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Behavioral Economics as a Nuclear ‘Chicken Game’

April 29 , 2021 (EIRNS)—The widespread application of waterboarding, electroshock, and other forms of torture have rightly been denounced as a barbaric form of conduct, dehumanizing to both the victim and the perpetrator, which meet the Nuremberg code criteria of true crimes against humanity. What shall we say, then, about a collapsing global system which is hell-bent on applying the economic policy equivalent of torture to entire nations, and even to nuclear superpowers like Russia and China, in a vain effort to “modify their behavior” to the point of capitulation to the diktats of London and Washington?

This is moral insanity; it is surely economic insanity; but it is also strategic insanity. It will, if left unchecked, lead to thermonuclear war.

President Vladimir Putin stated as much in plain Russian, in his April 21 Federal Assembly speech, in which he warned that strategic red lines were being crossed and that Russia would respond asymmetrically. On April 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated Putin’s warning, and stating that the situation today is like the “conditions of a Cold War, or even worse,” except that “during the Cold War there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.”

Earlier this month there was a planned Nazi coup in Belarus—which was scheduled for the May 9 Victory Day celebrations of the defeat of fascism in Europe—which was exposed and dismantled, thanks to the prompt action of Russian authorities. Yesterday, the Russian FSB arrested 16 Ukrainian radicals in Russia who were planning, in their own words, to “carry out mass killings and explosions, set buildings on fire and shoot down people.”

And now we have economic sanctions being wielded against Russia by Washington and London the way an interrogator uses his electrodes: to cause maximum pain to produce “changed behavior.” The April 22 Moscow Times quoted Atlantic Council sanctions expert Brian O’Toole, who worked at the Obama Treasury Department, where he devised the sanctions regime against Russia, asserting that today Russia is only at “around 10% on the pain meter.... Working up to actually blocking transactions with a Russian bank or two ... that’s what gets you up to 60 or 70% on the pain meter. Blocking Sberbank, for instance ... that would be real financial warfare.”

Behavioral economics, like its predecessor behavioral psychology, is built on the bestial (and scientifically fraudulent) premise that all human behavior can be explained by “stimulus-response” patterns to pleasure and pain. If you want to get someone to change their behavior, just threaten to progressively minimize their pleasure and/or maximize their pain until they comply. That may seem to work when you apply electroshock conditioning to captive mice in a laboratory maze, or to prisoners in a concentration camp—as the Nazis were so fond of experimenting with.

But are you really so stupid as to think that that is the way the United States should conduct its foreign policy with Russia and China? Or are you so morally indifferent that you are content to look the other way while our government in Washington plays such nuclear “chicken games” with other nations, especially superpowers?

As former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard told a nationwide TV audience on the Tucker Carlson show back on April 12:

“We need to understand that such a war would come at a cost beyond anything that we can really imagine. Because this is not a war that’s happening to someone else, somewhere else on the other side of the world. No, this is something that will directly impact me, and you, Tucker, every single one of your viewers, and all of our loved ones. And this is a war that is not a game. It’s a war in which there are no winners, because you’ve got thousands of nuclear weapons that the U.S. has aimed towards Russia; Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons that are aimed towards us, that could hit any town or city in the U.S. in less than thirty minutes, that could exact a cost on every one of us that would result in excruciating death and suffering beyond comprehension—hundreds of millions of people dying and suffering seeing their flesh burned from their bones. This is something that you can’t really even imagine. And it’s a cost that we will all pay.”

There is another approach, which actually works, because it is constructed on Man’s actual nature—“the better angels of our nature.” On April 25, the world celebrated Elbe Day, the date in 1945 when American and Soviet troops united at the Elbe River in Germany to finish off the job of defeating Nazism. On May 9, Victory Day, the surrender of Nazi Germany will be remembered around the world.

One day earlier, on Saturday, May 8, both occasions will be celebrated at an online international conference being organized by the Schiller Institute, in the only way that is meaningful under these conditions: by rebuilding an alliance of forces within nations of the East and the West, to jointly help rebuild the nations of the Global South.

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