The Telegraph reports that the Russian government has approved a 65 per cent increase in the country's defence budget over the next three years as it rushes to upgrade its ageing Soviet-era military machine.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
“Government by bureaucracy has to be distinguished from the mere outgrowth and deformation of civil services which frequently accompanied the decline of the nation-state—as, notably, in France. There the administration has survived all changes in regime since the Revolution, entrenched itself like a parasite in the body politic, developed its own class interests, and become a useless organism whose only purpose appears to be chicanery and prevention of normal economic and political development. There are of course many superficial similarities between the two types of bureaucracy, especially if one pays too much attention to the striking psychological similarity of petty officials. But if the French people have made the very serious mistake of accepting their administration as a necessary evil, they have never committed the fatal error of allowing it to rule the country — even though the consequence has been that nobody rules it. The French atmosphere of government has become one of inefficiency and vexations; but it has not created an aura of pseudomysticism.
“And it is this pseudomysticism that is the stamp of bureaucracy when it becomes a form of government. Since the people it dominates never really know why something is happening, and a rational interpretation of laws does not exist, there remains only one thing that counts, the brutal naked event itself. What happens to one then becomes subject to an interpretation whose possibilities are endless, unlimited by reason and unhampered by knowledge. Within the framework of such endless interpretative speculation, so characteristic of all branches of Russian pre-revolutionary literature, the whole texture of life and world assume a mysterious secrecy and depth. There is a dangerous charm in this aura because of its seemingly inexhaustible richness; interpretation of suffering has a much larger range than that of action for the former goes on in the inwardness of the soul and releases all the possibilities of human imagination, whereas the latter is constantly checked, and possibly led into absurdity, by outward consequence and controllable experience.
“One of the most glaring differences between the old-fashioned rule by bureaucracy and the up-to-date totalitarian brand is that Russia's and Austria's pre-war rulers were content with an idle radiance of power and, satisfied to control its outward destinies, left the whole inner life of the soul intact. Totalitarian bureaucracy, with a more complete understanding of the meaning of absolute power, intruded upon the private individual and his inner life with equal brutality. The result of this radical efficiency has been that the inner spontaneity of people under its rule was killed along with their social and political activities, so that the merely political sterility under the older bureaucracies was followed by total sterility under totalitarian rule.
“The age which saw the rise of the pan-movements, however, was still happily ignorant of total sterilization. On the contrary, to an innocent observer (as most Westerners were) the so-called Eastern soul appeared to be incomparably richer, its psychology more profound, its literature more meaningful than that of the "shallow" Western democracies. This psychological and literary adventure into the "depths" of suffering did not come to pass in Austria-Hungary because its literature was mainly German-language literature, which after all was and remained part and parcel of German literature in general. Instead of inspiring profound humbug, Austrian bureaucracy rather caused its greatest modern writer to become the humorist and critic of the whole matter. Franz Kafka knew well enough the superstition of fate which possesses people who live under the perpetual rule of accidents, the inevitable tendency to read a special superhuman meaning into happenings whose rational significance is beyond the knowledge and understanding of the concerned. He was well aware of the weird attractiveness of such peoples, their melancholy and beautifully sad folk tales which seemed so superior to the lighter and brighter literature of more fortunate peoples. He exposed the pride in necessity as such, even the necessity of evil, and the nauseating conceit which identifies evil and misfortune with destiny. The miracle is only that he could do this in a world in which the main elements of this atmosphere were not fully articulated; he trusted his great powers of imagination to draw all the necessary conclusions and, as it were, to complete what reality had somehow neglected to bring into full focus."
-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, pp. 245-246
Friday, July 16, 2010
“Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs agreed that, living in ‘continental states’ and being ‘continental peoples’, they had to look for colonies on the continent, ‘to expand in geographic continuity from a center of power,’ that against ‘the idea of England . . . expressed by the words: I want to rule the sea, [stands] the idea of Russia [expressed] by the words: I want to rule the land,’ and that eventually the ‘tremendous superiority of the land to the sea . . . , the superior significance of land power to sea power . . .’, would become apparent.”
-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, p. 223.
“It was neither His Majesty's soldier nor the British higher official who could teach the natives something of the greatness of the Western world. Only those who had never been able to outgrow their boyhood ideals and therefore had enlisted in the colonial services were fit for the task. Imperialism to them was nothing but an accidental opportunity to escape a society in which a man had to forget his youth if he wanted to grow up. English society was only too glad to see them depart to faraway countries, a circumstance which permitted the toleration
and even the furtherance of boyhood ideals in the public school system; the colonial services took them away from England and prevented, so to speak, their converting the ideals of their boyhood into the mature ideas of men. Strange and curious lands attracted the best of England's youth since the end of the nineteenth century, deprived her society of the most honest and the most dangerous elements, and guaranteed, in addition to this bliss, a certain conservation, or perhaps petrification, of boyhood noblesse which preserved and infantilized Western moral standards.”
