered the people to attack the Axis because the Axis attacked Serbia. The people weren't happy about that and soon communist agitators gained power among them. The result is that the soldiers turned their guns on their officers and the pro-war government failed. The new one signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty.

While open World War 3 was always very unlikely, the Western elite initiated multiple wars against smaller non-west countries, many that can be considered Russian proxies, mostly Syria. But they cannot win them because the people aren't committed to it. Sure, they can do some bombings and missile launches but nothing that requires sacrifice. It's not that "Trump won't attack". It's that if Hillary could send a couple ten thousand more noncitizens to vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania she couldn't attack either. Her war would fail on the national outrage when the coffins start to arrive, when the various US utilities are shut down by hackers, when the ISIS (with some help) start to blow up buildings in the mainland. Don't get me wrong, none of these could stop the USA if it was committed. But it's not. These attacks would merely force the people to get out of their chairs and do something. And "something" can be signing up for the army if he believes in the war or marching "Hell no, we won't go!" if he doesn't.

The "deep state" can upkeep the sanctions for a while. They can throw some random bombs. They can make coups in weak countries. But they lost the ability to fight a war when they lost the support of the Western people.

Also, something is changing. For ages "spending more money = winning election" was a triviality, since money equaled media coverage and tone and these equaled independent votes. Democrats just lost the single most spent special election (Georgia 6th district), with Dems outspending Reps badly. Why? Because most independents (people who care little about politics) are now getting their (mis)information from social media. The TV can lie all day if his friends spread an opposite lie. Therefore elites are losing their ability to decide elections, so truly people's candidates can win, who do what they say. I of course don't mean that Handel or even Trump is such candidate, but their wins show that such candidate at least can exist, while it couldn't 5 years ago.


Provi Miner said...

oddly enough I find this to be somewhat right and wrong. Consider your "war" theory first it has to have two components in order for "revolution" the first is a "war" (check) the second has to be those who are fighting don't want to fight (no check here).

Why doesn't the loss of people the endless amounts of wasted money bother the west? For the most part the average person understands it is real money being spent: example real I have $100 to spend where do I spend it (life) not real: I have 100 to spend but I am also going to spend 500 more that I am going to print out in my office (government spending). So the economic impact is sidelined unlike WWII were there restrictions on things for the effort. now for the big reason:

Lets use WWI as an example the Russian front: millions of Russians "forced to fight" in a war they don't want which meant revolution. contrast that with the West in WWII: first they convinced the public of the cause then they conscripted them no revolution. Now lets look at the war on terror: First the west convinced the public of the cause then they even went one step further "no conscription" only those that want to fight fight no reluctant warriors, no hero's in spite of the personal belief system. This is the biggest reason why WWII lasted less than 6 years while the war on terror is over 16 years and still going. Had WWII lasted 10 years you would have seen Vietnam like resistance (the west learned a lot from Vietnam) WWII and Korea and the action in Greece (bet you thought I didn't remember that one) were faught with the lessons of the Russian revolution clearly in mind, it was forgotten in Vietnam, however all the lessons of the military past have combined for the war on terror:

1: convince the public of the cause
2: do not disrupt normal life
3: park it off book
4: use a volunteer force only
5: keep the casualties low on a per day basis
all 5 equal no social reason to stop the war.

maxim said...

Erm, so i should be thankful that my country is not being nuked to oblivion as we are being denied economic opportunities and technology?
Thanks but no thanks.

Also, public opinion can and will be manipulated. Portray russians as subhuman in the media long enough and suddenly even war is on the table.

Gevlon said...

@Provi Miner: completely true. My point is that not just Russia, but North Korea or even Iran are capable to "disrupt the normal life" and "keep the casualties high".

1) not just "not nuked to oblivion", but "not waged any proxy war against". The USA didn't dare to contest Crimea or even Doneck/Luhansk. Remember that formally there are no Russians in Doneck, so the USA could deploy there at the request of Ukraine without formally conflicting Russia: Hey, we're just killing Ukrainen traitors at the request of the democratically elected (hahaha) government!

But they don't! Nor they deploy serious force to Syria, their limited actions are only good for making things slower for Assad, because they can't without major riots.

Public opinion is much harder to manipulate in the age of the internet, because people have access to information the power holders can't control. Trivial example: all EVE players shot at ships or shot ships with Russian players and witnessed first hand that Russians are just guys like themselves. Good luck for the propaganda machine to override this.

