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LOOKING AHEAD
20.06.2008

June 17, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Rublev

A HOOK FROM THE LEFT

Obama's arrival is going to change the agenda of ideological warfare

OBAMA IS NOT A SYSTEM ERROR

Political regimes of differ in their complexity. Some remind medieval mechanical devices, others are similar to workshops of early industrial age. However, the most flexible type of political system can be compared with automatic management systems with a computer brain that accurately calculates options and sets new tasks.

The history of the XX century indicates that the US political system is capable of flexible and efficient response to various challenges from outside and inside. Watching it within a short period of time, one gets an impression of a pendulum: from Truman and Eisenhower to John Kennedy, from Carter to Reagan, from Clinton to Bush. Observing this system within larger time spans, one sees that America never loses consistency of its political line, only choosing "soft" versions of management to "harsh" and vice versa.

Barack Obama's triumph was viewed by many Russian observers with a mixture of satisfaction and Schadenfreude, interpreting it as a sign of crisis of the political process, and loss of manageability. A demagogue and populist without political experience is becoming a presidential candidate! In fact, what is viewed as a system error is programmed by the system.

Obama is neither a demagogue nor a populist. It is true that in late 1990s, today's Democratic candidate was yet a leftist dissident from the highly politicized Afro-Christian community, some connections with this medium extending until the latest stage of the primaries of this year. It is true that the views of that dissident medium deviated from classical set of American values. However, the set of values as such is enough flexible and amendable in particular situations.

After his triumph in the primaries, Obama is focused on the reform of health care and education – though the American majority is more concerned on economic recession. The Democratic candidate, and through him the American political system itself, is concentrated on a new agenda that could position the US society, in a new form, as the most advanced in the world Ц this time under the colors of social justice.

Obama, with his personal experience of social deprivation during his teenage years in Indonesia, can be perfectly sincere in formulating his present agenda. However, his motto of social improvement is highly required by the political establishment. Only under the banner of social justice, America has a possibility to position its inevitable withdrawal from Iraq as a noble gesture vis-a-vis the Islamic world.

That is only one aspect that enables the American system to use the transformed international image in the interests of foreign policy. In fact, the new agenda may serve as a powerful ideological means against geopolitical rivals.

 

THE FREEDOM AGENDA IS OUTDATED

Something of that kind has already happened. In 1970s, at the face of the defeat in Vietnam reflecting a strategic advantage of the Soviet system in the Third World, a new Democratic President, Jimmy Carter, used a trump card named "human rights". The timing was perfect: by that time, Martin Luther King's civil movement had reached its success, and a part of the Afro-American community was integrating into the national elite.

The new argument was more efficient than the earlier attempts of speculation on the fate of "captive nations" Ц the agenda that did not work because of social advantages gained by ethnic minorities in the Soviet system.

Instead, the US Democratic establishment, personified by Carter and then-young Zbigniew Brzezinski, started an ideological warfare from a new point that turned an Achilles heel for the Soviet leadership. At first, human rights arguments were not taken seriously by the Politburo. In a few years, CPSU's ideological committee realized that the issue is really sensitive, and starts to suppress "enemy voices" Ц which, however, only became more popular among Soviet intellectuals. The voices were telling the Soviet citizen that he was deprived of freedom of view and self-expression, and the severed censorship implicitly persuaded him that was true.

Robert Reagan, Carter's political adversary, took up his argument and efficiently used it in the ideological contest. The agenda perfectly worked until the disintegration of the USSR that brought social problems to the surface of public concerns.

At the time two wars in Chechnya, the human rights agenda was raised anew by Washington's propaganda, along with rights of ethnic minorities, and used against Russia with relative efficiency. However, Russia managed to solve this domestic problem, while America got into a similar trap in Iraq. As soon as Washington's preaching of human rights Ц especially on the background of exposure of atrocities of US servicemen in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib Ц was not more efficient, the fiddle had to be changed. Most probably, the issue of social justice is going to become central in the oncoming period of ideological warfare, as a more workable tool of destabilization.

 

THE NEW TRUMP CARD

In his election campaign, Barack Obama promises to put an end to social-economic segregation, being supported by the same old Zbig who once raised the human rights agenda for geopolitical purposes. Jimmy Carter, the Nobel Prize of Peace winner and one more ally of Obama, travels to the Middle East and South-astern Asia, positioning himself as the protector of the poor. The shift in phraseology is becoming obvious.

Obama's campaign for a European-type social state will definitely be supported by most of the American political class, promising results already during the first year of the new Presidency. At first, Russia will be ostensibly granted a let-up: initiatives like the ABM bases in Poland and Czech are likely to be postponed, as well as probably the merger of Georgia and Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic community. However, the Russian elites are going to encounter another challenge that they are hardly to evaluate at present.

America, as a pragmatic player, tries to extract all possible foreign policy dividends from the domestic agenda. Today, Obama declares a war to three per cent of rich Americans. Tomorrow, the argument of social justice will be addressed to Russia. The index of freedom of press, calculated by Reporters Without Borders, is going to be replaced by the Gini index of social inequality as the major tool of ideological offensive.

Today's Achilles heel of the three rising powers Ц Russia, China and India Ц is the low quality of life of a common citizen. Quite naturally, the United States will try to undermine those countries which possess large resources of relatively qualified labor force, explaining to their people that their labor is evaluated, and who is to blame for that. Russia, with is domestic informational openness, is most vulnerable at the face of the assault.

In China, social problems are also serious, especially in rural areas. However, a Chinese peasant can be unaware of his compatriots whose names are included in the Forbes rating of the rich. Meanwhile, the fun and frolic of filthy rich Russians in Courchevel are known to their native country quite well.

 

POSSIBLE PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Therefore, Obama's victory in November 2008 and the innovations in social policy he promises to introduce are likely to become a serious and largely unexpected challenge for the Russian establishment. Relying upon experience of 1917, Washington may try to reproduce the scenario of a leftist insurrection under leftist and anti-oligarchic slogans. The involvement of US State Dept officials in the founding event of The Other Russia Movement, where the majority of delegates were represented by Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party looks very indicative. The "red-orange" color of the new project also corresponds with the post-Trotskyite origin of the theoreticians of "orange revolutions" in CIS countries.

Radio Liberty, once a passionate mouthpiece of individual and minority rights, is experiencing a perfectly audible shift towards social problems, positioning itself as a national channel and increasingly involving popular politicians and intellectuals of leftist hue. That is only the beginning. One day, Russians will be explained, in perfectly humanistic terms, that the greatness of a country is determined not with its size and wealth but with the extent to which it corresponds with the International Pact of Socio-Economic Rights, a twin document of the Pact of Civil and Political Rights.

Certainly, these crocodile tears will be shed not for the sake of socially deprived Russians. Our adversaries are conquistadors, not philanthropists, and their claims for control of the largest "shareholder" of mineral resources are as permanent as the dream of having Russia disintegrated into a lot of impotent quasi-states. In case the new 1917 scenario is implemented, the well-being of the Russian majority is not going to improve. A new disaster, followed with massive carnage, is going to throw Russia back for decades.

Does the Russian political class realize the direction of the ideological wind? We are interested in this understanding which could help to secure the country from the subversive strategy being now in preparation. Additional guarantees of well-being and social stability, initiated by the new Russian leadership "from above" would guarantee immunity from the ferment "from below". At the same time, the image of a new, socially concerned Russia would make the political model of this country more attractive for poorer post-Soviet nations and influence their choice of orientation in foreign policy.

In case we make a stake on social policy before this agenda is imposed from outside, we'll thus provide essential guarantees for national security, as well as for expansion of international influence of Russia.


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