Exit Strategies

Chaos Theory

Editor's note: The following is a translation from the Russian of an article that originally appeared in the online magazine Regnum. I probably speak for most AltRight readers when I write that I find American foreign policy to be "chaotic" (in the common sense of the word.) Lacking a conservative ruling order, the American state has been a mere tool to be used, in contradictory and self-defeating ways, by various political factions, all of which are semi-united by a post-Trotskyist embrace of "democracy." The American political system itself seems ill suited to any kind of coherent strategy, with the short attention spans of the public and media and the constant turnover of elected officials. Articles such as this one, however, challenge us to find a method in the madness, that is, a deeper Grand Strategy lying behind what appears at first glance to be incompetent and unwise policy-making.  ~RBS


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Coups in Tunisia and Egypt, mass rallies in nearly all Arab countries, armed rebellion and foreign aggression in Libya, all of these events led to lively discussions about the relationship between the internal and external factors of the crisis [in the Greater Middle East]. Undoubtedly, the root cause of revolutions and rebellions lies within the state.



The cover-up operation had failed

From the beginning of turbulence in the Greater Middle East, the world MSM and Russia's liberal and semi-official media right behind them persistently hammered the thesis about the complete lack of involvement on the part of the United States into the consciousness of their readers, viewers, and listeners. Moreover, the United States were portrayed as the victim and the main loser. If the MSM were to be believed, we must not sympathize with the Libyans, perishing under NATO bombs, but rather the unfortunate Americans and their idealistic president, who was unexpectedly drawn into the fatal whirlwind of events.


Let's start with the fact that Obama's entire Nobel-Prize acceptance speech was dedicated to the rationalization of the "just war" principle and the justification of the right to use military force, including "humanitarian interventions." Therefore, the U.S. president was amazed by the demands to take away his prize when the bombing of Libya began. "Americans see no contradiction" between the status of a peacemaker and the order to bomb, said Obama.

As with the Nobel Prize, the transition of command of the operation from American generals to NATO also does not prove the lack of involvement in the crisis on the part of the United States. Americans initiated these problems, but the end result will be cleaned up by the allies. This is perfectly normal and natural politics. Or does anyone think of NATO as a separate entity, independent of the U.S.?

Furthermore, it became clear rather quickly that the “Twitter technology” of accumulating protest energy was developed by the NGOs directly related to the State Department, and the democratic activists in Tunisia and Egypt (by strange coincidence) were interns or members of these institutions. Well publicized was the fact that in August of last year, a secret analysis of the possibility of revolutions in the Arab world was conducted on behalf of Obama; the policy to support this process was adopted at the same time. A purely rhetorical question is who was behind the adoption of the two UN Security Council resolutions on Libya.


America was first to become aware of the power of information and to master the art of information warfare. No other country is currently able to conduct a massive and pervasive information operations at the global level (although, so far only in the short-term). The maximum possibility for other countries is at the state-, not even the regional level. The U.S. dominance in this area is absolute, which gives them a huge advantage, but it also greatly exposes them. Deficiencies are often a continuation of the merits.


The Theories

Despite the extremely cautious policy on the part of America and its desire “not to leave any footprints,” one “cannot hide an awl in a sack” [as a Russian proverb goes]–the U.S. role in triggering the explosion in the Middle East is obvious. Why they had done so, and what goals they are after –is a different question. There is no obvious answer here. Countless versions exist.

According to one of them (a pro-American version), before anyone else, America had realized that the problems that had accumulated in the Arab world will inevitably lead to revolution and the collapse of the vassalage rulers, and decided to lead the popular movements–to guide them in the right direction, instead of wasting efforts on saving outdated regimes. This strategy holds no serious risk to the American dominance in the region. In conditions of a developed democracy, Islamic fundamentalists could, perhaps, “attain decisive results. Yet, even the biggest optimists in the Arab world would not dream about this. The Islamists have very few supporters among the old ruling elite, the army, and the intelligence services. Modern military elites there are entirely pro-Western.” Therefore, the U.S. quite deliberately escalated the Greater Middle East pregnant with revolution, rather than controlling it, in order to receive an even more controlled, but a steady quasi-democratic region, following a short crisis.

