Bear Baiting

U.S. soldiers training Georgian Army

U.S. soldiers training Georgian Army

One of the sad resonances of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq is playing out on the Steppes of Northern Georgia today. As President Bush was feverishly trying to assemble the “coalition of the willing” to join with us in Iraq, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia eagerly stepped forward. Always looking for a way to bait the Russian bear across the border, Saakashvili became the first of the “coalition of the billing”. He would send 2000 troops to Iraq if the U.S. would completely modernize his army, train his soldiers and give him the latest technology like surveillance drones. We were so desperate for allies in Iraq, we gladly complied. And of course, in order to make sure they got as much from our treasury as possible and encouraged Congress to let them into NATO, the Georgians hired some Neo-con lobbyists like Randy Scheuneman, now John McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor. All of this advice from the Neo-cons led to a classic miscalculation.

In the ensuing years, even as Russia issued warnings, Mr. Saakashvili grew bolder. There were four regions out of Georgian control when he took office in 2004, but he restored two smaller regions, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori Gorge in 2006, with few deaths.

The victories gave him a sense of momentum. He kept national reintegration as a central plank of his platform.

So Saakashvili kept pushing the Russians, probably with the encouragement of the Neo-cons, whose official mouthpiece Bill Kristol wrote this morning.

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

But of course Randy Scheuneman and Bill Kristol are not running the Pentagon, and if the Georgians were under some sort of illusion that we would come to their aid, in return for their 2000 soldiers in Iraq, they were smoking crack.

All of these policies collided late last week. One American official who covers Georgian affairs, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the United States formulates its next public response, said that everything had gone wrong.

Mr. Saakashvili had acted rashly, he said, and had given Russia the grounds to invade. The invasion, he said, was chilling, disproportionate and brutal, and it was grounds for a strong censure. But the immediate question was how far Russia would go in putting Georgia back into what it sees as Georgia’s place.

There was no sign throughout the weekend of Kremlin willingness to negotiate. A national humiliation was under way.

“The Georgians have lost almost everything,” the official said. “We always told them, ‘Don’t do this because the Russians do not have limited aims.’ ”

This morning, with Bush in China, Dick Cheney is pounding the drums saying Russian aggression must be answered.John McCain, the neo-con “dead ender” Presidential Cadidate is taking an increasingly hawkish tone.  But like Bill Kristol and Randy Scheuneman; it’s all just bluster. We are a victim of our own Imperial Overstretch. But McCain is in his own American Empire bubble, and with advisors like Scheuneman and Kristol, he has no idea of the limits of American military power.

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85 Responses to Bear Baiting

  1. BobbyG says:

    “We are a victim of our own Imperial Overstretch.”
    ____

    The crowning Bu’ush legacy. Zero military cred, and zero moral cred. Bu’ush can bleat on poignantly about “respecting national sovereignty.” Maybe he should peer again into Putie’s soul and see just how much the latter cares.

  2. BobbyG says:

    “We are a victim of our own Imperial Overstretch.”
    ____

    The crowning Bu’ush legacy. Zero military cred, and zero moral cred. Bu’ush can bleat on poignantly about “respecting national sovereignty.” Maybe he should peer again into Putie’s soul and see just how much the latter cares.

  3. Adam says:

    This would have happened without the war in Iraq or the Bush doctrine, and Georgia was aiming to become part of NATO precisely to protect its sovereignty from Russia … In fact, the title of the post made me think you were going to argue that RUSSIA was spurred by the Bush actions in Iraq

    Imperialism and a government’s pride over having territory goes on regardless of what Bush and the U.S. does.

    BTW, I can’t say whether secessionism would be just in this case. They held a referendum but disallowed the Georgian residents (which is a large number) from voting

  4. Adam says:

    This would have happened without the war in Iraq or the Bush doctrine, and Georgia was aiming to become part of NATO precisely to protect its sovereignty from Russia … In fact, the title of the post made me think you were going to argue that RUSSIA was spurred by the Bush actions in Iraq

    Imperialism and a government’s pride over having territory goes on regardless of what Bush and the U.S. does.

    BTW, I can’t say whether secessionism would be just in this case. They held a referendum but disallowed the Georgian residents (which is a large number) from voting

  5. Dan says:

    This is ridiculous, “… Always looking for a way to bait the Russian bear across the border…” To suggest that Saakashvili wanted Russian troops to come in to his country is ludicrous. He knows the strength of their army is 10X the strength of his.

    Besides that, to suggest that the Iraq war was some kind of impetus for the Georgian and US governments to form a cozy relationship is also wrong. We had supported the fledgling independent country, and thier military long before the Iraq war. I know becuase I trained with Georgian officers at a U.S. military school prior to 9/11. German soldiers also attended that schoool, as is customary between NATO alliances.

