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But of Course They Talk That Way...

...One merely needs to learn to decipher the nuances and jargon-laden phraseology of IR-speak. That is, American geostrategists and commentators do employ language, the manifest implication of which is that Russia is inveterately imperialistic, and that, in order to forestall the complications this creates for American foreign policy, Russia should be reduced to a state of dependency. Few utter such sentiments so baldly, of course, but the underlying inspiration of what they do say is identical. Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote, somewhat infamously, that, the United States having emerged from the Cold War in possession of an historically unprecedented, multifaceted degree of global hegemony, and Eurasia being a sort of global heartland, the one supra-region that must be the field for the effective exercise of that hegemony, "...the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." In other words, we need a lengthy retinue of client states and protectorates, who must be whipped into shape, in order that the emergence of any potential geopolitical threat or counterbalance might be precluded, and our hegemony thus guaranteed. That term in the argument is presupposed; it is axiomatic, and never expressly defended: we shall perpetuate the imperium, and these are the conditions of imperial flourishing.

Brzezinski subsequently treats his readers to a lengthy disquisition on Russian imperial history and the transformations that will be necessary if Russia is to be integrated into a post-great-power, global democratic order, the cash-value of which is that Russia must ultimately be integrated into Europe. Sounds reasonable, no? Except that the Europe to which he refers is the EU, clearly envisioned as a key structural element of a transnational European order, defined by the political and military institutions of Brussels, the European Union and NATO. Still sounds reasonable, I suppose, until it is recalled that American geostrategy has promoted these institutions under the assumption that they further the American "interest" in an integrated global order - Bacevich terms it the strategy of openness - guided by American power, hard and soft, and that, moreover, these institutions function effectively in inverse proportion to the salience of the particular historical, cultural, and political identities of the constituent states. The "dilemma of the one alternative" that the West proposes to Russia is essentially an ultimatum; geopolitical options are to be constrained over time, such that the Russians eventually accede to their absorption by transnational institutions and architectures, and become a fully postmodern state (post-state, in actuality): a contingent, transient node in a system of international political economy.

ZBig's counsels have not, of course, been observed down to the letter; he imagined a somewhat less confrontational approach to Russia in the post-Cold War epoch, but nonetheless counseled a firm disciplinary approach of the removal of strategic options. The endgames remained the same.

Why would the Russians desire such a role - an openly subservient role? Why, for that matter, would conservatives, of all people, tacitly condone the transnationalist ethics and geopolitics of their implacable adversaries? To satisfy an old grudge?

To descend from the empyrean heights of High Geopolitical Theory to the realm of proposed American countermoves in the wake of the Russian-Georgian conflict, it should be observed that some erudite conservatives are expressly advocating the overt "containment" of Russia, which entails, because Russia is not, on any objective analysis, a revanchist power, the gradual paring away of her spheres of influence. For what reasons should this policy be regarded as exigent? Essentially, for reason of America's victory in the Cold War:


Defending the standards of Europe’s long peace, preserving the strategic outcomes of the Cold War, and upholding the credibility of the institutional guarantor of that peace and the winner of that war: these are things worth acting for — and yes, worth fighting for.

America, on this conception, having triumphed in the Cold War, is now entitled to dictate terms, albeit the Russians refuse to acknowledge that they have been conquered, and our hegemony is once more presupposed, but never defended as such, either as a geopolitical necessity or, what is most important, as an ethical imperative. Rather, we are the hegemon, and the Russians must learn their place. Even our credibility, which is to state, our reputation, and the renown of our erstwhile triumph, are sufficient justifications for fighting. All your country are belong to us, I suppose: victor's justice, given a geopolitical inflection.

Comments (82)

Check this out. Ralph Peters is on C-Span and cranking up a 2 minute hate at AEI. He just said;
"I keep wanting to call them Soviets, but the Soviets had more restraint." Wow.

Back to the Olympics, where I can enjoy incredible competition, achievement and sportsmanship without enduring a bunch of post-Christian madmen exercising their blood-lust.

America, on this conception, having triumphed in the Cold War, is now entitled to dictate terms....

More or less.

