March 28, 1854, 160 years ago: Britain and France declare war on Russia, initiating the most intensive phase of the Crimean War. Plus ca change, eh?
But in fact things have changed. In spite of all the hot air emanating from ‘Europe’, that mythical place, and the White House, that all-too-real one, I would bet the farm that there will be no new Crimean War. In fact even if Putin gives the Ukraine a well-deserved spanky, hot air, I bet, will continue to be the most lethal weapon deployed by ‘The West’ — the not-so-wild West, these days, thank God.
Talking to my well-informed, well-intentioned Upper West Side friends, though, I’m amazed at how effective the anti-Russian propaganda campaign has been. “Their economy depends on exporting gas!” one friend of mine trumpeted(*). “That’s not sustainable!”
(Of course, leaving aside the fact that with tar sands and so on, the US also seems poised to become a net exporter of carbon-based fuel, one might also ask whether being a net importer of fossil carbon — like, oh, Japan, or ‘Europe’ — is sustainable either. Surely the one implies the other?)
This, depressingly, is the part that hasn’t changed. The image of ogreish, backward Russia helped schnooker the Socialists of Germany into supporting war in 1914 — not quite 100 years ago, but just a few months away. (Mark your calendars: August 4. Let’s have a commemorative picnic on the Old Mole’s one-time tumulus.) It seems to be working equally well with nice thoughtful Upper West Side liberals today.
(*) To paraphrase Dr Johnson: I hate to speak ill of anyone, but I do believe the gentleman had been reading Thomas Friedman. A plea of temporary insanity will therefore be entertained by the Court.