By Alistair Crooke
As is well known, the Mackinder ‘Pivot of History’ doctrine (1904) of ‘he who
controls the Asian heartland controls the world’ was cemented into the US zeitgeist
as the unassailable doctrine that a united Heartland — which might challenge the
US — must never be allowed. To which Brzezinski, President Carter’s National
Security Adviser, added that Ukraine, by its divided national identities, entwined in
old complexities, should be seen as the hinge around which heartland power
revolved: ‘Absent Ukraine, Russia would never become the heartland power; but
with Ukraine, Russia can and would’, Brzezinski averred.
Well, that was the idea — to mobilize fierce Ukrainian ultranationalism versus a
weak Russia and put them to fight each other. But the evolution of the ‘Brzezinski
doctrine’ – quite surprisingly – segued into a series of Western mythological
errors: First, Russia was easily defeated in Afghanistan by a few lightly armed
jihadists (not true). Secondly, the Soviet Union and its satellites were overthrown
by ‘Revolutions from Below ‘. Thirdly, an influential US security state ‘Leviathan’
could ensure US hegemony (through mounting ‘Revolutions from Below’).
Brzezinski’s prime intent may originally have been to keep Russia and China divided
from each other. But the Soviet Union’s sudden implosion (unrelated to
Afghanistan) was crafted narratively to lend credence to Francis Fukuyama’s End of
History and the Last Man meme. After the Cold War and the Soviet communist
empire’s collapse, the American political, cultural, and economic model was widely
held to be the ‘Last Man Standing’.
‘Afghanistan’ also fostered the myth of Islamic insurgents as the ideal solvents for
‘backward’ states needing new Western, forward-thinking leaders. (Brzezinski
persuaded Carter to insert Islamic radicalism into Afghanistan to undermine the
Russian-supported, socialist Najibullah). ‘Afghanistan’ effectively was the pilot for
the ‘Arab Spring’ — a global ‘house-cleaning’ that, it was claimed, would end
vestiges of earlier Soviet influence, and create new stability.
The excitement in neo-con circles was palpable. And America’s Cold War success
was attributed (apart from Western culture’s ‘genetic’ advantages) to the
empowerment of the military-security apparatus. In theory, the end of the Cold
War might have been an opportunity to return to the US Founders’ original
principles of distance from European conflicts and of caution toward military and
security Leviathans. The Soviet implosion seemed a harbinger of global tensions
vented; pressures released.
But then, ‘something’ extraneous, out-of-the-blue, happened; something that in a
stroke, reversed the logic of the Cold War expected ‘peace dividend’ by
“invigorating the military-security state to new heights”, Gordon Hahn notes. The
power of the military-security state began, from this point onward, to be deployed
abroad — in the service of the globalizing cultural war.
What had happened was ‘9/11’.
But then, a new ‘twist’ took America away on an entirely different path. Barack
Obama infused new energy into the military-security state. The Obama
administration, however, was not so much motivated by overseas hegemony
(though not opposed to it). The focus was on bringing forward the
cultural revolution underway in the US.
What had happened? And how is Ukraine connected to this?
A visionary American cultural historian, Christopher Lasch, had foreseen this
American ‘turn’, already in 1994. He wrote a book – Revolt of the Élites – describing
how a social revolution would be ‘pushed to the cusp’ by the radicalized children
of the bourgeoisie. Their leaders would have almost nothing to say about poverty
or unemployment. Their demands would be centered on utopian ideals: diversity
and racial justice, pursued with the fervor of an abstract, millenarian ideology.
One of Lasch’s key insistence points was that future young American Marxists
would substitute culture war for class war.
This was no ‘Revolution from Below’ (as was to become the Cold War myth
concerning the Soviet sphere) — it was ‘Revolution’ from ‘Above’, hatched within
America’s Coastal Élites.
This Revolution would be resisted, Lasch predicted, but not in the upper reaches of
society. The leaders of Big Philanthropy and the Corporate Billionaires
would become its facilitators and financiers. Their ideal was to bring
about profound structural change within an organization — their impulse
stemmed from a conviction that the Civil Rights movement had failed to produce
the required radical change.
