What American and the world witnessed 21 years ago was an Islamic terrorist attack on two breathtaking office buildings symbolic of western business and political order. At the time, as one country-western singer-songwriter noted–Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”–an ordinary American couldn’t tell the difference between Iraq and Iran.
Perhaps that absence of American and more generalized global political sophistication has changed.
As flesh swells where stung, BackChannels views the September 11 attack on America’s homeland as the installation of the “New Nationalism” to come to the United States and infect several other EU/NATO states–Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey–with reversions to dalliance and inroads by authoritarian power.
Blackmail/Kompromat, brutalization, espionage/infiltration, frozen conflicts, international kleptocracy, mass perceptual control, reflexive control, terrorism | x Russia or x KGB x FSB or x Vladimir Putin–you get the idea regarding the dimensions and evils faced by the world’s authentic democracies–and aspiring ones–and their constituencies in relation to Russia’s international character and operations.
The following and very few references may promote greater general curiosity (so one may hope) about Russia’s–and Putin’s Russia most of all–and its avaricious, barbaric, and generally ignoble role in international affairs.
The late historian Richard Pipes noted that Russia sustained a definition and test in sovereignty from which Europe chose to depart as it worked its way out of the medieval zeitgeist. While reading (most likely Russia Under the Old Regime), I did not take the note for citation, but it came down to this: the test of sovereignty in Russian absolute terms involved the ownership and treatment of property and persons as alike, and proof of that power could be found in the sovereign’s ability to destroy either at will and with impunity (my words, not Pipes’).
In Reference, A Glance Into Vladimir Putin’s Russia and its Black Soul
“Moscow will be happy, of course, to host dozens of international conferences, and will periodically suggest that a solution is within reach. But at the end of the day, its interests are best served when Iran, Hezbollah and Assad are in power to make mischief in the region, because that’s when Russia’s influence with the Europeans, with Israel, and the Gulf States is at its peak,” he said.
While the Modern West most certainly appears to be at war with feudal-medieval, narcissistic, and totalitarian forces and tendencies worldwide, there seems a part in which the Modern face off with the Modern over the management of corruption and greed. This note From the Awesome Conversation may be accompanied by a minimum of inline or separate references, but I do believe each claim or implication easily substantiated with a little bit of online research effort on the reader’s part.
From the Awesome Conversation (Now Growing Old as I Grow Old) 🙂
Inline URLs have been added to the original plain text.
Moscow’s “Absolutism”, “Active Measures”, “Hybrid Warfare”, and Medieval “Realpolitik” have been somewhat proven against EU/NATO, which by “Reflexive Control” (see “Business Insider, Zawahiri, Russia“) has itself been pushed toward the “New Nationalism” with Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Turkey motivated most of all to march forward into the feudal-medieval past.
Add the arc of Soviet / post-Soviet alliances x Areas of Control x Regions of Influence, and one may glimpse the persistently barbaric and feudal world Moscow has in mind for the global future.
Not only Zawahiri but Jeffrey Epstein as well had Moscow stays in Russia], and the medieval emphasis on “kompromat” — and potential public embarrassment — may have come through most clearly during the Trump Administration (and Trump especially had relationships involving criminal elements and substantial sums of Russian money — start with Craig Unger on all of that).
From the Awesome Conversation, A Note Placed with the Rationalist Society of Pakistan (Facebook)
Because there is no compulsion (is there?), the modern secular guaranty is a roof beneath which all faiths and religious practices may be engaged by choice peacefully and securely.
By the numbers, our planet supports fewer than 7,000 living language cultures and approximately 4,200 separable religions and related sects.
For the blood thirsty, religion may be regarded as a gift, for wars related to creed or dogma favored by one powerful house or another (x clan, family, or tribe or by caliphate, kingdom, or empire) tend to be the least resolvable drivers of wars: nothing has ever been proved or disproved by them. For the most part, the employment of religious rhetoric by the powerful traces most of all to the want of personal aggrandizement and the presence of messianic ambition, and limitless greed.
Today’s post-Reformation Europe supports a dozen historical monarchies, all but two of them constitutional monarchies tempered by empowered and popularly elected legislatures and courts independent of churches once regarded as all powerful (there are no compassionate, democratic, humanist, or liberal theocracies. All theocracies remain deeply medieval, primitive, and suffocating, and especially so where subscription (loyalty with payment extracted) has been compelled.
One Earth and Our Own Little Worlds
The Taliban, among other of the world’s absolutists, scolds, and scourges will learn, whether they like it or not, that modern complexity in financing and trade demands ever higher levels of human cooperation and integration across cultural, economic, and geopolitical boundaries. The lone ancient bureaucrat with his snicker and his hand out for the bribe that lifts the gate he guards has now the power befitting make-believe trolls. Really getting things done — big things: accession to favorable security organizations; extensive infrastructure creation, re-engineering, and repair (after war, especially, but obsolescence over time demands the same regenerative efforts everywhere), ports, transnational communications — require good relationships with a whole world. Otherwise — and examples are numerous (start with Zimbabwe and work backward through the world’s dictatorships) — one’s people may be reduced to eating dust and worms.
