Relentlessly Building Potency: The U.S. Military Encircles Russia

Russian Flag
Encircling a bear: A good idea?

W.J. Astore

Nick Turse has an excellent article at TomDispatch.com documenting how U.S. special ops forces are involved in many countries that share a border with Russia.  A telling quotation from his article comes from General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  Testifying before Congress, Thomas said

“We are working relentlessly with our [European] partners and the Department of State to build potency in eastern and northern Europe to counter Russia’s approach to unconventional warfare, including developing mature and sustainable Special Operations capabilities across the region.”

This looks like typical bureaucratese, but two words struck me as revealing: “relentlessly” and “potency.”  Typically, one might say one is working “tirelessly,” or “cooperatively,” or just plain working.  The idea one is working “relentlessly” serves to highlight the often frenetic nature of U.S. military deployments, the emphasis on ceaseless toil and constant action, especially of the kinetic variety.  This is a leading feature of America’s can-do military, a strong preference for acting first, thinking later.  And it doesn’t bode well as American special ops forces take up “mature and sustainable” positions in former Soviet satellite countries for the alleged reason of deterring Russian aggression.

The second word that struck me from the general’s testimony was “potency.”  Americans certainly can’t be seen as impotent.  But potency here is really a weasel word for offensive potential — the ability to strike “kinetically” at an enemy.  For example, one could say the Soviets were building up potency in Cuba during the early 1960s, but the Kennedy administration didn’t exactly see nuclear missiles being based there in those terms.  Is Kim Jong-un similarly building up regional “potency,” working “relentlessly” to deter U.S. aggression in his region of the world?  American military and foreign policy experts would laugh at those words and sentiments coming from the mouth of rival leaders like Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un.

With ever bigger military budgets, and ever growing ambitions, the U.S. military is relentlessly building up potency, which is nevertheless always framed as defensive, even benign.

Something tells me the Russians don’t see it this way.

7 thoughts on “Relentlessly Building Potency: The U.S. Military Encircles Russia

      1. Unfortunately, the video here is anything but nice….. scary in fact. Change the date and it could be the present….. specially considering the current occupant of the White House who has encouraged this kind of thinking and attitudes!
        https://theintercept.com/2017/10/29/a-night-at-the-garden-is-the-most-terrifying-movie-you-can-watch-this-halloween/
        His generals, the so called “adults in the room” have not had much luck trying to restrain him!

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      2. Thanks, RS, for that link to “A Night at The Garden.” I recognized it immediately as a rip-off of the notorious propaganda film by Leni Riefenstal immortalizing the 1934 Nazi rally at Nuremberg, Germany. See: Triumph des Willens (1935) – Triumph of the Will. Of course, I had no trouble associating the video with one of Bibi Netanyahu’s speeches before the U. S. Congress, with Republicans and Democrats competing to see which tribe of trained seals could most often leap to its feat with the loudest and most resounding waves of applause greeting every contemptuous slur that this Apartheid Zionist mountebank could spit at the President of the United States (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, chiefly) and his hapless attempt at a “policy” regarding Occupied Palestine. Talk about your disgusting and revolting scenes of induced fascist hysteria!

        More importantly, though, I think that we should seriously contemplate what the late Professor Sheldon S. Wolin wrote in the Preview to his book Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008). A more important and relevant book about the thoroughy corporatized United States, I do not think that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. At any rate, Professor Wolin begins with this:

        The Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstal’s famous (or infamous) propaganda tribute to Hitler, memorialized the 1934 rally of the Nazi Party at Nuremberg. It begins with a dramatic, revelatory moment. The camera is trained on a densely clouded sky. Magically, the clouds suddenly part and a tiny plane glides through. It swoops down, lands, and The Leader, in uniform, emerges and strides triumphantly past the salutes of admiring throngs and the party faithful. As the film draws to a close, the camera becomes riveted on a seemingly endless parade, row on row, of uniformed Nazis, shoulder to shoulder, goose stepping in the flickering torchlight. Even today it leaves an impression of iron determination, of power poised for conquest, of power resolute, mindless, its might wrapped in myth.”

