Annie, Get Your Pen

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).

In Fred Hiatt’s WaPo, Bob Kagan makes an appearance to queer the debate by Godwinning it:

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.






76 replies
  1. 1
    Jake says:

    I suspect the fact that the US is rather hamstrung at the moment factored in to Russia’s decision to be so brazen here. It’s not like we can do much of anything to stop them. Obama might try to make this point, we’ll see.

    Meanwhile, I expect McCain to point to this as another reason why Russia should be removed from the G8, or to talk more about his “League of Democracies”, or some such bullshit.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    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.

    “discredited” seems like a strange label for people who continue to be paid to write columns in major papers. a person whose opinions were actually discredited would be mocked if not flatly ignored, not salaried, and we wouldn’t see them on TV every fucking day.

    far from being discredited, these people are as well-respected as ever – at least by the people who run the media.

  3. 3
    myiq2xu says:

    Lemme guess, Bloody Bill thinks we should respond by invading Iran?

    Amirite?

  4. 4
    joel hanes says:

    Cable TV in my area carries “RT”, (“Russia Television”, I think).
    They are super-titling their reporting on Georgia/South Ossetia with the word “Genocide”, in headline font.

  5. 5
    nightjar says:

    Not to be outdone by neocon Russia bashing the DLC dems join the pile on, and with the expected republican-light approach.

  6. 6
    Jim Henley says:

    At stake is nothing less than the principle that there is one set of rules for the United States, and another set for the entire rest of the world.

  7. 7
    tballou says:

    The US can do absolutely nothing about this because the multiple failures of the Bush admin have completely destroyed any possible means of military, political, economic, diplomatic, or moral response. We have zero credibility when it comes to criticizing Russia, China, or anyone else for military adventurism or political repression. We have totally shredded our relationship with our allies. We are totally overstretched militarily, and could not possibly pay for any kind of major action. The mess we are in is entirely of our making, so we get to sit this one out on the sidelines knowing how completely and utterly impotent this government has made us.

  8. 8
    Frank says:

    lol nice one Jim.

    Has anyone noticed that the wingnuts are all for all-out war largely simply because all the rational people are against it?

  9. 9
    Dave says:

    This is Kosovo coming back to bite us in the ass.

  10. 10
    voice of reason says:

    McCain is a madman – I mean that literally – if he is elected president, we will have a nuclear war with billions of dead, at a 100% level of certainty. He must be stopped by any means necessary.

  11. 11
    Face says:

    The details of who did what to precipitate Russia’s war against Georgia are not very important.

    Wow. Just wow. Sounds about right from these guys. Just replace “Russia” with “U.S.” and “Iraq” with “Georgia”.

  12. 12
    greynoldsct00 says:

    …and a fervent distrust of our current political establishment.

    I don’t think our distrust is fervent enough, too many people are still in favor of McCain, who will be a continuation of the mess we have now. I had to laugh at Bush on teevee criticizing Russia… as noted above, we have no credibility to say anything.

  13. 13
    joe says:

    Dave Says:

    This is Kosovo coming back to bite us in the ass.

    Does Dave also say that the Chechen wars were Kosovo pre-emptively biting us in the ass?

    Dude, this is what Russia DOES in the Caucasus.

  14. 14
    Wilfred says:

    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.

    Now that’s narrative!

  15. 15
    4tehlulz says:

    Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia?

    I do recall that the Czechs didn’t shell a city before the Nazis came in. Just sayin’.

  16. 16
    The Other Steve says:

    And, as always, if you have some good links as to what is actually going on (the news still seems muted from the region

    Let’s look at what Pravda is saying.

    They’re claiming Georgia troops are burning South Ossetian refuges alive. That Georgia is commiting war crimes. That the US is culpable.

    Most notably, they are claiming that since US has been training these Georgian troops, that the Russia military has in effect defeated the US army.

    Experts of Stratfor, the so-called Shadow CIA, stated that the Russian army had not only preserved its battling capacity but also proved to the whole world that was it capable of defeating an armed enemy, trained by US instructors.

    This one is interesting…

    At approximately 11:30 p.m. Moscow time Georgians opened fire with heavy artillery from the side of the Georgian villages of Ergneti and Nikozi against the city of Tskhinval, the Defense Ministry of South Ossetia announced on Thursday. Georgian troops attempted to storm the city much as Hitler‘s Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces.

    Now they have Israeli advisors?

