Regardless of what you think about the current situation in the Caucasus, you have to admire the speed with which the usual suspects organize to agitate us into another war. Three different papers, three different op-eds. In the NY Times, Bill Kristol asks if Russia Will Get Away With It, with no mention that it was, in fact, Georgia who started this (much to the delight of an eager and waiting Russia, ecstatic at the opportunity to do what they have wanted to do for years).
The details of who did what to precipitate Russia’s war against Georgia are not very important. Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.
Now that Hitler is involved, we just have to do something. Kagan finishes off his piece with a not-so-subtle and extremely gauche pimping of his own new book:
Historians will come to view Aug. 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Russia’s attack on sovereign Georgian territory marked the official return of history, indeed to an almost 19th-century style of great-power competition, complete with virulent nationalisms, battles for resources, struggles over spheres of influence and territory, and even — though it shocks our 21st-century sensibilities — the use of military power to obtain geopolitical objectives. Yes, we will continue to have globalization, economic interdependence, the European Union and other efforts to build a more perfect international order. But these will compete with and at times be overwhelmed by the harsh realities of international life that have endured since time immemorial. The next president had better be ready.
Kagan’s new book is entitled The Return of History and the End of Dreams. You have to admire the chutzpah, at least- you and I see an international crisis, Kagan sees a marketing opportunity.
Finally, the actual only compelling argument of the three editorials is in the WSJ, penned by the President of Georgia himself:
What is at stake in this war?
Most obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice: They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January, three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO. These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic ambitions.
Second, Russia’s future is at stake. Can a Russia that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe? It is clear that Russia’s current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the entire space once governed by Moscow.
If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states — whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia — will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.
As they say, read the whole thing. I fear at this point, the largest problem for Georgia in the domestic United States is the speed and willingness with which discredited warmongers like Kristol and Kagan have attached themselves to their cause.
That being said, I simply don’t know what can be done, even if there is a will to rescue Georgia. So many things are working against her- the fact that we are overextended militarily in two other conflicts, the specter of total war with the Russians, a general sense of inevitable isolationism brought on by a miserable economy and fatigue with the current war, and a fervent distrust of our current political establishment.
That having been said, there is no doubt that the stakes have been raised for the United States and NATO. I just don’t know what we can do, or if we can even do anything. The draft resolution at the Security council is laughable, as that will be immediately vetoed by Russia, sending actual troops to Georgia is not going to happen, we have very little in the way of opportunity to impose economic sanctions, and we can be certain that our European allies will not take the lead in this crisis. My guess is that this will end when Russia wants it to end, as Medvedev is signaling that the operations are close to ending. Otherwise, I just don’t see anything meaningful happening on our part, and Bush has not even left the Olympics, as far as I can tell.
*** Update ***
And, as always, if you have some good links as to what is actually going on (the news still seems muted from the region- CNN has a brief blurb every twenty five minutes, nothing more), throw them in the comments.