Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Black Belt Strategist



The Black Belt Strategist



A fundamental principle of martial arts is using an opponent’s size and momentum against him. This is Putin’s strategic approach. Westerners demonize Putin, but few try to understand him. Trying to understand someone else is regarded as a pointless in narcissistic America, selfie-land. Perhaps 90 percent of the populace is incapable of grasping anything more subtle than a political cartoon.

That’s a pity, because Putin has accomplished a geopolitical triumph worthy of study. He’s catalyzing the downfall of the American empire, and it has nothing to do with subverting elections or suborning Trump.


Putin became acting prime minister in 1999, then president in 2000. The Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse devastated Russia. The economy shrunk and life expectancies fell. A group of rapacious oligarchs, many with Western backing, acquired Soviet industrial and commercial assets at fire sale prices.

Putin coopted the most important oligarchs, letting them hold on to their loot and power in exchange for their allegiance. This bargain has been a bulwark of both his continuing political support and his reportedly immense personal fortune. He quelled a long-running insurrection in Chechnya and stabilized the situation there, exchanging a measure of autonomy for a declaration in the Chechen constitution that it was part of Russia. During his first two terms, from 2000-2008, the economy began recovering from the 1990s. Projecting a law and order image while stifling critics, he solidified what has become his unwavering support, winning 72 percent of the vote in the 2004 presidential election.

Putin, unlike America’s high and mighty, realizes from Soviet experience that empires drain rather than augment an empire’s resources.


Conquering the world is one thing, throwing the American empire to the mat another. Putin must have smiled when George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, purported mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The US’s hubristic rage led it into what has been a quagmire at best, a graveyard at worst, for a string of invaders, including the Soviet Union.
Defenders fighting on their own turf have huge advantages over occupying forces, rendering conventional invasions virtually obsolete. Relatively inexpensive grenades, mines, IEDs, and shoulder-launched missiles, often supplied from outside the country, take out expensive tanks, artillery, aircraft, and military personnel. The insurgents know the language and territory, they’re supported by the local populace, they can set off remote bombs and blend in with the civilians. They aren’t going anywhere and can wait out the invaders, sapping their morale and political support back home.
Eighteen years after the Afghanistan invasion, Putin is still smiling. With each military failure since, the US became more stupidly belligerent, bearing massive costs in blood and treasure. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia: talk about letting the enemy defeat itself! And as the US plunged into one inextricable morass after another, it plunged ever deeper into debt.
Russia, meanwhile, has one of the developed world’s lowest debt ratios, stockpiles gold, and is divesting its US debt. It has teamed up with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. That series of projects, financed primarily by the Chinese, advances Russia’s and China’s interests and influence across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This approach seems to garner more support than US bullets and bombs.


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