  17. 17
    Napoleon says:

    The US can do absolutely nothing about this because the multiple failures of the Bush admin have completely destroyed any possible means of military, political, economic, diplomatic, or moral response. We have zero credibility when it comes to criticizing Russia, China, or anyone else for military adventurism or political repression. We have totally shredded our relationship with our allies. We are totally overstretched militarily, and could not possibly pay for any kind of major action. The mess we are in is entirely of our making, so we get to sit this one out on the sidelines knowing how completely and utterly impotent this government has made us.

    Even if that was all not true, we still couldn’t do anything – it would be completely insane to step into a conflict involving a nuclear power half a world away and right next to the nuclear power? Does anyone really doubt that if these same clowns (or their political predecessors like Curt Lamay and Goldwater) were in charge during the 60’s that that we would still be in a nuclear winter and living in caves?

  18. 18
    Dave says:

    Joe,

    When the US (and others) recognized Kosovo over the objections of Russia, they all but laid out this scenario.

    Unless you can explain to me how an ethnic enclave wanting freedom in one country is acceptable, but another ethnic enclave wanting freedom in another country isn’t, then Bush and Company basically have no leg to stand on here.

  19. 19
    The Other Steve says:

    Over at Novosti

    US military aircraft bring home Georgian troops from Iraq.

    Georgian troops surrendering to Russians.

    Water supply resumed in South Ossetia’s capital.

    Humanitarian aid reaches South Ossetia

    They’re selling this back home as a liberation.

  20. 20
    Doug H. (Fausto no more) says:

    The best thing that can happen right now is for Saakashvili to state “I fucked up,” resign, and hope that appeases the Russians enough that the next guy can try salvaging the peace. Not that its likely he’ll do so – see the above WSJ editorial.

    That’s where a smart American administration would’ve come in. Of course, that would require a smart American administration…

  21. 21
    Dave says:

    What really surprises me is that the media has paid little attention to the Ukraine saying that they may not let the Russian ships off of Georgia back into Sevastopol. The possibility of the Ukraine getting involved changes the calculus for the Russians and may keep things from getting out of hand (or MORE out of hand).

  22. 22
    Scott H says:

    Paul Reynolds at BBC has some points to ponder.

    I just listened to John McCain’s statement. South Ossetia whose independence is the center of the matter, is beside the point to McCain. He then left the podium without taking questions, this lion of foreign policy tapping his prepared script as he mumbled his way off-stage.

    Anyway, Georgia started it, playing it exactly bass-ackward and straight into Russia’s hand. Russia will stop kicking the crap out them shortly. Unless somebody else decides to do something incredibly stupid.

    Of course, Russia wants a Moscow-leaning government in Georgia. They may get it as long as we have a bumbling Bush and a mumbling MCCain. Thanks to Georgia, Russia will certainly have one in South Ossetia.

  23. 23
    gypsy howell says:

    Bush has not even left the Olympics, as far as I can tell.

    C’mon now. He peered into Putin’s soul, saw there was nothing to worry about, and went back to sneaking drinks and patting asses at the volleyball match.

  24. 24
    Doug H. (Fausto no more) says:

    When the US (and others) recognized Kosovo over the objections of Russia, they all but laid out this scenario.

    Anyone have ‘Kosovo’ on their ‘Caucasus War Flypaper Post’ bingo cards?

    Serbia lost any moral high ground over Kosovo after Bosnia. If rationalizing future ‘interventions’ as Kosovo Redux helps Putin, Medvedev, and the Russian people sleep better at night, at least they’ve got that going for them.

  25. 25
    The Moar You Know says:

    This one is interesting…

    At approximately 11:30 p.m. Moscow time Georgians opened fire with heavy artillery from the side of the Georgian villages of Ergneti and Nikozi against the city of Tskhinval, the Defense Ministry of South Ossetia announced on Thursday. Georgian troops attempted to storm the city much as Hitler‘s Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces.

    Now they have Israeli advisors?

    For Christ’s sake, don’t tell Wilfred, his head will expolde.

  26. 26
    DannyNoonan says:

    Kristol was able to work in appeasement, Hitler and a hint of the Vietnam, we must stop them here before Communism spreads to our shores, argument. Let me go on record and say that if our involvement means putting Kristol on the frontline, consider me sold.

  27. 27
    mcd410x says:

    I thought Bush and Putin understood each other … this person getting to be president is the great snow job of all time.

  28. 28
    libarbarian says:

    Now they have Israeli advisors?

