August 15, 2008

Re: Left's Response to Russia/Georgia

Marc Comtois

Prompted by Andrew's post, allow me point to Gerard Baker of the London Times, who has more to say:

Once again, the Europeans, and their friends in the pusillanimous wing of the US Left, have demonstrated that, when it come to those postmodern Olympian sports of synchronized self-loathing, team hand-wringing and lightweight posturing, they know how to sweep gold, silver and bronze.

There's a routine now whenever some unspeakable act of aggression is visited upon us or our allies by murderous fanatics or authoritarian regimes. While the enemy takes a victory lap, we compete in a shameful medley relay of apologetics, defeatism and surrender.

The initial reaction is almost always self-blame and an expression of sympathetic explanation for the aggressor's actions. In the Russian case this week, the conventional wisdom is that Moscow was provoked by the hot-headed President Saakashvili of Georgia. It was really all his fault, we are told.

What's more, the argument goes, the US and Europe had already laid the moral framework for Russia's invasion by our own acts of aggression in the past decade. Vladimir Putin was simply following the example of illegal intervention by the US and its allies in Kosovo and Iraq.

It ought not to be necessary to point out the differences between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Mr Saakashvili's Georgia, but for those blinded by moral relativism, here goes...

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

At the end of the day, when you invade a sovereign nation, occupy its capitol, kill a bunch of people, and declare yourself in the right it becomes really really hard to speak with any authority when you decry someone else for invading a sovereign nation, occupying its capitol, killing a bunch of people, and declaring themselves in the right.

ESPECIALLY when, as it turns out, the administration made up the reasons for invading.

You need to stop reading the American propaganda and start reading the rest of the world press on this issue.

Posted by: Greg at August 16, 2008 10:24 AM

The moral equivalence isn't so easy. Non-democracies aren't entitled to the same level of protection by the international system as democracies are. That remains true even if you can get Omar Hassan Bashir and Robert Mugabe to vote in favor of a UN resolution saying that they are.

Posted by: Andrew at August 16, 2008 11:18 AM

As have previous great powers, we muddle through with successes and mistakes, although individual political biases often lead to either conclusion about the same events. Those mistakes involve great suffering, the successes hopefully offset them.
It would be nice if everybody played together peacefully. That hasn't happened in recorded history. The question becomes - would you prefer the US be the world's cop or would you prefer the Russians or the Chinese? Disengagement or appeasement doesn't seem too work.


"At the end of the day, when you invade a sovereign nation, (bomb) its capitol, kill a bunch of people, and declare yourself in the right it becomes really really hard to speak with any authority when you decry someone else (for doing something similar). You speak here, I assume, of Clinton's 3 mile high war in Serbia on behalf of the Kosovars? (Just want to remind the BDS sufferers that a major part of Russia's justification occurred pre-GWB...)

Posted by: chuckR at August 16, 2008 11:41 AM

Chuck...what?? You mean to tell me violence and terrorism and war occurred BEFORE W became president?? Surely, you're mistaken.....

Posted by: DonnaC at August 16, 2008 12:18 PM

Greg, um.... "Gerard Baker of the London Times" isn't international? Besides, even the international community can't agree....And some foreign newspapers think Bush is handling the situation well while others think Russia has "won". International doesn't mean "universal", that's being way too generic.

Posted by: Marc at August 16, 2008 12:58 PM


Are you referring to the PR war or the actual battle?

Posted by: PDM at August 16, 2008 5:34 PM

Looks like the stooge is losing it.

Posted by: PDM at August 16, 2008 10:52 PM

I tried to post a video with the comment above. Too techy for the room, I guess. Anyway, here is a video of Mr Saakashvili losing his mind and attempting to eat his own tie.

Posted by: pdm at August 16, 2008 10:56 PM

In March 1991, Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades took over in South Ossetia. One of Gamsakhurdia's first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic's 90,000-strong Ossetian minority.

The South Ossetian town of Tskhinvali had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia's militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.

The Ossetians view Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. "We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism," said an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev. "It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time."

When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited.

The points to be stressed here are John McCain's strong anti-Russia comments on the Georgia situation and the fact that his top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is part owner of a lobbying firm that provides strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington. McCain's bellicose bluster will accomplish nothing towards settling the situation, and Russia will have its way. McCain, however may be able to gain a few more votes from the "kick ass" crowd here at home.

Get over the hysteria and look at the facts. We have the Monroe Doctrine which treats the Caribbean as one of the Great Lakes and Russia has historically looked to secure its borders, their own version of the Monroe Doctrine. Before some of you froth at the mouth let me be clear about what I'm saying which is that the Monroe Doctrine has no status under international law and is maintained by force of arms and that Russia maintains the states on its border via force of arms. No moral or international authority is in play here. It's straight power politics and all we can do is bluster about it.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 17, 2008 9:54 AM


Thanks for post about Georgia and Russia
I've read others you've written recently and appreciate the information. No all events in the world are to be defined by domestic reaction only.

Posted by: Phil at August 17, 2008 6:36 PM

PDM, I was specifically reacting to Greg's comment that "You need to stop reading the American propaganda and start reading the rest of the world press on this issue." Reading the world press indicates no universality of opinion as Greg implied.

