In the 1980’s, the whole world was locked in a death-grip which had become known as “mutually assured destruction.”
It was the theory on which deterrence was founded; “if you hurt me I will hurt you”, taken to the most insane extremes.
One of my favourite movies about mutually assured destruction is Rio Bravo.
Underneath all the conventions of the Western, it is a great movie about brinksmanship.
Nathan Burdette’s brother wants to rescue him from the custody of the sherrif.
John T. Chance and his deputies are holding the line.
They know if Burdette’s men attack the jail they will very likely be able to free him.
That’s why their promise is to shoot him the moment any attack starts.
This will result in their own deaths, but nobody wins.
Nobody wins is the mark of no-holds barred brinksmanship, but it’s also what makes it a stupid policy.
There have to be people on Celtic’s board who recognise that this is where we’re headed; towards a “nobody wins” standoff. Is Neil Lennon worth that? This is the question they have to answer.
Back in the days of the Cold War, the general idea behind mutally assured destruction was that any conflict between the superpowers would result in the annihilation of both.
Simple, right? But theorists and strategists have written entire books based on that simple idea.
Let’s talk about escalation.
It’s the central part of the deterrence theory.
During a conflict between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, it was envisioned that there would be degrees of escalation.
Back then, it was assumed that the red side had enough military muscle to force the issue on conventional terms; this, actually, is now doubted by modern military historians who, based on the first Gulf War, now think the technological superiority enjoyed by NATO might have been enough to stop the outdated Soviet war-machine in its tracks.
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But during that period, and in order to deter the attack, NATO had a policy of nuclear-first-use.
Modern historians will tell you that it obviously worked.
Clearly something about deterrence has been good for us; this is the longest period of peace in Western European history.
Neither side ever crossed the line to the point where we truly had something to be concerned about, not even during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which is the closest we ever got.
Even then, both sides did their level best not to escalate.
This is something the Celtic board appears not to understand.
Once this starts, it’s very hard to stop.
Yet for months, all our board has done is push the Celtic support towards negative responses.
It is staggeringly reckless. It is astoundingly arrogant.
It’s as if they haven’t realised that once you make that first push towards putting the other side in a position where they feel like the choices are humiliation or some sort of counter-move you’ve already started something you are no longer in control of.
During the Cold War, it was NATO’s threat to respond with tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion that led to the first escalation, in rhetorical terms.
The Soviet response was to say that they would consider crossing the nuclear threshold to be a strategic act and not a tactical one, thus demanding a strategic response.
In short, the thinking went like this; you attack our troops with nuclear weapons and open Pandora’s Box, we won’t bother attacking yours. Instead, we’ll attack your supply chains, your staging areas, your war-fighting capability. Your air-fields, fuel sites, weapons production and repair facilities and industrial zones, including key cities.
So it was move and counter move.
And from that came NATO’s next escalation.
They would respond with what was called a “counterforce strike”, the purpose of which was to annihilate the Soviet Union’s ability to mount offensive operations, with a particular emphasis on their nuclear capability.
The Soviets never bothered thinking on those terms.
A counterforce strike on their territory would have killed tens of millions of people, and they only had one answer to that; total nuclear commitment. In response to which, the US, France and Britain would have had no choice but to answer in kind, with general nuclear war, and there goes the ball-game.
The purpose of all this was to threaten and cajole by threatening to move things to the next level.
But what you have to remember is that every stage, of course, there were lesser measures available to both sides.
It’s just that they had voluntarily taken them off the table.
So how much of it was real and how much of it was a bluff? What were the actions that would have pushed one or the other into a corner from which they felt they couldn’t escape and couldn’t back down?
They never put it to the test.
Because what if neither side stopped?
What it neither side was actually bluffing, or if one or the other miscalculated or had leaders who weren’t able to call a halt and who’s conceit and egotism led us to disaster?
The problem Celtic have right now is that in Lennon and Desmond we do appear to have lunatics like these running our club; these guys hvae put their macho posturing ahead of the well-being of the club.
Desmond’s behavior is actually far worse, and more dangerous, than that of the manager, because he can call a halt to this, but he thinks it shows weakness tand so chooses, instead, to stand firm whilst everything turns to shit.
What we’ve learned about Desmond is that he actually is weak, becasue he fragile ego comes first.
He’s also an irresponsible, selfish bastard.
Because he’s pushing the fans to take action, and sadly there’s only action we can take.
He appears not to realise that once this starts it will be very difficult to stop.
Does he think that it’s a bluff?
But what if he’s wrong?
What if fans aren’t willing to tolerate this, or to tolerate Lennon next season?
Then we’re into escalation.
Desmond will doubtless make it clear when its renewal time that any shortfall will be made up by the weakening of the squad.
Which means we fall further behind.
Which makes the fans angrier, which makes renewals and buying merchandising and stuff even more unlikely.
It will spark protests and demonstrations.
It will plunge us into even deeper trouble.
It’s raise, call and raise again.
It’s brinksmanship … it’s hoping the other guy loses his bottle first and pulls back.
In the meantime, think of the damage that get’s done.
And again, it comes back to the same hard question; what if nobody knows when it’s time to stop?
He’s pushing fans to the point where a lot of us are going to feel we have no option but to deliver on our threats and then risk the next escalation.
We should never be here in the first place.
We’re locked on course for mutually assured destruction at the moment.
Desmond probably thinks he’s got it sussed in his Irish bunker and that there’s nothing we can do in practical terms to stop him imposing Lennon and any other damned thing he wants on us.
I don’t know whether this guy is bluffing or not, but I know a lot of our supporters are not.
Don’t forget too that we’re on a countdown clock here; even if both sides hold back from doing their worst, we can still end up in enormous trouble, with enormous damage having been done, simply because we waited too long to get a grip.
This is where the rest of the directors need to wake up and take some personal responsibility here.
This club is on a collision course with the people who keep the lights on.
Whatever game Desmond is playing, it needs to stop before this gets uglier than it already is … and if that means his fellow directors finally growing a set, then the sooner the better.