    IIRC, advising foreign militaries is a somewhat significant source of money for the Israeli government.

  29. 29
    dslak says:

    Serbia lost any moral high ground over Kosovo after Bosnia.

    Since Bosnia was a completely seperate matter, I’m not sure how it changed the situation in Kosovo. The main argument regarding Kosovo vis-a-vis Serbia, I should think, was that the Serbian government failed to recognize the region’s autonomy and the rights of its inhabitants as citizens of Serbia.

    Georgia’s choice to react to the attacks on some border villages by assaulting the capitol of South Ossetia arguably puts Georgia in a similar position to Serbia after the Račak massacre, but it’s too early to tell yet.

  30. 30
    Wilfred says:

    Now they have Israeli advisors?

    Why do you hate the Jews?. This is anti-Semitism, pure and simple, but I’ll wait for the decision from the Jewish Thought Police.

    For Christ’s sake, don’t tell Wilfred, his head will expolde

    Oh, I think you mean the heads of Palestinian boys when the IDF shoots them with rubber bullets.

    You should read Haaretz more often:

    Jewish Georgian minister: Thanks to Israeli training, we’re fending off Russia

    Jewish Georgian Minister Temur Yakobshvili on Sunday praised the Israel Defense Forces for its role in training Georgian troops and said Israel should be proud of its military might, in an interview with Army Radio.

    “Israel should be proud of its military which trained Georgian soldiers,” Yakobashvili told Army Radio in Hebrew, referring to a private Israeli group Georgia had hired.

    Curiouser and curiouser. Or is it anti-Semitic to say something like that?

  31. 31
    dbrown says:

    In turn, Putin criticized the United States for airlifting Georgian troops back home from Iraq on Sunday at Georgia’s request.
    Great, we took Georgian troops who were finally safe in Iraq thanks to the ‘surge’ and flew them into the meat grinder in Georgia – and they call us their ally? Talk about military aid!

  32. 32
    sv says:

    agree that we can’t do anything about it. Not that we’d want to other than diplomatically, but that isn’t an option anyway since we’re so weakened in that area due to blinding hypocrisy, pissed-upon alliances, tarnished image, diminished military/economic strength, exposed limitations etc etc etc. All these are also reasons that those who normally would be more wary of angering us are emboldened.

    also agree that georgia seriously miscalculated, playing right into Russia’s hands, that Georgia is in large part responsible for this conflict, and that the ball is entirely in russia’s court right now. airlifting georgia’s troops back home from Iraq (!) is the least, and ironically also about the most, that we could do for them.

    For a minute, I got Robert Kagan confused with Robert Kaplan… big difference. Feel free to carry on with the Kagan bashing..

  33. 33
    Original Lee says:

    Shorter McCain: Georgia was supposed to wait until NEXT summer, when I’m President, to launch this attack. Despite the fact that the President of Georgia didn’t read the memo properly and mistook an 8 for a 9, we must proceed with my plan anyway.

    /snark

  34. 34
    Wilfred says:

    agree that we can’t do anything about it.

    Enough of this rubbish. At least make the distinction between can’t and won’t. Are we to believe that if Russian had invaded, say, Poland, that we COULD NOT do anything?

    And no, I’m not advocating doing what we certainly would have to do if Georgia were part of Nato, assuming we even honor treaties anymore – and don’t think some people are wondering about that at the moment. But please stop with the can’t cant. Maybe if we started talking about what is possible we might get into the realm of acting a bit more sensibly.

  35. 35
    A.Political says:

    Apparently (according to BBC Worldservice Radio) Russia has entered Georgia proper on two fronts now and have captured strategic cities….Russia says this is to prevent renewed attacks from Georgian military, they continue to march deeper in to Georgia proper currently.

  36. 36
    Scott H says:

    If only Tony Harris (and his colleagues) had been as argumentative with the Bush Adminsitration and their surrogates as he just was with Russian Deputy PM Sergei Ivanov. Too bad for Tony that Sergei just wouldn’t give up the Gotcha! moment Harris was petulantly poking around to get. Ivanov didn’t even have to switch his game to lawyer-ball.

    Harris appeared to think he had got some kind of scoop by getting Ivanov to say that the Russians where accusing Georgia of “ethnic cleansing” – when they have already accused the Georgians of genocide. Ivanov couldn’t have been happier to adopt the weaker expression.

  37. 37
    A.Political says:

    Recent update from BBC Radio press has retreated from Gori inside Georgia proper north of Ossetia….news story below is prior to this development reported on the radio.

