The great American contradiction

Image: Jonathan Borba
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By ROSTISLAV ISHCHENKO*

None of the American political groups are ready to admit geopolitical defeat to Russia

There have been cases in history where a strategically lost war ended up being tactically won. This is what happened at the beginning of the Greco-Persian wars, when the perfectly planned and executed operations of the Persians – under the command of Datis and Artaphernes (in 490 BC) and under the command of Xerxes (in 489-479 BC) – were defeated by the tactical skill of the Greeks at Marathon and Salamis, respectively. This would also happen to the Athenians, in 415 BC, when they found themselves completely defeated in the siege of Syracuse, which they had almost initially won, losing their entire army and four of their five commanders.

The First and especially the Second Punic Wars are a living example of how the strongest economy of a maritime power – which, in the case of the Second Punic War was, moreover, supported by several powerful allies – can succumb in the face of tactical preparation. of the enemy and its lower sensitivity to losses and costs.

The Wehrmacht in 1940 in France, as well as in the summers of 1941 and 1942 in the USSR, they were tactically defeated against the strategically stronger side of the campaign (which – it should be noted – did not help the Germans to avoid defeat in the Second World War). In general, despite the theory denying the possibility of victory for the weaker side over a strategically stronger opponent, in history, such situations, although rare, have occurred. And if they had not happened, the wars would have ended a long time ago, since the outcome of any battle, campaign or war could be calculated in advance.

Napoleon Bonaparte's thesis that “the big battalions win” is generally correct, but not universal. Sun Tzu's thesis that “those who have no chance of winning do not win” is universal. The universality of this last formula lies in its incompleteness. Unlike “large battalions”, “no chance” describes a non-fatal situation, because chances are created and lost by the commanders themselves, and depend not only on their ability to create and bring “large battalions” to the battlefield, but also of their ability to operate these battalions in battle. Otherwise, “you can fight a hundred battles and lose them all.”

In the confrontation with Russia, the Americans initially trusted in “large battalions”, that is, in the strategic superiority of the West, which seemed unbeatable to them, based on the formula, fundamentally wrong and never confirmed by history, that “sixty percent of world economy will always impose itself on the two percent”. As I have written many times, this thesis would be almost universal if the structure of these sixty and these two percent were the same. In this case, winning on the battlefield against a coalition of states capable of producing thirty times as much equipment of comparable quality as you produce, per unit of time, would, in fact, be almost impossible.

But, in our case, the 2% of the world economy is what produces tanks, missiles and ammunition. And they will probably always exceed the 60% of the world economy that produces financial derivatives. However, as things progressed, it became clear that the ratio of the opposing economies was not two to sixty, but approximately one to one, because the Americans were unable to mobilize the entire world against Russia, and Russia it is not alone in confronting the United States and its allies.

Washington quickly realized that victory with “little blood and a powerful blow”[I] – due to the economic blockade of Russia, which, in theory, would undermine its industrial base, collapse the standard of living, destabilize the internal political situation and lead to a social explosion that would destroy the State – it was not going to happen. They were unable to mobilize a sufficient number of states for this, and Moscow quickly reoriented itself towards new partners and new markets.

Then the thesis of victory through a war of attrition emerged. And once again, in formal terms, the United States reasoned apparently correctly: since it was not possible to quickly collapse the Russian economy, due to the failure of the plan for Russia's political and economic isolation, it is necessary to wait longer, and simply gain an advantage through direct confrontation.

The United States, at that time, did not consider the war strategically lost. But they could not strategically win it in 2022. This put them in a difficult situation, since any war is no more than an element within long-term plans. But if the deadlines were not met, the result would be like a Blitzkrieg bankrupt. The Barbarossa operation plan assumed that, in winter, the divisions of the Wehrmacht were transferred to other theaters of operation, but it was then discovered that it would be necessary not only to continue the fight against the Soviets but also to increase forces on the Eastern Front. The greater the difference between actual and planned deadlines, the more difficult the global strategic situation will be for those betting on a quick victory.

However, the United States believed that tactically (on the battlefield in Ukraine) it could defeat Russia. Having concentrated in this direction, by 2023, an overwhelmingly powerful military formation, consisting of Ukrainian manpower and Western equipment, intended to inflict a significant defeat on the Russian Armed Forces (including territorial and human losses), following which Moscow would be forced to accept peace on American terms. Without harming its interests in Europe and the Middle East, this would allow it to negotiate with China and Iran, and then return to the Russian front and end everything in a second Ukrainian campaign.

After this plan also failed (the West did not have enough total resources to create a real critical advantage), the Americans were locked into a stalemate. They would, however, have a possible choice: accept their geopolitical defeat, satisfy Russian demands in Europe, abandon the confrontation with China in the Pacific Ocean and maintain some of their potential and influence, to act as one of the forces that will shape the creation of a new world.

However, none of the American political groups (neither the nationalist, production-oriented Trumpists nor the Joe Biden administration, which defends the interests of the buyer bank capital) is ready to admit geopolitical defeat. They are not ready because for decades the American people have been led to believe that the United States is the best and strongest power, a beacon for all humanity, a force that came into the world to reward the good and punish the bad.

It is even more difficult for American elites to abandon this idea, without a terrible domestic political cataclysm, than it is to abandon the forced redistribution of the global surplus that favors the United States. The economic decline could be explained by global processes, and for a few more decades it would be possible to deceive American citizens with the image that the rest of the world would be even worse off. However, rejection of the ideological cliché that proclaims the American State and its citizens as the quintessence of creation carries the potential for a devastating social depression that could lead to the collapse of the State. (The Soviets experienced this in the case of their old regime).