        “On May 1, 2003, in another tightly orchestrated “documentary,” television viewers were given an American version of stern resolve and its embodiment in a leader. A military plane swoops from the sky and lands on an aircraft carrier. The camera creates the illusion of a warship far at sea, symbolizing power unconfined to its native land and able to project itself anywhere in the world. The leader emerges, not as a plain and democratic officeholder, but as one whose symbolic authority is antidemocratic. He strides resolutely, flight helmet tucked under his arm, outfitted in the gear of a military pilot. Above, the banner “Mission Accomplished.” He salutes a prearranged crowd of uniformed military personnel. Shortly thereafter, he reemerges in civilian garb but without discarding the aura of anti-civilian authority. He speaks magisterially from the flight deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln, now cleared with the military carefully ringed about him. He stands alone in the ritual circle expressive of a sacrament of leadership and obedience. They cheer and clap on cue. He invokes the blessing of a higher power. He, too, has promised a triumph of the will.”

        Most media and press reviews of Deputy Dubya’s Texas-stud-hamster “Mission Accomplished” flight-deck boogie thought that his public relations team had modeled their carefully choreographed routine on the Tom Cruise movie, Top Gun, and to some extent they obviously did. But in a more sinister fashion, they also — as Professor Wolin masterfully recounts — slipped in the subconscious appeal to fascist militarism so brutally and openly staged by Hitler’s masterful Nazi propagandists. If imitation does indeed constitue “the sincerest form of flattery,” then the shade of Adlph Hitler must feel flattered beyond the power of words to describe.

        Now, despite what one may have heard about flag-rank U. S. military officers having attended — and even graduated from — college or university, objective evidence of this educational accomplishment remains largely undiscovered. Just the other day I saw a picture of not-one-but-three U. S. Navy aircraft carriers, along with a host of attendant ships and planes, sailing towards Korea — a really long distance from the continental United States — to welcome President Donald Trump on his upcoming public relations visit to Asia. This fabulous display of Diminishing Returns, probably has the purpose of thanking President Trump for squandering seven hundred billion taxpayer dollars — this year alone — on aircraft carriers, their thousands-of-sailor crews, and a whole bunch of Air Force assets as well. And all of this ostentatious display to impress and intimidate one “little Korean rocket man” who, for some reason, seems vastly amused that a country calling itself the richest and most powerful on earth can’t produce — for any conceivable amount of money — a military as effective as one of the world’s poorest.

        Somehow the entire extravagant farce reminds me of that scene in The Count of Monte Christo where the dissolute aristocrat, Fernand de Mondego, sits at a casino roulette table squandering away his family inheritance. Through an open adjoining door Edmond Dantes and his sidekick Yacopo look on. Observes Yacopo: “He’s losing at the other casinos, and they’re not even cheating him.”

        There we have the U. S. military in a nutshell. You can always tell when they’ve lost another war, the minute they start calling it “long.” But, hey. Hollywood stands ready and waiting to produce yet another film extravaganza featuring yet another Commander-in-Brief or cabinet secretary in his (or her) custom-thread bomber jacket arrogantly proclaiming, like the Bill Clinton’s dwarf diva Madeleine Albright: “… if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future …”

        [groan]

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  1. Mr Murry, I hope you did not miss the article which followed the video! Our very potent military creates catastrophic humanitarian crises but the govt refuses to offer safe haven to the victims!!

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  2. Some generals have the same mindset as the occupant of the White House…. no wonder they are comrades in arms!! …… no new direction for the countyr!
    time.com/5003580/john-kelly-lack-compromise-civil-war-robert-lee/

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  3. “We are working relentlessly with our [European] partners and the Department of State to build potency in eastern and northern Europe”. Almost sounds like an erectile dysfunction commercial. Call 1 800- Pentagon for your free 30 day supply.

    Michael Murry, you mentioned Bush the Youngers landing on the carrier. It reminded me at the time of the Ancient Romans celebrating a Triumph.

    Let’s not forget that fine supporting actors performance by Colon Powell at the UN. He tried soo hard to duplicate Stevenson at the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There must be a template some where for all this – a how to go to war. At this point the Shadow Government no longer has to convince we proles of the need or why we fight. Our bought and paid for Elected Officials will stifle any debate with flag waving platitudes.

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