    So, your basic theory is wrong. Georgia likely saw Iraq as its first opportunity to prove its worthiness as a contributor to NATO and to practice what it had learned from the NATO training they had already received.

    And considering the history of Russian meddling in Georgia, who can blame them for wanting to join NATO?

  6. Dan says:

    This is ridiculous, “… Always looking for a way to bait the Russian bear across the border…” To suggest that Saakashvili wanted Russian troops to come in to his country is ludicrous. He knows the strength of their army is 10X the strength of his.

    Besides that, to suggest that the Iraq war was some kind of impetus for the Georgian and US governments to form a cozy relationship is also wrong. We had supported the fledgling independent country, and thier military long before the Iraq war. I know becuase I trained with Georgian officers at a U.S. military school prior to 9/11. German soldiers also attended that schoool, as is customary between NATO alliances.

    So, your basic theory is wrong. Georgia likely saw Iraq as its first opportunity to prove its worthiness as a contributor to NATO and to practice what it had learned from the NATO training they had already received.

    And considering the history of Russian meddling in Georgia, who can blame them for wanting to join NATO?

  7. Alex Bowles says:

    Russia and Iran: Allies
    Iran and everyone else: Problematic
    NeoCon response to the situation in Georgia: Shoot Russians
    John McCain to the NeoCons: “Want jobs?”

    Wow. Just, wow.

  8. Alex Bowles says:

    Russia and Iran: Allies
    Iran and everyone else: Problematic
    NeoCon response to the situation in Georgia: Shoot Russians
    John McCain to the NeoCons: “Want jobs?”

    Wow. Just, wow.

  9. dragonmage06 says:

    Yeah, like we need another war to fight. Frankly though, I’m not surprised that McCain or Cheney is supporting going after the Russians. They seem to really like sending our troops to die.

  10. dragonmage06 says:

    Yeah, like we need another war to fight. Frankly though, I’m not surprised that McCain or Cheney is supporting going after the Russians. They seem to really like sending our troops to die.

  11. Alex Bowles says:

    Or maybe they’re just trying to close, for good, the one channel that can really apply some diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

    Oh well, bombs it is…

  12. Alex Bowles says:

    Or maybe they’re just trying to close, for good, the one channel that can really apply some diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

    Oh well, bombs it is…

  13. Hugo says:

    Just what are “the limits of American military power”? And whatever can we do to soothe the angry, bee-stung bear?

    Might it be interested in half of Poland? The Sudenland, perhaps? How about Alsace-Lorraine? Bohemia? No, better: Slovakia; the Slovaks speak a lot of Russian, and they made all that fancy mobile artillery for Moscow in the first place? I think maybe Finland; Comrade Bear is rePuted to enjoy smoked reindeer…

  14. Hugo says:

    Just what are “the limits of American military power”? And whatever can we do to soothe the angry, bee-stung bear?

    Might it be interested in half of Poland? The Sudenland, perhaps? How about Alsace-Lorraine? Bohemia? No, better: Slovakia; the Slovaks speak a lot of Russian, and they made all that fancy mobile artillery for Moscow in the first place? I think maybe Finland; Comrade Bear is rePuted to enjoy smoked reindeer…

  15. P. Cross says:

    I say we let them have Alobama . We sure as hell don’t need it.

  16. P. Cross says:

    I say we let them have Alobama . We sure as hell don’t need it.

  17. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo-You can cut out hauling out all your cold war rhetoric. Just tell me why Georgia is of strategic importance to the U.S.?

  18. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo-You can cut out hauling out all your cold war rhetoric. Just tell me why Georgia is of strategic importance to the U.S.?

  19. Hugo says:

    To my mind, this is pre-WWII stuff; it’s Poot-Poot who’s got a bloody case of Cold War nostalgia. Run it back to the Thirties instead and you’ve got a forensic match: a self-styled dictator bent on taking Europe piecemeal, gathering ports and oil sources along the way, whilst enjoying the praise and support of Leftists in the very kind of democracies he eats for breakfast, in prelude to another day of gaining breathing room and living space and “buffers” of security (e.g. Poland) that any deserves after sufferings the humiliating and sudden dismemberment of its former empire.

    War in Europe not good for Uncle Sam. Never has been. Imperialism bad too, yes?

  20. Hugo says:

    To my mind, this is pre-WWII stuff; it’s Poot-Poot who’s got a bloody case of Cold War nostalgia. Run it back to the Thirties instead and you’ve got a forensic match: a self-styled dictator bent on taking Europe piecemeal, gathering ports and oil sources along the way, whilst enjoying the praise and support of Leftists in the very kind of democracies he eats for breakfast, in prelude to another day of gaining breathing room and living space and “buffers” of security (e.g. Poland) that any deserves after sufferings the humiliating and sudden dismemberment of its former empire.