    Russia is now planning on moving specialist forces from Chechnya to Georgia to bring troop totals to 9,000.

    The second front is Ocazia inside Georgia. BBC is saying this is a large escalation and does not bode well.

  38. 38
    carsick says:

    It’s easy. We bring back an immediate mandatory draft. Invade Iran using air power only because we need the foot soldiers to…invade Russia, and then, when the Olympics are over, we invade China. Of course we’ll need to keep the women folk and gays home to continue feeding our bustling economy and manufacture the tools necessary for the war machine. And then, after four or five years, it’s 1945 victory parades down Madison Avenue. Problems solved.

  39. 39
    D. Mason says:

    Maybe if we started talking about what is possible we might get into the realm of acting a bit more sensibly.

    YEAH! For example. We could invite Putin to Iraq then be all like: See what happens when you stick your dick in a hornets nest ???? see??? seeeeeeee??????

  40. 40
    A.Political says:

    One more update, BBC reports Russian minister states that Russia’s goal is to annex Ossetia and Ocazia and crush the current government of Georgia (literally he said crush them).

  41. 41
    southpaw says:

    An American friend of mine is in Tblisi for the summer, and she’s refusing to be evacuated. This is her blog; I think it’s pretty good.

  42. 42
    Lavocat says:

    Isn’t this a nice bookend to The Bush League’s grotesquely inept foreign policy?

    I see two things evolving from this, one an insubstantial, long-term and one a substantial short-term:

    1) I think it’s a no-brainer that the Czechs and Poles are onboard with the Stars Wars installations now, like it or not. Fear of the Russian Bear is a great motivator;

    2) IF (big IF) the Russians either dig in and stay a while OR the BTC is damaged or destroyed, this will end the prospect of going to war with Iran. Why? Because if the BTC comes offline, then 1 million barrels are lost PER DAY, spiking oil past $140. And if King George is foolish enough to attack Iran once that happens, Iran could very well retaliate by shutting down the Straits of Hormuz (as they have repeatedly threatened to do!), thereby causing oil to spike past $200. Which translates into over $5 per gallon – just as we gear up for election season.

    So, there is a silver lining to this Nice Little War: it makes war with Iran a lot less likely.

    Of course, the downside is LOTS of dead Georgians. But, then again, the scrawny kid should know better than to go picking fights with the biggest bully on the block. A nation has got to learn its limitations after all.

  43. 43
    4tehlulz says:

    Why? Because if the BTC comes offline, then 1 million barrels are lost PER DAY, spiking oil past $140. And if King George is foolish enough to attack Iran once that happens, Iran could very well retaliate by shutting down the Straits of Hormuz (as they have repeatedly threatened to do!), thereby causing oil to spike past $200. Which translates into over $5 per gallon – just as we gear up for election season.

    I fail to see how this is a disincentive for oilmen to go to war with Iran.

  44. 44
    sv says:

    Wilfred,

    They haven’t invaded Poland. I’m talking about these very specific circumstances. I just meant that, compared to our usual position of strength and diplomatic clout (like say ten years ago), we are pretty hamstrung in terms of a response to this situation. I didn’t mean to sound so pessimistic; I think we are still capable of a lot geopolitically, even under Bush, but what i wanted to emphasize is that, in my view, a resolution to this situation is almost entirely under russian control, and our influence over it correspondingly smaller than it would be, due to the current US administration’s squandering of our power and influence. It could be argued that that’s for the best in this particular situation (not that i think it is).

  45. 45
    Sarcastro says:

    American diplomacy in the 21st century: Epic Fail.

  46. 46
    Li says:

    No, Lavocat, you are absolutely wrong, this conflict makes a war with Iran much more likely. Let me explain;

    The two great powers that Iran has security pacts with are Russia and China. China is tied up with the Olympics, and thanks to this action, which at least involves the US and Israel, Russia is tied up as well. Additionally, another carrier battle group, along with a British naval group, is going to be in the Gulf in a matter of days, joining the two carrier battle groups that are there already. This is a lot of firepower, and with Bush busy looking at young ass Cheney has the opportunity to start the apocalyptic war that he and his neocon friends have always wanted. Here is a link to back up the naval assertion.

    http://www.metimes.com/Interna.....gulf/7724/

    Indeed, I would say that this war, which may well have been started with assurances that the US would help Georgia, judging by the statements of Georgian officials, has set the stage for a bombing campaign on Iran better than I could have feared, even in my worst nightmares.

