Grand Strategy in the Age of Mass Destruction

Gingerbread Men
Commentary for 6 October 2015

The restructuring militarization would initially mimic the mass culture of demilitarized civilization – with its ballot booths and its symbols of diversity, its social hypocrisies and political deceptions – as competently as it once simulated the aristocratic culture of old Russia. Then it would foment a Thirty Years War of a thousand local Vietnams, a pseudo-religious, pseudo-racial, pseudo-political, fragmentation to which a centralized power able to bring about global peace would be the progressive answer. 
                     -Andrei Navrozov, The Gingerbread Race [p. 339]

People are asking about Russia's military move into Syria. They want to know more about the Russian-Iranian military intelligence headquarters being set up in Baghdad. They wonder whether the Russian annexation of Crimea last year had something to do with all this. Rather than attempting to answer these urgent questions, I think it's best to consider what was written long ago by a writer named Andrei Navrozov.

In Andrei’s book, The Gingerbread Race: A Life in the Closing World Once Called Free, we read about the gingerbread man:

Where an ordinary sort of bun would have stayed in the frying pan, he ran away from his makers. Out of the frying pan, out of paradise. On and on ran the gingerbread man Kolobok, the currant-eyed refugee with a soft spot for what he called individualism, and by and by his was the race. The race built cathedrals, mastered navigation and engineering, found the cure for scurvy….

The gingerbread man was faster than his predators. They could not catch him because freedom and individualism gave him speed. “He was very proud of his record,” Andrei wrote,

which he believed was the history of his race rather than a biography of its outcasts and martyrs. Alas! This was a philistine delusion, and although it could not be logically reconciled with the true story of his origin, he decided that from that moment onward all would be for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

“No one can catch me,” said the gingerbread man. He was empowered by free market economics, so his swiftness was assured. But then, explains Andrei, our half-baked hero encountered a beast of prey named Chronos, “identified in the fairy tale as a sly fox … already famous for having lured to their doom all the nightingales in the forest.” The fox wanted to talk with the gingerbread man. He wanted peace. He wanted good relations. Thus began something called diplomacy, or perhaps it was détente, or even glasnost. But the Gingerbread man kept running, because his survival depended on outrunning the fox.

Run! Run! As fast as you can!
You can’t catch me
I’m the gingerbread man!

One day the fox told the gingerbread man that he wasn’t actually chasing him. His real enemy was a fighting cock, perhaps named ISIS. And maybe all that running had brought them to Syria, or Iraq. Andrei doesn’t mention these details, but we can see them today. At any rate, the fox was very persuasive. “I’m only pretending that I’m after you, sweet Kolobok!” he said. According to Andrei, “Kolobok believed the cock-and-bull story, but the vestigial instinct of self-preservation told him to keep running. Then the fox tried a different tack. ‘I’m only running because you are. I don’t want to catch you, I just want to talk to you.’”

What’s the harm in talking, especially when you encounter a wide river? Perhaps this river was called Europa, as Andrei suggests, or maybe it is called the Middle East. Whatever the name, it constitutes a mutual problem which the fox pretends to solve. Of course, a man of gingerbread cannot swim. He would disintegrate midstream. “Jump on my tale,” said the fox. Why not, after all? Using a dangerous predator to cross a river makes perfect sense to someone with gingerbread for brains:

So he jumped on the fox’s tale and the fox began the descent, down the river bank and into the water. Again, many words were used to describe this process, scholarly terms like bilateral disarmament, détente, or necessary coexistence, and many explanations of its utility were put forward. Sometimes the gingerbread man spoke of new markets, justifying his course of action on economic grounds. Or he would simply say that the world was a small place and everybody must work together. At times he even spoke of an impending ecological catastrophe.... But since the freethinkers of the race had been silenced and only institutional toadies remained, no one dared to say that it was philistine hubris and blind ambition which made him decide to embark on the suicidal voyage. And then the sly fox pretended, as only sly foxes can, that it was unwell. They were now wading in shallow water, and Kolobok could still leap back ashore. ‘I’m positively collapsing,’ said the fox. ‘You are too heavy for my tail! As you probably know, the state of my economy, I mean my health, is so much sly propaganda. Jump up on my back.’ The toadies, who always agreed with everything, agreed that the fox had always been one for sly propaganda. So the gingerbread man jumped up on the fox’s back. Oh, he was more proud than ever of his noble race. He felt euphoric. He had to feel euphoric, because by now there was no turning back. Ornate covenants were signed, orchestras played patriotic tunes, fireworks lit up the sky, and the reunification, as it was called, of the predator and the prey was celebrated all over the world. To the spectators they seemed inseparable, a kind of mythical centaur progressing through the stream of existence ... a realization of some ancient dream of the lion and the lamb, until suddenly the fox said, sharply. ‘It’s no use. You are too heavy for my back. If you don’t jump on my nose I will drown, and you will drown with me.’ Suddenly frightened, the gingerbread man did as the fox said. ‘It’s a funny old world,’ Kolobok whispered to himself, momentarily chastened. Time itself seemed to stop, and though he was no thinker, it now occurred to him, apropos of nothing as it were, that sufficient fear can relativize history as surely as sufficient speed relativizes time. ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’ said the fox to reassure him, and added, to distract him from that sinking feeling of powerlessness which he had never before experienced: ‘Not many of your race have ridden on a fox’s nose!’ This kept him from fidgeting. As they reached the other side, the gingerbread man felt himself tossed in the air. For a moment he thought it was an accident, worried only that his dignity had been compromised, although the famous Archaic smile did not leave his raisin lips even then. But the fox’s teeth snapped. ‘Oh dear,’ said the gingerbread man, ‘my toadies are gone,’ because, oddly enough, the toadies are always the first to go in such situations. Then he cried: ‘My freethinkers are gone!’, because it such situations the freethinkers are not far behind the toadies. And after that, the gingerbread man said nothing more, because he was inside the fox and the fox was the world.

Such was Andrei’s version of the story. And this is what history has been leading up to. Only today’s gingerbread man is asking, “Why not allow the Russians to fight ISIS?” Little by little the gingerbread man is maneuvered from the tail of the fox to the nose of the fox. Think of it as follows: Europe depends on Middle East oil, and America defends that oil. What if Russia were defending that oil instead? What would happen to the dollar?

Very few people appreciated Andrei's “fairy tale” at the time. But now we may look back on it, and wink at the toadies of the hour (who seem shocked at events in Ukraine and Syria). But some of us are not shocked. We have expected something like this for many years.

Last 7 January Andrei wrote a piece for Chronicles on “stock taking.” As a resident of Sicily he commented on Palermo’s “first snowfall” since 1956. It is the kind of meteorological oddity that Titus Livius might have recorded in his Roman history, perhaps as an omen for the coming year. Perhaps it was a slap at Global Warming. Turning from Sicily’s politically incorrect weather, Andrei passed to the year’s future prospects: “All I can wish civilization in 2015 is that it continue on the slippery slope to enslavement at roughly the same speed as last year and the year before, without accelerating the pace or tumbling down precipitously.”

Andrei considered it “perverse to hope and unrealistic to wish for anything more radical or radiant.” No hailstorm of lollipops, no oceans turned into lemonade, no conversion of imposter politicians into angels. He wished for nothing fanciful or impossible. He explained that Russia had begun production of a new heavy tank – the Armata – “some 20 years ahead of the most advanced American battle tanks – which may well prove decisive in the ongoing Finlandization of Europe.” Then he remarked:

2015 marks 30 years of my association with Chronicles, and readers who remember my first columns in that magazine’s pages will vouchsafe that my view of Russia’s ruling junta, its intentions, and its likely role in the destiny of Europe has not changed since 1985 – for the rational reason that the origin, composition, and modus operandi of the junta have likewise remained consistent. Just the other day I stumbled upon an interview I recorded for a radio program hosted by J.R. Nyquist, a true American patriot whose website deserves as much attention today as it did a decade ago, when Jeffrey ran me to ground in my Sicilian bolthole. And, for my part, I found that I can still subscribe under every word that came out of my mouth during our discussion.

