Monday, October 09, 2006

Tofu Tigers

The world is panicking over North Korea and Iran getting nuclear weapons. My own view?

All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are powerful. -- Mao Zedong, 1958.

The reactionaries here are the mullahs in Iran and the Kim regime in North Korea, and the rest of their absurd pom-pom squad, like the clown Chavez in Venezuela. Right now people are terrified of them, running around like chickens without a head, screaming "Mullahs with nukes!" "Norks with nukes!" But some day we will look back on this whole bizarre crew and say:

Look! Were these not living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers? Nevertheless, in the end they changed into paper tigers, dead tigers, and tofu tigers. These are historical facts.

"Tofu tigers" -- you can't deny Mao had a way with words!

The reality is nuclear weapons don't do anything -- except against people who allow themselves to be terrified of them. The reason Iran and North Korea want nuclear weapons is to terrify us into paying tribute -- unfortunately it seems to be working. Another possible reason would be to provoke us into wars or air attacks with no purpose and which we can't possibly win -- I don't think that's working, but I wish I could say that more confidently.

I analyzed the prospect of nuclear terrorism here and I haven't seen any reason since to change my viewpoint. The future can't be guaranteed, but the case that an organization like Hizbullah could be relied on to deliver through its network scores of nukes with the steely-eyed and unemotional precision required looks even more ridiculous in the wake of the war it accidentally provoked against Israel.

Nukes won't save the Iranian regime, and they won't save the North Koreans either. Is there anyone who actually believes that fifty years from now either will have the same regime they now have? And anyone who actually believes we won't? Mao Zedong (accidentally) analyzed the problem with Iran and North Korea long ago:

I have said that all the reputedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people.

And they are reactionaries and divorced from the people, because everything they do is based on a false estimate of reality. Imposing Sharia makes makes everyone happy -- wrong! Counterfeiting foreign currencies and money-laundering are a solid basis for financial stability -- wrong again! Getting Venezuela's Chavez on your side is the heavy-weight riposte to the other side's strengthening alliances with Japan, and India, and Israel, and Australia, and . . . -- wrong yet again! Oil prices will always go up -- you're wrong another time! People don't give a hoot about things like inflation and unemployment and living standards, just about cool one-liners that humiliate George Bush -- you're on a roll now, 'cause you're wrong one more time! The Mahdi's going to come and rescue you from the cleft stick you've made for yourself -- want to guess if you're wrong again?!

They really are backward, they really are a decaying ruling class, they really are regimes that have no future, no link to the real movements of history.

Everyone says Ahmadinejad and Kim are "nuts" -- well, I say, if they're so nuts, how come they're playing the U.S. policy elite like a fiddle? If they're so nuts, how come their plans for make their neighbors pay tribute in order to avoid scary nukes is working so brilliantly?

But wait, what am I saying? -- are these guys stupid or smart? Again Mao said it best (it takes one to know one, I suppose):

Hence, imperialism and all reactionaries, looked at in essence, from a long-term point of view, from a strategic point of view, must be seen for what they are - paper tigers. On this, we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers that can devour people. On this, we should build our tactical thinking.

Now, when he says "living tigers" -- you might think he was talking about a frontal attack on the Americans. Not at all. Mao was "nuts" (he said things far battier than Ahmadinejad ever did)* but like most leaders we call "nuts" he had a very good sense of how far was too far. Like the old Soviet Union, they will look brilliant to the diplomats and generals, right up to the point where they collapse.

The right strategy: refuse to allow these gargoyles to terrify us, and refuse to allow them to provoke us into meaningless and pathetic wars over hardware, when we've got real wars over peoples and populations in train.

*How about this choice tidbit, a propos nuclear war: "Even if one-half of the population in the world died, another half would survive. Moreover, imperialism would be destroyed and the entire world would be socialized. After some years, there would be 2.7 billion people again." -- Mao Zedong Waijiao Wenxuan (Selected Works of Mao Zedong on Foreign Affairs) (Beijing: World Knowledge Press, 1994), pp. 294 (HT:e here).

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