    War in Europe not good for Uncle Sam. Never has been. Imperialism bad too, yes?

  21. STS says:

    Hugo,

    Putin doesn’t (yet) call himself a ‘dictator’. And what makes you think he’s after Europe? Isn’t this more to do with chasing the former satellites away from their flirtation with the U.S.?

  22. STS says:

    Hugo,

    Putin doesn’t (yet) call himself a ‘dictator’. And what makes you think he’s after Europe? Isn’t this more to do with chasing the former satellites away from their flirtation with the U.S.?

  23. Alex Bowles says:

    This post is about ‘Bear Baiting’ – as though that were the Georgian’s game. But did anyone really think that Russia was going to tolerate sharing a border with a NATO country? And did we do ourselves any favors by sponsoring the Georgian bid for inclusion?

    I’m sure the Russians felt about as comfortable with this as we felt about Soviet nukes in Cuba. That’s a far more convincing parallel than Europe in the 30’s.

  24. Alex Bowles says:

    This post is about ‘Bear Baiting’ – as though that were the Georgian’s game. But did anyone really think that Russia was going to tolerate sharing a border with a NATO country? And did we do ourselves any favors by sponsoring the Georgian bid for inclusion?

    I’m sure the Russians felt about as comfortable with this as we felt about Soviet nukes in Cuba. That’s a far more convincing parallel than Europe in the 30’s.

  25. Morgan Warstler says:

    Yes folks, Jon’s off the reservation on this one.

    The last thing he wants to deal with is the US having to contain Russia trying to piece together the USSR.

    Nothing more.

  26. Morgan Warstler says:

    Yes folks, Jon’s off the reservation on this one.

    The last thing he wants to deal with is the US having to contain Russia trying to piece together the USSR.

    Nothing more.

  27. P. Cross says:

    The bully is loose in the locker room, he’s started a fight with the little guy and now he’s looking around for anyone that will make eye contact, If no one does he’ll continue, if someone dose, especially a strong one, he’ll immediately want to negotiate, a back bone check if you will …….

    Actually Jon progressives/liberals learn nothing, they are so blinded by ideology and hate that they will excuse anything, give cover to anyone as long as it furthers the cause. It’s about energy Jon, “now”, not 5yrs. from now. Jon, it is in our best interest to support freedom where ever and when ever.

    Why would Puttin be concerned about a freely elected government on the Russian border? Why does it make him uncomfortable? Does Canada’s freedom pose a threat to us? How about Mexico? The threat that Mexico poses is the corruption of their system.

    What dose it say about the left when they blame us for the invasion because we have encouraged the Georgian’s to be free. Of course we have acted in our own best interest that’s what we are supposed to do.

    The position of power that we should be in has been in large part lost due to the lack of a smart what’s best for America energy policy due to the guilt/ploy associated with the possibility that mankind in all his decadence is destroying the planet. Enlightenment on this is slowly coming around.

    Russia’s resurgence is in large part due to their energy independence not dependence. If Puttin felt we had the power and the backbone to stop him he wouldn’t have done this in the first place. He just pushed the knife blade in…………

    Would somebody tell me when the left has been right about anything except through the myopic/jaundiced eye of pragmatism?

    Hugo, the laser, I’m so envious

  28. Dan says:

    What the left has to say is that your hero, King George II, has succeeded in destabilizing relations over much of the world with his stupid, reckless policies, and increased the likelihood of a major war and the risk of nuclear exchanges that such a war carries.

    The same King George II who danced in his seat like a moron at the Olympics while all of this went on.

    Nothing excuses Russia’s aggression, but nor does anything excuse Bush’s policy of leading “allies” on and abandoning them. I imagine that the Kurds cast their memories back to 1991 and Bush’s father, and could find words of empathy for the Georgians right now.

    That’s what the left has to say.

    Meanwhile you truck out all of the old tags like “liberals learn nothing”,”ideology”, “hate”, “myopic/janudiced”.

    Flail away.

  29. Jon Taplin says:

    Well the Gang of three has reconvened to fight for “freedom anywhere”–Just like old Wodrow Wilson. The whole point of The Cost of Empire” was that the notion that we have to defend freedom anywhere, is the single most dangerous and expensive idea in the Neo-con playbook.

    There will come a time, hopefully on Jan. 21,2009 when the leaders of this country will sit down to truly decide a defense policy based on our true National Interest, not the interest of the MIC to sell more jets and tanks to Georgia and other Caucusus republics. The philosophy of the Right does not work without the Big Bad Bear at our door. When the Soviet Union went away, all that fear had to be displaced to Al Qaeda, even though we had supplanted a country with 1 Million soldiers and 10,000 nukes, with a little band of Jihaddi fanatics holed up in shacks in South Waziristan. It worked for a while, but didn’t really help the MIC.