    Pray for peace.

  47. 47
    jake says:

    So, there is a silver lining to this Nice Little War: it makes war with Iran a lot less likely.

    Sorry man, you’re trying to insert logic and facts into a place where they are not permitted. Bush is probably watching the clips of tanks rolling into Georgia and getting all nostalgic. What keeps us out of Iran is a lack of people, equipment & cash.

    And right now, various Olympic beach volleyball teams.

  48. 48
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    this conflict makes a war with Iran much more likely.

    I don’t disagree with your analysis except that it assumes we will have freedom of action. We won’t. Skyrocketing oil prices (which would result from an attack on Iran under any conceivable scenario) will hurt a lot of people very badly, including our major creditors in Beijing who are basically bankrolling the continued operation of the US Govt., and who are more than a little bit friendly with Iran (can you say Silkworm missiles?).

    If we try to strong arm Iran, we will find out very quickly that only fiscally independent countries can afford to have a foreign policy which pisses off the biggest creditor nation in the world. Just like Britain and France found out the hard way in the Suez 1956 crisis.

  49. 49
    Wilfred says:

    I didn’t mean to sound so pessimistic; I think we are still capable of a lot geopolitically,

    Fair enough, but I wasn’t referring to your points specifically rather the impotence meme that started immediately and has since taken root. There are dozens of actions that can be taken short of engaging in war, including some creative non-linear ones. But as long as the screech queens rule the roost with “We are helpless, helpless, helpless” no one will even think to try.

    People may not like it but Georgia sent troops to Iraq an some of them died. We owe them a little more than “Oh, Russia is so strong and we are so weak”.

  50. 50
    Colugo says:

    Posters on this thread are out of sync with Obama’s stance and the likely foreign policy pillars of an Obama administration, including Holbrooke and, as I mentioned earlier, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

    Ronald D. Asmus and Richard Holbrooke (both foreign advisors for the Hillary Clinton campaign; Holbrooke will surely have some high level post in an Obama administration):

    “we know, without doubt, that Georgia was responding to repeated provocative attacks by South Ossetian separatists controlled and funded by Moscow. This is a not a war Georgia wanted …

    Having issued passports to tens of thousands of Abkhazians and South Ossetians, Moscow now claims it must intervene to protect them — a tactic reminiscent of one used by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II.

    Moscow seeks to roll back democratic breakthroughs on its borders, to destroy any chance of further NATO or E.U. enlargement and to reestablish a sphere of hegemony over its neighbors. …

    His [Medvedev] justification for this invasion reads more like Brezhnev than Gorbachev. While no one wants a return to Cold War-style confrontation, Moscow’s behavior poses a direct challenge to European and international order.”

  51. 51
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Fair enough, but I wasn’t referring to your points specifically rather the impotence meme that started immediately and has since taken root. There are dozens of actions that can be taken short of engaging in war, including some creative non-linear ones.

    Wilfred,

    I understand the motivation behind your argument – that it is dishonorable to desert friends and allies in need. It is a noble sentiment.

    What I don’t understand is what course of action you are visualizing that leads to a projected conclusion with Georgia victorious in this conflict, short of full all out conventional warfare between the US and Russia.

    If we aren’t going to blow their Black Sea fleet out of the water and shoot down their air support, how can the Georgians win, even with maximum logistical support from us? This isn’t USSR-Finland 1939 redux – the operational performance of the Russians in this conflict thus far suggests the opposite, that it is the Georgians who were caught by surprise (a failure of both tactical and strategic intelligence) and can’t handle what the Russians are throwing at them.

    Do you really think the Russians are going to back down from a fight to the finish, especially if their prestige vs. the US is directly engaged by having us support the Georgians? If not, then how do the Georgians ultimately win here? What is their path to victory?

    If you don’t have an answer to that question, then what you are suggesting we should do would merely prolong the conflict and ensure that a much larger number of combatants and innocent civilians get killed before it is over. Is that really what we owe to the Georgians, our best effort at getting as many of them killed in a lost cause as possible?

  52. 52
    Jamey says:

    Russia invades Georgia? I hope Michael D. is safe…. let’s all pray that the stars-and-bars militia stops the Red Menace before they get to the Cobb County line!

