Humor an old man. That's what Google gives me when I look up "sky high view." I've been feeling introspective of late.
For debate in 10th grade I argued against the reunification of Germany. My argument was that reintegrating the failed state of East Germany with the western powerhouse of Europe would lead to an economic depression and social conditions likely to give rise to Nazism. The Soviet Union had just ceased to be but it was all safe in Yeltsin's hands so I made no considerations of a Romanian underclass, a North African diaspora or any of the other triggers that gave rise to the modern European neoliberal order but in fairness, I also made no considerations for the modern European neoliberal order spending itself to success. I had argued that the best thing we could do in Iraq would be to plant a bunch of McDonald's, give them a couple senators and a dozen representatives so it's not like I didn't grasp globalism, I just had a 10th grader's understanding of it. Not unlike half the Senate.
Meanwhile the think-tanks were busy arguing that the last war had been won and we were a couple warp drives and a holodeck away from our neoutopian destiny. Capitalism. The end. We had a Newsweek subscription back then and they had a little blurb about Sotheby's auctioning off the Soviet space program. Few years back I bought the auction catalogues off eBay. It's funny: in 1993 that's the triumph of law and order over the oppressive forces of Marxism-Leninism. In 2016 you can't see it as anything but the Imperialists raping the heritage of a people who didn't really have anything else. We get up-in-arms about Hobby Lobby raiding Iraqi antiquities but I can buy four FLOWN Orlov space suits on eBay right now. Look it up.
And the thing is? Any country's clandestine operators are criminal. By definition. And they work with criminals. Yeltsin? He was an oligarch who was working with us. Putin? he was an agent for the oligarchs who weren't and now he's one of 'em. We sat back and watched as a failed socialist state became a failed kleptocracy but failed to notice that Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union and Putin rebuilt Russia. Rebuilt it to serve his own interests? Hundo P. But have you looked around?
Can you taste it? Hope. Change. We were going to bank ourselves to heaven in 2008. The guy who started the Iraq War to secure a Project for a New American Century was out and the bookish black law professor with the middle name Hussein was in and if you could buy things with idealism we'd be plying flying cars across carbon-free skies. "India has more honors kids than America has kids!" and then they started setting each other on fire because WhatsApp told them to.
One of the books I read, can't remember which, had within the preface the notion that the United States didn't win the Cold War, the Soviet Union just lost it first. Neither economic system is perfect. One was demonstrably less perfect but that doesn't mean the other was without flaw and after it had no real rival its proponents doubled down on the stuff they believed in on the assumption that like fairies, trickle-down economics will live if only you clap your hands.
The KGB, which ran the Soviet Union, became the FSB which runs Russia. The constellation of appointed and elected roles for the nomenklatura may shift but they're still just stars in the sky. Gorbachev ruined the Soviet Union by believing in communism. He eliminated the waste and graft and gray markets and black markets and nepotism that was actually keeping the lights on and the whole fucking affair was over in six years. Another six years and the whole fucking affair was back.
I think the United States was stronger because it's a fundamentally stronger structure. I think the United States was stronger because individual determinism has been the backbone of American culture since before 1776. I think the United States was stronger because we have a tradition of innovation and at least pay lip service to liberty (selectively applied). But I also think that the Democrats believe in the experiment the same way Gorbachev did, and I think the Republicans are pragmatists.
Neoliberalism doesn't work for everyone and in the United States, the people it doesn't work for are over-represented. Fundamentally neoliberalism is unsustainable - it is a philosophy of wealth generation and wealth concentration that does not exist in equilibrium. You're only poor if your neighbors are rich and if you're virtuous and poor your neighbors are obviously sinful. For forty years I've been watching Republicans argue on morals and Democrats arguing on principle and for forty years the Democrats have been attracting people who haven't been left behind. Well, they've been attracting people who haven't been left behind but also don't immediately think "what's in it for me?"
Yeah I know this doesn't answer your question. Is Putin involved in influencing the President? Obviously. Is this how he did it? Probably one of many ways. Andrew Peek isn't a Russia expert by any stretch of the imagination, he's a Kennedy School kid whose wheelhouse is Iran. I have no fuckin' idea what that's about but at this point Andrew Peek has more foreign policy experience than most of Trump's cabinet which admittedly isn't saying much.
Masha Gessen wrote a book about Putin called Man Without a Face. It's about Putin, but it's also about the failure of a nascent Russian democracy to oppose the forces of organized crime, thereby leading to the ascendancy of the criminal underworld. At least when they were contained by the Soviet Union there was some idealism to somewhat steer the ship; once the FSB burned the Reichstag it was all Mafiya, all the time.
I think C Wright Mills coined the term "corporatocracy" because he knew no one would allow him to refer to the United States as an oligarchy. Thing is, in an oligarchy? The money only wins if everyone is playing fair. Otherwise to the underhanded go the spoils.
We're not there yet. But it sure seems like we're at the point where things either get better or they get ruinous. Someone on Twitter used a phrase like "epochal interregnum" and fuckin' Fourth Turning is 24 years old. Fucks predicted a collapse of global order starting in 2008... in 1996. The boomers want to burn it the fuck down.
So in that frame? I mean yeah Putin's money is fucking with American elections duh. Much the way it would have been fucking stupid for the CIA to NOT pay bin Laden clear up to the bombing of the Khobar towers, it would be fucking stupid for the KGB to NOT be cozying up with Trump. I'm not the first person to posit that Melania Trump is a Russian asset; fuckin' hell, man, if you look at a timeline of Trump's life his success is irrevocably tied to dating Iron Curtain supermodels.
We can argue about the metallurgy of the titanic. We can run Charpy tests on bits of hull and observe that a blunt force created too much shear for plates that weren't properly tempered. Bottom line, though, is it hit an iceberg.
Either enough people care about the way things were or they don't. That is the calculus we make every day, will continue to make every day. It might get bad before it gets good. It might get bad and stay that way for a while. Thing is? It has ALWAYS sucked to be Russian. It's sucked going back to before the Golden Horde. But for the past 200 years it's pretty much ruled to be an American and I think in the long run, it will continue to.
It's the short run that worries me, and the size and shape of our doom just doesn't seem important at the moment.