The Cape of Good Hope
(A talk at Rhodes Forum, October 5, 2013)
the good news. American hegemony is over. The bully has been subdued. We
cleared the Cape of Good Hope, symbolically speaking, in September 2013.
With the Syrian crisis, the world has passed a key forking of modern
history. It was touch and go, just as risky as the Cuban missile crisis
of 1962. The chances for total war were high, as the steely wills of
America and Eurasia had crossed in the Eastern Mediterranean. It will
take some time until the realisation of what we’ve gone through seeps
in: it is normal for events of such magnitude. The turmoil in the US,
from the mad car chase in the DC to the shutdown of federal government
and possible debt default, are the direct consequences of this event.
the Berlin Wall? When it went down, I was in Moscow, writing for
Haaretz. I went to a press-conference with Politburo members in the
President Hotel, and asked them whether they concurred that the end of
the USSR and world socialist system was nigh. I was laughed at; it was
an embarrassing occasion. Oh no, they said. Socialism will blossom, as
the result of the Wall’s fall. The USSR went down two years later. Now
our memory has compacted those years into a brief sequence, but in
reality, it took some time.
dramatic event of September 2013 was the high-noon stand-off near the
Levantine shore, with five US destroyers pointing their Tomahawks
towards Damascus and facing them - the Russian flotilla of eleven ships
led by the carrier-killer Missile Cruiser Moskva and supported by
Chinese warships. Apparently, two missiles were launched towards the
Syrian coast, and both failed to reach their destination.
claimed by a Lebanese newspaper quoting diplomatic sources that the
missiles were launched from a NATO air base in Spain and they were shot
down by the Russian ship-based sea-to-air defence system. Another
explanation proposed by the Asia Times says the Russians employed
their cheap and powerful GPS jammers to render the expensive Tomahawks
helpless, by disorienting them and causing them to fail. Yet another
version attributed the launch to the Israelis, whether they were trying
to jump-start the shoot-out or just observed the clouds, as they claim.
the reason, after this strange incident, the pending shoot-out did not
commence, as President Obama stood down and holstered his guns. This was
preceded by an unexpected vote in the British Parliament. This venerable
body declined the honour of joining the attack proposed by the US. This
was the first time in two hundred years that the British parliament
voted down a sensible proposition to start a war; usually the Brits
can’t resist the temptation.
that, President Obama decided to pass the hot potato to the Congress. He
was unwilling to unleash Armageddon on his own. Thus the name of action
was lost. Congress did not want to go to war with unpredictable
consequences. Obama tried to browbeat Putin at the 20G meeting in St
Petersburg, and failed. The Russian proposal to remove Syrian chemical
weaponry allowed President Obama to save face. This misadventure put
paid to American hegemony , supremacy and exceptionalism. Manifest
Destiny was over. We all learned that from Hollywood flics: the hero
never stands down; he draws and shoots! If he holsters his guns, he is
not a hero: he’s chickened out.
Afterwards, things began to unravel fast. The US President had a chat
with the new president of Iran, to the chagrin of Tel Aviv. The Free
Syrian Army rebels decided to talk to Assad after two years of fighting
him, and their delegation arrived in Damascus, leaving the Islamic
extremists high and dry. Their supporter Qatar is collapsing
overextended. The shutdown of their government and possible debt default
gave the Americans something real to worry about. With the end of US
hegemony, the days of the dollar as the world reserve currency are
War III almost occurred as the banksters wished it. They have too many
debts, including the unsustainable foreign debt of the US. If those
Tomahawks had flown, the banksters could have claimed
and disavow the debt. Millions of people would die, but billions of
dollars would be safe in the vaults of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. In
September, the world crossed this bifurcation point safely, as President
Obama refused to take the fall for the banksters. Perhaps he deserved
his Nobel peace prize, after all.
future is full of troubles but none are fatal. The US will lose its
emission rights as a source of income. The US dollar will cease to serve
as the world reserve currency though it will remain the North American
currency. Other parts of the world will resort to their euro, yuan,
rouble, bolivar, or dinar. The US military expenditure will have to be
slashed to normal, and this elimination of overseas bases and weaponry
will allow the US population to make the transition rather painlessly.
