PROXY: A Chapter Excerpt from 'Iconoclasm'
Proxy nations can also be a sparring ground for larger world powers. Should two superpowers be hesitant to engage in formal warfare, or if the notion of war is unpopular amongst the citizenry, engagement via proxy nations is a viable option. This is made especially easy given that ward-states often have the above-stated authoritarian degrees to their governance. The operation of such puppet governments can be molded to fit a pretense for war under the guise of moral debt. Once this debt is established a superpower can invade a ward-state of another superpower, unofficially waging war at its doorstep.
A modern proxy war can be observed in the decimated state of Syria. The Syrian government has long been a client of Russia and the former USSR, with a ruling class of officials that are predominantly Shia Alawite Muslims. As one of the nations located in the Fertile Crescent, Syria is much like Israel in its level of value for military and trade use, giving its allegiance powerful leverage in geopolitics.
For Russia such client states are invaluable. The other superpowers of the world (China and the United States) are not as landlocked, having access to a wide degree of accessibility on their coastlines. The Russian landmass, however, is limited in its accessibility, making naval trade and military strategy a difficult endeavor. Throughout history this has been a theme in Russian expansionism. The ability to utilize the geography of smaller countries allows the industrial powerhouse of Russia to match its superpower counterparts in both military and economic capacities.
Syria, Cuba, and the Ukraine are all key players in this concept.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact it was expected by Russian officials that NATO would disarm as well. NATO was the reciprocal to the Warsaw Pact, having been put in place to stave off the expansionism of the USSR and communist nations. Yet even as the threat of communism fell and the Cold War ended, NATO continued not only to exist, but also to expand. NATO crept closer and closer to Russia. Soon Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and a multitude of eastern European nations were poised in NATO alliance. For Russia this would be seen as massively inflammatory, and a direct liability to peace between the Rus and Europe as a whole.
It became imperative that the Russian government retain its ties to former Soviet allies, in the event that a NATO or Pan-European front were to advance on Russian borders. Russian naval units would need to be stationed in former communist states like Vietnam, Cuba, and the Ukraine. The naval base at Tartus in Syria was of arguably even greater importance though, as it offered quick passage to three continents, the Black Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though the Cold War was over in theory, NATO expansionism exhibited that if the conditions were right the prospect of war between the West and Russia was still on the table. It would not be until 2011 that obvious proxy warfare began to take effect.
Moving back to Syria, there was a wide disenfranchisement of citizens resulting from the autocratic rule of Alawites. Though Syria was secular, political decisions were limited to a very narrow margin of individuals, all of whom were of a very specific pedigree and creed. This of course resulted in the potential for revolution. The underside of Syria burned with the potential for power upheaval, a potential that was not wasted on the eyes of Russia’s rival superpowers.
To advance against Russia covertly, all Western powers would have to do is facilitate the procurement of arms to rebel groups in Syria. This could be easily done and described to Western citizens as a means to confront Syrian authoritarianism without the use of conventional intervention. The veil of this rhetoric operates in twofold, simultaneously using moral debt to justify inflammatory action, while employing saber rattling toward another superpower. Given that conventional war with Russia would be massively unpopular to Western citizens, the method of a Syrian front could disguise the intention as well as the implication.
The United States government would proceed with this plan, arming “moderate rebels” who succeeded in dismantling the Syrian Alawite regime. This had expected fallout, namely the rise of fundamentalist zealotry in the aforementioned rebel groups. The dominance of religious zeal in these factions then prompted the involvement of the Russian military, Iranian funded militias, and eventually a multitude of world powers. The Russian naval base at Tartus is likely compromised as a result of this debacle.
The nature of conflict is far more varied than what is perceived by the general population. It is upon these cruxes that war can be instated passively, or provoked until it manifests actively.
Common themes for each of these include economic control, military strategy, and the use of moral debt to garner popular support. A final detail to the nature of warfare in the modern age can be attributed to Major General Smedley Butler of the United States Army:
The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits—ah! That is another matter—twenty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred percent. The sky’s the limit.
The subjugation of smaller nations to their client states doesn’t just assure economic dominance of superpowers; it also yields intense profits during actual warfare. State capitalist companies who exert a monopoly on developing nations are contracted in no-bid arrangements to issue weapons to the military, rebuild destroyed infrastructure, and oversee the export of resources after regime changes. As such conflicts assure massive profit margins, it is to the great benefit of many large companies to perpetuate war. This can be endorsed politically through the influence of policy by lobbyists, ex-corporate officials turned politicians, and campaign donations.
For a munitions and aircraft company like Lockheed Martin, there is an added benefit. Lockheed was bailed out of bankruptcy in 1971. The US government deemed the failing of such a company to be a detriment to the economy and American security. As such, Lockheed has operated under heavy state subsidy ever since. This amounts to a business model that is hugely profitable.
The taxpayers fund the capital needed for Lockheed’s operation, wars are initiated that require Lockheed’s products, the government buys said products with taxpayer money, and the system is repeated. In every rational sense Lockheed receives double profits for its products, footed both times by taxpayer dollars.
The presence of Lockheed Martin lobbyists and ex-officials working as representatives in Washington illustrates a serious conflict of interests. For the average United States citizen perpetual war and convoluted operations of state are an expensive liability. Yet these acts are the bread and butter for privatized industry. The pretense for war must be manufactured as necessary to the public for the paradigm to persist.
The same can be shown in the no-bid contracts given to Halliburton to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq. These contracts were issued to create usable public works that were destroyed in the war, and also to create new works for the use of the US military. A whopping $39.5 billion has been siphoned to Halliburton subsidiary KBR within a decade. This is in addition to the already lofty government funding of Halliburton’s operations, creating the same double profits as seen with Lockheed Martin.
Monopolizing trade and military strategy is certainly a primary goal of warfare and state clientship. Yet there is a more pressing model that becomes increasingly pervasive in the modern world. The multinational nature of a globalized economy emboldens state capitalist companies, allowing their voices to be heard on a level equal to or surpassing that of many nations.
For a nation with no industrial ties, war is only profitable after the conquest of new territories is completed. Purchasing weapons and wartime necessities is expensive, and to an independent government an act that should not be prolonged.
The presence of state capitalist entities in government makes warfare profitable to many. The appeal of perpetual engagement in acts of war becomes a simple means to keep a company’s profit margin, and subsidies a means to always have operating capital. Coupled with inflationary currency, a government using this model doesn’t care how expensive war may be.
In fact, the more expensive the better—as government priority shifts from fiscal accountability to the taxpayers, to profit accountability to major industry.
This design has expanded since the early twentieth century, coming into shape after the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913, and reaching its current model after the destandardization of the US dollar in 1971.
For each of these methods of war to function there must be a divide between state affairs and the will of the people. Moral debt, political or religious dogma, and sponsored xenophobia are all common methods to achieve this.
The need to control public opinion conceivably becomes the most important facet of government, as it supplements power monopolies and limitation of political pluralism. Defined strategies exist to these means, illustrating not only a divide between citizen and government, but also a passive warfare that exists right under the nose of the public.