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August 11, 2008

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1983 in Munich? Oh dear, oh dear, I must agree with the Neocons here; the parallels are frightening.

;)

Hmmm, I thought she was referring to the epic supertramp concert.

As Ephraim Kishon* put it: Whom the gods want to destroy they make an ally of the USA

*although he should have been about the last to complain.

...you had one war available. You already used it up.

Well, we've actually been busy with two.

It's almost as though they weren't serious about the fight against terrorism being the defining struggle of our time; just uniformly belligerent.

they are uniformly belligerent towards their domestic political enemies, who must be defeated at every point, even if that means abandoning or contradicting previously-shouted arguments.

there is domestic political power, and then there are things which can be rallied in the short-term in support of domestic political power. there are no greater considerations.

The best lunatic neocon arguments has yet to come. It'll go like this: The US should be willing to provide air support to Georgia. Bombing is nice and easy and avoids the whole problem of having no troops available. Plus it gets the air force in on the action and they're really feeling left out in the new world where counter-insurgency is king. BUT, fighting Russia is dangerous since they're a nuke-wielding great power. So what we really need is....BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE! Then we can mix it up real good with the Ruskies. Just you wait.

there is domestic political power, and then there are things which can be rallied in the short-term in support of domestic political power. there are no greater considerations.

I think that's a pretty fair description, although I would say there's a flavor of keeping the U.S. as world hegemon in there too, so the domestic political power means worldwide military and economic power as well.

As Ephraim Kishon* put it: Whom the gods want to destroy they make an ally of the USA

In fairness to the USA, this is not a distinctive American feature. It is a signature of large powers generally, and of empires in particular, that smaller allies are sometimes treated in a callous and expedient manner, and their patron cannot be trusted to come thru in a pinch.

This is not out of malice, but because the larger the power the greater the number of potentially conflicting interests and policies they have to juggle, and the more likely that conflicting priorities will come in to play in any given context, or overstretch will prevent the larger power from being able to effectively intervene even with the best of intentions (more or less where we find ourselves in this particular crisis). See the history of Imperial China, Rome, Hapsburg Spain, France, and Great Britain for numerous precedents involving throwing sometime allies and clients to the wolves when it suits the broader purposes of the larger power or they lack the capacity to act on good intentions. This is one of the things that small countries should take into account when choosing to become the client state of a major power. In isn’t nice and it isn’t fair, it just is.

Munich in 1983? What are the warning us about, the looming Kraftwerk atrocities?

Georgia, meet New Orleans.
New Orleans, Georgia.

Mr. Bush will be along shortly once he finishes playing grabass with John McCain and that country singer Kerri Walsh.

Do not expect him to bring ideas. He will stage press conferences and bluster.

(With apologies to Kerri Walsh.)

Ole W is just continuing a family tradition. What he’s doing to the Georgians is pretty much what his old man did to the Shiias in Iraq post Desert Storm.

The thing is, we had vital interests in neither place, although we had some interests in them. They were both situations where diplomacy should have been used to solve the problems. But diplomacy is a puzzle to poor W; he just doesn’t understand the concept.

And as a result of electing a total moron to the Presidency, we’re seeing a minor regional conflict on the brink of turning into a major regional war that could spread well beyond its current bounds. This is just one more mess to lay squarely at the Bush regime’s door, not to mention the door of the idiots who elected W...twice.

Well it looks like the Russians have started ground operations beyond the two disputed territories (and just when I was sticking up for them too, typical), but I think it still looks like they are limiting their operations. They seemed to carry out a limited operation to hit artillery or something in Senaki, but then they withdrew rather than hold the town. The Russians deny moving on Gori. The Georgians have been claiming the Russians are moving on Gori for days now, and one day they might be right, but I for one will wait for independent confirmation of anything the Georgians say at this point.

Still, the fact that the Russians are conscientious in denying whether they are moving on Gori/Senaki etc. at least indicates that they are very conscious of the political ramifications of doing so. Maybe they will, but so far it still seems like they are limiting the scope of their operations for political rather than military reasons.

Oops, sorry about 1983 (which I just now started to type as 1893... sigh.)

Hilzoy: ...you had one war available. You already used it up.

Eric M.: Well, we've actually been busy with two.

Three, actually. No one seems to remember Somalia.

Maybe that's because we could actually get out of Somalia completely without much of anyone noticing, if we wanted to. ('We' being the powers that be. I've wanted us out of there since before we decided to support the Ethiopian "restoration".)