After all, anyone who is not the best is not an example to follow. So, why so many sacrifices, achievements and crimes? While “we are the best”, any of our actions are justified by the mission entrusted to us to bring a bright future to all humanity. For this, you can make any sacrifices and forgive any mistakes and costs. But if this idea is wrong, then who are we?

Unique states in history have survived the collapse of an idea, but there has not been a single elite associated with such a failed idea that has survived. The American elite doesn't want to go to the political trash heap. Therefore, it continues its desperate struggle, trying for the second time, at a tactical level, to win a war that has already been lost not only strategically, but also tactically once.

The United States is now in the position of the Germans on the eve of the Battle of Kursk. They also had to simultaneously concentrate a mass of troops and equipment on the Eastern Front in order to seize the initiative in front of the USSR, defeat it in the summer campaign of 1943 and stabilize the front line in the east for a long time, shifting their attention to the west .

The United States will need to bleed its own nose to stabilize the front in Ukraine. After all, they cannot agree to Russian peace terms, and they know that Russia will not agree to their terms. And they need to use uncommitted resources to quickly stabilize the Middle East and ultimately start the Taiwan War with China, which they are already behind on.

To stabilize Ukraine, they decided to involve their NATO allies even more, as they need to direct their own resources to the Middle East, where they cannot stop the conflict on terms that suit Israel, and are horrified by its growth. However, most of the resources must now begin to be transferred towards the Pacific. Another three or four months and it will be too late.

It was then that it became clear that the United States had fallen into a trap that it had carefully prepared for itself. Americans, like many observers who believe that “might precedes right”[ii] and that “when you need muscles, intelligence is dispensable”,[iii] They couldn't understand what was wrong with the fact that they were ruining their allies. After all, when they are ruined they become much more obedient.

Maybe now they understand.

Ukraine's ability to resist the Russian Armed Forces based on its own resources was exhausted by the summer of 2022. The Ukrainian Armed Forces simply ran out of equipment and ammunition, and its own production was destroyed long ago, thanks to the advice, recommendations and sometimes direct pressure from Western “friends”, who taught the “heroes of Maidan” that the industry “sucks”, and that the modern economy means that first you provide me a service in a brothel, then I will I pay you in a bar, and then we take a loan from a bank and go “to have coffee at the Vienna Opera”.

Do you see tanks in this diagram? And I don't see it. But it was tanks, not brothels, bars and banks, that the United States needed in Ukraine. And they needed not American tanks, but local tanks.

Since there were not enough local resources, the United States reasonably decided that Europe should handle the arms supply. But then it turned out that, in solving their selfish political and economic problems, the Americans not only disarmed Europe (so that it would not dream of supporting its economic demands with the force of its own weapons), but also bled it economically. (so that there would be fewer companies interested in cooperation with Russia).

From the outside, the European Union still looks better than Ukraine, a little more elegant, with its old shine still resilient and not disappearing everywhere. But in fact it is equally incapable of producing military equipment and ammunition in the quantities necessary for a major war. And any war against Russia cannot be small. Perhaps it could be quick: when they barely have time to attack Russia, another flag of victory will fly over the next Reichstag.

In general, the American bet on the ruined, poor and obedient, which worked smoothly for many years, led Washington to a logical end: when it needed the support of its allies, it turned out that they had neither the strength, nor the means, nor political will for this. Everything had been taken from them by the Americans, who long ago taught Europe that it is enough to publicly endorse, without blushing, any American stupidity and evil, and everything will be fine for the European Union.

For too long, Americans have needed a weak European Union. Now, when they needed a strong Europe, capable of resisting Russia alone, they discovered that it could, yes, offer them a bunch of brothels, bars and “whatever they want”, but not a single tank, not a single billion in real wealth, or even factories capable of producing everything expected. Everything that was good in Europe was consumed by the United States a long time ago.

In the literary arrangement that Valery Bryusov formulated for an ancient Assyrian inscription, it would sound like this: “I have exhausted you to the bottom, earthly glory! And here I am, alone, drunk on greatness. I, the leader of earthly kings and king Assargadon.” The son of this same Assargadon (Asarhaddon), Ashurbanipal, turned out to be the last great king of Assyria. After him, the power could not withstand the tension caused by the need to face numerous external enemies and internal rebels, without a single strong ally, and collapsed in a matter of years. The Assyrians also relied on force and intimidation. And for some time the mechanism worked. And then he collapsed under the weight of problems, when it turned out that there was no way to transfer at least part of it to someone else.

The United States can no longer win and impose itself. Under the conditions of the system that created such a possibility, it no longer exists.

*Rostislav Ishchenko is a political scientist and former Ukrainian diplomat exiled in Russia.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on the portal war in ukraine.

Translator's notes


[I] The author, a Russian speaker, uses popular Russian expressions and sayings several times in the original text. In this case, the expression “малой кровью, могучим ударом” (“with a little blood and a powerful blow”) is a verse made famous by the Soviet song “If war breaks out tomorrow” (“Если завтра война”), composed shortly before of the second World War.

[ii] “Сила солому ломит”: in literal terms, “power breaks the straw”. The popular expression has as its conventional translation “power precedes right”.

[iii] “Сила есть ― ума не надо”: “if there is strength, there is no need for intelligence”.


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