Phew! WW3 doesn’t seem to have started this morning.
I spent much of yesterday thinking about the American Empire as a continuation and extension of the British Empire. Instead of the Royal Navy patrolling the oceans, to keep the world’s trades routes open, the US Navy did so instead. Instead of the command centre being in Whitehall, it moved to Washington. The empire fell under new management, with the USA as its major shareholder. Or, if the British Empire had been a business run by an English patriarch, it was his American son who inherited the job of chief executive officer when the father became old and enfeebled, as fathers always eventually do. Britain was as broken and battered and bankrupt as any other European state after two world wars. It had really only survived the war with American assistance, firstly with convoys of ships coming from America bringing vital supplies, and later with American armies and air forces.
The winners of WW2 were America and the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union, rather like Britain, had only just survived the war, also with considerable assistance from America. And it had taken a terrible battering. Much of western Russia lay devastated, much like much of Europe.
But America was not devastated by WW2. No German or Japanese armies fought their way across it. Nor did German or Japanese planes ever bomb New York or San Francisco. America became the arsenal for much of the world, once it had ramped up the production of ships and planes and tanks and trucks to levels beyond anything its enemies could match.
What had they all been fighting about? Well, the Germans wanted their own empire to match that of the British empire. And so did the Japanese. And the Germans managed to overrun the whole of Europe, and a large part of Russia. And the Japanese managed to overrun much of the southeast Asia, and a large part of China. And so by the end of the war, it was the Americans who controlled Japan and much of southeast Asia, and western Europe as well. And the US Navy controlled both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. America was the big winner in WW2.
But there was also an ideological battle as well. The USA stood for individual enterprise and industry and freedom, while the Soviet Union stood for Scientific Socialism. The Soviet system was one of a centrally-planned economy, with state-owned industries following 5 Year Plans. The American economy was not centrally planned, and was much more haphazard. If the Soviet system was intended to benefit everybody in society, the American system benefited the most enterprising and inventive and hardworking. The proprietors of US corporations could – and did – become fabulously wealthy. Hence the Fords and Rockefellers and Gettys and all the rest. Soviet Socialism was intended to benefit the whole of society. In the USA there were winners and losers.
This ideological battle was really over how economies should be organised. Should they be centrally planned, or should they be allowed to evolve and grow and decay? Or, if an economy is seen as a garden, should it be allowed to grow unchecked like a jungle, or should it be carefully laid out with flowerbeds and paths and lawns, with carefully manicured flowers and bushes and trees? The US model was the Amazon mato grosso, in which the plants found their own natural equilibrium, and the Soviet model was Kew Gardens, in which everything was carefully managed.
This is an ideological struggle which knows no borders. It’s been going on for centuries – even millennia – everywhere in the world. For there are always people who want a level uniform equality across society, and those who want the excellent to excel above all the rest.
And in Britain, at the end of WW2, the returning soldiers voted for uniform, centrally-planned economy: the Labour party’s Welfare State. Many industries were taken into state ownership. While a great many industries remained in public ownership, the rest were to be carefully centrally planned, much like in the Soviet Union.
But somehow or other, despite the best of intentions, this sort of central planning never seems to quite work. It never really worked in the Soviet Union, and it didn’t really work in Britain either. State-run industries always seem to be inefficient, unproductive, and wasteful. And after a few decades of bumbling inefficiency, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives sold off most of the state-controlled industries back into private ownership.
And in many ways, the European Union is another centrally-planned Soviet Union. It’s not that European industry is state-owned, but it is effectively state-controlled by a forest of restrictive rules and regulations.
And smoking bans are wonderful examples of centralised top down state control. The state decides what’s good for everyone, and introduces laws banning smoking, more or less everywhere. The job of individual smokers is to stop smoking, in accordance with the decree of the state. We are not to live as individuals, making up our own minds how we will live: we are all to be obedient members of society, and we should conform to the social will, as enacted in Brussels by the experts. The EU parliament voted in 2009 for a European smoking ban, with show trials for recaltricant smokers. In the more haphazard USA, only a few states and cities have done the same.
The Soviet Union may have disintegrated 30 or more years ago, but it seems to have reproduced itself in the European Union. And having reproduced itself and expanded, this new European Union is now experiencing the same sort of mounting centrifugal forces that tore the Soviet Union apart. More and more people want to escape from it.
One might almost say that if the centrally-planned Soviet Union confronted an anarchic, free-wheeling America at the end of WW2, the two have now more or less swapped places – or swapped ideologies – with the USA now well on its way to becoming a socialist state, particularly in California. And Europe is already a socialist state.
And Donald Trump is an American magnate who is setting out on the herculean task of restoring the USA to being an anarchic, free-wheeling, enterprising place rather than a planned and regulated and controlled society. For in the US Deep State, that I was writing about yesterday, he’s up against something that is essentially concerned with planning and controlling society. For the military are always planning and controlling and regimenting.
This struggle between spontaneity and planning, between the individual and society, seems to swing first one way, and then the other. At one time anarchic individualism reigns, before being subdued by planned social collectivism, which then gives way once again to anarchic individualism. It seems to be a never-ending tug of war, going one way and then the other.
And the two sides in this struggle always seem to demonise each other. It always seems to be a struggle between black and white. Donald Trump is regularly described as being more or less a new Hitler (another thoroughly demonised figure). I’ve been listening to Jerome Corsi ‘decoding’ QAnon in recent months, and he talks regularly about ‘white hats’ versus ‘black hats’. The white hats are the good guys, and the black hats are the bad guys, and there seems to be no place in between for ‘grey hats’ or ‘beige hats’. And so in his demonology, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the principal satanic figures, wearing the blackest of black hats, while Roseanne Barr may or may not be a black hat. And what is going on in the US intelligence agencies is like Mad Magazine’s Spy vs Spy, with the white hats in US military intelligence fighting the black hats in the CIA. The entiire US political system seems to be in a state of civil war. And in fact many commentators are saying that a real civil war is imminent.
Similar tensions seem to grip a great many nations these days. There has arisen in the UK, over the last couple of years, a deep division between the Brexiters and the Remainers. And in Spain there’s a deep division between Catalan separatists and Spanish loyalists. And in Italy there’s division between the industrial Northern League and the rural south. And these are all tensions within nations, rather than between nations. So much so that if a global war erupts, it looks likely to be a global civil war, with Americans fighting Americans, Englishmen fighting Englishmen, Spaniards fighting Spaniards, Italians fighting Italians. And we already see precisely this sort of civil war in Iraq and Libya and now Syria. Perhaps that’s how world wars start?