If you want to do a Larison-lite and apologize for Putin's Russia -- which is, by the bye, the malign actor here, not Russia per se -- that's fine by me. But if you would, could you link to the original piece, and not the RS copy?

...which is, by the bye, the malign actor here...

Georgia invades South Ossetia not a week after signing a treaty granting its autonomy, and Russia is the sole black hat in the affair?

Brendon, you're welcome to read my day by day thoughts on the first five days of this war before leaping to assumptions:

-- Day one
-- Day two
-- Day three
-- Day four
-- Day five

Maxspeak: Calling resistance to hegemony "hegemony."

Ralph Peters is demented, and undoubtedly relishes the thought of people like my in-laws being slaughtered, all for the greater good of global democratic revolution. He more or less commits mortal sin every second time he open his mouth to declaim upon foreign policy and foreign nations.

But if you would, could you link to the original piece, and not the RS copy?

Done.

If you want to do a Larison-lite and apologize for Putin's Russia..

Anyone who reads half-attentively can comprehend that I'm not proffering an apologetic for Putinism. While my wife and I have often discussed the excesses, absurdities, and injustices of Putinism, I see little point in contributing to the five-minutes-hate that our establishment has endeavoured to stoke against Russia, and not just the Putin government. This, because, given my political convictions - apropos of a foreign-policy question, a general distaste for foreign interventions and entanglements - I see no point to complaining about the policies of foreign nations. Motes and beams, and all that. If you want to say that it's more a matter of beams and beams, that's fine by me; but as an American, I'm more concerned with what my nation does, as opposed to what other nations do.

More or less.

Having failed to offer gracious terms during the Unipolar Moment, I think that, seventeen years on, we can let bygones be bygones. The Soviet Union is not re-emerging, the Warsaw Pact will not be revived, and Russia, a dying nation by any comprehensive reckoning, would have collapsed had she acceded to every American demand during that Unipolar Moment, a geopolitical event that would have betokened more catastrophe than a Russia possessed of secure frontiers and spheres of influence ever could. After nearly two decades of ungracious, uncharitable, dissembling, and self-dealing relations with the vanquished, the time has come to let go, and cease the geopolitical version of the ugly American act.

the malign actor here

Okay: Georgia violates a recently-inked autonomy pact, not by attempting to seize control of the commanding heights (snicker) of South Ossetia, such as government buildings and the communications centers, but by shelling a civilian center, acting with grotesque disproportion; Russia responds by repelling the initial disproportionate assault, and proceeds to act disproportionately itself - and Russia is the lone malign actor? Interesting.

Maxspeak: Calling resistance to hegemony "hegemony."

Except that a Russian sphere of influence does not equate to hegemony, which only the United States purports to exercise. The pertinent question concerns whether defenders of American geopolitical dominance are blind to the hegemonism of this status, or merely dissembling.

Wasn't the Russian assault on Georgia in part a response to the already ongoing US-led "containment" of Russia? True, we don't call it that, and Peters and Treviño and McCain would like to reprise the cold war apparently and state it outright, but what we've been doing to Russia is pretty obvious, not least to the Russians. A very vicious animal, the Russian: When he is attacked, he defends himself.

Anyone who reads half-attentively can comprehend that I'm not proffering an apologetic for Putinism.

Folks who confuse "Putin's Russia" with "Putinisn" shouldn't be too quick to cast barbs on the reading-attention front, eh?

In any case, my comments appear to be disappearing into a moderation hole, so there you go.

Putinisn, Putinism, bah.

Actually, I think that "Putinism" and "Putin's Russia" are largely interchangeable locutions; both allow for some distance between the Russian state, headed de facto by Putin, and the Russian nation, and both allow for the colloquial identification of the country with its leader. I'm not invested in the terminology, and couldn't care less, one way or the other.

Your comments ended up in moderation hell solely on account of the number of links; that's just the way the system is set up. Besides, the system is malfunctioning and failing to send email notifications of new comments, making the monitoring process less convenient.

Words have meanings, after all.