This meant shifting power away from élites ‘who were so often white and male’,
and, perceived to be a part of society’s structural injustice, to putting Grant
Foundation wealth and power directly into the hands of those against whom
discrimination had been systematically practiced. The societal paradigm was to be
inverted: positive discrimination in favor of identity victims – and harmful
discrimination for those connected with present or past structures of racist,
gender, or sexual discrimination.
This new form of the American Revolution came a complete ‘turn’ with the Obama
Administration when the forces of the military-security state were focused
inwardly to enforce the norms of this cultural engineering throughout society.
It was indeed ‘Revolution from Above’ (Hahn’s term) and has resulted in two halves
of society espousing completely contradictory interpretations of American
history. On one side, America has a history of racism, discrimination, and slavery.
And for the other, it is a history of heroic figures liberating the state from colonial
Britain and reconfiguring society on the mores of a constitution regarded as a
summation of European traditional moral values.
These two sides not only differ ideologically (and metaphysically), but they espouse
very different economic models too. And each sees the other as totalitarian and a
‘threat to the state’.
But what is more surprising is that ‘Project Ukraine’ has fueled this domestic
cultural schism — and (to an extent) has become the iconic symbol of the internal
US cultural divide.
Even less expected, perhaps, has been how the Ukraine issue has mobilized most
non-western states into something resembling an insurrection against the Rules
Order and to the demand it be radically reformed.
The Ukraine war has not directly caused the schism. Nonetheless, it has fired up
something latent, bubbling away under the surface of the Western sphere. Put, it
has stirred a shift in the global consciousness.
Russia cannot be suspected of deliberately having fueled this ‘cultural war’, for its
roots lie firmly within Euro-American political teleology. The divide was primed to
happen anyway — but Ukraine has been an accelerant.
Brzezinski may be the victim of the unseen, inadvertent consequences that history
sometimes throws up. He wanted to divide the Heartland, but by embedding
his Grand Chessboard in an eschatological framing of an ‘End Time’ struggle
between good and evil, he contributed to the strategic miscalculations that seemed
set to end with the fall of the West.
The Ukraine war “is directly related to the West’s complete misreading of the Soviet
collapse and that of post-Soviet Russia. The West misinterpreted the fall of the
Soviet communist regime either as a revolution from below or as a ‘democratic
transition’. It was neither. In the case of the former, political élites were inclined to
believe in the myth of a broad-based, societal ‘people’s revolution’ from below
because that was the political teleology dictated by the ‘end of history’
model” (Gordon M. Hahn, Russia’s Revolution from Above: Reform, Transition, and
Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000).
Academics in the West, meanwhile, plugged the Russian case into the then fashionable theory of the period: transition theory. The combination of these factors has led to a condescending attitude towards Russia, an underestimation of Russia’s historically persistent excellent power status; and above all, to Western derision and contempt directed at Russia’s revival of its still-alive, traditionalist
In this context, it is not hard to see how Ukraine has become a driver in this (for
now cold) internal cultural war.
Not only was the Ukraine war cemented into the eschatologically progressive ‘End
of History’ meme, but the imperative of achieving a successful outcome is regularly
elevated, in Manichean terms, to be ‘the Armageddon’ in a struggle between good
The Ukraine war has also been shaped as the projection of a new identitarian,
diverse, and pro-trans ‘imagined community’ set in polar opposition to that of the
Russian traditional values. This clash of matters could not be better symbolized
than by its two spokespersons: On the one hand, the trans woman from
Nevada, Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, who was (until a day ago) Ukraine’s military
spokesperson, and on the other, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the
Russian Foreign Ministry.
We ‘get it’. The world seems to get it, too.
‘That for which Russia stands’ — its narrative, its means’ — is perceived as an insult
to the Obama-Biden cultural ‘revolution’. Cancelling Putin’s revolutionary
narrative to the World, as one Western diplomat opined, is as essential in his view
as say, not allowing Trump to be President again.
The Global South can empathize with those resisting cultural impositions that run
against the grain of longstanding civilizational values.
Permission to Print and Distribute by Alistair Crooks and Conflicts Forum