We socialists, Marxists especially, speak often of “the ruling class”. And much of what we say, not least that it is defined by monopoly ownership of the means of wealth production, has great explanatory power. The trouble is that, for obvious reasons, few of us get to observe its worlds at close quarters. Our understandings tend to be abstract, ethereal even, lacking the whiff of from-the-bunker authenticity.
More importantly we tend to have only the haziest views of how a ruling class as defined above, and everyday views of a ruling class as those with their hands on the levers and buttons of high office, actually interface. Yes, we can easily demonstrate – to the few who will listen – that the capitalist state is run by and for “the bourgeoisie”. But how does that work in practice? By what mechanisms are the needs of a ruling class, in particular the most powerful wings of the ruling class of the most powerful nation on earth, realised?
Or for that matter thwarted by ineptitude?
The non-Marxist concept of “the deep state” helps. There’s only so much that so ill defined a term can do, but in its small way it helps plug the gap. So does the metaphor, both accurate and graphic, of the ‘revolving door’. Yet much remains unknown. That interface where the needs (if not always the instinctive preferences) of those in whose interests we are ruled get translated (if not always smoothly or successfully) into executive and legislative deeds is a black box. Its inputs and outputs can be observed, and to a degree predicted, but its inner cogs and wheels seldom see light of day.
The piece replicated here is not by a Marxist. Its author, Andrei Raevsky – aka The Saker – is an ex-patriot Russian domiciled in Florida who, as far I can tell, has small ‘c’ conservative views. I can’t even be sure the question as I have framed it – in essence, how does a ruling class run a nominal democracy? – is of any great interest to him. Rather, his point of departure and return is whether a man cited several times in steel city posts, Andrei Martyanov, is correct in saying the USA is run by people who are not especially bright – and not especially sane – but whose zealotry and organisational skills have enabled them to capture the reins of deep governance.
It’s a riveting read, from one whose personal acquaintance with the worlds he describes makes it credible. We might say that Mr Raevsky’s account does indeed have that unmistakeable whiff of from-the-bunker authenticity.
NB given the length of the piece – billed on the Greanville Post, where I came across it, as a 21 minute read – I’ve dispensed with my normal practice of highlighting third party material in red with a left indent. Nevertheless, what follows is entirely Andrei Raevsky.
Is Andrei Martyanov right in his criticism of US ruling “elites”?
Those of you who, like myself, try not to miss any videos or articles by Andrei Martyanov know that one of his “favorite” topics is the utter incompetence of western elites in general and US ruling elites specifically. I am sure that his criticisms appear to be over the top to many people and that is normal. It is completely counter-intuitive to assume that the ruling class (because that is what we are dealing with) of a nuclear superpower and, arguably, the most powerful country on the planet, could be ruled by clueless, ignorant, dishonest imbeciles.
So, is he right or not? Does he speak because he is “anti-US” or a “Russian propagandist”?
I decided to chime in, because I know from the inside what Martyanov describes from the outside, so I want to share with you my own observations on this topic.
I studied in the USA for five years, from 1986 to 1991 and I got two degrees in this time period: one BA in International Relations from the School of International Service (SIS) at the American University and a MA in Strategic Studies from the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University. During these same years I also worked for several (very conservative) think tanks. The following is a summary of observations I made during this time period and after.
First, and I think that this is crucial, I would argue that a generational change took place in the late 80s, but it all truly began with Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. Let me explain.
It is an undeniable fact that, in the past, US colleges had a very good reputation worldwide. Just the number of foreign students coming from all over the world is a good indicator of this reality. And you cannot have a solid university/college/academy without solid, knowledgeable teachers. During my 5 years in Washington DC, I had the chance to have teachers with very diverse and interesting backgrounds including people with the following backgrounds: (just a few examples I remember best)
- UN Naval Intelligence
- Office of Net Assessment
- DoD (all branches except Marines)
- White House
- Northrop/McDonnell Douglas Corporation (YF-23 division)
- PMCs [Private Military Companies] (Israeli)
- GAO [Government Accountability Office]
Most of our adjunct teachers, as opposed to tenured academics, had teaching as an “evening job” (literally) while during the day they would work on their “normal/real” jobs. Even during the Gulf War, we had teachers who were planning strikes in Iraqi targets during the day and came teach classes in the evenings.