Nobody wants to go after America; the world just got tired of them
riding shotgun all over the place. The US will have to find new
employment for so many bankers, jailers, soldiers, even politicians.
stayed in Moscow during the crisis, I observed these developments as
they were seen by Russians. Putin and Russia have been relentlessly
hard-pressed for quite a while.
* The US
supported and subsidised Russia’s liberal and nationalist opposition;
the national elections in Russia were presented as one big fraud. The
Russian government was delegitimised to some extent.
Magnitsky Act of the US Congress authorised the US authorities to arrest
and seize the assets of any Russian they deem is up to no good, without
a recourse to a court.
Russian state assets were seized in Cyprus where the banks were in
* The US
Pussy Riot, gay parades etc. in Moscow, in order to promote an image
of Putin the dictator, enemy of freedom and gay-hater in the Western and
Russian oligarch-owned media.
Russian support for Syria was criticised, ridiculed and presented as a
brutal act devoid of humanity. At the same time, Western media pundits
expressed certainty that Russia would give up on Syria.
wrote previously, Russia had no intention to surrender Syria, for a
number of good reasons: it was an ally; the Syrian Orthodox Christians
trusted Russia; geopolitically the war was getting too close to Russian
borders. But the main reason was Russia’s annoyance with American
high-handedness. The Russians felt that such important decisions should
be taken by the international community, meaning the UN Security
Council. They did not appreciate the US assuming the role of world
1990s, Russia was very weak, and could not effectively object, but they
felt bitter when Yugoslavia was bombed and NATO troops moved eastwards
breaking the US promise to Gorbachev. The Libyan tragedy was another
crucial point. That unhappy country was bombed by NATO, and eventually
disintegrated. From the most prosperous African state it was converted
into most miserable. Russian presence in Libya was rather limited, but
still, Russia lost some investment there. Russia abstained in the vote
on Libya as this was the position of the then Russian president Dmitry
Medvedev who believed in playing ball with the West. In no way was Putin
ready to abandon Syria to the same fate.
Russian rebellion against the US hegemony began in June, when the
Aeroflot flight from Beijing carrying Ed Snowden landed in Moscow.
Americans pushed every button they could think of to get him back. They
activated the full spectre of their agents in Russia. Only a few voices,
including that of your truly, called on Russia to provide Snowden with
safe refuge, but our voices prevailed. Despite the US pressure, Snowden
was granted asylum.
step was the Syrian escalation. I do not want to go into the details of
the alleged chemical attack. In the Russian view, there was not and
could not be any reason for the US to act unilaterally in Syria or
anywhere else. In a way, the Russians have restored the Law of Nations
to its old revered place. The world has become a better and safer place.
this could’ve been achieved without the support of China. The Asian
giant considers Russia its “elder sister” and relies upon her ability to
deal with the round-eyes. The Chinese, in their quiet and unassuming
way, played along with Putin. They passed Snowden to Moscow. They vetoed
anti-Syrian drafts in the UNSC, and sent their warships to the Med. That
is why Putin stood the ground not only for Russia, but for the whole
mass of Eurasia.
Church was supportive of Putin’s efforts; not only the Russian Church,
but both Catholics and Orthodox were united in their opposition to the
pending US campaign for the US-supported rebels massacred Christians.
The Pope appealed to Putin as to defender of the Church; so did the
churches of Jerusalem and Antioch. The Pope almost threatened to
excommunicate Hollande, and the veiled threat impressed the French
president. So Putin enjoyed support and blessing of the Orthodox
Patriarchs and of the Pope: such double blessing is an extremely rare
were many exciting and thrilling moments in the Syrian saga, enough to
fill volumes. An early attempt to subdue Putin at G8 meeting in Ireland
was one of them. Putin was about to meet with the united front of the
West, but he managed to turn some of them to his side, and he sowed the
seeds of doubt in others’ hearts by reminding them of the Syrian rebel
proposal to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons was deftly introduced; the
UNSC resolution blocked the possibility of attacking Syria under cover
of Chapter Seven. Miraculously, the Russians won in this mighty
tug-of-war. The alternative was dire: Syria would be destroyed as Libya
was; a subsequent Israeli-American attack on Iran was unavoidable;
Oriental Christianity would lose its cradle; Europe would be flooded by
millions of refugees; Russia would be proven irrelevant, all talk and no
action, as important as Bolivia, whose President’s
plane can be grounded and searched at will. Unable to defend its
allies, unable to stand its ground, Russia would’ve been left with a
‘moral victory’, a euphemism for defeat. Everything Putin has worked for
in 13 years at the helm would’ve been lost; Russia would be back to
where it was in 1999, when Clinton bombed Belgrade.