Andrei further noted that I’d been onto him not 10, but nearly 25 years ago, “after Roger Scruton at his Claridge Press in London had published a little book … entitled The Coming Order: Reflections on Sovietology and the Media.” This book was written by Andrei, and it was about the deceptive changes that had taken place in Russia at the time. Somewhere in my writings Andrei had found reference to this little book of his, and how it became the subject of a conversation I had with presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan in 1992. The conversation took place at a house in Newport Beach, California, where Buchanan’s supporters were throwing a little party. Having received an invitation to attend, and knowing that Chronicles was Buchanan’s favorite magazine, I hoped to mention Andrei’s work. When my chance came to mention the subject, Buchanan was dismissive. I was disappointed in Buchanan’s response because it was certain that Andrei’s analysis would bear out over time. I also felt the unfairness of Arnold Beichman’s equally dismissive review of Andrei’s book. It was bad form to dismiss something of this kind without a proper discussion. It is not what an intelligent man is supposed to do. About my failed attempt to get a celebrity writer and politician to think a second time, Andrei generously wrote: 

If people like Jeffrey did not exist, I suspect I would have gone off my rocker a long time ago. They make the kind of stock taking in which – compliments of the season – I’m now indulging, possibly to some extent decorous. Without their sustained interest, a cry in the wilderness would be all but indistinguishable from an earful of philistine twaddle.

When everyone says you’re wrong, and they won’t have a proper discussion with you, what happens? A vacuum forms around you. And in this vacuum you are left alone, questioning yourself. After all, how could 300 million Americans be wrong? How could Arnold Beichman and Patrick Buchanan be wrong? By now it should be clear that they were wrong. Many absurdities about peace and prosperity were entertained back in 1992. But Andrei’s little book, and his book about the gingerbread man, were ignored at the time.

“I thought Arnold Beichman put Navrozov in his place,” Buchanan told me. Yet Arnold Beichman’s criticism of Andrei was not remotely honest. A decent person doesn’t write that sort of review. And there stood Buchanan in front of me, the hero/pundit/politician, taking Beichman’s “review” of Andrei's little book at face value. Where was Buchanan’s famous decency – that brilliant mind, that inner greatness? Gone in an instant! Vanished at a word!

Try and imagine, dear reader, the courage it took to write honestly on the subject of Russia in 1991-93. Imagine experiencing the rejection of the wise and famous. Imagine the disdain, the contempt, the ill regard of an intellectual galaxy with all its stars and planets and lesser satellites. And there you are, a passing meteor crashed down into oblivion on some cold desolate planet. Little did Andrei suspect at the time of his 7 January column, that 2015 would also be the last year of his association with Chronicles. Why this should be, I cannot say. He was the magazine’s European editor. But now he is gone. No explanation has been offered by Chronicles as to why Andrei was let go. It remains something of a mystery, or perhaps an omen – like snow falling on Palermo at a time of Global Warming.

It is interesting to learn that exactly one week after Andrei’s 7 January column appeared, a rather significant change occurred at the Rockford Institute (which publishes Chronicles). On 14 January 2015 Tom Piatak was named president of the Rockford Institute by the Board of Directors, displacing Thomas Fleming as president. At one stroke Andrei’s friend and editor (Fleming) was replaced by a long-time champion and Ohio campaign chairman of Patrick J. Buchanan. Piatak was also” Executive Director of The American Cause, a non-profit chaired by Buchanan.” According to the official announcement at Chronicles: “Mr. Piatak is confident that The Rockford Institute and its flagship monthly magazine and website are poised for significant growth and an expansion of the uniquely conservative influence that Chronicles has widened for nearly 40 years.”

In the month of May we read of “seismic news in the paleosphere.” The Conservative Heritage Times (CHT) headline stated: “Thomas Fleming Retires from Rockford Institute/Chronicles Magazine, Starts the Fleming Foundation.” A ripple of trepidation followed:

Reading between the lines in the comments on his [Fleming’s] Facebook page, this retirement was not planned. This puts CHT in an awkward position. We have always been friendly with Dr. Fleming and with new Rockford Institute president Tom Piatak, and wish to remain so with both. (We don’t even know that there is any bad blood, just that the retirement was not planned.) We are just reporting the news here, and are not taking sides. We foresee patronizing both sites, and remaining friendly with all involved.

And so, Mr. Navrozov’s writings now appear on the website of the Fleming Institute, where he penned an intriguing commentary that was – as all such commentaries – met with incomprehension. There was no alternative but to pen a little response which can be read in the commentary section following Andrei’s piece titled “Putin’s Hitler.”