Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Salamis, one of the great choke points of World history.

by Duns Scotus

At an essential level, Russians lack a sense of geography. That’s why they live in Russia, one of the least ‘geographical’ places on the face of the Earth. Anti-geography flows from those flat, ill-defined spaces the same way that water flows into a swamp. Let me expand on this theme because it is unclear, which is exactly what Russia did in its history: expanded because it was unclear!
“Where does our Russian land begin and that of our neighbours end? Not sure. Best annex them.”
Most countries exist within distinct geographical areas – France with its Alps, Pyrenees, and Rhine, Japan with its chain of islands, are classic examples. Where these don’t exist, problems occur and empires sometimes arise as solutions. The problem can also be observed on the civilizational level.

Hitler and Napoleon both lost when their geographical sense came up against Russia’s non-geographical nature, so sometimes this can be an advantage – at least in defence. Also, the great problem of Germany in the 20th-century was partly a problem along these lines: an element of geographical ambiguity helping to create a country that was simply the wrong size – too big to be quiescent, too small to win.

Recently (in the last few decades), Russia has tried to make up for its deficiency of geography by taking up the "Heartland" thesis of Halford John Mackinder, a British academic who reduced the whole world to a simplistic working model that would fit well inside a few academic books, according to which the centre of the Eurasian continent was the natural locus of supreme power. Perhaps it was this formula that drew Russian interest:
Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island controls the world."
(Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 194)
But using the imported idea of a foreign academic as a basis of one's historio-geographical consciousness – especially one as overarching as Mackinder's – is not without its dangers.

History is not just about force – ideological, economic, or military. It is not even mainly about force. The essence of history is positional, but not in a sweeping Mackinderesque sense. History does not sweep. It feels its way like a blind man. Specific leverage counts for more than generalized force. There is a detailed and localized geography not only of geography but also of ideas, morality, and the other elements of power.

Understanding these various geographies – or simply stumbling upon them in a fortuitous manner – is what allows the great wheel of history to turn.

To defeat the greatest empires and behemoths what is needed is not force but historical chokepoints. Thus has it been, thus will it always be. Thus was it in the beginning, thus will it be in the end. Let me beguile you with a few examples: Salamis, Stalingrad, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Thermopylae, alas, was an unsuccessful attempt at one.

These are all military examples, but they also include other elements. Stalingrad, with its very name, was the red cloak to Hitler’s bull-like brutalized version of Nietzschean will-to-power – an invitation to the ubermensch to prove himself by wading through blood and fire onto the lance of the bullfighter, a temptation that could not be resisted by the walking death-wish of Nazism, in short, an ideal historical chokepoint that reduced combatants formerly relatively equal to a mismatched pair.

Off balance superpower.
Vietnam, too. How was that for a chokepoint? In terms of military and economic power – and even good intentions – America was onto a winner. That's why they were sucked in. But that all evaporated in the pivot. Burning monks and poker faced peasants made America look bad, and cling increasingly to its simplistic body count and bombing metrics – "because democracy." Charlie intuited that America couldn't stand that kind of mirror time and they were right. The shuffling that America had to do to shore itself up in that conflict – scrapping the gold standard, opening its borders to the Third World, and privileging its Blacks and other minorities – effectively ensured its destruction 100 years down the road.

The way to defeat your enemy has never been to out-power him, but to get the idiot to fight on the wrong geographical or ideological terrain. This month sees the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannnockburn, yet another fine example: "English – mud, mud – English!"

Speaking of mud, the Russians are teetering on the edge of a bog in the Eastern Ukraine – or at least their stick is as Putin seems to have developed a degree of caution of late. But according to some hotheads, the future of the planet is being decided here. For people like Alexandr Dugin this is the essential battle, the one that must be fought to prevent the triumph of the Antichrist – yes, it’s never a good idea to mix religion with geopolitics in such generous quantities!

The Russians have so far been using various 4GW tactics to fight this battle, but because it's the Ukraine’s territory, the Ukrainians can legitimately respond with 3GW. But because of a lack of in-depth support for Russian annexation and the fact that Russia is hardly an ideal case of ethnic self-determination – even for the Russians! – Kiev doesn't even have to play this card very often, and has been doing so at a rate well below the level required to justify heavier Russian intervention in the world's (or even the Kremlin's) eyes.

Get a grip: pivot not power.
The Eastern Ukraine could be one of the choke points of history, a pivot point where a smaller, weaker force overthrows a larger force, but alas, the way things are stacked, it is only the Russians who are in danger, with America well out of harm's way. The less they push into the Eastern Ukraine the better.

Rather than Russia being tied down here, how much better it would have been if America had Instead got involved in Syria last year. Many praise Putin as the victor for deterring NATO's intervention against his tottering ally, but recent events in Iraq, where Mosul, the country's third biggest city, has now been taken over by Sunni militants shows the enormous chaos potential that this region has.

This is an unwinnable space, where even those liberated by America – Iraq's Shiites and the Kurds – hate it or embarrass it with regard to its other allies (the Turks), and where anything and everything involving America serves to shine a withering light on its unhealthy association with Israel. As long as Jews dominate the American media and political system, the Middle East will always be America's Achilles Heel and potential graveyard. Putin's actions last year helped America, keeping it out of a a pointless and costly entanglement, and allowing it to conserve its strength so that it could shore up its more vital Pacific positions.

Imagine a Soviet Union ruled by Obama back in 1978, when the Afghan crisis blew up. Would the Soviet Union have got sucked into that quagmire, which America could then effortlessly stoke against them? Probably not, with the result that the Soviet Union might well have been with us today.

The secret of geopolitics is to draw your opponent into untenable positions and then make him embarrass himself as he does a little dance, drawing the noose ever tighter. Right now the Eastern Ukraine looks noose shaped for Russia. It is not the battlefield on which to defeat America, but there will be plenty of others.

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