    So now we have to reinvent the resurgent FMC’s (Former Communist Powers) Russia and China as the existential threat to our freedom for the rest of the 21st Century. It’s a fools errand, and you guys (Morgan, Pete Cross and Hugo) are just on auto-pilot. Tell me something I don’t know! Amaze me with the flexibility of your mind to figure out just what is essential for our defense?

  30. Hugo says:

    Well, Jon, you already told me something I didn’t know: that China is a Former Communist Power.

    I hadn’t realized that the Gang of Three — the U.S., the UK, and Poland — had formulated a plan so quickly to “fight for freedom”.

    STS,

    When have they ever called themselves dictators? For his part, Putin gets to name himself whatever he likes.

    Alex,

    The USSR did have NATO on its borders. That was the point of NATO. The Soviets went ahead with their Cuba gamble largely because its premier had gauged our young new president as inexperienced, spercilious and feckless. Perhaps that’s the kind of Change we will have on January 20.

    Dan, I agree with you. Does that make me a liberal?e

  31. P. Cross says:

    Jon-You can’t negotiate from a position of dependence whether on energy sources or any other necessity. Macro, a nations energy supply or micro just buying food for your family. Capitalism requires consumers for success. Liberals create dependency to sustain their ideology.

    Dependency is weakness.

    Autopilot requires an input of direction, altitude and sometimes speed. It will “help” you fly straight and level it doesn’t always ensure success but it does require some thought and calculation . The first thing you learn is to always pay attention and be in control.

  32. Alex Bowles says:

    Dan –

    I can’t figure out your argument. On the one hand, you say that it’s absurd for Saakashvili to bait the Russians, knowing full well that his military power is 1/10th of Moscow’s.

    At the same time, you were there, as a part of Gerogia’s bid to enhance their own power through NATO membership – the quintessential entangling alliance.

    Translation: Georgians don’t fight Russians. NATO fights Russians on their behalf.

    Consequence: Americans (or their allies) shooting at Russians. Also, those same Allies get 1/4 to 1/3 of their gas from Russia.

    Whatever extent Saakashvili thought he was going to get military support from NATO countries represents the delusional reckless of this guy.

    Yes, Europe has a problem in that this guy is sitting on the one non-Russian pipeline between themselves and a major part of their energy supply, but was the NeoCon approach (arm the guys to protect their ‘freedom’ and damn the consequences) really the smartest choice?

    So yes, I do see the ugly shadow of American policy in this mess. But not because I’m a paranoid liberal. It’s because I’m a pragmatist whose astonished by how short-sighted and unpragmatic the American Conservatism has become.

  33. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo- What’s going on in China now is not really Communism. It’s one party state capitalism, full stop.

    P.Cross- It’s the liberals who have been trying to break you of your dependence on Oil and Big SUV’s.

    Morgan- If you have anything original to say besides “The boomers are greedy” and “oil is being weaponized”, I’d be happy to respond. Otherwise you arebecoming the definaition of an insane person-doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

  34. STS says:

    Hugo,

    My point about Putin’s ‘style’ (title) was simply that Vlad is not a ‘self-styled’ dictator. He likes to call himself Prime Minister lately.

    My question remains: why do you infer from this Ossetia incident that Putin wants ‘Europe’? You are conjuring with Cold War incantations about appeasement, containment, dominoes and rollback. We could stand to be more careful about the analogies we use with Russia and China than we have been in thinking about Iraq and Iran. P Cross seems all set for another Polish guarantee circa 9/1/1939. While the heated WWII analogies are less silly here than with Iraq, it’s still rash to make Ossetia the spark for WWIII.

    I agree with Jon that China isn’t strictly-speaking Communist anymore. Their brand of absolutism is too pragmatic to fit early 20th century Communist/Fascist labelling. But I agree with your larger point that China isn’t ‘just another capitalist power’. And we are becoming more like them at least as fast as they are becoming more like us.

  35. Steve says:

    Like some other commenters, I am having a hard time figuring out the connection between the US invasion of Iraq and the conflict in Georgia. I am not a big fan of the Bush administration, but I do sometimes find it amazing the capacity some have to blame them for everything gone wrong in the world.

    I do recognize and agree with Alex Bowles that American policy (throughout history) is a factor in this mess. But, Alex, what is the solution? Should we stay out of it? Is Isolationism the answer? At what point does it become an American interest?

    Hugo,
    I think you stated emphatically that the Russians are the aggressors. But they say they’re reacting to attacks from Georgia. What is the truth and how do we really know what is happening? I really don’t know anything about that region and am trying to educate myself so I have more questions than comment. I’m interested to hear your response to Jon’s question about why Georgia is strategically important to the US. Does it just come down to oil?

