We’ve always suspected they’re a bunch of baboons over there in Brussels, now we’ve learned science agrees
NATO accounts for 60 percent of the world’s military spending. Russia’s share is 4 percent.
So then why is NATO so terrified of Russia?
Paul Robinson has an answer. It’s a fun one and a compelling one, but it is not pretty. It’s down to paleolithic fears and social primate behavior which we would dismiss as primitive if it wasn’t still practiced by the US and NATO to this day.
To a surprising extent international relations are all about posturing:
As far as the first is concerned, in his 2011 book Why Nations Fight, Richard Ned Lebow examined the causes of all the wars fought in the modern era and determined that the most common reason for war was what he termed ‘standing’ – in other words, wars were not primarily about material resources, territory, security, or so on, but rather about relative status. This certainly fits with my own findings, as laid out in my book Military Honour and the Conduct of War.
To a quite surprising extent, international relations is about questions of honour. What spurs politicians into action is concerns about status, prestige, credibility, and the various virtues on which they think that their honour depends – strength, resolve and the like.
This is especially true of powerful states and alliances. In the eyes of the doom-mongers, NATO has no will. It is morally weak. As such it risks losing status and credibility, and once it loses those, it will surely collapse.
Incidentally, who else is great at posturing. Oh yes, it’s the primates:
A key to understanding this dynamic can be found in Desmond Morris’s 1969 classic The Human Zoo.
In chapter 2 of this book, entitled ‘Status and Super Status’, Morris describes how alpha baboons have to behave if they want to maintain their dominant status. The problem these baboons face is that their number one position is always under threat. Their position is inherently unstable, and they can only go down. As a result, they have to be hypervigilant.
Any threat must be stamped on with utmost violence to deter others. But not only actual threats – even the mere threat of a threat, the slightest hint of imagined rebellion, must be met with an aggressive reaction.
Paradoxically, therefore, the stronger one is, the more afraid one is too. The dominant baboon believes that his position rests upon his prestige and his credibility and so is perpetually on guard to threats to his honour. He cannot rest. He must always be afraid. And so he inevitably exaggerates the threats around him.
The United States, and its NATO allies, may be compared with Morris’s dominant baboons. Their very dominance makes them paranoid. This is why Saideman and co. are so scared.
There’s also a secondary reason — equally primal as the one above — why being terrified of Russia is actually reassuring:
Studies of the psychology of risk point to a second factor. According to such studies, humans evolved to be afraid of the dangers which lurked in their natural habitat. They expect danger, and so when they can’t identify it, they get very twitchy.
Their instincts tell them that there must a danger there somewhere, and the fact that they can’t spot it is a matter of deep concern. They don’t know what to do. Finding a threat is thus reassuring. For once the threat has been found, they can work out a plan for dealing with it. They have target for their action.
Again, therefore, we confront a paradox. Being strong makes one safe. But safety makes one paranoid. By contrast, having an enemy actually makes one feel better. And this is the West’s current problem.
By historical standards, it is remarkably safe. It hasn’t fought any major internal wars for 70 years. Terrorism in the West is near an all-time low. NATO enjoys military and economic dominance.
And yet, many can’t help feeling that it’s all about to come crashing down. And because they feel that way, they feel also a need to identify the threat which will cause the collapse, so that they can come up with a plan to do something about it.
And that, in brief, is why Russophobia is enjoying such a comeback. It gives the West an enemy. And by giving it an enemy, it also, strangely enough, gives it a sense of reassurance, allowing it to flex its muscles and so feel that its status is safe, at least for now.
The truth will set you free.