For those with the full spread on a table in a palace, where’s the worry?
Today’s responsible government needs must become a partner in the achievement of modern standards contributing to its own prosperity and stability — or the same may choose to remain heavily guarded in its keep and otherwise a vulgar backwater demeaned and reviled worldwide.
Political leaders may have today the puzzle of perpetuating the strength of their own cultures and families and related self-concepts while participating in the development of complex global diplomatic and legal systems bearing on the practical business and technology systems intended to secure a global tomorrow in which the earth and all her cargo may thrive.
Qualities of Living — The State of the State
War is easy.
It is living — and managing for the living — that has become challenging.
I believe for avarice, greed, and vanity, failed and failing states — generally absolute power systems that grind against their own constituents as well as the grain of humanity as well as decaying societies either disinterested in or incapable of damping the rise of their own fascistic elements — fail across measurable dimensions. Absolute and corrupt or decadent powers have despoiled their own environments and societies mightily in the cause of their own glorification. The same have produced a barbarism wondrous to behold and often beyond the bounds of any collective natural or normal human tolerance.
As I’ve written about Qualities of Living (QOLs) before and may come to dwell on the same as a principle for global political, practical, and spiritual competition — who would live best x conditions x population x area-squared? — I’ll reprint here the outline from August 25 this year –>
QOL: Qualities of Living
Biological: Environmental and Human Health
Financial: Actualizing, Beyond Basic, Individual and Family Sufficiency
Psychological: Dignifying with High Degrees of Freedom, Positive Outlook, Potential for Fulfillment, Good Self-Concept, Reliable Community and Personal Security
Spatial: Bases and Boundaries x Person x Family x Clan x Tribe x Nation x Ethnic x Transnational Cultures / Defenses and Retreats
Spiritual: Broad Awareness, Consciousness, Conscience x Comprehension of Community and Personal Place in Time
We may each have our separable dreams — but why not with clean air and water and good soil while in pursuit of contentment, place, and security?
Universally: may we and will we do that much for one another without reference to cultural or political identification and location?
Why not while we dream our dreams do so within the bounds of secured community and personal spaces?
Why not for each person with futures dreamed that may be in part accomplished, comfortable,and enlivening set and sustain the stage for positive accomplishment?
Accentuate Good; Diminish Evil
How good may we be across our species’ one biological platform: Earth?
And how rotten?
The Taliban in pursuit of absolute obedience has made a great to-do of burqa and hijab . . . but are not the virtues desired actually modesty and piety?
As an American of Jewish descent, I would not (yet, though sorely tempted) think of myself as an atheist: I am neither that brave nor cocksure. I would however suggest as virtues worthy of individual consideration and contemplation of possession without religious reference, the following: compassion; courage, empathy; fairness; foresight; fortitude, integrity; patience; temperance.
Worthy of appreciation and occasional experience but better served by diminishment over time: avarice; dishonesty; gluttony; greed; hubris; hypocrisy.
Put another way (more parallel and less awkward): have we — or just our solitary selves — compassion, courage, empathy, fairness, foresight, fortitude, integrity, and patience in all we do with ourselves and with others?
And if and when less noble and we find ourselves avaricious, controlling, corrupt, criminal, dishonest, fanatical, gluttonous, greedy, full of hubris, and hypocritical, should we not wish to have been by character and ethical and moral quality better?
One may ask what may be the balance within as well as politically and socially, for it may be that balance — that mixture in personal and communal or tribal character — that becomes the atmosphere in which we choose to reside or may be doomed to wander.
Hamlet had in part the experience of the medieval world, a most treacherous political and social space in time. Well, here is our still early 21st Century, and we may ask whether life must be or should be as horrifying as it may have been then.
Whether in Moscow or in Washington (or Beijing) – the three almost Orwellian anchoring points in global security — Big Defense and related “protection” rackets gin up a lot money, the perception of threat driving economies and societies in part or whole, but here one may wonder what if the world’s more apprehending, forward-looking, and good natured souls simply moved to address greater global challenges, leaving the dictators, extremists, hotheads, and malignant narcissists (“MaligNarcs” here) to wallow around a while longer in their own fantasies while they themselves become further displaced by time.
True scope: East-West Rivalry; Moscow v Washington; Political Absolutism – i.e., the power of the sovereign to destroy property and persons alike with impunity – v Democratic Distribution of Power & Rule of Law. Flies in the ointment: black markets; corruption; guerrilla wars; low intensity conflicts; wars by proxy.