  53. 53
    Li says:

    “I don’t disagree with your analysis except that it assumes we will have freedom of action. We won’t. Skyrocketing oil prices (which would result from an attack on Iran under any conceivable scenario) will hurt a lot of people very badly, including our major creditors in Beijing who are basically bankrolling the continued operation of the US Govt., and who are more than a little bit friendly with Iran (can you say Silkworm missiles?).”

    To be frank, as to the economic consequences, these guys have theirs _and_ they are heavily invested in oil. $200 a barrel oil is just a big bonus to them; they have no trouble filling up, and they have Blackwater to protect them from the rabble. Further, our lack of operational capabilities would make me much more comfortable if men like Wolfowitz weren’t so cavalier in their suggestion that nuclear war is a possible solution to the Iranian problem. One might even call it a final solution.

  54. 54
    searp says:

    Friends don’t let friends drive drunk or invade territory protected by the neighboring superpower.

    I want to know why we would ever even consider extending security guarantees to small states on Russia’s periphery. What do we get from that beyond the possibility of a nuclear war fought over places where we have little if any strategic interest?

    I worked with Estonian soldiers in Iraq. Good soldiers and good friends. I am firmly opposed to extending security guarantees to Estonia either via NATO or on a bilateral basis. I submit that creating even the possibility of going to war with Russia over these countries – Balts, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. – is completely insane. Period.

  55. 55
    Wilfred says:

    What I don’t understand is what course of action you are visualizing that leads to a projected conclusion with Georgia victorious in this conflict, short of full all out conventional warfare between the US and Russia.

    First, if Russia undertakes a long occupation of Georgia there will certainly be a resistance, one that we should arm and train. If they don’t, and leave without causing too much destruction to Georgia proper then we should resort to normal diplomatic condemnations, including an attempt at a Security Council resolution. Useless? Only to those who don’t appreciate the value of a minimal symbolic gesture.

    If the Russian tear Georgia to pieces, and based on their past efforts in Af and Chechnya this is practically a sure thing, I’d argue for the strongest economic sanctions possible, including revocation of MFN status for Russia.

    This should have been done when Russia was massacring Chechnyan civilians. We pushed hard for sanctions at the time but naturally nobody listened because Chechnyans are Muslims.

    If the Georgians want to make a fight of it for their own country, remember we are longer talking about South Ossetia, the only reason to not help them materially is fear. And if a man lives his life afraid of anything he deserves what he gets.

    I submit that creating even the possibility of going to war with Russia over these countries – Balts, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. – is completely insane. Period.

    Just our of curiosity what country other than your own are you willing to go the full distance, and why?

  56. 56
    Marshall says:

    Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia?

    Well enough to know that Germany did not invade Czechoslovakia, at least if by invade you mean “to enter by force in order to conquer”. The Sudeten region was ceded under Anglo-French pressure, the First Republic fell, and after 6 months of maneuvering Slovakia declared independence, and Hitler then forced what remained of the Czech lands to surrender. No (overt) violence was required for any of this, which the Nazis made propaganda hay out of, at least until September 1, 1939.

  57. 57
    The Moar You Know says:

    Just our of curiosity what country other than your own are you willing to go the full distance, and why?

    Not a single damn one.

  58. 58
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    First, if Russia undertakes a long occupation of Georgia there will certainly be a resistance, one that we should arm and train.

    Wilfred,

    The British tried arming and supporting various anti-Russian factions in the Caucasus in a similar fashion during their Great Game rivalry. It didn’t work out very well, either for the British or their clients. The Russians treated it much more as a matter of vital national interest to prevail in that region than they did in Afghanistan (both back then and in the 1980s), and that makes a big difference.

  59. 59
    LITBMueller says:

    That being said, I simply don’t know what can be done

    Oh, we can do just about as much as Russia could do if the Bush Administration decided to invade Venezuela – nothing!

    And, as with Afghanistan, Iraq and Venezuela, lets not kid ourselves: this is about natural resources.

    Unless, of course, someone can point out a case where a NeoCon has called for war with a country that DIDN’T have oil or natural gas!

  60. 60
    Neo says:

    Isn’t odd that the last US commander to tangle with the Russians, Wesley Clark, has been noticeably absence from the list of talking heads. Or did I miss him ?

  61. 61
    Marshall says:

    I submit that creating even the possibility of going to war with Russia over these countries – Balts, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. – is completely insane. Period.

    Just our of curiosity what country other than your own are you willing to go the full distance, and why?

    I was not the original poster, but I would start with countries with which we have mutual defense treaties, which we do with Poland and the Baltic states, and do not with Georgia.