OTL also has a valid point regarding the nature of the conflict (power politics, sphere's of influence, etc.). What's become clear over the weekend is that Russia isn't interested in abiding by any pieces of paper, even if they sign them (which goes to OTLs point). The interesting thing will be if they play overplay their hand, which it looks like they may have done (caution, American press account!). Germany is now behind Georgia entering NATO and the Ukraine is ready to sign on to having a missile shield (like Poland). I don't think that was the reaction Putin was looking for.

Posted by: Marc at August 17, 2008 6:52 PM


There's more than bluster in play here. Putin's administration has to make a decision about whether it's going to interact with the world through pure power politics or according to a higher set of international norms, starting with not invading the sovereign allies of allies. If the Russians go the power politics route, then (as Marc has started to point out) then there will be consequences. Is direct control over South Ossetia really worth straining relations and reducing engagement with all of the West (and what exactly is the big threat that Putin is worried about coming from Georgia?).

It doubtful that things will turn out well for the Russians, maybe not for Putin himself, but for his successors and subjects.

Meanwhile, maybe one of the power politicos out there can explain this one to me: Did the Russians really think they were going to assert their final authority over Poland, going as far as to threaten to nuke Poland, and expect the Germans -- next nation in geographical line -- to just quietly sit on the sidelines? Wouldn't a master practitioner of power politics realize, to paraphrase something I once read by George Will, that the German tradition for reacting to such situations isn't entirely a pacifistic one?

Posted by: Andrew at August 18, 2008 9:35 AM

You might want to explain what cards the West holds here. Russia controls oil and gas and its distribution throughout Eastern Europe. That's a pretty nice hand to be dealt. What have we got besides bluster?

You wrote, "Putin's administration has to make a decision about whether it's going to interact with the world through pure power politics or according to a higher set of international norms, starting with not invading the sovereign allies of allies."

One could just as easily have written "Bush's administration has to make a decision about whether it's going to interact with the world through pure power politics or according to a higher set of international norms" in response to its invasion of Iraq. The point is that neither country stands on high moral ground. It's power politics and Georgia is in Russia's back pocket.

Russia is reminding the world that, like it or not, the Bear is back and Eastern Europe will have to accommodate it. Merkle's reaction is historically predictable and apt. Russia pushes and Germany pushes back and woe to the countries in between.

Regarding McCain's remark about Georgia being an early Christian country, in A.D. 330, King Marian III's acceptance of Christianity ultimately tied Georgia to the neighboring Byzantine Empire, which exerted a strong cultural influence for several centuries.

However, for what it's worth, we may also be reminded that Georgia and Armenia allied themselves with the Mongol Empire in the the 13th Century.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 18, 2008 3:16 PM


Russia didn't want missile defense systems going into Poland or the Ukraine. Now they're going in, and nobody cares what the Russians think about it. Ditto with NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. Russia has been looking for World Trade Organization membership, but there's been opposition. That opposition isn't going away, and Russia will need to stay on her best behavior to have hope of membership anytime soon. The question of the Russia/Ukrainian relationship regarding Sevastopol and the Russian Black Sea fleet has suddenly has been reopened, and Russia can't count on the rest of the world telling the Ukraine to go along to get along.

It's going to take the Russians years of diplomacy and displaying respect for European norms to get back to where they were two weeks ago. If they consider direct control of South Ossetia really important, then maybe they feel they've made a good trade.

At the risk of repeating myself from another thread, writing off the ability of Eastern Europeans to choose their own destiny because of past history is too glib. There are 100 million people in Eastern Europe between Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic and the Baltics. That's 2/3 the population of Russia, and more than the population of Germany. If those 100 million want to base their defense and their future on alliances founded on shared values and mutual trust with the West, rather than on appeasing Russia, then the West has no reason to turn them away. Russia just reminded the world of this fact in a big way.

Posted by: Andrew at August 18, 2008 8:47 PM

On August 7, Georgia attacked South Ossetia, killing lots of civilians and killing a bunch of Russian peacekeepers. The Russian peacekeepers were there legally.

What would we do if the Serbs attacked U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo? We'd bomb them to a smoking ash heap, that's what -- oops, I forgot, that's what we did! And we didn't even wait for them to kill any of our peacekeepers!

The Russians responded by taking out Georgia's military, taking over bases in Gori and Senaki and blowing up all the weapons caches there, destroying their torpedo boats in Poti harbor, and driving tanks up and down Georgian highways. A few dozen Georgian soldiers died in the military action (much worse things happened to civilians on both sides in the chaos and looting which followed, though).

All in all, that was pretty surgical compared to what we did to Serbia, let's not even start with Iraq or Afghanistan.

As to Georgia being a beacon of freedom democracy, have a look at any of the human rights reports, for example:

Google will lead you to a bunch more stuff like that. The facts show that Saakashvili is just one more ordinary third world thug, maybe a little better than average ability to parrot the things we like to hear in nice English.

In fact the only really good thing about Georgia is that it is aligned with us. The rest of the stuff is propaganda. Nothing wrong with that, if it advances our interests. But if we start believing our own bullshit, we'll get in trouble and make a mistake.

Posted by: Right Wing Realist at August 21, 2008 11:09 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.