Thursday, August 14, 2008

Huh? And What?

Weird talking points from Washington about Georgia and Russia:

  • For those who don’t know, it is the 21st century.

  • Even though Georgia invaded first, somehow "Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people.”

  • Invading other countries is just not done in the 21st century, say those who have invaded Afghanistan, and Iraq, in the 21st century.

  • We still don’t like Russia, and we’ll screw ourselves if we have to, before we continue to deal with "those commies."

  • The Bush tradition is to promise the moon, then deliver nothing. Why is Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili surprised when he is on the receiving end of this? My guess? He’s probably a gullible idiot with no morals.
From U.S. knew Georgia trouble was coming, but couldn't stop it by Jonathan S. Landay:
Bush administration officials, worried by what they saw as a series of provocative Russian actions, repeatedly warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to intervene in his country militarily, U.S. officials said Monday.

But in the end, the warnings failed to stop the Georgian president — a Bush favorite — from launching an attack last week that on Monday seemed likely to end not only in his country’s military humiliation but complete occupation by Russian forces.

The cost of the fighting in lives has yet to be tallied. But President Bush on Monday made it clear that the outcome was sure to mark a turning point in Russia’s relations with the West. It might also prove costly for the West’s relationship with the budding democracies of Eastern Europe, which now must contemplate a world where the United States could do little to protect a close ally in the face of a determined Russian onslaught.

"Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people," President Bush proclaimed after returning from China. "Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century."
Additionally, the United States had lost access to vital information when Russia dropped out of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in December to protest U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in Europe.

Under the treaty, Russia had been required to exchange reports on troop, armor and aircraft deployments with the United States and other members on a monthly basis. But once Russia dropped out, that information was no longer available.
Read the rest here.

From The War We Don't Know by Mark Ames:
The question we must ask is: Are we willing to risk war, including nuclear holocaust, in order to fulfill the aspirations of Mikhail Saakashvili? While Bush and McCain speak of Saakashvili as if he's a combination of Thomas Jefferson and Nelson Mandela, he's seen by his own people as increasingly authoritarian and unbalanced. Last year, Saakashvili sent in his special forces to violently disperse opposition protesters in the capital city, followed by a declaration of martial law. He sacked the opposition television station (partly owned by Rupert Murdoch), exiled or jailed his political opponents, and stacked the courts with his own judges while removing neutral observers, leaving even onetime neocon cheerleaders like Bruce Jackson and Anne Applebaum feeling queasy. Hardly the image of the "small democratic nation" that everyone today touts.

The Russian response has, of course, been disproportionate and heavy-handed--exactly what's to be expected of them ever since Boris Yeltsin first showed the world how post-Soviet Russia fights its wars, starting with Chechnya in 1994. Georgia has been terrorized by indiscriminate aerial bombing and the constant threat of invasion by a vastly superior Russian force--eerily reminiscent of NATO's campaign against Serbia in 1999. Indeed, many observers believe that the current Russian response is a direct blowback of the Kosovo campaign, which is why there are so many similarities.

But what is the best way to respond? The neocons and even CNN reports talk about exploring military options, which is absurd given the consequences of war with nuclear-armed Russia. Woofing loudly like John McCain is likely to prove as effective as Bush's woofing did with North Korea, before he was forced to crawl back to the negotiating table.

In fact, one of the most effective ways America could respond to this crisis is by rethinking its entire geopolitical approach of the past two decades, which has been hegemonic, arrogant, hypocritical and reckless. If we set a better example, then we could at least reclaim the moral authority, or "soft power," that we once had.
Read more here.

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