Originally published on Oct 13, 2016 in Oriental Review
When propaganda and fake news abounds in mainstream media it is difficult to try to understand what is happening in the many trouble spots around the world. Like many others, I assumed that the war in Syria was mainly about oil. However, the following article gives us more to think about as one more Middle Eastern country is ravaged by the chaos and destruction of terrorism and the routine bombing of its civilians and infrastructure.
In recent weeks, the battle for Aleppo has exposed the true heart of contemporary global politics with vivid clarity. The US Air Force’s duplicitous Sept. 17 attack on Syrian army positions near Deir ez-Zor, the hysterical outcry against Russia that erupted from the Pentagon, the US State Department’s undisguised threats against the Russian contingent in Syria, the Western media’s candid reports about arms shipments to al-Nusra militants, and the phantasmagoric drama in the UN Security Council on Oct. 8 all point to just one thing: there are no international coalitions against ISIL – there is only the Russian army and its allies who are taking a stand against the international terrorism used as a tool by the US and NATO.
The contours of today’s biggest international conflict are clear. But still not everyone understands its core and causes.
The conventional wisdom – that a decrepit global hegemon was unable to export “democracy” into a stable nation and now finds itself at a dead end – does not actually explain very much. But why did that stumbling block turn out to be Syria, which is certainly not the most significant country in the world? Why isn’t it, for example, Egypt that is under attack, where “fighters for democracy” from the Muslim Brotherhood have been unable to consolidate their victory and have even had to cede power to the powerful and far from pro-American government?
Why is Russia the country that is standing up to the aggressor? After all, Russia was on the verge of collapse not so long ago and is in no way a major competitor to the Western economy. And why is the United States pushing so fiercely to raise the stakes, driving the planet to the brink of a third world war?
And yes, of course, many Middle East experts can rattle off a whole list of potential answers to all these “whys.” But upon careful analysis it becomes clear that they are only the footnotes to what is actually the main reason.
The first and most frequent argument cited is the oil and gas factor. Allegedly, the surfeit of reserves in Syria has made that country a desirable goal for the West, which – in the wake of Iraq and Libya – could cash in on Syria’s hydrocarbons, now that it has wiped out the local government. But in fact there are only 2.5 billion barrels of proven reserves of that oil in Syria, which is 0.1% of the global total.
And that is clearly not enough to explain the outbreak of a terrorist intervention in Syria: if the West were only focused on oil, it would be more logical to orchestrate such an export of democracy into Venezuela, which sits on 17.5% of the world’s reserves.
It is also surmised that the rationale for the aggression could be traced back to Damascus’s 2009 refusal to allow a gas pipeline running from Qatar to Europe to cross its borders. But that would also be an overstatement. That disagreement might have been a motivation for the Qataris, but hardly the West. That gas-pipeline project is itself so risky that it could perhaps have served as a bluff or pretext, but not as a serious reason to launch a multi-year terrorist campaign against Assad.
There has been a popular trend in recent years to examine any conflict for traces of oil and to blame those hydrocarbon deposits for all tribulations, but that is an oversimplification and is similar to the monetarist approach to the economy, in which all the complexities of economic relations are evaluated exclusively in terms of debits and credits.
With regard to global politics however, oil is only meaningful as a tool (although an important one) for safeguarding interests and reaching geopolitical goals: Hitler was desperate to reach the oil fields in Baku, not for their own sake, but to cut off Moscow’s access and thus deal a death blow to the USSR.
It is unacceptable to conflate tools and goals because this creates a distraction from the truth.
Far less significant as an explanation of the war in Syria – which is on the verge of blowing up into a global conflict – are the arguments citing, for example, the legitimate internal animosities within Syria and within the region, or the spread of Islamism and the collapse of the state in Iraq, a country that is now a breeding ground for the growth of extremism, or the confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites or Saudi Arabia and Iran, or overpopulation in the region, or water shortages, etc.
All of this, in varying degrees of course, contributes to the severity of the conflict, but it does not at all explain why troops from dozens of countries – including two of the most powerful, the US and Russia – are currently active in Syria.
There is a much more convincing explanation of the current strife in Syria, although it is not considered sufficiently scholarly.
The wreckage of that country is of vital urgency to the supranational elites in order to fan the flames of chaos in the Middle East, which will make it possible to spread the forces of destabilization across all of Eurasia and help topple the alternative centers of economic power – especially China and Russia.
Supposedly the Federal Reserve cannot survive an inundation of debt, and the war in Syria is being used as a tool to destabilize any competitors in this economic showdown.
And indeed it was the Chinese economy that in 2014 outstripped America’s GDP, and it would seem that between these two economic behemoths – one falling and one rising – a military and political struggle had to ensue. Both American as well as Chinese political analysts have had a lot to say about this in recent years.
However, during the Syrian conflict – and this is an incontestable fact – China has kept itself far from the fray. For five whole years – and even during the current flare-up – Beijing has maintained its usual neutrality, merely lamenting the suffering of the Syrians and issuing condemnations of terrorism.
In economic terms Russia does not pose a genuine threat to the US, but in Syria it is indeed the Russian army that is the Americans’ biggest foe – the Chinese don’t figure into it at all there.
And looking at the situation geographically, the conflict in Syria could spread the contagion of ISIL into the Russian Caucasus (through a direct corridor that passes through Turkey) far more quickly than such a plague could enter, say, China’s more distant Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. By that logic, it would be smarter to promote ISIL in Afghanistan or Pakistan, a better starting point for funneling the terrorist chaos into China.
Moreover, it is quite safe to assume that if Russia were not such a significant geopolitical player today, Beijing would not have entered into a confrontation with the US over Syria, but would have instead come to an agreement with the West even on the basis of a compromise that was not very advantageous for China, taking the historical long view to bet on the inevitable attenuation of Western civilization.