    Also, Hugo, you compared this situation to Roosevelt taking over a part of Central America to build the Panama Canal. Do you think in that case the ends justify the means if it helped to grow the global economy immeasurably? Would there be a call from the Left to impeach TR in today’s media environment regarding his expansion of executive power? Is the Bush/Cheney efforts toward expansion of executive power equivalent to or greater than TR’s?
    thanks

  36. Hugo says:

    Well, well. This really is a treat I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime: the American Left grasping for a Russian apologia in the face of Russia’s illegal predations upon Democracy, and searching hither and yon for the AMERICAN culpability in all this. “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum. I smell the bloody hands of an Amer-i-can!”

    STS,

    Georgia IS Europe, and always has been. Tblisi is to Eastern Europe as Prague is to Central Europe.

    Steve,

    There were no attacks from the sovereign democratic Republic of Georgia upon Russia. That is strictly Goebbelsheit.

    Also, I did answer Jon’s question — even before he asked it. I thought my final two sentences in answer to him were exceedingly simple and clear, but let me try to boil it down still further: what the U.S. finds itself in is a game of Cage the Bear. Americans are World Champions of this game, but some of the best playing often is seen in the All-Star Games. Goal: Containment. Their Bear has been a bad Bear, and, for the safety of all concerned it must be tranquilized, caged and retururned to its own, vast stomping grounds.

    As to your third question, there was exactly a land invasion of Panama, but rather there were multiform American manipulations to achieve the same result. As TR put it, “I stole it fair and square.”

    I see that we’re also handing out fig leaves to the Chinese junta today. Since none of them really fits, I recommend you put together some serious momey to retain Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig and/or George H.W. Bush to equip you with state-of-the-art excuses for murderous totalitarianism.

  37. STS says:

    Hugo,

    Georgia is … IN … Europe. A small, traditionally Russian-dominated part of Europe … broadly construed. You claimed Putin wants “Europe”. That’s a gross exaggeration.

    It’s also rather odd to say you never expected to see left-leaning apologia for Russia. That’s where the whole Cold War narrative started back in the late 40’s. That’s what the right has *always* been accusing the left of doing: seeing the ‘commie’ side of every issue.

    I’m quite concerned about renewed Russian imperialism (and ongoing hostility to liberty), but the boundaries of the Russian empire have been receding rather rapidly these past two decades and it’s a bit early to equate this dust up in Stalin’s birthplace with a tank swarm through the Fulda Gap.

    This doesn’t have to be a black and white ideological argument: 1) Yes, Russia is behaving badly, but 2) the United States is in no position to do much about it just now because our new “attention K-mart shoppers” mode of warfare is badly mismatched with our grandiose, militarized foreign policy.

  38. Alex Bowles says:

    Steve,

    Haven’t got any clear answers, I’m afraid.

    I think the larger point of this blog is to explore this period were in – what Jon calls the Interregnum – and to work out what principles will be useful in the emerging world order.

    The one thing I’m sure of is that the NeoCons have become the George Constanzas of policy making – infallible guides for deciding What Not To Do. So at least we have a place to start.

    Regarding the connection between Georgia and Iraq – it’s oblique, but very real in that, to date, Iran has been the biggest winner from the fiasco in Iraq, leading to a level of belligerence that is truly menacing, and a clear need for de-escalation and containment. This isn’t going to happen without Russian cooperation.

    In other words, we’re far more dependent on Russia for Middle Eastern security than we were before the war. Russia knows this, which is why they feel no compunction about their totally unrestrained and disproportionate actions in Georgia. Given how hollow our rhetoric about ‘Democracy’ has become, they know perfectly well that our real commitments lie elsewhere.

    Personally, I think we could do well for ourselves by abandoning NATO altogether. Yes, these are ‘partners in Democracy’ but they’re also economic competitors to whom we’re giving a major advantage through military subsidy. And now, our involvement there is hampering our ability to work with the Russians against Tehran.

    Moving forward, we should reconsider the view of the 19th century British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, who noted “There are no permanent allies … only permanent interests.” This view echoed General Washington’s caution that America should be leery of “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world”.

    NATO was a fine response to the USSR. But it’s overstayed its welcome by 20 years. If the Europeans want to keep it going, fine, but our work there is through, and has been for nearly two decades now.

  39. Jon Taplin says:

    I still haven’t heard anyone tell me what the strategic importance of Georgia to the United States is?

  40. Rick Turner says:

    Georgia helps keep Florida where it belongs? Oh, the other Georgia. Don’t mean squat. Not our problem. There are worse dictators to deal with than Putin…as spelled “Mugabe”…the lovelies in Darfour? Sudan? Burma? North Korea? We get all high and mighty with some and leave others to their murderous ways. Real consistent…

  41. Hugo says:

    Oh yes you have, Professor. You just don’t like the answers, cleary because you think they are retro. Vladimir’s plans are retro, and they are real.