I would describe many of them as the “Colonel Macgregor types” as he is very much of that old, Cold War, generation who had no use for the “crazies in the basement” and whose expertise was indisputable, even when their politics were not.
And yes, we also had the option of taking classes by folks form the CIA and the DoS. But those are a special category, and here is why: most, but not all, of the folks which came from the agencies I listed above did not have early in their careers strong views about the USSR, Russia or the Russian people. Instead, they would follow a rather “technical” career path first and then, over time, they would develop views about the Soviet Union and Russians. Say a guy skilled with radar systems would end up studying Soviet radars and gradually develop a natural interest towards the people operating these Soviet radars. In most cases, I would sum the views of this generation of people as follows: a strong dislike for Marxism, Communism and even Socialism (which, frankly, most of them were totally ignorant of) but without any idealization of US turbo-capitalism or imperialism which they viewed quite cynically as “we do it because we can” combined with “we take orders”. They also had a very healthy respect for the professionalism of their Soviet counterparts and, quite often, a real fondness (no, I am not kidding) for the Russian people and culture. One of my absolute best teachers was a former USN intelligence officer who spoke pretty good Russian and who was of Polish (!) origin. We became good friends and I can absolutely attest to the fact that this man was a true russophile. Now, I would not say that all our teachers were necessarily pro-Russian, but most of them saw the Marxist USSR as the ideological enemy and not the Russian people or culture as such.
There was no #cancelRussia in their minds.
Things were quite different with the folks from the CIA or the State Department. I believe that most (but probably not all) of their members INITIALLY chose “anti-Soviet” careers because they were motivated by a hatred of Communism/USSR/Russia and so they made their careers by being “hardliners”, i.e. folks who would parrot any kind of cliches about the Soviet Union, no matter how silly.
I should add that the former generation was mostly found in departments like international relations, security studies, strategic studies and the like while the latter typically taught in departments like political science or government studies. At SIS/SAIS we called them “political science freaks” and they did not interact much with them. And yes, those with STEM brains would typically come from STEM fields to an appreciation of Russian people and culture, while there were very few STEM types amongst the “political science freaks” (hence their choice of more ideological courses over more technical ones).
But then, as I mentioned above, Ronald Reagan happened, and that had a huge impact on the US political scene.
Reagan’s regime did not create the appalling evil at the core of the American system, but it certainly turbocharged it.
Before Reagan, you had paleo-liberals and paleo-conservatives, the former would be inclined to get degrees in stuff like “peace studies” while the latter would study get more “geostrategic” degrees or even military academies. Then Jimmy Carter became president and his many failures and weaknesses secured the triumphant election of Reagan. At that time, there already was a small and nasty group of ideologues which, over time, became known as the Neocons. These Neocons, while not bright by any measure, were clever enough to understand that the Democratic Party was crushed by Reagan and that the power now was with the GOP. So here is what they did:
The (proto-)Neocons began financing (paleo-)conservative think tanks like, say, the Heritage Foundation. Then, as major sponsors of the many think tanks around DC, they would get their own people elected to the board of directors of these think tanks. Pretty soon, the typically (paleo-)conservative Presidents/Chairmen/CEOs of these think tanks would be replaced by real, hardcore, Neocons. After that, it was RIP for any form of real, traditional, US conservatism.
Needless to say, the “old guard” (mostly Anglos) only had disgust and contempt for these ideological freaks, if only because the latter were amazingly ignorant. But money talks, and over the years, expertise was replaced with “hardliner loyalty” and a very strong ideological alignment on the worst of the worst of what used to be called “the crazies in the basement” (which referred to both the Pentagon’s basement and the White House basement).
Now it is crucial to understand how much the Neocons hate Russia, which is rather difficult and very counter-intuitive for normal people. The Neocon level of hatred for Russia very much qualifies as crass racism of the worst kind.
