Like Sherman's Invasion of Atlanta...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

...just the other Georgia, half a planet away.

I have been trying to figure out what to say about the whole Russia/Georgia thing when lo and behold, Mr. Furious put up a post and a link to The War Nerd. This guy provides a bunch of historical perspective on where this came from, why it's happening, and why Putin knew he could do this without consequence. It's not that long of an article, about 5 to 10 minutes of your day, and is well worth the read. You have to pick through just a small bit of his Armchair General-style editorial comments and callousness towards war victims, but I'm callous enough myself that it didn't get in the way of a good historical perspective.

Relevant to today:

This time [in regards to whether or not Russia would swoop in to help an ally], the Russians came through. For lots of reasons, starting with the fact that Bush is weak and they know it; that the US is all tied up in that crap Iraq war and can’t do shit; and most of all, because Kosovo just declared independence from Serbia, an old Russian ally. It’s tit for tat time, with Kosovo as the tit and South Ossetia as the tat. The way Putin sees it, if we can mess with his allies and let little ethnic enclaves like Kosovo declare independence, then the Russians can do the same with our allies, especially na├»ve idiotic allies like Georgia.
Yes. We are all tied up in that war in Iraq. I think what adds to Putin's assuredness that this would go his way is that a lot of our allies...U.S. Europe really like Putin's oil. They, in the form of NATO, are not exactly clamoring to fight this out either.

And now the mighty U.S., police to the world, can't intervene:
The fretting and fussing and sky-is-falling crap about this war is going to die down fast, and the bottom line will be simple: the Georgians overplayed their hand and got slapped, and we caught a little of the follow-through, which is what happens when you waste your best troops—and Georgia’s, for that matter—on a dumb war in the wrong place. We detatched Kosovo from a Russian ally; they detached South Ossetia from an American ally. It’s a pawn exchange, if that. If it signals anything bigger, it’s the fact that the US is weaker than it was ten years ago and Russia is much, much stronger than it was in Yeltsin’s time. But anybody with sense knew all that already.[emphasis added by me]
I have not heard what either of our Presidential hopefuls have said about this, but I assume Obama has had the good sense to leave it alone and give McCain the rope he needs, or said something harmless and trite. I'll assume McCain said something uninformed but tough-sounding. But this is not a post about Obama or McCain. I just wanted to get that out of the way. This is a post about this fascinating little war and what it means for us, Russia, and Eurasian stability.


From Mr. Furious again, pulled from Publius over at Obsidian Wings:
For me, it’s been fascinating to watch the militant anti-Russia critiques from McCain and the neocon usual suspects. What’s interesting is not so much the intensity of the critiques, but the underlying similarities between the neocons and the Russians. More precisely, what’s interesting are the parallels between neocon thought and the thought that led the Russians to attack (or counter-attack). In short, both are motivated by militant nationalism.
Read on. Well worth it. Discuss.


Bob 1:57 PM  

F*&k Georgia.

They were traitors when they seceded from the U.S., now it great to see the Russians wipe them rednecks out. One less red state to worry about.

Smitty 2:05 PM  

Excellent juxtaposition, Bob.

Christian 2:11 PM  

War Nerd has some interesting info. I totally appreciate his commentary on such issues as, "Skinny people just look better sitting in rubble with bloody faces, I can’t lie."

This event will probably become a footnote in obscurity, but it seems to me that it's very important moreso because of the precedent it sets than the event itself. Or maybe because of what is done speaks louder than words. The US can't be everywhere, we WON'T be everywhere, Bush has mangled foreign relations, and countries need to take heed.

I am not an expert by any means on foreign ops, politics, etc, but I do appreciate a good conversation on implications of global events and the chaotic nature of it all. OOH RAH.

Smitty 2:15 PM  

Update added from a link to Publius. The Russian response is mired in the same philosophy as neoconservatism in the U.S.

Bob 3:10 PM  

I like the newest stuff from Mr. Furious.

It's not like the U.S. occupies to moral highground when it comes to invading other nations.

Rickey Henderson 3:25 PM  

Putin is a thug, end of story. This is absolutely a situation the U.S. exacerbated by straddling both sides of the fence. Rickey understands your desire to seperate this from the presidential race and politics in general, but people really do need to be talking about just how chilling the idea of an irrational and hotheaded McCain attempting to deal with this situation would be.

Sen. McCain,  3:48 PM  

I didn't spend 5 years hanging from my arms in a Commie POW camp and become President to just put up with those damn Ruskie's invading every god-fearing Democracy in the Western world.

Let's nuke those bastards!

Mr Furious 3:55 PM  

Putin is a thug, end of story.

But Our Leader looked into his SOUL! How could this be?

Oh. I see. Because Bush is a fucking thug too.

George 3:56 PM  

Very interesting article from The Nation by Stephen Cohen. He wrote this in May, but now it seems prophetic.

steves 8:00 PM  

Putin is a thug, end of story.

I agree with RH, though I would say that Putin is plain evil. Not quite on the level of Hitler, Stalin or Chairman Mao, but somewhere around Pinochet. The fact that we can't claim the moral high ground doesn't excuse the Russians, nor should it prevent Bush from doing something that resembles good foreign policy (though I won't hold my breath).

Smitty 10:26 PM  

but people really do need to be talking about just how chilling the idea of an irrational and hotheaded McCain attempting to deal with this situation would be

Yes. My point about separating this was that I didn't want to, initially, use this post as anything other than a bash at Bush's policies and an acknowledgment that Putin is at least dangerous. I also had not seen what McCain or Obama said about it.

But now that I have...have at him.

Rickey Henderson 7:57 AM  

Heh, many thanks for the blessing sir. What alarms Rickey the most is how many senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, and politicos have come forward over the years to state how much the idea of John McCain being in the Oval Office absolutely terrified them. And yet, he's still polling reasonably well. Here's to hoping the debates open everyone's eyes to just how batshit crazy the man really is. Electing a nut like that wouldn't just be dangerous for the nation, it would be obscene.

Mr Furious 2:06 PM  

An excellent on-the-ground analysis of the Georgian conflict. Plenty of blame to go around. Money quote:


Now the United States has ended up in a situation in the Caucasus where the Georgian tail was wagging the NATO dog. We were unable to control Saakashvili or to lend him effective assistance when his country was invaded. One lesson is that we need to be very careful in extending NATO membership, or even the promise of membership, to countries that we have neither the will nor the ability to defend.

In the meantime, American leaders have paid little attention to Russian diplomatic concerns, both inside the former borders of the Soviet Union and farther abroad. The Bush administration unilaterally abrogated the 1972 anti-missile defense treaty and ignored Putin when he objected to Kosovo independence on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent. It is difficult to explain why Kosovo should have the right to unilaterally declare its independence from Serbia, while the same right should be denied to places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The bottom line is that the United States is overextended militarily, diplomatically and economically. Even hawks such as Vice President Cheney, who have been vociferously denouncing Putin's actions in Georgia, have no stomach for a military conflict with Moscow. The United States is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs Russian support in the coming trial of strength with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Instead of speaking softly and wielding a big stick, as Teddy Roosevelt recommended, the American policeman has been loudly lecturing the rest of the world while waving an increasingly unimpressive baton. The events of the past few days serve as a reminder that our ideological ambitions have greatly exceeded our military reach, particularly in areas such as the Caucasus, which is of only peripheral importance to the United States but of vital interest to Russia.


Obama has mistakenly jumped on the NATO-for-Georgia bandwagon as well. It's not a good idea.

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