Sense in the Western media

This is an opinion piece in the Washington Post by an analyst with a US think tank – the Brookings Institute.

I don’t necessarily agree with the perspective but the piece is noticeable because it is thinking about how to end this conflict.

The author points out that the West has plenty of precedents for settling or at least cooling these types of conflicts – for example autonomous zones, international referendums (I don’t suppose Russia would go for that in Crimea but they might in Kherson) and so on. While I would point to different examples this, for me, is one of the horrible ironies of this situation; the problems in Ukraine, language rivalries, a desire for regional independence and so on are problems which the West usually manages to accept, understand and address, ultimately. Why could they not have shared this expertise with Kiev – instead of backing Kiev in an intolerant policy which, in England at least, would not be acceptable? (Imagine for example, that Westminster passed a law requiring shop-keepers in Wales to greet their customers in English? Of course we would not accept that – so why did we support it when Kiev did it?)

There are voices in Western circles who are thinking about how to end this. The problem seems to be that this kind of thinking is not penetrating to the centres of decision making in Washington, London (if you can call London a centre of decision making) and Paris.

More sense on Sky TV. The speaker – a former US Colonel makes several points including: Ukraine is fighting on gifted weapons which they have not been trained on with mostly new recruits. Russia is currently relying on the separatists forces to fight in Luhansk and Donetsk – supported by their own artillery – their main infantry is not doing the fighting and is in reserve. This does not bode well for Ukraine militarily. And secondly – a very rare comment from someone with connections to Western power that Russia has legitimate security and political interests in Eastern Ukraine. (I hope he is right that Russia would be willing to stop when they control Luhansk and Donetsk – I wonder if they haven’t calculated that the only safe course is to depose Zelenskyy – in the same way that NATO reasoned that they had to depose Gaddafi to protect Benghazi).

It is the case that Western media can allow dissenting opinions and this is very much to be welcomed. It is interesting to see how these more balanced views so often come from former office-holders. Presumably they are using the insights they gained while in positions of power but are now free from a range of collective pressures which cause current office-holders to always hold the party line. This is evidence that policy is not made based on reason but on succumbing to various forces acting in the moment. (Group-think/herd pressure, arms industry lobby? careerist militarists? and ultimately perhaps a factor which means that states are always geared towards war in some way? *).

Notice how in the above interview on Sky the anchor is struggling with the off-message views of his interviewee. He tries to prompt him to say on message points and when he doesn’t he describes the views as “interesting”. This often happens. In this case it is mild and polite – in one example when a well-known Western “dissident” (actually an academic who tries to be objective – Mary Dejevsky) was being interviewed I think on Fox, and said something (this was many years ago) like “Russia has some valid points” the interviewer raised her eyebrows and put on a horrified face – as if to signal to her viewers “I am interviewing a real crazy here”. This is not surprising; the anchors are part of the editorial team of corporate media and thus are part of the same nexus of power as the war machine.

* I think the standard anarchist critique of states

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer