Saturday, 26 November 2016

The strange world of Paul Mason's liberal left wargaming

Anxious about whether the arrival of Trump signals an expanded militarism? Disturbed about hovering neo-cons getting an upper-hand in his administration? Fearing the promotion of dangerous new Cold War narratives?

Well, while all that latest hawk politics plays out, consider how the very case for greater militarism and weapons 'solutions' is being made by prominent left liberal Paul Mason.      

Astonishingly, having already defended Trident, Mason now invokes the Rand Corporation, and its Wargaming discourse, to argue for a massive show of Nato strength across Eastern Europe.

Rand's own war agenda (noted associates include Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld) and Dr Strangelove mindset should be obvious enough. So, why is Mason embracing it? It seems, for Mason, that the 'looming Russian menace' just can't be ignored, and that, 'realistically', we must look to such analysis and strategies to help counter it. 

In phrases that might have come straight from the head of MI5 (as actually hosted recently by an all-too-eager Guardian), Mason warns:
The UK’s national security is faced with two threats. One is jihadi terrorism, which current security, intelligence and policing has managed to contain, for now. The other is no longer simply a theoretical attack by Putin on the Baltics: it is the strategic breakup of Europe in the face of US isolationism and Russian adventurism.
On top of the encirclement already taking place, Mason sees the need for an even more substantive build-up of Nato divisions along Europe's eastern borders with Russia:
You’ll have read about increased NATO troop deployments to the Baltics but these are peanuts compared to what RAND estimates is needed even as a baseline figure.
As a demonstrative act of 'national security', he urges that the UK's own military spend move beyond 2 percent of GDP. In promotion of all this, he even wants us to embrace a new popular militarist culture:
Make the UK armed forces look more like the UK population. In May 1940 the shock of Dunkirk was amplified by the distance many people felt from the UK’s military culture. The plan for an expanded Territorial Army should be embraced and its status enhanced. The labour movement in the UK needs to start thinking about what a democratized and socially engaged UK armed forces would look like, and what pro-active links it wants to build with the military as an institution.
In advocating a major shift of military resources towards the European arena, Mason asserts that: 
The first thing, obviously, is to avoid conflict in the Baltics. Especially since all the projected outcomes from it are catastrophic.
Yet what's more likely to precipitate that kind of catastrophe than the arrival of even larger numbers of troops and weaponry? Isn't the calamity of Syria evidence enough that more militarism only inflames conflict? Wasn't Nato's murderous assault on Libya and its humanitarian consequences sufficient warning? Isn't the West's and Nato's aggressions in the Middle East proof positive that more soldiers and arms only intensify, rather than avert, war and human misery? And, why, for Mason, are Nato's land-grabbing wars in the Middle East somehow different from its border-expanding ambitions in Eastern Europe?           

Amid much apocalypse-speak on Trump, Putin and Assad, Mason doesn't even mention the already disastrous record of Obama and Hillary Clinton in promoting a neo-fascist coup in Ukraine, nor the heightening of military tensions her election would have brought there.

Helpfully, Lindsey German, at Stop The War, provides a reality-check on Mason's 'Russian threat', and the true menace of Nato's encouragements:
The truth is, Russia is nowhere near the military power it was during the Cold War. Even then, it was weaker than its main adversary, the US. True it is stronger militarily now than it was after the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. But its military strength bears no comparison to that of the US, let alone the US and its allies in NATO. The countries lobbying for greater NATO involvement, including Poland and the Baltic states, are not doing so for reasons of peace. 
It's also notable how other left liberals eagerly court such discourse. Giving an approving heads-up to Mason, Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small suggests independence-seeking Scots should now look beyond the standard 'Bairns not Bombs' narrative. Citing Mason's reading of Rand, Small says:
It’s a compelling wake-up call that casts into light both our lack of control over Defence matters in Scotland and the long-term incompetence of British defence strategy. It’s a challenge to peaceniks and the left to think on our feet and adapt to rapidly changing global circumstances. If the Better Together arguments and propaganda has crumbled – so too must the case for an independent Scotland be updated and overhauled, and not just rest on the laurels of ‘Bairns not Bombs’.
Alas, despite much good output, Bella too often lapses into the same queasy Guardian-speak - the very place where Mason has found a ready platform for much of his specious 'left militarism'.

For nuclear-weapons-burdened people in Scotland, as elsewhere, the real thinking on our feet should not be about Mason's liberal-defined 'adaptations', but how quickly we rid ourselves of the entire militarist monster posing as Nato 'security' - including what the US harbours at Faslane. That's still the vital imperative behind Bairns not Bombs.

The most insidious case for 'necessary militarism' comes not from the dark world of Rand Wargaming, but from the pages of liberal wargamers. It's lofty media like the Guardian and New Statesman giving criminal warmonger Tony Blair relentless airings. It's state-serving BBC journalists forever fetishising 'our' weapons and 'military capabilities'. And it's 'liberal-realist' interventionists like Paul Mason making Nato's rapacious war machine and its provocative deployments seem benign and palatable.

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