[Sidebar: I have been warning about that since at least 2008, see here: “How a medieval concept of ethnicity makes NATO commit yet another dangerous blunder“. And now, FIFTEEN years later, I am quite horrified that my predictions are now coming true before our eyes. I really, sincerely, wish I had been wrong…]
That kind of rabid mindset is something that might have existed amongst some paleo-conservatives, but I personally never met such people (at least in the USA; in the UK the entire British ruling class has been viscerally racist and russophobic for centuries!). It is thus not surprising at all that in lieu of competence, these Neocons would instead “compete” on “who could be the most anti-Russian” and to achieve this status ANY argument – no matter how self evidently stupid – was uncritically considered as valid and legitimate.
You might wonder why the “old guard” did nothing to stop that infection’s rot. And, in fact, some tried, I personally know of two think tank directors who tried, but they were betrayed by the Reagan Administration which seemed quite happy to have rabid Russophobic racists even in very high positions. Finally, this is the US of A, the “best democracy money can buy” and where the dollar is king. Simply put, the Neocons had A LOT of financial resources, much more than the paleo-conservatives, and they simply “bought their way in” into the US ruling elites.
Then the inevitable happened: when the professionally competent paleo-conservatives saw their institutions and organizations overrun with incompetent ideological freaks, they either kept a low profile and waited to retire or simply resigned.
This triggered a precipitous decline in the competence of the US ruling class.
In the meantime, the liberals began to realize that the Neocons were ridiculing them as “weak on defense” and, basically, as losers. So they tried to show that they too could be as “hardline” as the next guy. This is something that affected liberals not only in the USA, but also in all of Zone A (including all of Europe). Simply put: the liberals did not have the courage, fortitude and honor to fight for their values, so they simply caved in to the trend set by the Neocons and the ugly phenomenon known as “Neolib” increasingly completely replaced old-style liberals.
This is why today we see the ugly sight of pseudo-liberals trying to out-Neocon the Neocons.
And, again, just like their paleo-conservative counterparts, the paleo-liberals either kept a low profile and waited for their retirement or resigned.
Some, like the late Professor Stephen Cohen, did resist and refused to go with the flow, but he was vilified, ostracized and, eventually, completely ignored. Yet, to his last breath, Professor Cohen remained a world-class historian and analyst, true to his ideals, and a sincere friend of Russia.
But in the public discourse, the few “Stephen Cohens” were replaced by the many “Eliot Cohens”.
After that, is was all downhill for the US polity.
George H.W. Bush was probably the last “old style” President, then one freak replaced another. Clinton was a total puppet of the Neocons. As was Dubya. Obama, apparently, did not come out of the Neocon camp, but he was so quickly co-opted that it made zero difference. And, as we all know, while Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, the Neocons got him to heel in less than 1 month (when they made him betray Gen Flynn and got the latter’s head “served on a platter” to them by Trump and Pence). As for Biden, his administration is pure, genuine, 100% certified Neocons with Neolibs and assorted woke freaks thrown in for “diversity” purposes.
Why does that matter? Because he who controls the White House controls the money flows which, in the reality of US politics, is the one thing that matters most.
By the way, 9/11 played a crucial role here.
It is quite obvious that 9/11 was a Neocon “inside job” and that it served as a pretext to start the GWOT. However, it also had another very important role: it forced each public figure in the USA to choose one of two camps:
- Be obedient and accept the (terminally idiotic) conspiracy theory of the White House or
- Lose your job, position, reputation and means of income.
Most, unsurprisingly, caved in and 9/11 ended “binding up together” the entire US ruling class. That type of bond is the type criminal accomplices have: if one goes down, everybody goes down, hence the omertà around the topic of 9/11 even though it was proven by a preponderance of evidence and even beyond reasonable doubt that 9/11 was, indeed, an inside job. After 9/11, true dissent was completely removed from the US political discourse.