    On a deeper level (i.e., who should we have these treaties with), there is the question of, can we defend them ? For small countries far from us but near to other great powers, the only way to do this is through threatening a wider war – are we really willing to do this ? Is it worthwhile ? It is better to not make guarantees than to make guarantees we cannot or will not fulfill, or that the other side does not believe that we will fulfill.

    In the former Warsaw pact there is a clear difference between the countries (Poland, the Baltic states, etc.) that are contiguous with the rest of NATO and those that are not. If the Russians invaded, say, Poland (whether it was in or out of NATO) it would mean a major war on the borders of, not the least, Germany. NATO would almost certainly become involved whether it wanted to or not, and you can certainly argue that it is worth getting Poland in NATO to forestall this possibility. These arguments are not valid for the case of Georgia.

    There is yet another issue here – the assurances that Clinton gave Boris Yeltsin at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union that NATO would not be extended to the “Near Abroad.” Whether or not these assurances were wise, they apparently were done, and it is not surprising that the Russians would react to attempts to undo them.

  62. 62
    Wilfred says:

    ThatLeftTurnInABQ,

    I’ve answered your questions, and stand by my position that we owe the Georgians more than just throwing our hands up and saying we can’t do anything. Economic sanctions would go a long way in turning back Russian fantasies about becoming a second Europe or whatever it was they are on about.

    Now here’s a question for you. Seems to me that the feeling is that should it be within the strategic interests of the United States then a host of options would be possible, nothing short of nuclear confrontation, in fact. But what are those strategic interests? Who decides what they are? Are they timeless or transitory? Why, for instance, would the situation be different if it was Poland? Is the distinction moral or pragmatic?

    These are some of the questions that I think should be asked at this time, as a citizenry can and should question the decision-making process that leads them into war in one place and away from it in another. And I guarantee you I am more than willing to contest US commitment of any material and/or human resource to the defense of any country.

    It would be worthwhile and productive for Americans to examine their ‘commitments’, who made and why.

  63. 63
    TenguPhule says:

    First, if Russia undertakes a long occupation of Georgia there will certainly be a resistance, one that we should arm and train. It worked so well in Afghanistan, after all! And what’s the worse that Russia could do to us in return? Arm Iraqi freedom fighters?

    Wilfred’s Epic Fail Continues.

  64. 64
    Alex says:

    What floored me about Kagan’s piece was his premise that the fake Sudeten crisis manufactured by Hitler’s agents solely as a means to further the Nazi goal of devouring and enslaving an independent Czechoslovakia was ‘morally ambiguous.’

    Though I suppose that explains a lot about Neconservatism.

  65. 65
    Wilfred says:

    .

    It worked so well in Afghanistan

    And it did. A people armed at the outset with Enfield .303s and axe handles beat the big bad Russians thanks to people like Charlie Wilson, people who didn’t like to see a weak unarmed people pushed around, unlike Israelis.

    Zionist like this boy jerk off in their sisters’ panties when they see the powerful crush the weak. Russian:Georgia Israel:Gaza.

  66. 66
    Wilfred says:

    There is yet another issue here – the assurances that Clinton gave Boris Yeltsin at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union that NATO would not be extended to the “Near Abroad.”

    Weak and unsubstantiated. Besides, without a formal agreement no American president is bound to accept such a commitment. It would hamstring any future politics.

  67. 67
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Now here’s a question for you. Seems to me that the feeling is that should it be within the strategic interests of the United States then a host of options would be possible, nothing short of nuclear confrontation, in fact. But what are those strategic interests? Who decides what they are? Are they timeless or transitory? Why, for instance, would the situation be different if it was Poland? Is the distinction moral or pragmatic?

    Both. (moral and pragmatic)

    I’m in broad agreement with what Marshall just wrote above.

    Geography matters, and so does shared culture and history. In general I think we should provide support to regimes which are westernizing, modernizing and democratizing (that is the moral part), but tempered with a very strong dose of reality with regard to the practicality of us actually being able to defend them if attacked. That includes not only the logistics but also the probable reaction of other countries in our alliance structures (e.g. the other NATO countries in this case) and the ability of our collective leadership (not just in the US but in Europe) to make a credible case to our respective publics that vital national interests are at stake. The alternative is an alliance which unravels when it is most needed.

    There are a broad variety of both historical and geographic reasons why a Russian attack on Georgia is different from an attack on say Poland. Since each nation is different, I can’t lay down hard and fast rules about exactly who should be in the club and who should not, which can be applied in a mechanical fashion – it depends on the details of each individual case.