99smite said...

Well, I sort of agree with your conclusions.

Most modern wars are won at the "home front". Western governments need the public's support.

I can find no evidence that HC rigged the elections, no matter what DT twitters.
Fun facts: DT announced so many investigations but we never hear of any results. Strange?

One positve thing about DT trampling on US's international diplomatic relationships: Europe has realised that they cannot (and to be true, never could) rely on and sooner or later, they will have to reforge their relationship with Russia. The moment DT ruins trade relations with the EU, selling goods and services directly and not via proxy to Russia will become interesting and vital again.

The Crimean was originally Russian soil and the geograohy forces Russia to keep control over the Ukrainian plains and nothing will change that, no matter what US falcons brew up.

I feel with the Russian people and am outraged that EU leaders ruined our good relations with Russia. I can only hope that we will come to an arrangement like the treaty of Rappallo sooner or later.
Russia has a place in Europe and has much more common with Europeans than Turkey...

maxim said...

If USA deploys its troops anywhere then it is not a proxy war, but a direct one. If NATO troops enter Ukraine then Russia troops will have to enter as well. We'd all have all sorts of tense fun staring at each other across Dnepr.

The situation in Eastern Ukraine is a proxy war against Russia
If you think USA is not engaged in proxy war in Syria then you are underestimating USA's connections to radical islamists
There are reasons to consider that USA is aiming to open yet another proxy front along Russia's southern border with yet another orange revolution in one of ex-Soviet republics

The Internet does give me some hope, but it is an entity that has existed for at most a couple of decades against the centuries, if not millenia, of accumulated experience in domination. I would be very surprised if Internet is not in some way subverted and reined in in the span of a generation or two

Gevlon said...

@maxim: Eastern Ukraine and Syria ARE proxy wars against Russia, no doubt. But the USA cannot commit there. No US politician, not even the most extremists (McCain, Hillary) demand ground troop deployment. That's my point. They can send mercenaries, they can send weapons (which then end up in the hands of ISIS and used against the USA), they can send money to traitors (orange revolutions), they can send "instructors", but they CANNOT send frontline troops who come home in large numbers in coffins. If they tried, the citizens at home would revolt. On the other hand Russia CAN and DID send frontline troops because the people support these wars. Ergo: Russia could outescalate the USA and win.

About orange revolutions: the US tried one in Hungary in 2014, with the head of the embassy (not formal ambassador) personally leading rioters against the ruling party house:

But hey, the government stayed because no citizens joined to the paid rioters. If the government is not bad and supported by the people, the "orange revolution" attempts fizzle.

Mikhail said...

WW1 is a bad example - it was a very popular cause in Russia that rallied support of all strata behind the goverment (until the military failures and economic chaos created by the war turned the tables).
in a way, the war with Japan is a better case - Russia was forced to accept a defeat that was unwarranted by the military situation just to calm the revolutionary sentiment at home.

the problem with your argument is that wars do tend to evoque a lot of emotion. its only wars against distant and insignificant enemy (like Japan in 1907 and Vietnam in 1975) that can generate some noticeable internal opposition to that is not suppressed by the patriotic paranoia, otherwise the public goes into a self supporting jingoist frenzy and quickly repaints whoever the enemy is into a fire breathing, child eating monster it finds convenient to hate.

the only real example that supports your argument I can think of is the situation in France in 1939 where the popular opinion was so strongly anti-war, it was able to resist the jingoist surge.

Nielas said...

Eastern Ukraine and Syria are Russian proxy wars against the West and they are succeeding because the West is not really interested in the conflicts.

One has to remember that a democracy can weather an unpopular war but a dictatorship will have to struggle to keep itself going. The US survived Vietnam and Iraq pretty well but Russia collapsed after Afghanistan and was almost brought to another collapse after Chechnya.

At this point it is really a waiting game to see if Putin overreaches and triggers a conflict that he cannot survive.

Anonymous said...

This theoretical impasse assumes that putting youor own human troops in danger is what wins wars.
Drones will be getting cheaper and better, and US troops will be able to go home for dinner each night. US intervention will look totally different within a decade. Sorry about how that will change things for the worse.

Gevlon said...

@Mikhail: it's easy to make a war popular in theory. The test is when the bodies start to pile. WWII was such war, because letting Hitler win was inacceptable. Millions of Russian soldiers died but still new ones came and there weren't mass revolts (despite Stalin did his best to be unpopular). Same for USA where WWII started with a crushing defeat of Pearl Harbor, still the next day men lined up before recruitment offices and women before the weapon factories.

@Anon: drones make it easier to kill enemies. It doesn't help building up a client/friendly state. That can only be done with deployed soldiers.

maxim said...

1) Russia didn't actually send frontline troops either. This is a very common misconception, the troops you saw in Crimea weren't "frontline troops" and most of them were natives of Crimea. Russia didn't sent frontline troops to Donetsk and Luhansk either (though there were plenty of "dobrovolcy" ("free will mercenaries"?) that decided to go and participate in the affair with their own resources, not explicitly backed by government).

2) Just because USA can't send troops now doesn't mean it won't ever be able to. In 2013, could you have predicted a revolt in Ukraine? There were plenty of experts that said with 100% certainty that things are going to just go on as they were. And yet, all it took is a few months for a seismic-grade change. Who is to say we won't see another such change that will result in NATO mobilising close to russian borders? They do have the military bases, after all.
Security is not something to be trifled with.

3) We almsot had an orange revolution succeed in Moscow in 2012. It failed only because the "ohranitili" (traslates roughly as "defendeers") managed to organize a ~100k people meeting against the ~50k that the orange coalition had going for it. And even with that it was damn close.
Basically the success or failure of orange revolutions hinges on whether the government is able to legitimately supress them. Lack of supression results in Ukraine, suppression that can be viewed as illegitimate results in something like Lybia. There are plenty of voices in southern ex-Soviet states that say their governments cannot be trusted with power anymore and, as far as their ability to, when push comes to shove, actually stand up and say "these orange people don't represent us, gtfo", i doubt it very much.

Gevlon said...

1) sure, and these "free will mercenaries" happened to have missile launchers, tanks, drones, mortars and attack helicopters at home. Please...

2) Yes, I could predict revolt/separatism in 2013. Looking at the 2010 election map was enough to know that it's a disaster waiting to happen:

3) ABSOLUTELY NOT. Gaddafi had all the government forces and what good it did to him?! Orange revolutions depend on:
- having enough citizens to side with it and provide human shield for the paid fighters
- not enough citizens siding with the government, allowing the "oranges" to defeat the government without an open massacre of the citizens

Government forces are only relevant in preventing the coup happening so fast that the people can't react.

The best example is Turkey 2016. It was organized in the Incirklik air base where the US forces are and the troops captured the major cities without armed resistance. Only the direct guard of Erdogan was with him, that was enough to save him from instant assassination but nothing to stop the coup. Then the citizens ran out and stormed the tanks with stones and sticks and the troops surrendered because they didn't want to massacre their kinsmen.

maxim said...

1) You'd be surprised what you can get in post-Soviet space with money and connections. Under-the-table dealings is not the same as official invasion. If under-the-table dealings are the same as official invasion then i submit to you that USA has long since invaded most of the Middle East.

2) You are saying it in retrospect. You are welcome to prove your keen insight by predicting the next major upheaval

3) You seem to have a deep misunderstanding of what legitimacy means, which is why you are first saying ABSOLUTELY NOT and then basically repeating the same thing i said. Legitimate is not the same as legal. In fact, the meanings are very different, look it up. Everything you said is easily expressed in a single sentence: Gadaffi's suppression was not viewed as legitimate by a large enough portion of the population.

The salient point here, however, is that while you may think a country like Hungary is immune to this (and that may very well be true), most of post-Soviet countries are not. With enough incitement from USA and co., Russia can easily end up having one more Ukraine along its southern border (in addition to all the other states that didn't wait for an orange revolt to let NATO bases on their territory).

Another salient point here is that the will of the people is not absolute. It can be abused and overridden. Do you think people in Ukraine want what they got? Do you think people who were on the Maidan wanted to see their army bombing Ukraine's own cities? Heck, do you think they want it now? However, they have been played and now there are neither resources, nor energy left for yet another revolution.
Maybe a decade or two down the line, after Ukraine recovers a bit. However, by that point, the indoctrination that the current government is engaging in might already take root.

The "people" are just like a big child, which can be tricked into one wrong move and then guilt-tripped and scared into submission by entities much smaller and more focused than said "people". What stopped the orange revolution in Russia in 2012 was not "the people", but rather a very small group of very focused organisations that managed to bring more people out on public events than another very small group of very focused "orange" organisations thought possible at the time.