    STS,

    I’m glad we agree now that Georgia is a part of Europe. Your qualifications in your summative description of Georgia, incidentally, apply in spades to Poland. I Poland similarly quasi-European?

    Irrespective of your insisting otherwise, I never said that Russia is after Europe, at large. That is your own gross exaggeration. Rather, I interwove — I think quite pointedly the current situation with Georgia with a similar situation that obtained, not during the Cold War, but rather for several years prior to the Second World War. Do you deny the similarities?

    Similary, I did not say that I found it odd that the American Left once again would be found making gymnastic excuses for Russian aggression; I said that I’d never expected to see the day when history would stutter so rapidly. Again, my reference was not to the Cold War, but to the 1930s.

    Also, I think it’s foolish to suggest that the United States is “not in the position” necessary to do anything about Russia’s invasion of Georgia. On the contrary, I believe the U.S., and especially the USN (but also the USAF) to be in the catbird seat. But before those people are called upon to FORCE Russia out of invaded territory, there is much the U.S. can do — through the G7, through NATO, through the UN, through the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, through covert action and overt diplomatic denunciations and overtures, to burn the Bear’s bee-stung butt and send it into the backcountry, voluntarily or otherwise.

    And Jon, what was the “strategic importance” of Czechoslovakia back in the days BEFORE the Cold War? What of Poland? Your question is framed askew; it is a Red herring.

  42. Hugo says:

    Rick, don’t be daft. Ivan’s got a track record to protect, the others haven’t.

    As Jon would put it, what is the strategic importance of Sudan or Darfour to the United States?

  43. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo-Bob Kaplan, who supported the Iraq War, tells the truth about Georgia.

    The main diplomatic pretense has been that Georgia is a thriving, fledgling democracy that the West, and particularly the United States, supports (in part through U.S. Marines’ training Georgian forces at a camp near Tbilisi) in its struggle against Russian intimidation. But the geopolitical reality unravels this description in every aspect. To start with, a nation’s political system is defined by the strength of its institutions more than by the name the system gives itself. Georgia is a democracy in Tbilisi and its environs. Everywhere else, it barely functions. Though small compared to Russia, Gerogia is a sprawling, mountainous, and therefore extremely vulnerable mini-empire of nationalities that will take years to forge into a cohesive nation.

  44. Hugo says:

    Come on, Jon. Why are we looking for every excuse to say that the Georgian bastards had it coming, like Chief Daryl Gates’ summary of his internal investigation of R. King’s manifold bruises? Don’t you recognize an underdog anymore?

    And, please do forgive me, but your statement that “a nation’s political system is defined by the strength of its institutions” is, I’m sure unintentionally, a revival of Mussolini in the ’20s. (Gee, might those institutions include its military?) You know, of course, that America was once “a sprawling, mountainous, and therefore extremely vulnerable mini-empire of nationalities that will take years to forge into a cohesive nation.” At least that’s what, at various times, was the conclusion of President Jefferson, the British Government, and those of Spain and, for all of 17 years, Mexico. Jefferson saw it as an inspiring challenge; the rest, as a vulnerability.

    I thought your New Federalism was based on devolution, especially to the Bear Flag Republic of California. When it gets into the modern history of America’s security policy and defense spending, or into geopolitical speculations about our right relation to countries that mean to encompass our undoing, well, it’s all wet.

    I say we retreat to Sonoma Town, seat of the revolt that would make California its own republic, and let the foreign affairs people sort out how to carrot-and-stick the vicious, crude Russians out of Georgia.

  45. STS says:

    Hugo,

    You wrote: “a self-styled dictator bent on taking Europe piecemeal”. Am I completely unreasonable to read that as “taking Europe”? Piecemeal means bit by bit, but working towards most or all. It implies a long-range target much larger than the little corner currently being contested.

    I’m not quite clear whether you meant to make an analogy to Hitler or Stalin, however. Certainly both men participated in the carving up of Poland. Your “breathing room and living space” sounds like a hasty recollection of “lebensraum”, but I don’t remember a lot of leftist apologetics for the author of Mein Kampf. What comes through most clearly is your Churchillian alarm about the “unwisdom” of allowing the “wicked to rearm”.

    But another aspect of your analogy deserves consideration. Bush has not been another Baldwin. Dubya “Churchill” has been governing, not howling from the back benches. He has been burrowing American military forces closer and closer to Mother Russia, not working for disarmament as Baldwin did. And Bush has been happy to collaborate with Putin. If we really need to “draw the line”, we probably should draw it a little further from the Russian border and give some kind of notice. With apologies to Robert Frost, goodfences make good neighbors, not hair-triggers.