By the way, something similar happened to Europe, except that the categories were somewhat different. In Europe (I am talking about the real Europe, not the “enlarged” EU with eastern Europe included) there were real patriots in most countries. Yes, the USA was the senior partner, but there were enough political leaders which were capable of saying “no” to the US and caring for their national interests first (I think of Mitterrand and even Chirac here). That generation of politicians and decision-makers gradually was replaced by a new generation of actors whose entire career plan was to unconditionally and fervently serve US interests, even at the expense of their own countries (Macron, Scholz). And while I would not call EU politicians “Neocons”, I will say that they are the faithful, loyal, servants and slaves of the Neocons.
And, just as in the USA, the competent and patriotic decision-makers were replaced with ideological stooges who has zero expertise or honor, but whom the USA would support as “loyal servants”. Opposition to US imperialism in Europe was relegated to the distant margins of public discourse.
I would argue that the 90s were the years of the absolute triumph of the Neocons who took total control of both the USA and the EU.
So what are Neocons really like? First and foremost, they are extreme narcissists and, as is often the case with narcissists, their obnoxious self-worship, sense of entitlement and hatred of the “other” all come from a deep-seated inferiority complex (believe me, they *knew* the contempt they were held in by the old generation of US decision makers, and they *knew* that they were seen as the “crazies in the basement”). So besides being self-worshiping racist narcissists, they were also filled with resentment, a desire for revenge and an unbreakable “us vs them” mentality..
Also, and contrary to popular belief, they were not very smart (if only because being truly smart requires both humility and expertise, something the Neocons are totally devoid from). In reality, the big competitive advantage of the Neocons over the “old guard” was not brains, but drive. This is something we often observe in history: the folks who actually seize power are rarely the smartest ones, much more often you see folks with a tremendous ideological drive. A perfect example? The German Nazis. Please name me one truly educated and smart Nazi! Hitler? Nope. Himmler? Nope. Goering? Nope. Speer, better, but he was not much of a Nazi to being with. Hess? Nope. Karl Haushofer, Dietrich Eckart or Alfred Rosenberg? Pheuleeze! And I won’t even go into the true morons à la Streicher or Strasser.
Yet the Nazis not only took power in Germany, they managed to convert most of Europe (with shamefully little resistance!) to their idiotic ideology or their genocidal policies. It is quite a testimony to the power of evil stupidity to see how eighty years later(!), the united West is now openly following the exact same policies as the Nazis did in their very short rule (the promised “thousand year Reich” turned out to last 12 years only!).
Finally, I have to mention one more thing: for the US Neocons the election of Trump was quite literally a slave revolt and a slap in the face. While Trump proved to be sub-pathetic by any measure, the fact that a majority of US citizens were willing to prefer him to the “Neocon & Woke diva” Clinton was absolutely traumatic. Having the total control of the three branches of government, AND the media, AND academia AND the financial sector gave the Neocons the illusion that they had finally “made it” and then suddenly, and pardon my French, the people of the USA send them a loud and heartfelt “f*ck you!” and voted for the one candidate which the Neocons had absolutely demonized.
This was perceived by the Neocons and their cohorts as a blasphemy, a sacrilege, an absolutely unacceptable “revolt of the serfs” and that is why the Neocons decided never EVER to allow such a thing to happen again (and we all know what they did next).
The bottom line is this: the USA faced a perfect storm:
- A social model in which the Almighty Dollar decides of everything
- The most formidable propaganda machine in history
- A “old guard” ruling class too weak, cowardly, confused and (comparatively) poor to resist
- A terminally corrupt Uniparty system which is easy to suborn
- A society that does not instill the kind of demonic ideological fervor in which Neocons are raised in, which makes non-Neocons easy prey for the Neocons.
- A country and society in which the concepts “right” and “wrong” have become meaningless and have been fully replaced by “might makes right”, not just de facto, which already had been the case for centuries, but also de jure.
Add to this the (mistaken) notion that the US had won the Cold War and even the (even more mistaken) notion that the US had won WWII, and you have the narcissistic explosion we witnessed in the 90s. And here is the irony: the flag-waving “patriots” who “support our troops” never realized that they were (and still are) being used by the Neocons which, in reality, are the *least* patriotic of any political force in the USA.
Again, 9/11 and the subsequent GWOT are a direct consequence of the pseudo-patriotic fervor which overcame the US society like a tsunami (the USA before 9/11 was a very, dramatically different, country form the post 9/11 USA).
This is all relevant to understand the current Neocon stance: while they have been successful in putting down the “revolt of the MAGA serfs”, Russia, which used to be run by arguably the most corrupt ruling class on the planet for decades (imho: from Krushchev on and including Eltsin) suddenly also revolted!
That was categorically unacceptable to the Neocons.
By the way, it is interesting to note that while now we have irrefutable evidence that Russia did not interfere with US elections, the Neocons almost instinctively make a connection between the “revolting MAGA serfs” inside the USA and the “revolting Russian serfs” outside. And, truth be told, I would argue that the people of the USA and the people of Russia have the exact same enemy. The difference is that the US political system, a truly totalitarian system, cannot be subverted from the inside, but it can very much be defeated externally (if only because this system is BOTH non-viable – it is based on exploitation and imperialism – AND non-reformable – because it is absolutist in nature).
Fundamentally, the Neocon contempt, hatred and fear of Russia is no different than their contempt, hatred and fear of the “deplorables”. For those who view the world through an “us vs them” ideological prism all the “non-us” are dangerous “thems” which need crushing.
Conclusion: we have what we have
Andrei Martyanov is absolutely correct – the US is run by absolutely ignorant, incompetent and outright evil narcissists. For such people, expertise is not at all a desirable trait, if anything, it is potentially very dangerous. Loyalty, which in the Neocon context means “corruptibility”, is much more desirable. One example to illustrate the point:
It was not enough for the Neocons to take control of US think tanks and academia. Even RAND, AEI, CSIS & Co. was “too scary” for them, hence their own creation of the so-called “Institute for the Study of War” which is not an institute and which does not study anything, least of all, wars (Neocons have zero military expertise). And now even Russian (!!!) sources refer to the “studies” of this “institute” as something credible. Such is the power of the media.
Which is hardly surprising if we think of what kind of expertise modern does a journos have? At best, they are only actors. At worst, clueless presstitutes.
Again, Martyanov is right, the overwhelming majority of the political commentators and talking heads out there get their “understanding” of war from Tom Clancy books, Hollywood propaganda movies and clever marketing by the US MIC and Pentagon. At best, these journos can write summaries, find “angles”, including the obligatory “human interest” bull, and they have *access*. But what they don’t know, or even care, is that that access is granted only to the doublepluspoliticallycorrect journos. Mostly, they have no morals at all and they don’t care. They are in for the money, nothing else. My only objection to the term “presstitute” is that is is very unfair to prostitutes (who, after all, usually DO deliver what they get paid for!). Sadly, I can only agree with the French philosopher Alain Soral (who is being viciously persecuted for his views, but not “human rights” organization would ever dare to defend, if anything, they want him lynched!) who said that there are only two type of journos left: prostitutes and unemployed.
That is true of all of Zone A.
So no, as somebody who has seen all this from the inside (I had plenty of journalist friends, by the way, I know that world too), I can only fully confirm what Martyanov repeats over and over again: all of Zone A of 2023 is run by either the Neocons or their loyal servants, and the past 30 years or more have seen an absolutely epic, historical, cataclysmic brain drain form the western ruling classes.
One last thing: it gives me no joy to write the above. Frankly, if it was just a purely internal US issue, I would not care very much (their country, their problem, their choice). But that reality is the single biggest threat to our entire planet right now. And it absolutely terrifies me when I see how few people out there understand and realize that Martyanov is quite correct. And, for the record, there are plenty of topics in which Martyanov and I disagree, so I am not siding with him because I consider him a friend (which I do) or because he is my “maître à penser” (which I don’t). No, I fully back him on this issue because for as long as the USA will be the proverbial “monkey with a (nuclear) hand grenade” the Neocons will continue to represent an existential threat to our planet. And with the Neocons in total control of Zone A, that risk will remain with us until these crazies are sent back to some basement or they blow up the entire northern hemisphere.
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