4) The Erdogan thing was not an orange revolution, but rather a straight military coup. It followed a very different procedure and had very different backers. You say that the people stopped it. I say that it lacked the level of control over both the media and its message required to prevent people from stopping it. The kind of control that, say, Lybian rebels had (mostly because Kemalists in Turkey never enjoyed as much support from global media as Lybian rebels did).

Gevlon said...

1) "USA has long since invaded most of the Middle East." is obvious and no one debates that. Not even the Americans themselves (at best they use the "liberation" PC term)

2) I can't tell which will be the next. But any multicultural country is a disaster waiting to happen. Many already exploded: Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya. While we can obviously blame the SPARK on the USA, please note how the same spark failed in Hungary, Russia, Iran, Saudi-Arabia. Anyway, if you want names, I would nominate the following countries for civil war/proxy war:
Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon.

On the other hand North Korea and Iran will remain stable unless all out military attack.

3) yes, but you mentioned Government FORCES. My point is that if X has not a single soldier but 90% vote, his more stable than Y with impressive army but 50% vote.

The Maidan people (and even the USA) believed that if they remove Yanukovich, they will live under liberal rule with little incident. They underestimated how far Putin was ready to go and how adept his army was. Had they proceed if they know that Putin will respond with heavily armed "free will mercenaries" while the USA will chicken out from sending "civilian security contractors"? I don't know. But I'd point to the fact that there aren't mass protests against the current government, so they stick to their choice.

You underestimate the people. It didn't matter how well "the very focused organizations" moved the people in 2012. What mattered is that people answered the call. I mean both are needed but the second is the bottleneck. I've seen "very focused organizations" jumping out of nothing in Hungary, with endless money, connections, media support, just to disappear when people didn't follow them. Any semi-decent spy organization can form focused organizations anywhere. But still they can't set every country on fire. They are a SPARK. To work, they need a POWDER KEG country. Ukraine and Syria were such. Russia and Hungary not.

4) people didn't believe the media. The only real mistake the coup actors did is not shutting down the internet, allowing people call on their friends.

maxim said...

1) ... So what's wrong with invasions then, if everyone is doing it?
I resolve this conundrum by insisting that it is not an invasion unless it involves the actual army. Talking, providing materiel and limited numbers of personnel is all fair game.

2) I do not see how you view multiculturalism as a "disaster waiting to happen" and then go on to say that in some cases the disaster didn't happen. That's an argument on a level of "life is dangerous, people die of it". Just because you have a potential weakness doesn't mean you can't deal with it.

I have no information (and therefore opinion) on Latvia, Lithuania and Lebanon. As for Belarus, it indeed seems to me like a disaster waiting to happen. However, the problem i see is not something nebulous like multiculturalism, but a very simple and pragmatic consideration of a lack of good heir apparent to follow up a strong, but elderly, authoritarian leader, which is a major issue across most of post-Soviet political space.

3) I don't view something that just explodes violently in all directions as "strong" or able to control its own fate.

Sure, in order for focused political groups to exploit political energy, there must be political energy. However, lack of political energy does not constitute the strength of the people. If anything, it's a weakness. Countries can and do fall apart once people run out of powder in their kegs.

On another hand, just having the political energy is not enough. Maidan had a lot of political energy and it was utterly suborned and misdirected.

By the way, the reason people don't demonstrate against current Ukranian government is because of two reasons
1) their powder kegs are spent and were not replenished with good results
2) life in general in Ukraine is so bad that people are too busy just surviving. It is a well documented historic fact that rebellions don't happen on economic downturns, but rather they happen on economic upturns after a significant downturn, when people are no longer too worried about how they are going to put bread on the table, but instead have the luxury to once again take the long view

4) You personally don't consume mass media. However, do ask yourself, why do major power players (who are perfectly rational, by the way, the other kind just doesn't survive in major power games) spend untold amounts of money on media if it wasn't effective?
Also, you seem to implicitly trust social media platforms to convey true news and not drown out or otherwise filter the actual message in favour of propaganda. This is naive.

Gevlon said...

1) just because they are common, they are not doing any good to ANYONE. Not like the US reaped anything but corpses and trillion-dollar bills in Iraq.

2) the disaster WILL happen. I just can't tell WHEN. Multicultural countries are unstable like a gunpowder keg. But they can exist until something actually ignite it. Monocultural countries on the other hand can be ignited all day and nothing happens.

3) I believe that people can live contently if the way of life enforces on them is similar to their culture. When they are enforced to live differently, they start to build up anger that will blow some time. A multicultural country necessarily oppresses all-but-one culture.