  46. Hugo says:

    STS you rank pedant,

    Russia already IS devouring Europe piecemeal (thank you for defining “piecemeal” ostentatiously for my presumed benefit). By “piecemeal” I precisely did NOT mean the WHOLE of Europe foreseeably. Rather, today, Georgia and, if the other indepent states don’t thereby get the message to divorce democracy and its friends, then next comes Ukraine. Dig?

    Of course my references to breathing room/living space were, as you well know, a careful and accurate English translation of Lebensraum, a phrasing thoughtfully aimed at accessibility, as distinguished from your hasty, derisive and tiresome didacticism.

    It is you, not I, who have elected to rehearse the Churchill line. I don’t believe I said a thing to suggest that one need look beyond the U.S. in the ’30s to hit the jackpot of geopolitical aphasia; from the Right and elsewhere, deference to the Nazis, and from the Left, pom-poms for the Soviets.

  47. Alex Bowles says:

    Jon,

    I’m not sure about the direct importance of Georgia to the US either.

    But, as the most direct route between the Caspian Sea’s oil and gas reserves and Western Europe (which get about 1/4 to 1/3 of their energy from the Caspian) it has major strategic importance – especially since the alternatives run through Russia.

    In other words, it matters to all the major NATO nations, except America.

    Which is why I made the earlier point about entangling alliances. From a military perspective, this isn’t our problem. From a political perspective, our membership in NATO means it is now our problem.

    Empire. It’s everywhere you don’t want to be.

  48. Hugo says:

    Quite sound I think, Alex, but the U.S. has a hardcore interest in frustrating Moscow’s efforts to reestablish a Greater Russia onnacounta Ivan’s got his feelings hurt over being rejected by SO MANY of its subserviant colonies.

  49. Adam says:

    New Republic has an article by a former Clinton administration official making the opposite argument to Jonathan’s.

    http://tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=9da1fd2d-1701-470b-b734-3fc365571e0d

  50. Jon Taplin says:

    Alex- I agree with you. As I tried to point out in The Cost of Empire, the main push to expand NATO came from the Military Industrial Complex, anxious to outfit all these new countries with NATO compatible weapons and systems. How all of this serves the US is beyond me. Europe has been a Defense Free Rider on our DOD since 1946. They are big and rich now. Let them pay for their own defense.

    Hugo-I do believe in Devolution. That’s why I don’t believe that Russia is interested in taking on more financial responsibility for the Caucuses. Russia’s main objective is to stop the expansion of NATO and the Polish anti missle shield bases. Why should we keepexpanding NATO when all it does is feed the pocket of Lockheed?

  51. STS says:

    Hugo,

    I’m perhaps oversensitive to vague 30’s analogies, even though you make them with more verve than most neo-cons are capable of.

    What’s frustrating about the Georgia situation is that we’ve spent so much of our energy on a palpably false 30’s analogy (Saddam=Hitler) that we’re badly positioned to react to it. If you would like support from the left for a true effort to assure the “success of liberty”, you’ve got to be careful about where the line is drawn and how it is signaled. We can’t prop up brand new allies in a bunch of former Soviet republics and expect to hold an instant moral advantage in defending them. We have to build up consensus in Europe about where the line has to be drawn at a minimum. That’s not an ‘apology’ for Russian behavior — just recognition that cornering them is likely to make them more irrationally violent in reaction.

    And Alex should get a trademark on that empire line: “Empire. It’s everywhere you don’t want to be.” Love it!

  52. Adam says:

    Re: Russia’s intentions, including how it looks to expand Russia control in East Europe, while being willing to cede land to the Chinese on the other

    Found this statement from Kasparov’s opposition group:

    http://www.theotherrussia.org/2008/08/11/russian-opposition-on-the-war-in-georgia-official-statement/

  53. Hugo says:

    STS,

    Yes, of course the U.S. should lead the broadest possible effort to kick the Bear back to where she belongs, and it ought to hurt the damned treacherous Bear, too.

    I agree that Alex should license his witty line

    Finally, I am not a”neocon”, and nor have I ever knowingly met one of that rare breed. I have, however, worked for a U.S. Secretary of Defense, and with a Secretary of State, and also with the world’s foremost arms control negotiators and experts on the origin and prevention of human violence. Most of these people are in active support of Barack Obama — one of them is already on his team. But not ONE of them. would ever trust Russia for so much as an instant, much less make excuses for it’s predations.

    Oh, and did I mention that several of the were Soviet, and later Russian, serving officers, all of them now newly naturalized American citizens?

  54. Morgan Warstler says:

    Jon, I prefer Europe help pay for the defense we provide them.

    And they do, in their own way. The Euro was a nice start. Voting up conservatives – another nice move.

