Staunton, September 28 – Given that Russians increasingly have “ceased to believe” in scholarship and turned to conspiracy theories of one kind or another, Boris Kagarlitsky says, it is perhaps not surprising that many of them including many in the Russian government have accepted the latest example of such theories, that of “administered chaos.”
And like so many other such theories, the director of the Moscow Institute of Globalization and Social Movements says, they have “borrowed” it from the West where this notion has “periodically surfaced in the writing of both left-wing and right-wing radicals” (rabkor.ru/likbez/2014/09/25/myth-of-controlled-chaos).
But as also often happened, he continues, in “a paradoxical way,” in Russia the notion of “administered chaos” has been taken up primarily by conservatives and other defenders of the existing order, who have repeated it so often that others have fallen under its influence typically with sad consequences.
The concept is simple in the extreme, he says, which may account for its popularity. According to its backers, “the United States, now in crisis, is trying to compensate for its weakness by destabilizing the rest of the world.” But by some miracle, the US is “always able to preserve control over the situation” and use it to Washington’s advantage.
For Russian exponents of this view, “the most dangerous form of chaos and destabilization” consists of revolutions, but because they believe that, they fail to distinguish between revolutions which spring from the state of any particular society and those which are sponsored from outside. As a result, for them, “all revolutions” are created by the US.
Of course, Kagarlitsky says, there is some evidence for this notion. If there weren’t, no one would accept it. But there is a fundamental problem: much of the instability in the world reflects factors other than American influence, and the US often isn’t able to deal with that any better than anyone else. In fact, for Washington, things are becoming “ever more difficult.”
Some Western writers but few Russian ones have suggested that “there are objective limits” to administered chaos. But while that may be true, “chaos as such never was administered in the sense in which conspiracy theorists have understood it.” It is possible to “influence” chaos, “at times quite effectively,” but it is impossible to do so in entirely predictable ways.
If the situations were otherwise, they would not be chaos, Kagarlitsky points out.
What in fact the US has been doing, he suggests, is pursuing a foreign policy that is intended to reduce to a minimum the problems disorder can cause for the United States. That policy has two principles: “‘empires have no permanent friends only continuing interests’” and “‘one must not put all one’s eggs in one basket.’”
Washington shifted to that approach at the end of the 1970s, copying much of it from the British. Instead of saying it will defend anyone “to the last” in the name of fighting communism, the US began to bob and weave, backing now one side and then another as the balance of strength shifted.
At present, this flexibility reflects the combination of two principles, Kagarlitsky says. On the one hand, Washington is prepared to “support any authoritarian regime” in the name of fighting terrorism. But on the other, it has not given up the idea of promoting “more democracy” anywhere or restricting itself as to “the ways and means” of doing so.
The British did this with great success, but the Americans have done so with much less, he continues. The reason is that “the present-day American State Department does not have either the experience of that diplomatic culture which was always characteristic for the British foreign office.”
“The foreign policy of the British Empire, even while being extremely cynical, permitted it to maintain its reputation while avoiding accusations of a complete lack of principles,” the Moscow analyst says. The Americans have been much less successful in that regard. Their “imperialism” simply isn’t as skillful as that of the British in the past.
As a result, he says, the US has suffered “practically an uninterrupted series of defeats in all directions of world policy,” but because of its “unprincipled flexibility and willingness constantly to change allies and spend enormous sums,” Washington often has been able to conceal its losses, especially among those who believe in the doctrine of administered chaos.
This can’t go on forever, Kagarlitsky says, and he suggests that “it is completely possible that precisely the events which are taking place now in Ukraine and in Russia will in this sense prove to be a turning point” which Russians will be able to see if they give up their fascination with conspiracy theories.