581. Deliverance (XIII)
For a time, just after WWI, Britain sponsored both the ibn Sauds and the Hashemites—the two groups warred with each other across Arabia, one supported by the Foreign Office and one supported by the Indian imperial government’s own foreign office and its Arab affairs section. It was finally noticed that the British Empire was engaged in a proxy war against itself and the two sides were called off, and yet this situation remains quite normal for any state; the various departments and bureaucracies have their own agendas and often fight each other at a distance—Enoch Powell noted that the Foreign Office has its own independent anti-British agenda.
The notion that there is a unified “state” or “government” out there is somewhat a superstition, perhaps akin to the superstition that there is a unified “God” out there—as opposed to various forces that flow about the world and interrelate with each other. Who knows what is really going on in the Ukraine at the moment? Perhaps the CIA, MI6, the SAS, the Foreign Office, and the FSB are really at war with each other or with themselves, with their own sub-departments. At a certain point a higher department—perhaps simply more powerful—might notice and call them off, then the war will be over.
This observation tends to disillusion; we want there to be one state or one government, just like we want there to be one God—the reality is more complex and ambiguous. People are in charge, there are departmental directors with whom the buck stops—yet their actual responsibility is opaque. Who really decides the fate of empires? It could well be a highly ornery leftover parked in a corner office who is all but forgotten amid old filing cabinets and yellowed BBC Micros—and yet his word is law, he has carefully accreted bureaucratic power over the decades to his palsied hand; perhaps his power has accrued simply because everyone else left or took early retirement.
An organism’s unity exists insofar as it disrupts its environment; and this is true in an individual as much as a state. Hence the war between the Hashemites and the Saudis erupted after WWI, after the British state lost its unity in wartime. In an analogous development, TE Lawrence, who had just fought in the same desert, dissolved post-war; he introspected and discovered that there was no unity of purpose within him—he could adduce multiple motivations for his actions. There is no single God, no single state, no single mind—just branches that can be bound together and culled.
The man and state at war achieve a singular purpose because both seek to disrupt their environment; hence peacetime means confusion, divergent intentions and divergent purposes—Heraclitus, all is war. Examine The Third World War (1977): it says the Soviets were weak in electronic warfare; vulnerable to ATGMs; concentrated their officers at the senior level, with a small intermediate strata (hence their senior officers would be near the front, hence vulnerable to attack); suffered weak logistics; and would justify an invasion of West Germany by saying that the country had turned “neo-Nazi”.
This was said forty years ago, yet it has all unfolded just the same in the Ukraine. This is because militaries are conservative and only learn through war itself—they only learn when people who advocate certain positions are killed. In the interim, the various departments make cases and protect their interests—it is only when the war begins that they are knitted into a single will, and then the proof of the pudding is discovered (the Moskva sinks). As for the West, not fully committed to war—being merely into inter-departmental meddling—we see the pathological side to bureaucracies in full effect; and this is why you see the West cheer for the Azov Regiment and scream about the “neo-Nazi” menace at home; there is no single will here, just schizo switches and incoherence—or, rather, coherence at the corner office level.