Sunday, August 10, 2008

The devil (Putin) went down to Georgia

By Rick Morris

On a site that purports to be, and indeed is, about all things, I can’t help but tie together some seemingly disparate threads in this story. I’ve been feeling a lot of 1989 nostalgia in the air lately, from Kid Rock’s ode to that summer to the Tiananmen Square Massacre mentions in the news with the Beijing Olympics on the horizon – and now, we see what might be the first reversal in the wave of liberation from communism in Eastern Europe that 1989 will forever epitomize.

Georgia’s decision to subdue by force breakaway region South Ossetia while the world was diverted by the start of the Summer Olympics will go down as a huge blunder, because now the Russian Bear has been unleashed in its full fury. All Mad Vlad Putin ever needs is an excuse to indulge his neoexpansionist fantasies and his front man took full advantage with Putin “plausibly out of the loop” at the Beijing opening.

TigerHawk, a site that we have linked to before because of our admiration for their coverage of geopolitics (and a site that is found on our super-comprehensive Ultimate Links Page under, you guessed it, “Geopolitics”), is providing excellent coverage of the situation as it unfolds. As great blogs do, they are mixing their analysis with links to many other excellent sources of news and analysis.

I must confess to seeing some aspects of this conflict a bit differently than them, however. As a paleocon, I am thanking my lucky stars that this conflict at least came before we admitted Georgia into NATO. I admire that country and their brave leadership tremendously, but I’m a firm believer in limiting our military actions to those directly involving our national interests and security. World War I was started by a series of chain reactions regarding dubious defense commitments and I would not want to see us put in the position of militarily challenging a (vast) nuclear power or feebly backing down and putting a “Kick Me” sign on Uncle Sam that would ultimately result in bloodshed at a later date.

While I seethed over our government’s acquiescence to the Soviets abusing their captor nations during the Cold War, I also don’t see it as our duty to clumsily intervene in their present-day dealings with Russia. Our determination to expand NATO to Russia’s borders has played into Putin’s hands, as he is able to claim legitimacy for his dark agenda. Our pursuit of military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan allowed Putin to stoke paranoia in the Russian soul that now manifests itself in unconditional public support for his belligerent and abusive foreign policy. We should be working to support these republics in a low-key manner and now that push has come to shove in Georgia, we should be trying to obtain a resolution that will preserve as much of the Georgian government’s survival and dignity as possible – while at the same time being realistic and cold-eyed in the knowledge that this conflict may well end with Russia having taken back its first satellite state since the Warsaw Pact days. It will take extraordinarily nimble democracy and an American government competent and crafty enough to maneuver around the devil himself to make sure that Georgia ends up being the last victim of the bloodthirsty bear.

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