About 'one war': I wrote it various different ways, trying to get Afghanistan in there: my sense was that it was possible, though imho unwise, to undertake another war before we were done with Afghanistan (as in: some occasion might have arisen... , not as in: oh, let's go find a war to have.) But only one.

After trying and failing to find a way to write that quickly and simply, I had to leave, so I posted it as it was. ;(

oh, let's go find a war to have.

McCain's foreign policy, in a nutshell.

Oops, sorry about 1983 (which I just now started to type as 1893... sigh

Well, at least it's not still 1389 or 1398 in Georgia, which was actually probably worse.

But do the numbskulls who talk about 1938 not realise that what they are arguing with in this analogy is for war with Russia? Or do they think that Hitler would have been stopped by expulsion from the interwar equivalent of the G8? We in the UK are getting the same ridiculous rhetoric from the Conservatives about how we must 'stand up to bullies', as if the UK alone or even the EU as a whole has ever been able to stand up to military superpowers.

About 'one war': I wrote it various different ways, trying to get Afghanistan in there: my sense was that it was possible, though imho unwise, to undertake another war before we were done with Afghanistan (as in: some occasion might have arisen... , not as in: oh, let's go find a war to have.) But only one.

The issue of whether it was or could have been wise to start another war while winning in Afghanistan, is a digression. You were right not to raise it in this context. If you just want to accurately reflect our current military commitment, you could say "one full-size war" or "one big war."

You know, this war is doing nothing to raise my low estimation of contemporary journalism. For at least 48 hours now, the TV and newspapers have been telling us that the Russians are seizing Gori, based entirely on Georgian assertions. Maybe they will, but it's clear for at least 46 of those hours it's simply been untrue. Western journalists, probably hunkering in Tbilisi, simply seem to report every crazy rumour - of which there is surely no shortage - as fact. The Russians have admitted to temporarily moving into one town in Western Georgia, yet the hardly needed to tell us that because no Western reporters would have known.

In short, thus far the Russian military's official statements have corresponded very well with verifiable evidence, the Georgians' have not at all.

Even today, two days after the accidental bombing of 2 or 3 apartment buildings in Gori, newspapers are still reporting this as if it's a new, fresh incident that somehow now supports claims that Russian ground troops are moving on the city.

Obviously, I'm not there, and maybe the Russians will drive to Tbilisi tomorrow. But based on the facts on the ground as best we can tell, if the Russians stopped shooting right now, it would turn out that they never ventured beyond the disputed enclaves (apart from sorties to take out ranged weapons), did not attempt to conquer Georgia proper, and that 90% of his war as reported so far is simply hysteria and over-exaggeration.

To follow up my previous comment, the NY Times -- no doubt feeling rather stupid about their earlier 'Russians seize Gori' headline -- have started addressing the vast gulf between the Georgian government's hysteria-inducing statements and visible reality on the ground. I highlighted my favourite bit, and I'd like to propose the endowment of a Matthew Chance Award for Self-Contradictory Hyperbolic Reporting.

Matthew Chance of CNN said Monday that he saw “thousands of Georgian forces” fleeing the city, as have 80 percent of the city’s civilians, according to the United Nations refugee agency. “Gori has started to fall to Russia infantry,” Mr. Chance reported. But he did not see any signs of an occupation by Russia, only attacks from the air.

Neither did two Reuters reporters, one of whom was quoted as saying, “We are right now driving through the town and I see no trace of troops or military vehicles. It is absolutely deserted.”

full article at NY Times.

Honestly, even if we weren't in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, what the hell would we do about this? We're not going to start a shooting war with Russia to protect Georgia. Because, you know, that might end all life on the planet. And given its oil and natural gas reserves, we've got no economic leverage either. There's absolutely nothing we can do about this.

Which is Putin's point in doing it.

It's the foreign policy equivalent of Groundhog Day.
Or the little boy who cried "Munich!"?

Well, Chance didn't say the infantry weren't riding in planes, did he, smart guy?

Matt Yglesias on Georgian motivations, at his new home.

'in one hour simply wiped 10 Ossetian villages from the face of the earth, the Georgian rulers which used tanks to run over children and the elderly, which threw civilians into cellars and burnt them -- they (Georgian leaders) are players that have to be protected.'

90% of his war as reported so far is simply hysteria and over-exaggeration.

Saakashvili is Georgia's answer to Baghdad Bob, only instead of denying that the enemy is anywhere to be found, he is claiming they are behind every tree. The US press response looks like what it would look like if they had run single source articles during the Iraq invasion quoting only the esteemed then-Iraqi Information Minister.

There would have been large type headlines in the NY Times reading American Infidels Committing Suicide By The Hundreds On The Gates Of Baghdad, etc.

It's interesting how many of the people who have gotten all belligerent about Russia are the same people who told us that the war against Islamofascism was the defining struggle of our generation. If they really believed that, you might expect them to let Russia swallow up Georgia rather than let ourselves be distracted from the people they take to be our real mortal enemies, especially since Russia can be quite useful to us in the war on terror. Oddly enough, however, they aren't.

It's almost as though they weren't serious about the fight against terrorism being the defining struggle of our time; just uniformly belligerent.

While it hasn't been written about much, because S. Ossetia really is separate from Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and other autonomous republics over the border in Russia, the fact is that they are all part of the same ethnically diverse region and what happens in one republic will inevitably spill over into others. Most of the others have significant Muslim populations and the forces of moderation have been struggling against Saudi financed Wahhabism for over a decade now. Chechnya was a training ground for Jihad long before we went and plowed the field and planted that crop in Iraq. If the region explodes Jihadis will flock there again.

So, you see, the war in Georgia really is related to the war against Islamofacism (or at least as related as Iraq was before our invasion). Problem is, no matter which side we come in on in this case, it will be the wrong side.

>with what troops are we supposed to do this?

May I humbly nominate Bill Kristol, Doug Feith, and Andrew Card? They have pretty light calendars nowadays.

"We're not going to start a shooting war with Russia to protect Georgia. Because, you know, that might end all life on the planet."

That seems unlikely. As in "impossible."

"But based on the facts on the ground as best we can tell, if the Russians stopped shooting right now, it would turn out that they never ventured beyond the disputed enclaves"

Rather:

[...] For the first time since the crisis erupted last Thursday, Russia admitted that its troops had moved out of Abkhazia, the other breakaway region under Moscow’s protection, and seized the town of Senaki in Georgia proper.

[...]

Elsewhere, Russian armoured personnel carriers swept into Senaki, 20 miles inland from the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, which Russian troops were also said to be attacking.

Georgia said that Russian forces seized police stations in Zugdidi, where reporters saw Russian soldiers posted outside an Interior Ministry building and armoured vehicles moving through the town.

Actually, Gary, I feel completely vindicated. The Russians admitted to going into Senaki and Zugdidi, but only to take out certain targets, and these towns are about 20 miles from Abkhazia, a trivial distance.

As I predicted last night, since the Russians have swept South Ossetia clear, they've called an end to their hostilities. Will the NY Times, the Guardian and other news outlets, whic have been unquestioningly repeated the Georgian government's hysteria as fact for the past three days, now admit that their coverage was completely exaggerated? Russian troops were never doing anything remotely like advancing on Tbilisi, nor do the ever seem to have even advanced on Gori.

I repeat, most of the coverage of this war has simply been hyperbole. The aerial campaign was certainly real, but it also seems to have been on a much smaller scale than, say, the Israeli campaign in Lebanon the last time round, and I don't remember any newspapers confusing Israeli sweeping operations in Southern Lebanon for "an advance on Beirut" or a total invasion of the country.

The Georgian government's own hysteria has also been a menace to its own people, who believed their leaders when they told them the Russian army was advancing and fled their homes.

If it turns out that Russian claims of ethnic cleansing in Ossetia are well-founded, I hope that John McCain and others will come forward and admit that the entire Russian operation was as justified and restrained as anything the US and its allies have undertaken in recent years.

What's more, both Zugdidi and Senaki are within the UN-designated buffer zone around Abkhazia (Senaki is on its edge), so the Russians have a credible claim to feeling entitled to sweep that clean of Georgian forces.

It still brings a smile to my face to think of major newspaper portraying an advance on Zugdidi as an advance on Tbilisi. This thing has been such a joke.

"McCain: We Are All Georgians".

KCinDC,

Somebody better tell old John he isn't "President McCain" yet (and hopefully never will be).

At the risk of sending mixed messages to Vladimir Putin and the Soviets, er, Russians, both McCain and Obama should not use the Georgian crisis as a political football.

McCain, it seems, is licking his chops for WWIII.

Good to hear, Bedtime. You were beginning to worry me on the "Shrunk" thread.

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