Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Brezhnev Doctrine

Last night I re-read the Brezhnev Doctrine. As time goes on I am more and more convinced that George W. Bush is the Leonid Brezhnev of the United States.

The Bush doctrine and the Brezhnev doctrine make essentially the same statement: oderint dum metuant (let them hate us but they must fear us). Both doctrines assert the 'right' to intervene to enforce a particular set of ill-defined ideological ends.

Ultimately it was the Brezhnev doctrine that brought down the USSR. Realizing the doctrine required the USSR to be placed on a permanent war footing. The civilian economy collapsed under the strain long before the invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated that the USSR was no longer even an effective military power. By this time Brezhnez was at the very least senile if not clinically brain dead and his subordinates were acting on their own.

This highlights another common aspect of both the Bush and Brezhnev doctrines, both are sweeping assertions of absolute power by weak leaders who mistake use of violence as a first resource as demonstrating resolution rather than cowardice.

A final point of comparison between the doctrines is that the point at which the doctrine is stated is usually the point at which it becomes inoperable. The US has operated what amounts to a Bush doctrine since WWII. If we ignore the dubious claim of furthering democracy, the interventions in Iran, Latin America, Africa, Asia all fit within the Bush doctrine mold, just as the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 fits that of the Brezhnev doctrine.

It only becomes necessary to state a supremacist doctrine after control is already slipping away. In the case of the US the military had never been stronger than the day before the invasion of Iraq. But in relative terms the US lead over other countries is considerably narrower. In 1980 a cruise missile represented the very peak of military engineering achievement. Today it is possible for hobbyists to construct them in their garage from off the shelf electronics.

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