This rather compelling version collapses due to one strange feature of the “Twitter  revolutions” in Tunisia and Egypt, which all observers point out: the complete absence of socio-economic and, by and large, political demands on the part of the insurgent masses. They walked with slogans, addressed to the ruler, "Leave!," "We are tired of you!" Nothing more. As a result, the victorious people receive a fateful change in the constitution that prohibits its oppression for more than two consecutive terms. Everything else remains unchanged. These revolutions do not resolve the turbulent situation in any shape or form, and do not solve the problems, which turned the Arab countries into a barrel of gunpowder. On the contrary, they make the new, supposedly democratic, regimes even more volatile than the vanquished authoritarian regimes. The acuteness of these problems allows to reassemble the disgruntled crowds (there are no less of them) with a cry “Leave!” based on the proven method. [A leader] may get this tiresome in as little as a year.

Another (anti-American) version–from the most logical category–considers the events in the Greater Middle East as a continuation of the U.S. policy of "color revolutions" aimed at creating quasi-national states–the building blocks of the unified, managed American hyperempire. According to Yuri Krupnov, this "desire is natural for the U.S. geopolitics to implement the reorganization and reconstruction of the Greater Middle East.”

The goal is still the same: to install...more controlled and capable regimes within the assigned framework.... A new proven loyalty of regional leaders is necessary in order to control the pipelines and for the smooth transfer of oil and gas in the ‘right’ direction.

The iceberg this version runs up against is Libya. Krupnov argues that, "Libya is different from Tunisia and Egypt only in the sense that the leader of the Jamahiriya ‘does not hear’ or ‘does not understand’ the clear signals to leave the scene."  At first glance, the situation here is really the same as with Mubarak, who attempted to fight for power and almost beat the opposition, only it has gone much further. Obama’s statements were enough to discipline the stubborn Egyptian, and Mubarak capitulated. Gaddafi, however, has been relentless, which is why Americans must use force.

All of this would be true, if it were not for the almost immediate escalation of riots in Libya into an armed rebellion, and if it were not for the UN Security Council Resolution 1970. Nowadays, many columnists write about the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which permits foreign intervention against a legitimate government, which dared to defend itself against armed rebels. It is rightly regarded as a death sentence for the Westphalian system of the world order. However, the previous resolution on Libya is no less unique. It bans all countries from allowing entry to Gaddafi’s family, including his daughter, thus effectively condemning them to a certain death in case the colonel is defeated. Hence, the reason for the war in Libya is not at all Gaddafi’s obstinacy. In this country, the events were launched according to the power scenario from the very beginning, and, in order to avoid Gaddafi ruining everything by capitulating and fleeing, all paths to retreat had been cut off. He was left with no other option but to fight to the death.

The Security Council resolution is the best proof that "somebody ordered the fight.” This by the way, makes it clear that nobody is going to ensure a landslide victory for the opposition either. An unopposed "transfer” is out of the question, when not only political instability, as in both Tunisia and Egypt, but also military instability is guaranteed.


The “Chaos Theory”

[...] We must seek another explanation for the apparent inconsistency between the results of the U.S. intervention and the events in the Greater Middle East, which seem to defy the common sense. I will not even consider the versions about the stupidity of American strategists and their inability to understand the interests of their country and the consequences of their actions. Therefore, there may only be one conclusion: the developers of the American strategy in the Greater Middle East and political scientists seeking to understand their actions have a divergent understanding of common sense; they see the world through a different system of coordinates, therefore, such notions as"stability" and "destabilization” have a dissimilar meaning in their [respective] understanding.


[The “chaos theory”] was recalled in connection with the events in the Arab world a number of times, but the majority of the political-science community and the readers still reject it. The reason for this is that chaos is intuitively perceived as something terrible and catastrophic.… It is, however, just a figurative name of a theory (which came from physics, not political science, or conspirology) about complex nonlinear dynamic systems, which originated with Henri Poincaré, A. N. Kolmogorov, etc. In order to allay the fears of obscurantism, I would like to remind you that chaos theory is the basis of climate research, and we use the results of its application listening to weather forecasts.