    Right now off the top of my head I would say: Baltic nations = Yes, Ukraine = probably not, Georgia and other nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia = definitely not, so far a NATO membership goes. That could change in the future as the circumstances of these countries change and I’m open to persuasion that these judgments are flawed, but IMHO we should err on the side of caution so that these security guarantees once offered are not subsequently withdrawn (i.e. neither timeless or transitory, but rather time sensitive in a uni-directional fashion). Better that way than to extend a guarantee now that we can’t or won’t live up to later.

    We aren’t doing anybody favors if we imply an extension of our security umbrella which when tested will either be precipitously withdrawn or result in a tragically predictable failure on the battlefield, or worse yet trigger a wider war in the manner of July/August 1914. In this case, Georgia should never have been encouraged to think that NATO membership was realistic – that was an act of strategic folly and a callous use for Great Game purposes of a people who deserve better than that from us. But compounding our original error by doubling up is only going to get more of them killed in this situation, IMHO.

  68. 68
    TenguPhule says:

    Economic sanctions would go a long way in turning back Russian fantasies about becoming a second Europe or whatever it was they are on about.

    Because that worked so well on the US when it attacked Iraq….oh no, they didn’t. Because nobody was going cause self inflicted wounds over it.

  69. 69
  70. 70
    HyperIon says:

    arg….something happened!
    anyway Li, EMBED YOUR LINKS.

  71. 71
    TenguPhule says:

    A people armed at the outset with Enfield .303s and axe handles beat the big bad Russians thanks to people like Charlie Wilson, people who didn’t like to see a weak unarmed people pushed around, unlike Israelis.

    And got us the Taliban and Al Queda.

    But in Wilfred’s mind, those are good things.

  72. 72
    TenguPhule says:

    Why, for instance, would the situation be different if it was Poland?

    When did Poland drop artillery strikes on cities?

    ‘Allies’ who start shit on their own should not expect back up when they find they stepped in it.

  73. 73
    Wilfred says:

    And got us the Taliban and Al Queda.

    Georgians are Muslim??? – Alhamdulill-h!

  74. 74
    Li says:

    That wasn’t some five line mapquest style link, I didn’t think it needed the tinyURL or an embed. In the interest of staying on the topic at hand, I apologize.

  75. 75
    Marshall says:

    In general I think we should provide support to regimes which are westernizing, modernizing and democratizing (that is the moral part), but tempered with a very strong dose of reality with regard to the practicality of us actually being able to defend them if attacked.

    I basically agree with this. I did not mean to neglect the moral aspect of supporting democracies.

    These things can never be considered in isolation to the wider picture of what is going on in the world (and the case at hand). For example, I think that the British and the French were correct to support the Poles in 1939, even though there was really little or nothing they could do to support the Poles in a short campaign, and even though Poland was not a democracy in 1939. A wider war was clearly coming, and they needed to do what they could against the aggressor, even though it clearly meant a wider war. (The Brits did nothing for the Poles, but the Poles did quite a lot for the Brits, and for all of us, by handing over their Enigma secrets.)

    Is Russia planning a larger war ? There is no evidence for this, and I think it is unlikely. It seems to me that they show none of the signs that were so evident in the case of Germany in 1938-39. This says to me that we should not offer military guarantees to Georgia, but try and do what we can (which may not be much) to stop the situation through moral suasion.

    I do not think, by the way, that the crew in the White House will actually do anything meaningful about this. I don’t think that they have the guts to deal with Russia. With the same reasoning I have thought that we would not attack Iran ever since Putin warned us not to standing on the tarmac in Teheran.

  76. 76
    searp says:

    Notice I referred to security guarantees in my previous post.

    Security guarantees for small countries on Russia’s (or China’s) periphery are not credible. We cannot stop the Russians from occupying Georgia or the Baltic countries, those countries cannot stop it, and (I hope) we would be unwilling to go to war over these countries.

    The feckless extension of security guarantees to countries that are not important to us only increases the possibility of a stupid war. Do you really think Germany is going to go to war with Russia over Georgia, or for that matter Latvia?

    I am sympathetic to these countries, that isn’t the issue. Aid, recognition, etc all should be provided. Security guarantees should not be provided.

    I suppose more controversially, I’d put Taiwan in the same category. I simply cannot imagine a good reason to go to war over Taiwan, although I am sure that others will suggest some.

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