For fair good reason, the nuclear powers seldom directly confront one another. Financial and political arrangements and families have become deeply entangled above the table and below it, and there’s not much we ordinary people can do about it but ride out the storms with awareness that ultimately the modern world, as we would know it, is well at war with feudal-medieval power as well as barbaric and primitive forces in nature expressed through history.
And the Taliban?
The Taliban are already failing Afghanistan, and Afghanistan, by way of our investment and presence across 20 years, has now to choose for itself — out of sight but in the hearts of Afghans and through resistance — what it wishes to be.
One may hope the warlords and others have no wish to become or remain themselves irrecoverably backward.
We shall have to wait and see whether the “New Improved Taliban” step up to the challenge of undertaking an empirical investigation using modern forensic methods amidst popular challenge. What integrity will they put on display; with what broad acceptance and trust may their findings be met? So we shall see.
Here’s another telltale with fear in the wind —
Looking pale and shattered having already suffered a beating at the hands of Taliban thugs, Gulafroz spoke in English, saying: ‘I was one of the very senior policewomen in Afghanistan.
‘I did everything to encourage women into the police, against the wishes of the Taliban. Now my life is in danger. Real danger.
My reading suggests Afghanistan supplies about 84 percent of the world’s opium and heroin supply with now an excursion into amphetamine by way of Ephedra sinica, another native plant; and about 50 percent of America’s supply comes from Mexico. In either source state, the industry appears founded in the kind of economy that finds ready labor for rote work while attracting the bosses and crews that produce and sustain illegal enterprise and all that follows from it. Portmanteau may suffice for what comes of the underworld’s efforts near the source: “narconomy”; “narco-state”; “narcotecture”. Somewhere between the source and the supply chain’s end, the last seller, ne “dealer” (as with any other commodity) has perhaps literally a corner on the market and good living all the way to glamorous.
However, there’s the other ending that one may view here as tragedy attracts its modern video-equipped witnesses who have made the final degradation, desperation, enslavement, humiliation, and isolation unbearably and undeniably apparent.
The “medicine” ain’t about health.
From mountain farm to urban sidewalk, The Money sings all of the parts of the industry — growing, processing, packaging, shipping — to her and well sustained by the necessity of income and the want of personal aggrandizement, better living, defense, and security. It’s only business, of course, but listen to its testimonials, have a good look (above) at Philadelphia’s portion of America’s hooked-and-lost whose relationships have come down to habitual forms of theft or trade with, perhaps, small talk between.
Of course, The Money talks.
The Pharmacy, no less than every one of its customers, ain’t free.
Today’s killing of Ahmed Wali Karzai, reportedly by a close business associate, is a reminder of the complicated web of loyalties, interests, and contradictions that the U.S. has attempted to navigate for nearly a decade. Ahmed Wali Karzai was a politician working within the system and a criminal working against it; he ran militias on behalf of the CIA and funded drug networks that were the stated enemy of the U.S. military; he worked with trucking contractors that sold services to NATO and that funded anti-NATO warlords; he was a close ally of the U.S. and a tremendous drag on its mission to win over the Afghan people.
Afghanistan is the world’s top source of opium, accounting for 83% of global production from 2015 to 2020, according to the United Nations. In 2018, opium poppy occupied three times more land than it did in 2000. Afghanistan also produces cannabis and increasing quantities of methamphetamine, which can be made cheaply from the local ephedra plant and may eventually rival the production of opiates.
Narcotics is Afghanistan’s largest economic sector, with over 500,000 employed in opium in 2018. Banning drugs would therefore be unpopular and might provoke resistance against the fledgling regime.
Wikipedia. “Ahmed Wali Karzai”: — A June 2009 U.S. embassy cable alleged that much of the actual business of running the Afghan city of Kandahar “takes place out of public sight, where Ahmed Wali Karzai operates, parallel to formal government structures, through a network of political clans that use state institutions to protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises.” —
From Journeyman Pictures, “Afghani Life Under Taliban Rule (1998)” — and regarding filming (in 1998): “According to Islam and according to our society, we are not allowed . . . under Islamic rule, there is no question of ‘why’. In Islamic society, nothing is allowed such as television, such as type (stet) such as any other recording, uh, recorders to play . . . .” (1:46-2:13).
From U.S. Department of State (November 17, 2001): “Report on the Taliban’s War Against Women”: “The life of Afghan women is so bad. We are locked at home and cannot see the sun” (Nageeba, a 35-year-old widow in Kabul).
The Taliban wants to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan, ideally as an emirate, which would be led by a religious leader and draw its legitimacy from clerics. Afghanistan is currently an Islamic republic, which is led by a president and draws legitimacy from universal suffrage and accordance with international laws and norms.