In Ukraine Yanucovich - while having majority support - was seen as an alien oppressor by the ethnic Ukrainens (which voted in large majority for Timosenko in 2010). The new regime is THEIR regime, they accept it (even if they don't love it). The ethnic Russians and Russian speaking Ukrainens (who voted for Yanucovich in 2010 with large majority) see this regime as oppressor and they do revolt. That's why Doneck and Luhansk is separatist ("free will mercenaries" just helped them win, they revolted on their own). Ergo, you won't see protest in Kiev (which is a Timosenko 2010 stonghold), you see people joining the separatists willingly in Doneck.

My point is that NEITHER Yanucovich NOR the new regime/Timosenko could be the democratic leader of pre-war-Ukraine. No one could be or can be. One side always felt oppressed "by them". The ONLY way to prevent this civil war was the Czech-Slovak way: peacefully split the country into two by voting. The only way to end the civil war is what the separatists want: let Doneck, Luhanks and Crimea leave Ukraine and join Russia. So the West is clearly the "bad guy here", but let's be fair: when Yanucovich was in power he tried to pull the whole country to the Russian sphere instead of fairly splitting.

4) Owning or buying mass media was effective. It's not anymore.,_2016

Social media doesn't convey "true" news. But it doesn't convey centrally directed fake news. If my sister is a Clinton-lover, I will get Clinton-worshipping fake news unless I unfollow her (which is hard since she is family). Assuming a politics have significant amount of followers, social media will pepper their friends and family with fake news of that politics.

maxim said...

1) I guess i'm fine to let this rest as long as you equally attack everyone who is practicing invasions and not just single out Russia when it is politically convenient. However, basically what i see right now is that invading other countries (with your definition of invasion) is perfectly okay and is common practice

2) Monocultural countries fail just as well. All it takes it to find a single vulnerability in their culture and then simply exploit their inability to draw upon the experience of other cultures to compensate for this vulnerability.
There is no perfect solution and being monocultural is definitely not strictly superior to being multicultural. Well, unless you are being multicultural like EU does. Anything is better than that

3) Well, the social contract behind pre-2014 Ukraine was a three-part balance between essentially Lviv, Kiev and Donetsk. I can agree with the interpretation that Yanukovich threatened this balance by being too pro-Donetsk, hence the resulting backlash.

However, i don't buy into your conclusion that the blame for this lies with multicultural approach. Mixing Lviv and Donetsk in a single country is essentially mixing Poland and Russia in the same country. That was an impossible mix from the start, and the problem here is not culture, but is rather a millenium of bad blood between Poland and Russia that far trascends cultural and even national considerations (this bad blood existed before nations were even a thing and, to begin with, had more to do with elite power games than with culture).

Using this to justify the notion that mixing cultures always fails is like saying "combining glycerol and nitric acid results in explosions, so let's never combine anything".

4) One instance doesn't make an always-true trend, though CNN and others will need some effort to purge internal corruption. Also, Trump has ultimately failed in his campaign against the media.

There are many ways for a platform holder to manipulate the kinds of news you are getting (or not getting). I accept that it has become much easier to share news with friends and family, but that is simply yet another point to consider when crafting a strategy for information warfare, not something that makes said warfare impossible.

Gevlon said...

1) let's not mix what I think with what's happening in the World. Yes, in the World practically everyone attacks everyone with violent means and only a few countries are called out. I think no one should attack no one and it's not a moral "be nice" command, but a practical "you will lose, stop it".

2) Monocultural countries CAN fail. They indeed have cultural weaknesses which can be exploited (for example a 100% Muslim country can be provoked by Mohammad cartoons which are considered protected free speech in the West).

Multicultural countries WILL ALWAYS fail and often do without external attack. Some minimal provocation is enough for the people to turn on each other. So the second is strictly worse.

3) You merely say that Ukraine is not bi-, but tri-cultural, so the proper solution was splitting into 3 parts (Independent Ethnic Ukraine, Polish part joins Poland, Russian part joins Russia).

Combining anything results in something happening. In case of people "something" is usually violence. While I accept that some cultures can be mixed, my position is "unless you sure what you're doing, don't mix".

4) ??? Trump won the election against 95% media against him and against 2x more money spent on (explicit) advertisements (on top of biased reporting).

The news you get from your FRIEND is not "another point" for a social. It's "the truth"!