The U.S. and the militarization of historical memory in Eurasia
This article originally appeared at The Vineyard of the Saker
Eurasia is on pace to become integrated like never before, with China’s Belt & Road and Russia’s Eurasian Union providing the structural basis for this historical connection between continents. The US understands the threat that this poses to its global hegemony (see Brzezinski’s The Grand Chessboard), ergo the rolling out of its latest postmodern weapon, the militarization of historical memory. Eurasia is full of a patchwork of conflicting memories, but none are more controversial, polarizing, and convenient for the US’ geostrategic aim of dividing Eurasia than World War II and the Sunni-Shia split. Let’s take a closer look:
The US is fully supportive of Japan’s remilitarization, especially so because it rattles the nerves of China and evokes memories of a return to Tokyo’s fascist past. China lost tens of millions of its citizens as a result of Japan’s brutal aggression and subsequent occupation, and it plans on commemorating their memory during the upcoming 70th anniversary of Victory Day in Asia. The US finds this absolutely unnecessary, according to Obama’s top Asia advisor, Evan Medeiros, since a transcript provided by the State Department to Reuters quoted him as saying that:
“We want for the region to get past it so the region can realize its full potential as a driver of global growth, for example, so when we think about these history questions and when we think about this ceremony in China, these are the kinds of considerations that we’re looking at.”
Wait a minute…is the US saying that victims of state-sponsored aggression and those which have lost millions of lives as a result should simply “get past it”? Well, yeah, that is what he said, but remember, the US is consistently subjective in applying its own articulated policies, hence why it has a completely opposite approach when it comes to World War II in Eastern Europe. Before addressing that, however, a few more words about the militarization of historical memory in Asia are required.
The US understands that the only feasible way to construct a China Containment Coalition (CCC) is to bring about the increased regional involvement of Japan as its predominant Lead From Behind proxy in the theater. The only time that Tokyo fulfilled the role of regional hegemon was during World War II, and as much as it may pain some people to admit, China notwithstanding, many of the region’s people were somewhat relieved to fall under Japan’s control as they saw it as preferable to European colonization (Indochina and Indonesia being prime examples).
True, there certainly were resistance groups and the Japanese obviously partook in large-scale atrocities in the occupied lands, but by and large, there was no resistance to Japan on par with that demonstrated by the Chinese, who literally were fighting for their very existence (in the same manner as the Soviet Union and its people were also fighting for their own against the Nazis). Whether one calls the majority of Japan’s non-Chinese occupied Asian subjects “collaborators” or passive acceptors of Tokyo’s tyranny, it doesn’t change the fact that there was sizeable enough support among the population that they didn’t feel compelled to rise up and initiate Chinese-style resistance.
It is this exact state of affairs that the US wants to emulate in the 21st century, with Imperial Japan serving as the model for the CCC in Northeast and Southeast Asia, just as it did during World War II. The official American attitude towards Chinese criticism of Japan’s remilitarization and clear adherence to its Fascist-era template, as evidenced by Medeiros’ statement, is that Beijing should just “get past it”, which is easy to say when the US lost but a tiny fraction of what the Chinese did during World War II and hasn’t fought a war on its home turf for over 200 years.
How does the US react to the invocation of World War II-era criticism by its radical nationalist Eastern European allies? Does it tell Kiev, Poland, or the Baltic States to simply “get past it” and bury their Fascist past? How about that they should simply accept the historical fact of their liberation by the Red Army and be grateful that the Soviet Union ended the war? Nope, it’s the total polar opposite, as most of you already know. In Eastern Europe, the US also supports the revival of Fascist-era movements and historical interpretations, much as it does in East Asia with Japan, and it also lambasts anyone (especially Russia) for suggesting that the US is on the wrong side of history through its flouting of Neo-Fascist alliances. In this Western theater of the Eurasian-wide push-back being waged by the US, Washington doesn’t want anyone to ever “get past” World War II, except of course the Russian Federation and its Soviet-era liberation victory. Aside from Moscow, everybody in Eastern Europe needs to keep the war at the forefront of their thoughts, but only if it’s the ‘right’ (Fascist) version sanitized by the US.
That version is far from sanitary to the average human being, but for the US, which never utilizes actual morals, ethics, or principles in its foreign policy (all references to the aforementioned are window-dressed marketing to sell whatever the war of the year may be), it’s the only acceptable interpretation of World War II events. In fact, the US would prefer for such ideas to make the upgrade from interpretation to regional ideology, all in an effort to build a 21st-century ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the Russian Federation. The more subjectively (and in many cases, falsely) cited ‘facts’ that can divide Russia from Europe, the better, and since Eastern Europe is the most receptive to this type of information war, it makes sense that half of NATO’s ‘strategic communication centers’ are located in that area. It should be taken as a given that these entities are cranking out loads of revisionist World War II-era material in a frantic quest to rapidly rewrite history and imprint the US’ approved version of events into the minds of the regional majority. Only by planting the roots of intergenerational hate against Russia can the US feel assured that its regional vassals will remain under its sway for decades to come.
