Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
The Age of Disorder (with Jason Pack)
The method to the madness is madness.
What does Vladimir Putin want? This is a question I’ve asked myself many times over the last seven years, and especially after Russia’s disastrous, legacy-destroying invasion of Ukraine. What’s the deal with this guy?
In January 2022, a few weeks before the invasion, Putin was sitting pretty. He was one of the richest men on earth, if not the richest. He’d been in power for over two decades, and his authority was verging on absolute. Inside Russia, all viable opposition had been eliminated, either through assassination, exile, or imprisonment. Outside Russia, the twin ops his Kremlin operatives ran against Great Britain and the United States—BREXIT and Trump, respectively—worked to perfection, weakening Europe, America, and the West generally. He’d even managed to annex Crimea, that lovely and magical Black Sea peninsula, with zero repercussions. Why push into Ukraine? Did he really think his shit army would take over the second largest country in Europe in three days? Or was the ensuring chaos the purpose? Was the method to the madness madness?
Putin is a prime contributor to what geopolitical analyst Jason Pack—the co-host of The Disorder Podcast, the author of Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder, and my guest on today’s PREVAIL podcast—terms the “global enduring disorder.”
“Essentially the concept of the global enduring disorder is that we are in a new historic period—some people call it the Post-Post-Cold War Era—and that this new historic period has certain principles,” Pack tells me. “I articulate that those principles are that many top-table global actors seek to disorder the world and their near or broader spheres of influence rather than to provide alternative order.”
“This is contested by many,” he continues. “So the traditional IR theory is that we are leaving a unipolar world and going to a multipolar world.” That sort of model is nothing new. We’ve seen it before: in the buildup to the First World War, for example, and also in its aftermath during the Interwar period. “I contend that where we are now is not like that.”
For one thing, the Post-Post-Cold War Era is much more nihilistic. Putin’s regime in Russia provides a textbook example of how this historic period is different than what came before.
“The Soviets had a fully formed order,” Pack explains. “It had texts—Marx and Lenin. It had an economic system. It had a socio-cultural way of doing things. And no place in the world was unimportant enough for them to try to export their order to it: Cuba, Zaire, some random place in Latin America.”
Twenty-first century Russia cannot make the same claim. “Putin doesn’t have an economic system. He doesn’t have some texts. There’s no manual of Putinist economy,” Pack says, that can be exported. “He doesn’t want a specific order in Ukraine. He wants that it has no order. He wants that it’s completely broken. When they invaded Georgia in 2008, or when they began to intervene more in Syria after Obama didn’t enforce the red line, he’s not trying to make them free trade partners with Russia. He doesn’t care what Assad does or doesn’t do in his Ba’athism. That really gets at it for me. He’s an all-purpose disorderer.”
Like the traitors, the disorderers are easy to spot. They make messes. They sow chaos. They promise big solutions but don’t ever deliver. They are not interested in governance, only in chaos.
Hamas is another example. That terrorist outfit has run Gaza for the last decade and a half, and to what end? They shut down elections. They tolerate no dissent. They steal humanitarian aid and use it to buy weapons. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields, with no concern for their lives. They commit atrocious acts of terror in Israel, and have vowed to keep doing so. Hamas are disorderers. So are their patrons in Tehran.
We have disorderers in the United States as well. Donald Trump is a disorderer, and he has made the entire GOP the party of disorder. As should now be patently obvious, the MAGA Republicans cannot govern, and seem uninterested in doing so.
“Having worked in Washington,” Pack says, “I realized that the MAGA GOP is not the regular Republicans who are all about order and values and family values and ‘We work with out traditional allies.’ Trump abandoned the Kurds, you know? And he was willing to embolden disorderers everywhere.”
The FPOTUS is still doing this. Matt Gaetz, an ace disorderer who is basically Trump’s proxy in Congress, eighty-sixed Kevin McCarthy, and there was no Speaker of the House for weeks—while the nation careened towards yet another financial impasse. These people don’t care about making lives better for Americans. They care about generating more wealth for the donors who underwrite them, and nothing else. Their governing principle, such as it is, is to fuck shit up and hope American voters are gullible enough to blame Joe Biden.
Neo-populists like Trump, Pack says, “do not propose solutions. So if we look at BUILD THE WALL—‘I’m going to have Mexico pay for the wall.’ Obviously Mexico didn’t pay for the wall, and the wall was not built. And the reason for this is clear: he wants to run in ‘24 on the same migrant crisis that he came into power in 2016 saying he would fix.”
Lather, rinse, repeat. BREXIT, Pack says, is a similar non-solution, having accomplished nothing of what it promised.
Disorder is all hat and no cattle. Empty campaign promises. Hot air. Bullshit. Politicians like Gaetz and J.D. Vance and Josh Hawley are (probably) smart enough to know this, but they go along with it anyway. Like Steve Bannon, they would rather have no state than the state in which we live.
As Pack points out, “What is so interesting about traditional conservatives who have crossed over to the Dark Side—because neo-populism isn’t really conservative at all—is that they look out there at the world, and they say, ‘These elites, these things that I don’t like, whether it’s woke or transgender or just quote-unquote elites, like Hillary Clinton,’ their solution is now, ‘Tear it all down. I don’t care that my team is not proposing an implementable solution. Tear it all down.’ Baby out with the bathwater.”
The baby is all of us who want to live in an ordered world—and we’re drowning.
What does Putin want? How about Iran, Hamas, and the GOP? Greg Olear talks to geopolitical analyst Jason Pack, founder of the NATO & The Global Enduring Disorder Project and the co-host of The Disorder Podcast, about the Post-Post-Cold War, the global disorderers on the world stage, the Israel-Hamas War and its possible resolution, the strategic importance of Ukraine, and more. Plus: Song of Mike Johnson.
Subscribe to the Disorder podcast:
Buy his book, “Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder”:
Thanks HelloFresh! Go to HelloFresh.com/prevailfree and use code prevailfree for FREE breakfast for life! One breakfast item per box while subscription is active.