  55. STS says:

    Hugo,

    I didn’t call you a neo-con, but I’m glad you disavow the label.

    It would be surprising if Russian military officers who have defected were fond of the Russian government, but I also have personal experience of Soviet emigres and their perspective. As an almost reflexively non-conformist member of American society, I’m sure I would have found Russia every bit as unlivable as they did.

    I suppose one could see Russia’s Georgia incursion as a convenient pivot for dropping the overblown and incoherent GWOT rhetoric and starting a more rational conversation about our foreign policy.

  56. Hugo says:

    Sure, STS, I hadn’t thought about it, but it would be an important line to pursue of course.

    Me, I think they were testing for a Ukraine offensive, something I really really wish I were still in a position to work against, in some small way.

  57. Hugo says:

    STS, it was the line about how I “make” my “vague” analogies to the ’30s “with more verve than MOST neo-cons are capable of.” [emphasis mine.]

    See, that sounded a lot like you calling me a neo-con. Please forgive my mistake.

  58. len says:

    “I say we let them have Alobama . We sure as hell don’t need it.”

    Hey! Just because Lynard Skynard is covered by every bar band in the world every night while you have to find someone with a turntable to hear Neil Young’s Alabama, that’s no reason to get insulting. Besides, we have to take care of the refugees pouring out of Atlanta.

  59. Morgan Warstler says:

    Having pulled back from Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Georgians can now regroup and re-equip. They are in desperate need of two things: weapons to kill tanks, and weapons to kill or deter aircraft and helicopters. We can supply both. The Stinger missile, the bane of Russian Frontal Aviation in Afghanistan, is still the most potent shoulder-fired weapon around. It will cause Russian close support aircraft to keep their distance, or to attack from higher altitude. Providing Georgia with medium-range surface-to-air missiles which can be deployed from Georgian territory proper will further push back their high-altitude aircraft (e.g., Tu-22M Backfires ).

    Freed from aerial observation and the threat of air attack, Georgian forces could move dismounted over the mountains more readily than Russian mechanized forces can move along the roads. Which means that the Georgians would be free to set up ambushes to block further Russian advances and to interdict their lines of communication. We can provide the wherewithal for them to do this. First, we need to give the Georgians anti-tank mines, and not just any kind, but our latest “smart” off-route mines like the XM93 Wide Area Mine (WAM). These don’t have to be placed directly on the roads, but can be put off to the side, where built-in sensors can detect armored vehicles and launch explosive formed penetrator (RFP) warheads at them.

    Second, we need to give them our best anti-tank guided missile, the FGM-148 Javelin . This is a

    “fire and
    forget” weapon: once the operator lines up the target in his sights and locks on, he can
    fire the missile and get away, while the missile will fly autonomously to the target. With a range of about two kilometers, the Javelin also uses a “top attack” profile, diving down onto the roof of the tank where the armor is thinnest. In action in Operation Iraqi Freedom, javelins were devastating against Russian-designed tanks. Knocking out a few tanks or other armored vehicles on a narrow mountain road creates a barrier to movement behind which all traffic piles up, immobile and vulnerable to attack.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/410pebgo.asp

  60. Rick Turner says:

    Morgan, you must be a lobbyist for the MIC. Yeah, send all that expensive shit over there to be blown up so they’ll just have to buy more. What fun! Nothing is quite as much fun as blowing shit up…

    Do you ever think about the civilians on the ground? Collateral damage? About the fact that the main man in Georgia is a nut case?

  61. Morgan Warstler says:

    He’s OUR nutcase – US educated. Our man. Lets go help him.

  62. len bullard says:

    The Russian army should be withdrawn. We should not be sending weapons. This only gets worse and more people die if both sides keep at it.

    Then let the diplomats do their work regards Ossetia.

    The Blame Game is just a way of keeping the diplomats from doing their jobs while both sides try to gain more ground physically and politically.

  63. Adam says:

    Now a Russian general is saying that a Poland is risking a nuclear strike for hosting an anti-missile defense system.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080815/ap_on_re_eu/russia_us_missile_defense
    ***He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia’s military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons “against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them.” Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax.***

    Uh, yeah, clearly this shows that what Russia is doing is only a natural reaction to U.S. policy…

  64. Hugo says:

    Morgan,

    I like your brass-tacks thinking, and I just expected (but mostly hoped) that when the U.S. sent 2,000 very tried and angry Georgian troops back to Tblisi, they were packing at least some fire-and-forget shape charges. (Next, look for a U.S. sale of Abrams A1A’s to Georgia.)

    Longrun, though, wouldn’t you agree that Georgia must emulate Switzerland or else perish ?

  65. Hugo says:

    Morgan? Morgan?

    tump tump…

    Are you in there?

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