-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, p. 211.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
“Thus closes the only episode [The Dreyfus Affair] in which the subterranean forces of the nineteenth century enter the full light of recorded history. The only visible result was that it gave birth to the Zionist movement — the only political answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center of world events.”
-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, p. 120.
At CifWatch, Jonathan Hoffman continues his consideration of the case, now in the light of the recently-published transcript of the trial judge’s summing-up.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
From the Telegraph:
It was… revealed yesterday that one of the agents, a man called Andrei Bezrukov who passed himself off as Donald Heathfield, had been attempting to infiltrate influential US risk advisory group Strategic Forecasting.
The Texas-based company, better known as Stratfor, said Mr Bezrukov had held five meetings with them to try to get them to install his software on their computers.
“We suspect that had this been done, our servers would be outputting to Moscow,” George Friedman, the firm’s chief executive officer, said. “We did not know at the time who he was. We have since reported the incident to the FBI.”
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
“…the Nazis were not simple nationalists. Their nationalist propaganda was directed toward their fellow-travelers and not their convinced members; the latter, on the contrary, were never allowed to lose sight of a consistently supranational approach to politics. Nazi "nationalism" had more than one aspect in common with the recent nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union, which is also used only to feed the prejudices of the masses. The Nazis had a genuine and never revoked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provincialism of
the nation-state, and they repeated time and again that their "movement", international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to them than any state, which would necessarily be bound to a specific territory. And not only the Nazis, but fifty years of antisemitic history, stand as evidence against the identification of antisemitism with nationalism. The first antisemitic parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century were also among the first that banded together internationally. From the very beginning, they called international congresses and were concerned with a co-ordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities.“
- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, second edition, 1958, pp. 3-4
On the fourth anniversary of the Lebanon-Israel war, American, Israeli and Canadian victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks have filed a lawsuit against the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network, alleging that
Al-Jazeera intentionally reported live coverage of the locations of the missile strikes inside of Israel in violation of military censorship regulations, in order to enable Hezbollah to aim the missiles more accurately.
Friday, July 09, 2010
In the current issue of Yezhednevny zhurnal Alexander Podrabinek examines the current U.S.-Russia “spy swap” and detects a strong element of farce in the proceedings [my tr.]:
Why farce? Judge for yourself. The Russian spies who have been uncovered in the U.S. are the embodiment of amateurishness and mediocrity. And the FBI’s ten-year hunt for them can be taken about as seriously as the Russian spies themselves. The political prisoner Igor Sutyagin was not a political opponent of the regime and ended up in jail more or less by chance – simply because the FSB needed to demonstrate its success at least in something. Sutyagin bears no guilt, either political or espionage-related. He is a random victim of the Chekists’ ambitions and conscious manipulation. For his work with open sources he received 15 years in prison – quite a dramatic result of the farce performed by the FSB.
Sutyagin did not plead guilty at his trial. A large public campaign was organized in his defence, and Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. Three years ago Sutyagin filed a petition for clemency, but a few days ago he signed a written statement expressing repentance for the crime he did not commit. This was the price of freedom. According to his relatives, he explained his repentance by saying that if he had not written the statement the exchange would not take place and he felt very sorry for the Russian spies arrested in the United States, who would have had to serve time in jail, as he had. A strange argument, I think, and a very weak position, especially given that the people who have defended him all these years were sincerely convinced of his innocence. While they are unlikely to change their minds about this now, they will probably be more cautious in such cases in future. At least where Russian political prisoners are concerned.
Podrabinek sees a further dimension of strangeness in recent events:
While it is hard to congratulate Igor Sutyagin on his release, we can at least be pleased that he is free. However, it is far from clear why he needs to leave Russia. In this voluntary/involuntary departure there are echoes of the spy exchanges of the Cold War. But today, if Sutyagin still has Russian citizenship (and no one can deprive him of that), then what is to stop him returning to Russia whether temporarily or for good, at any time?
Some kind of strange game is being played by the Russian secret services. One has the impression that they thought up the idea of the exchange in a bad state of hangover, without even trying to relate their plans to current legislation and real life. Perhaps in a similar condition they also prepared the Russian spies for their work abroad. Well, they’re ours, and that explains a lot.
See also: Igor Sutyagin
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Independent’s William Dunbar reports from Tbilisi that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed firm support for Georgia, using the word “occupation” to describe the presence of Russian troops there.
Monday, July 05, 2010
In a disturbing development which has not been widely covered in U.K. media, a British judge and jury have acquitted a group of activists who broke into an arms factory near Brighton at the time of last year’s conflict in Gaza, smashing equipment and causing around £180,000 of damage.
The court's decision gives cause for concern, as it suggests that other anti-Israel actions of this kind may be similarly tolerated in future, and that persons and institutions perceived to be supporting Israel may not receive protection under British law.
The activists used the “lawful excuse” defense – committing an offense to prevent what they say was a more serious crime because EDO was “complicit in war crimes.” (Jerusalem Post)
Update (July 9): The JC reports that the judge in the trial said of the raiding group’s leader that “The jury may feel his efforts investigating the company merit the George Cross."