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.