putin the thug

The real reason Washington calls Putin a thug
Peter Van Buren, Reuters, Aug 2 2016

There is a near-certainty in Pindosi political speech, going back to the 1980s: When a senior Pindo boxtop labels you a thug, trouble follows. “Thug” is the safest go-to word in the lexicon of Pindosis lining up at the mic to call Putin just that. Obama called him a “thug,” as did Marco Rubio, who added “gangster” for good measure. Paul Ryan’s spox found fault with Putin and his whole nation, even adding an adjective:

Russia is a global menace led by a DEVIOUS thug.

One rarely hears ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum or villain, but watch out for thug. While throwing the term at Putin is tied to the weak public evidence supposedly linking Russian government hacker(s) to the DNC computer breach, there may be larger issues in the background. It seems the word “thug” is a sort of dog whistle that when blown signals Pindosis and their media to psyche up for a new fight. For example, Jackass Kerry on Bashar al-Assad:

A thug and murderer.

Jackass also said:

Daesh is in fact nothing more than a mixture of killers, of kidnappers, of criminals, of thugs.

Bush 43 on AQ:

If we let down our guard against this group of thugs, they will hurt us again.

Bush also thought Saddam Hussein was a thug. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Muammar Gaddafi:

Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer.

Madeleine Albright found thugs in Somalia and the Balkans for the wars of her era as Sec State. But why Putin, and why now? Perhaps what we’re seeing is preparation for the next iteration of Pindostan’s perpetual state of war. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Cold War (“the end of history,” as Francis Fukuyama, called it), there was no global enemy for America to face down. No big nasty to spur weapons procurement, to justify a huge standing military with hundreds of bases around the world or to pick fights with to allow a president down in the polls to morph into a superhero.

A lot of people had a lot of power and money in play that demanded some real bad guys. An attempt was made in the 1980s to make drug lords the new major threat, but they were too few in number to sustain the media campaign. Following 9/11, the bad guys were “the terrorists.” The Bush 43 administration riffed off that theme in appointing Saddam Hussein as a WMD threat and in tagging Iran and North Korea as members of an “axis of evil.” Saddam Hussein turned out to be a bust, and the war in Iraq was ultimately very unpopular. Osama bin Laden never launched a second attack on Pindostan, and the Taliban were dragged down by a war that seemed to lose its focus after 15 years. Iran and North Korea make a lot of noise but never seemed able to do real harm to Pindostan, which also made a good-faith effort trying to label all sorts of others, including Gaddafi, Assad and Islamic State, as global enemies worthy of perpetual war, but the Middle East in general has turned into a quagmire. America likes a winner, or at least the appearance of winning. Ahead of the next administration, Washington really needs an arch enemy, a poster-child kind of guy who looks like a James Bond villain. And preferably one with nuclear weapons he’ll brandish but never use. Enter Putin the Thug.

Pindosis are already well-prepared by the old Cold War to see Russia again as an evil empire, and Putin does look the part. The Russians are involved in Syria’s civil war, so there is some sense of continuity. A new Cold War with Russia would require Pindostan to buy more expensive military hardware, plus discover new areas of Europe, like the Baltic states, to garrison. It might even breathe new life into a NATO that is confused about its role vis-a-vis terrorism. For politicians, ceaselessly shouting about the Muslim threat has proved to have downsides: It has inflamed many Muslims, perhaps pushing them toward radicalization. In addition, it turns out there are Muslim voters in Pindostan, and people who respect Muslims. The Khan family’s moving speech to the DNC about the death of their soldier son was proof of that. On the other hand, Putin doesn’t vote, only a handful of far leftists think he’s a good guy, and he can be slapped around in sound bites without risk that he will actually launch a war against the United States. Why, he can even be accused, without penalty, of meddling in our democratic processes. Putin the Thug is a political-military-industrial-complex dream candidate. Expect him to feature heavily in the next administration’s foreign policy.

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