Ukraine is in a pickle

To be in a pickle means to be in a very difficult situation.

In my view, the number one problem is that in Ukraine there are two nationalities. Those in the North and West are Ukrainian speakers; those in the South and East are Russian speakers. I suppose this would be tolerable if Ukraine were a federated State like Switzerland with two distinct linguistic groups, but it is not; it is a centralized hierarchival State. Moreover, most citizens of Ukraine are bi-lingual. The tension is over domination and discrimination.

The second problem is irrendentism. Ukraine’s neighbor on the East is Russia. This means that like Hitler who annexed the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany because this was the area of Czechoslovakia where the dominant language was German; so likewise, Putin annexed Crimea to Russia, and is fermenting trouble in the Donbass region of Ukraine. To add to this situation is the fact that these Russian speaking regions want to be part of Russia. They eagerly accept Russian passports.

The third problem is that both Ukraine and Russia have bad forms of government. I consider placing power in a single individual to be a form of dictatorship, as did the ancient republican Romans and Spartans. Rome placed power in two consuls who had veto power over each other. Sparta had two kings and five ephors checking them. Thus, power was spread as it is in Switzerland today between seven members of the Federal Council. In Russia there is the “dictator” Putin, while in Ukraine there is President Zelensky with a dubious linguistic standing and sympathies. In any case, both countries are subject to the whims of these individuals.

The fourth problem is that despite signing the Budapest Memorandum (1994) [ signatories: Ukraine, Russia, Britain, United States], in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a commitment to respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, that guarantee has been broken by Russia under Putin by annexing Crimea and creating an ongoing Russian “hybrid” war in the Donbass. And the other signatories have reneged on their commitment to protect Ukraine.

What is the difference between a Mercenary and a Paid Soldier?

“People view soldiers like wives and mercenaries as prostitutes, who turn love into a transaction. But every soldier has a little mercenary in him, and vice versa. Troops often reenlist for big bonuses, a transactional practice common in most militaries. For example, the U.S. Army sometimes offers up to $90,000 for Soldiers to reenlist, enough to make modern mercenaries salivate. The author has also seen mercenaries refuse jobs on political grounds. Some American-hired guns will never take money from Russia, China, Iran, or a terrorist group; America’s enemies are their enemies. The line between soldier and mercenary is fuzzy.” Sean McFate, Mercenaries and War: Understanding Private Armies Today, National Defense University Press, 2019.

Interview with Sean McFate about mercenaries

Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, 2007.

Russian Mercenaries — The Wagner Group

Candace Rondeaux, Decoding the Wagner Group: Analyzing the Role of Private Military Security Contractors in Russian Proxy Warfare, 2019.

On Nation-States and Federalism

I am reading Oscar Jaszi’s book, The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1929. It is interesting for me from several perspectives. Jaszi’s thesis is that Austria should have been divided along its ethnic or national units into a federated State like that of Switzerland. He enumerates and discusses the various tensions between the various nationalities and “irredentist” aspirations. [An “irredentist” aspiration is one of wanting to unite with one’s ethnic group in an adjoining State (Country).)

Below is a map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with its various ethnic groups in 1910:

As a result of the First World War, Austria was defeated, and by the Treaty of Versailles its territory was divided more equitably (but not enough) along ethnic groupings as illustrated by the map below:
I am in agreement with Jaszi about federalism — i.e., that a State should be organized on the basis of autonomous smaller units. I take it that he would be satisfied with the example of the United States, and more so with that of Switzerland. Let us call the former, Large Federalism; the latter, Moderate Federalism. However, I advocate a more radical federalism — call it Small or Radical Federalism. Radical Federalism requires the local unit of government to represent about 150 families. Radical Federalism is equivalent to Anarchism. This is why Proudhon’s tract “The Principle of Federation” (1863) is synonymous with anarchism (contrary to those who think otherwise).

The federalism of the United States consists of 50 States. The whole country of over 300 million people elects a President. Each State elects two Senators to Congress — by thousands and millions of people. The number of Representatives to Congress is relative to the population of the State. But this too is by thousands and millions of people voting. As far as the government of a State is concerned, the Governor and the Representative to the State Legislature are also elected by thousands and millions of people.

This huge number of voters is also present on the municipal level. I live in Chicago which has a Mayor elected by the nearly 3 million citizens. There is also a City Council of 50 Alderman, each elected at 50 Wards by some 40,000 voters each.

I describe the federalism of Switzerland as Moderate as contrasted with that of the United States. Its territory is much smaller than that of the United States, and its population of nearly 9 million approximates the population of Greater Chicago (i.e., including the surrounding suburbs of Chicago). It consists of 26 Cantons, grouped by languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh).