In the second half of the past century, Americans were actively trying to adapt the "chaos theory" to study social problems in order to comprehend the issues of global politics and security. The Santa Fe Institute created by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, under the auspices of the State Department and the Pentagon, played a significant role in this initiative; in the past quarter of a century, a considerable number of officials of foreign and defense ministries had cooperated with it, and so did the employees of the largest U.S. think-tanks such as the RAND Corporation.

In terms of our problem, I must allocate a few basic provisions of the” chaos theory”:

  • The rejection of the traditional perception of the world as a linear deterministic process, the results of which can be calculated based on the knowledge of the fundamental principles and basic options.
  • The world is a complex dynamic system, consisting of nations, states, religions, etc., which, in turn, are also complex dynamic systems.
  • Dynamic systems never reach equilibrium.
  • By organizing themselves, large interactive systems constantly make themselves reach a critical state, in which a small event can trigger a chain reaction that can lead to disaster. This trait is defined as "self-organized criticality."
  • Based on this, the proponents of the chaos theory come to a number of conclusions, the knowledge of which allows one to understand the logic of the American strategy in the Middle East.
  • “Stability” is illusory and cannot be the goal; maintaining it is too costly for a country.
  • National interests can be provided efficiently and cost-effectively through flexible methods, “navigating between the islands of order in the global world of political chaos."
  • The U.S. should seek to actively change societies in crisis, instead of trying to maintain pseudo-stability.
  • Located at the bifurcation point, a system ("self-organized criticality") can be easily brought down through acupressure.
  • We must be open to the prospect of enhancing and maintaining criticality, if it meets the interests of America.
  • Long-term forecasts are a myth. Instead, we need a "flashlight with a short beam that illuminates our path, which will help us transform our small steps into giant leaps."


However, the mere existence of this postmodern concept cannot explain the actions of the state, especially because those who possess the classical worldview abound in the United State. Echoes of their confrontations are sometimes splashed across the pages of the MSM, and can be traced in real politics. Selecting a specific strategy is always determined by the complex relationship between the purpose, the resistance of the environment, and the available resources.


The new strategy

To prove the presence of Americans messianic goals, a priori confidence in their own right and obligation to bring freedom to the world is like forcing oneself into an open door. The U.S.’s first attempt to establish a "Pax Americana," based on economic power and nuclear power monopoly, occurred under Truman. Even then, long before the "idealistic goals and realistic methods" of Bush's National Security Strategy of the United States (2006), America had given itself the right to apply pre-emptive strikes and committed itself to creating a military machine, leaving no one to stand the chance. The very possibility of a potential enemy "in its industrial and scientific development to attack the United States and defend against our attack" was deemed an offense worthy of a nuclear strike.

The implementation of the messianic idea of world domination after World War II did not succeed. The  USSR. did not allow it. This led to the emergence of the "containment strategy" and a multi-year Cold War.


The collapse of the Soviet Union was indeed one of the greatest geopolitical catastrophes that literally shook the whole world. For the United States, as for the West in general, it took a while to get used to the new realities, to realize what had happened. In the 1990s, America cautiously, step by step, but steadily gained momentum and tested boundaries. Then, finally, it decided that such boundaries did not exist, that everything was possible. This was the time for Bush Junior. Bush was called de jure and de facto to arrange the U.S. world domination, and what we vaguely and politically correctly refer to as the unipolar world. […]

However, even in the absence of a militarily equal enemy, the U.S. failed–unceremoniously and breaking everything in its path–to convert economic and military power, unprecedented in human history, into unlimited political power. A vertically integrated hyper-empire had not been created. The politics of Bush Junior awoke a powerful anti-American sentiment and unforeseen energy of resistance on all continents and in virtually all countries, even those allied with the United States. The world did not accept the dictates of America. This opened the bleak prospect of confrontation (in various forms) on the principle, "Everyone is against America, and America is against everyone." For such a confrontation, even the resources of the United States were insufficient.


If the rehearsal of the new strategy for the Greater Middle East succeeds, then it could be included in "Project Obama." Then we shall soon see the awakening of the discontented masses in the post-Soviet space, whose enthusiasm, naturally, will find the understanding and support of the black dove of peace. These will be the "color revolutions" of a new kind. The time of the Bush revolutions, aimed at streamlining controlled space and its incorporation into the vertical power of the hyper-empire, has passed. This, however, should be discussed separately.