For Russia however, the conflict with the West has absolutely nothing to do with economics. It is inane to suggest that the Russian economy, despite all its genuine progress over the past 15 years, poses a threat to the US global economy, in which China still plays an integral part.
Yes, geopolitical associations such as BRICS could potentially topple the currency system established at the Jamaica Conference, as well as the Washington consensus, but again this is not economic competition, but the financial projection of a military and political showdown.
But what is at its core? Why is Russia once again at the epicenter of a global conflict that is threatening to boil over? Why has the Russian state – which underwent a painful transformation in the late 20th century from which it has yet to fully recover – been forced to withstand the attack of a hegemon that steers international developments and possesses far more advanced tools of confrontation?
To understand the essence of what is happening, one must ultimately acknowledge that the actions of those in the top echelon of Western civilization – not the clerks laboring at the State Department and Pentagon, but the true managers of the Pax Americana global project, who are viewed as utter pragmatists – are in fact dictated by very specific ideals and ultimate goals.
Their words about American exceptionalism as the ideal free society, the beacon of democracy, and the Earth’s last hope are more than just nice catchphrases and advertising jingles – they represent their sense of themselves as a special force on this planet. Back in the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards declared that Americans had taken the place of the Jews as God’s chosen people. And even America’s Founding Fathers saw in their work the culmination of the history of the world.
By the 20th century, Ronald Reagan, who accused the Soviet Union of being an “evil empire,” was clearly claiming the role of the “good empire” for the US. In this sense, the Bushes, the Clintons, and Obama are not inventing anything new, only using different words to express this very American messianism.
A natural expression of this ideology can be seen throughout the foreign policy of the modern US as “an exporter of democracy” and the world’s referee and policeman. The seizure of resources, oil, and gas – as well as financial rewards – are just bonuses and a tool to help attain these ideals.
The key concept is “freedom,” around which the remainder of the construct of “exclusivity” is built. This is communicated as human freedom (i.e., as a blessing), but actually the “rulers of the world” understand this as freedom of capital, i.e., a policy of “anything goes” for homo economicus. According to them, the ideal world should be a market for goods and services, in which a human being is himself both of these. Money becomes the equivalent of every manifestation of the universe as well as its primary essence.
Everything that is designated as pragmatism is actually derived from this “monetary” understanding of life.
However, the expansion of money – in a spatial and a spiritual dimension – is not restricted to today’s profits but pursues its main goal at any cost, which is to utterly engulf the world and reformat mankind into a financial mechanism (that process itself is known as progress, which is analogous to the development of technology).
Is it worth even explaining that “freedom” and “progress” as understood in this way are utterly at odds with the entire 2,000-year path of Christianity and are lethal for humanity?
As a matter of fact, in recent decades Western civilization has moved toward a total rejection of Christianity under the guise of “tolerance” and toward the promotion of depravity under the guise of “gay rights”, while Russia has become the primary champion of traditional values and faiths.
Is it simply a coincidence that the onset of this major battle between the “freedom of capital” and “freedom of the soul” is coming to a head on Syrian soil where the Christian world took its first steps? Christianity was born amidst those rocks of the Middle Eastern Mediterranean region, and hundreds of years later we are seeing attempts to bury it there.
Interestingly, the ISIL ideologues, who were trained in the US prisons to selectively abuse the Kuran verses, enjoy citing hadith 6924, which describes a battle between Good and Evil in the Syrian town of Dabiq. Are they – like those who hang upon their every word with gaping mouths – aware that they are merely the deceived cannon-fodder of the Devil in the Last Battle?
Are the multitudes who each day chomp away at the vacuous chewing gum known as CNN capable of grasping that history is not propelled by oil or fleeting interests, but by a battle between opposing principles, two forces that are pulling humanity in different directions – one down into the Gehenna and the other up to the Land o’ the Leal?
It is odd but true: over the course of the last few centuries only one power – Russia – has planted herself squarely in the path of those who declare themselves to be a “great blessing”, a “pure race”, or a “beacon of democracy” while seeking to subjugate humanity. Historians can spend all the time they want trying to convince us of the objectivity of the emergence of Hitler and his eastern campaign, that the US and Great Britain did not notice his Nazi mischief and then carelessly helped the German economy by furnishing it with loans, but it is obvious that Hitler, like today’s ISIL, had been carefully groomed for an offensive against Russia. And after the Soviet army destroyed Hitler’s army, they were ready to do “the unthinkable” – to attack the USSR. They never took that plunge. But in the initial postwar years they used the prospect of their atomic bomb to intimidate Moscow.
It is daft to try to explain away such infamy as merely the consequence of the standoff between the communist and capitalist systems, because as we saw after the collapse of the Soviet Union – communism was no more, but Russia was still the enemy.
“To save the world from the unmitigated spread of evil” – such is the global mission and the fate of the Russian nation and the Russian state as a historical phenomenon. This fate was not chosen, but Russia is destined to once again save the world from destruction – otherwise she would no longer be Russia.
This in no way implies the infallibility or exceptionalism of Russians themselves, since the battle is taking place within them as well, but it confers upon that nation a special responsibility for the fate of the whole world. The fact of this mission explains the irrational, savage hatred of Russia and of Russians that inflames the global “superclass” and that is reflected in the terabytes of militant propaganda they pay for each day.
It is important for all rational citizens of the world to understand that when they watch the news from Syria, the real issue is not about Assad or Syria as such, nor even about the national interests of a nation state. The issue is about the metaphysical standoff between the two principles of this universe. It is about the war of the worlds. In which every citizen will have to make his own existential choice.