Here is a video explaining the Swiss political system: Video

My objection to both the government of the United States as well as to the government of Switzerland is that they base themselves on, what I call, Mass or Macro-Democracy in which thousands and millions of people vote either for politicians or laws. Instead I favor Micro-Democracy as a unit of government of roughly 150 voters. This is my ideal of anarchism. Lately it has been called Participatory Democracy, Municipal Confederalism, Strong Democracy, and a system of Nested Councils. I found the following article clearly explaining this point of view [it also has relevant links!]: Sveinung Legard, Scaling Up: Ideas about Participatory Democracy

The Conquered Earth

I am interested primarily in understanding how our social world operates. By “social” I mean how humans interact with one another. And to do this I will rely on the vocabulary and explanations used by Franz Oppenheimer in his book The State (which is part of the second volume of his four volume Systems of Sociology [never completely translated into English]).

In the past (19th century) there was a constant concern with “the Social Problem.” Although this problem was seen from a symptomatic perspective as poverty, I think this problem can be expresses fundamentally and succinctly in the following way: some people by force prevent other people from taking up and occupying subsistence land. Put thus, all this means pre-historically is that groups of people delimited a territory as their property. This results in a scattering of tribes. Anthropologists study such “stateless people” especially indigenous people which were referred to as “savages” and “barbarians”, as contrasted with “civilized people.” The vocabulary comes from Lewis Morgan’s, Ancient Society (1877), which distinguished people by their tools, and “civilized people” by having a written script.

Now, because, as Oppenheimer calculated, there is and was enough land to go around. The prevention of someone taking up subsistence land can occur only by force. Presently this force is exercised by governments in States.

Oppenheimer believed that such governments and States can occur only by conquest of one external group by another. Some anthropologists quibble about this, contending that States can be formed through internal class divisions. Without entering into this quibble, let me offer the following two claims:
1. a sufficient condition for the formation of States is conquest by an external group.
2. the empirical data in recorded history is of warfare, strife, protest, rebellion, and conquest.

Moreover, these violences are almost invariably associated with particular individuals who are called emperors, kings, princes, rulers, conquerors, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and such. It is the deeds of these individuals which constitutes the history of States.

The Social Problem of forceful barring people from a free use of subsistence land is called by Oppenheimer the “political means” as contrasted with a free exchange of goods and services called by him the “economic means.”

Oppenheimer contrasted two ways of getting “honey.” (Honey is his metaphor for economic subsistence.) One is the method of the bear: attack the hive regardless of what happens to the bees and take the honey. The other method is that of the bee-keeper: take some honey, but leave enough so that the bees thrive and produce more honey for further taking.

Oppenheimer distinguished six stages (or ways) of how conquerors deal with the conquered people. The first stage in like that of the bear: kill the people and take the loot. This is illustrated in the Bible as the extermination of the Canaanites by Israelites, early Viking raids and pillages, and generally historic and modern ethnic cleansings and genocides. The second and subsequent stages or ways is that of the bee-keeper: make the conquered people slaves, or demand tribute, or settle among them as in feudalism and require goods and services, and later also payments (taxes), or just fees, licenses, and taxes. The so-called constitutional states attempt to give this class division legitimacy through such myths as the will of the people or a social contract, and finally as mass democracy (where thousands and millions vote for so-called “representatives”).

The essence of capitalism — which predated industrialization — is the continued barring of people from a free access to subsistence land. And since all the earth is now divided into States, the only places to go in order to escape a State are: a war zone, border lands, a frontier, mountains, swamps and jungles — where pursuit is difficult or unprofitable.

Types of Wars and Killings

I keep thinking of the slaughter of people which occurs by such things as dropping an atomic bomb over them. This is a mass extermination of people, as are genocides. I also have in mind dropping of napalm on villages and cities, as in Vietnam and Japan. [See: 67 Japanese Cities Firebombed in World War II]

My naive picture of war used to be the picture of a battle in which two armies faced each other — something like the Napoleonic battles. Below is a depiction the Battle of Austerlitz:


But mass extermination has no semblance to these pictures of two armies facing each other. It has semblance more to an execution or pest control.

As to Napoleonic type battles which represent all State wars of the past, they all have the stench of Pyrrhic victories. Who is the winner? And the winner of what?

The winner is normally some individual — a monarch, a president, a general, or, today, some corporation and some CEO.

And who is the loser? The countless bodies on the battlefields (the “pawns”) and civilians . Think of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. It involved more that 1.5 million soldiers, of these .5 million dead French soldiers, and .4 million dead Russians.

Or, think of Abraham Lincoln’s invasion of the South in 1861. [It was not a “civil war” since it did not involve a struggle over the replacement of the federal government; it was a war against secession.] According to Wikipedia, “The war resulted in at least 1,030,000 casualties (3 percent of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians.”

What is appalling today are the assassinations and “collateral damages” by the U.S. “turkey shoots.” I have in mind the targeted killings by the use of helicopters and drones as below:

And there is concerted effort today in the U.S. to suppress reporting about such “turkey shoots.” Julian Assange is facing a British court which is deciding whether to extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial for violating the Espionage Act (1917) by publishing on Wikileaks materials provided to him by Chelsea Manning about such U.S. “turkey shoots.”

Putin’s Russian Invasions

I want to remind viewers that under Putin, in 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and is still occupying the Donbass region.

In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia, occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In 1994 and in 1999 Russia invaded Chechnya.

In 1992 Russia’s army supported the breakaway war of Transnistria from Moldova.