Bear-poking, colored lights, and the tranquil 21st

So the Russians are — justifiably, arrogantly, or criminally, depending on your interpretation — invading Georgia. Didn’t Georgia used to be part of the Soviet Union, and doesn’t that make the whole place sort of, well, you know, Russian?


Georgia is an independent nation, one which the gods must find terribly amusing, trapped as it is between Turkey and Russia, with nothing but Armenia shielding it from Iran and Iraq. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

How did all this foolishness get started? You can get an overview of reporting and commentary on the subject from Dan Froomkin’s columns, From Green Light to Yellow and Who Poked the Bear? Froomkin’s summary is, as always, thorough and fascinating — and frightening. Frightening in this instance because so many of the accounts he cites agree with the explicit and implicit conclusions reached by Scott Horton, at Harper’s.

The Georgian leadership, and indeed a whole generation of Georgians, tethered their hopes to George W. Bush and the hollow promises of his administration. Now at the moment of truth, Bush will almost certainly let them down.. . . . [T]hanks to the serial strategic misadventures that make up Bush-Cheney foreign policy, there is little prospect of Russia’s actions being answered by a flex of military muscle of the United States or of NATO. Putin’s calculation is that an America bogged down in two conflicts in the Middle East will let him give the Georgians a whipping. Putin is probably right.

Two editorial cartoons sum up one view — the most obvious and most probable and most unfortunate one — faster and more clearly than any of the writers. Check Jim Morin and Dwayne Powell.

You might wonder, in fact, you might ask, isn’t this the sort of thing for which we have a Secretary of State? Shouldn’t old SecSt be hopping in, trying to sort out the facts, bring about a resolution, keep everyone’s itchy fingers away from the nuclear triggers?


Fortunately, our Secretary of State has a particular area of expertise. It is Russia. The SecSt has written books and articles about Russia, even is fluent in Russian. Unfortunately, the SecSt was not available to deal with the crisis when it broke out. Chris Kelly has about as calm and measured an explanation as could be expected in the circumstances.

During Dr. Rice’s tenure, we’ve had a devastating terrorist attack and two wars. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians went nowhere, and Pakistan sold everybody the bomb. In 2000, there was serious talk about making Bill Clinton Secretary General of the United Nations. In 2008, Mexico and England are the only places Air Force One can land without dropping flares.

But it wasn’t her fault. She was standing watch on the Danube.

She’s been trained since birth to handle Russia. If a strongman ever took over there she’d box him in faster than you could say “détente.” And if that strongman ever even thought about invading somewhere? She’d know about it, and she’d slap him down faster than you could say “containment.”

Maybe not.

One reason for inaction by Rice and Bush — in addition to the generalized incompetence to which we’ve grown accustomed — is being put forward by a band of skeptics, among whom Robert Scheer is the most interesting. It’s a complex story. I’ll post just a couple paragraphs, and urge you to read the whole thing when you have time.

Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the U.S. presidential election?

What is at work here is a neoconservative, self-fulfilling prophecy in which Russia is turned into an enemy that expands its largely reduced military, and Putin is cast as the new Josef Stalin bogeyman, evoking images of the old Soviet Union. McCain has condemned a “revanchist Russia” that should once again be contained. Although Putin has been the enormously popular elected leader of post-Communist Russia, it is assumed that imperialism is always lurking, not only in his DNA but in that of the Russian people.

Some words of comforting advice to close. These come from Old 1200 Himself.

Speaking to reporters about the situation in Georgia, Sen. John McCain denounced the aggressive posture of Russia by claiming that:”in the 21st century nations don’t invade other nations.”

This century, the 21st, began only a few hours ago. That’s why our invasion of Iraq does not count.

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