Friday, July 9, 2010

Russian Spies, American Spies. We All Got Spies - Why the Hoopla?

I've mostly been not reading about the Russian spy scandal. I just don't care that much. But I browsed this article in the Globe & Mail this evening to catch up on what's going on. Apparently a bunch of people were spying for Russia and they were arrested in the US with some of them charged and convicted. But now some of those people are going to be sent back to Russia in exchange for some people in Russia who were caught spying, were charged and sent to jail. Huh?
Wait a minute. If our side is spying - I'm assuming CSIS is doing more than telling tales about our foreign agent MPs, they're actually doing some spying of their own - and their side is spying, then everyone is spying and why is it a crime? I mean, I can see why governments and corporations don't want spies stealing the secret to how they get the Caramilk inside the Caramilk bar (I know how by the way and will sell it to the highest bidder) but why the jail term? Isn't that, you know, hypocritical? And why the big stink about it?
"Holy shit there were people spying on our country just like we were doing to them!"
Part of the hoopla, I suspect, has to do with the fact that there is increased imperial friction going on in the world these days. No, Imperial Friction is not the name of the well-known penguin's mating activity. What I mean is that while the USA is still the world's pre-eminent power, with an enormous military capacity, it is no longer unassailable and other pretenders and regional powers are beginning to challenge the Americans.
Afghanistan, for instance, is not just about those Kazakh gas deposits and possible lithium supplies inside Afghanistan itself. It is about containing China on its western borders and pushing up against Russia on its southern borders. And Russia and China are pushing back, though in different ways. The clash in Georgia is another reflection of this friction. At one level it does look utterly silly, this tit-for-tat spy swap with lots of huffing and puffing and hand-wringing by the American and Canadian media about Russia doing the same thing here that we're doing over there. But on another level it is quite frightening because we can see in miniature how such conflicts can escalate and become much more dangerous. This is primarily expressed through proxy fights - Russia crushes Georgia, America's Newest caucasian sweetheart; America sells weapons and performs joint military maneuvers with Taiwan, infuriating China. But sometimes secondary conflicts can spiral out of control. Imperialism plays a very high stakes game of chicken and people's lives, including our own, are the ante.
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