of this confrontation was reached in the Obama-Putin exchange on
exceptionalism. The two men were not buddies to start with. Putin was
annoyed by what he perceived as Obama’s insincerity and hypocrisy. A man
who climbed from the gutter to the very top, Putin cherishes his ability
to talk frankly with people of all walks of life. His frank talk can be
shockingly brutal. When he was heckled by a French journalist regarding
treatment of Chechen separatists, he
Muslim extremists (takfiris) are enemies of Christians, of atheists, and
even of Muslims because they believe that traditional Islam is hostile
to the goals that they set themselves. And if you want to become an
Islamic radical and are ready to be circumcised, I invite you to Moscow.
We are a multi-faith country and we have experts who can do it. And I
would advise them to carry out that operation in such a way that nothing
would grow in that place again”.
example of his shockingly candid talk was given at Valdai as he replied
to BBC’s Bridget Kendall. She
asked: did the threat of US military strikes actually play a rather
useful role in Syria’s agreeing to have its weapons placed under
replied: Syria got itself chemical weapons as an alternative to Israel’s
nuclear arsenal. He called for the disarmament of Israel and invoked the
name of Mordecai Vanunu as an example of an Israeli scientist who
opposes nuclear weapons. (My
interview with Vanunu had been recently published in the largest
Russian daily paper, and it gained some notice).
tried to talk frankly to Obama. We know of their exchange from a leaked
record of the
Putin-Netanyahu confidential conversation. Putin called the American
and asked him: what’s your point in Syria? Obama replied: I am worried
that Assad’s regime does not observe human rights. Putin almost puked
from the sheer hypocrisy of this answer. He understood it as Obama’s
refusal to talk with him “on eye level”.
aftermath of the Syrian stand-off, Obama appealed to the people of the
world in the name of American exceptionalism. The United States’ policy
is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional”, he
responded: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see
themselves as exceptional. We are all different, but when we ask for the
Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” This
was not only an ideological, but theological contradistinction.
expounded at length
elsewhere, the US is built on the Judaic theology of exceptionalism,
of being Chosen. It is the country of Old Testament. This is the deeper
reason for the US and Israel’s special relationship. Europe is going
through a stage of apostasy and rejection of Christ, while Russia
remains deeply Christian. Its churches are full, they bless one other
with Christmas and Easter blessings, instead of neutral “seasons”.
Russia is a New Testament country. And rejection of exceptionalism, of
chosenness is the underlying tenet of Christianity.
reason, while organised US Jewry supported the war, condemned Assad and
called for US intervention, the Jewish community of Russia, quite
numerous, wealthy and influential one, did not support the Syrian rebels
but rather stood by Putin’s effort to preserve peace in Syria. Ditto
Iran, where the wealthy Jewish community supported the legitimate
government in Syria. It appears that countries guided by a strong
established church are immune from disruptive influence of lobbies;
while countries without such a church – the US and/or France – give in
to such influences and adopt illegal interventionism as a norm.
hegemony declines, we look to an uncertain future. The behemoth might of
the US military can still wreck havoc; a wounded beast is the most
dangerous one. Americans may listen to
Senator Ron Paul who called to give up overseas bases and cut
military expenditure. Norms of international law and sovereignty of all
states should be observed. People of the world will like America again
when it will cease snooping and bullying. It isn’t easy, but we’ve
already negotiated the Cape and gained Good Hope.
(Language edited by Ken Freeland)
Shamir reported from Moscow. He can be reached at