The US’ plans to foster intergenerational hate against Russia appear mild when compared to what it’s doing in the Mideast, which is the creation of inter-centennial hate between Islamic sects. Although the Sunni-Shia split occurred over a thousand years ago and the brief period of bloodshed resulting thereof had largely and rightfully been relegated to the past, the US decided to unearth this bitter memory in order to better its contemporary strategy. The last thing it ever wants is for Muslims to “get past” their sectarian divisions, and if they appear to have done so (as was the case for well over a millennium already), then they must forcibly be reminded of their differences and provoked into bloodshed. The concept here is to divide and rule the region through the militarization of the Sunni-Shina split, whereby each sect viciously kills the other simply because of their adherence to a different denomination. The model that the US is aiming for is the Mideast equivalent of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War, where Catholic and Protestant forces engaged in such a severe bloodletting that Oxford Bibliographies estimates between 15-20% of the pre-war population was killed or injured by the time it ended, with “the scope of misery and destruction it brought to those experiencing it, as a disaster comparable to, if not greater than, the two world wars and the Black Death.”
The whole point here is to create such a whirlpool of chaos that it eventually sucks in Russia and Iran, hence the expansionist nature of the un-“Islamic State” movement, which is nothing more than a cancerous ideological growth enforced by militant means. Its danger derives from the fact that it can theoretically crop up anywhere that Muslims live, and the animal-like sectarian violence that it’s precipitated is ideal for provoking the reactionary attacks necessary to begin a Mideast-wide Sunni-Shia war, the US’ ultimate objective. In the aftermath of that catastrophic conflagration, should the US be successful in setting it off (the fuse is already unfortunately lit), then the Mideast version of the “Peace of Westphalia” that ended the Catholic-Protestant war and ushered in the era of nation-states would be written according to the US’ geopolitical imperatives, likely along the divisive and cartographically revisionist proposals of Ralph “ethnic cleansing works” Peters , the New York Times’ “How 5 Countries Could Become 14”, or some hybrid application.
A lot of complex information has been expressed in the previous sections, so it’s necessary to engage in a brief historical recap in order to place everything into the bigger picture. The US is reviving the historical divisions of World War II and the Sunni-Shia split in order to achieve its grandest strategic objective, the division of Eurasia and the preclusion of Chinese-Russian-Iranian integration of the supercontinent. The focus on Fascism in Asia is meant to empower the former Japanese aggressor as the US’ preferred Lead From Behind proxy and convince China’s neighbors to collaborate with it just like they did in the past. This proposed relationship is anticipated to form the basis of a proto-NATO in East and Southeast Asia, with Japan forming the link between the two containment theaters.
Over in Eastern Europe, matters are a bit different. The US celebrates the Fascist collaborationist governments and movements that fought against the USSR’s counter-offensive liberation campaign, hoping that this will drive wedges between their citizens and pragmatic cooperation with Russia. The end effect of such a strategy is to strengthen the population’s commitment to NATO to the point where the people actually invite the US to deepen its occupation of their territories, as is already the case in the Baltics and Poland. Ukraine is the epistemological experiment underpinning the success or failure of US’ other European ventures in this regard, and thus far, this tactic has been a wild success in generating anti-Russian sentiment all throughout Europe, even penetrating into its Scandinavian and Western European periphery.
Moving down to the South-Central portion of Eurasia, it’s not World War II divisions that are being revived, but rather religious ones from over 1,000 years ago. The US wants to divide and rule the entire region, hoping that the sectarian war it wishes to unleash will do the Pentagon’s dirty work for it. The end game is to bolster the power of Saudi Arabia, the cauldron of sectarian hate, so that the Kingdom can become the core of an Arab NATO (in league with Israel) for future deployment against Iran. Additionally, the virulent expansion of the un-“Islamic State” is meant to undermine Iran’s regional (and perhaps one day, even domestic) stability, and also pose a dilemma for the Central Asian states that form the bedrock of Russian and Chinese security. The unleashing of full-scale Islamic insurgency in the heart of Asia would inevitably spill over to these two Eurasian giants, thereby putting them on the strategic defensive and reopening the Pandora’s Box of domestic destabilization.
The US is experimenting with a novel method of warfare in its quest to contain and dismember Russia, China, and Iran, and that’s the militarization of historical memory. World War II has been reinterpreted in such a way as to fashion it as a weapon against Russia and China, while the Sunni-Shia split, which had been peacefully dormant for over a thousand years, has been reawakened with militant religious vigor unseen since the time of the Crusades. Each theater and historical reinterpretation targets a different Eurasian anchor, but the pattern of postmodern warfare is clear. The US, while still confronting its identified adversaries in a direct manner, is now seeking to accelerate its indirect strategies as well, hence the invocation of divisive and militarized historical memory in the quest to create large proxy coalitions against its rivals. The facts of historical record no longer matter to the US, and it can be argued that they never did matter to begin with, but what’s important right now for America is whether its intended audiences remain receptive to the revised record or not, but as one can evidently see with their own eyes, the US has succeed in fertilizing these seeds of historical discord and they’re finally beginning to bear their poisonous fruits.