To paraphrase Raymond Aron, the choice in politics is not between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable. I do recommend applying this to the Russia-Georgia fight. Stupid and appalling as the Saakashvili regime is -- and it is -- to wash one's hands of the fight on those grounds is truly to miss the forest for the trees.

between the preferable and the detestable

I don't regard a Russian sphere of influence as detestable - and this, for me, is the relevant consideration, and not the character of the respective regimes in Moscow and Tbilisi - but as something that will be tolerable: occasionally beneficial, occasionally infuriating. I presuppose, of course, the cessation of American pretensions to hegemonic influence, as it would be preferable, in my mind, were this to be drawn to a conclusion. The United States requires what Solzhenitsyn wrote of Russia in the early nineties, namely, an intensive inward focus, and a renunciation of external adventuring and ambitions.

I can certainly see how a deliberate ignoring of facts -- in this case, the "character of the respective regimes in Moscow and Tbilisi" -- would facilitate that conclusion. Actually, I can see how that conclusion requires the ignoring of facts.

There is no deliberate ignorance of facts undergoing cultivation; I'm fully cognizant of the details. I simply do not believe that it lies in the American interest to choose one of the parties to this dispute; as has been stated in the other thread on this subject, no moral determination, however firmly rooted in facts, stands in a necessary relationship with any prudential judgment concerning our actual policy in the region.

Or, to put it less floridly, your "prudential judgment" ignores those facts.

Again, it requires that "deliberate ignorance," for a few reasons: foremost among them the unpleasant issue as to why one would abandon the Georgians to a reign of siloviki. To state that "no moral determination, however firmly rooted in facts, stands in a necessary relationship with any prudential judgment concerning our actual policy in the region," is at first glance more palatable and reasoned than, "the Georgians can go to hell." At second glance, of course, there's no difference.

None of this is to advocate a policy of forcible intervention on Georgia's behalf. As I've written, Georgia lost, and we ought to encourage Georgia to behave according to, well, that fact. But we ought not simply wash our hands of the matter. John Quincy Adams's 1821 formulation of American policy abroad posited thus: "[America] is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own." Indeed. Your "deliberate ignorance," however delicately put, eschews the first half of his formulation.

To state that "no moral determination, however firmly rooted in facts, stands in a necessary relationship with any prudential judgment concerning our actual policy in the region," is at first glance more palatable and reasoned than, "the Georgians can go to hell." At second glance, of course, there's no difference.
What part of that chain of 'reasoning' can't be used to justify intervention in, say, any arbitrary conflict at all? Every conflict has losers, and most of them involve some injustice. Equating "choosing not to intervene" to "the poor saps can go to Hell" is not just a license to intervene in every conflict; it is a moral imperative to do so.

No thanks.

Equating "choosing not to intervene" to "the poor saps can go to Hell" is not just a license to intervene in every conflict; it is a moral imperative to do so.

But, Zippy, isn't it part and parcel of the international police function that America serves to intervene?

/end zippy-esque sarcasm/

I do appreciate that we're getting down to fundamentals here: namely, the desire to avoid a moral imperative.

I do appreciate that we're getting down to fundamentals here: namely, the desire to avoid a moral imperative.


Mr. Trevino:

Do you mean to say that in the event of any such conflicts that occurs around the world, it is the moral obligation of the United States to intervene in every instance?

No: merely that this "moral imperative" is one of the factors to consider in our action, or lack thereof. Simply disposing of it as a means of arriving at one's preferred conclusion is, in its own way, quite appalling.

No: merely that this "moral imperative" is one of the factors to consider in our action, or lack thereof.


Mr. Trevino:

Does this mean, then, that any subsequent decision favoring inaction on our part in the event of any such conflict will not, in fact, be interpreted by you along the lines of "the poor saps can go to Hell"?

Depends upon your reasoning, "aristocles."

I do appreciate that we're getting down to fundamentals here: namely, the desire to avoid a moral imperative.
That is just it: it is not a moral imperative for us to intervene in every conflict. To propose that it is, is insanity.

.... it is not a moral imperative for us to intervene in every conflict.

Who is arguing that?

Seriously, the links above are not provided because I love the colors.

None of this is to advocate a policy of forcible intervention on Georgia's behalf. As I've written, Georgia lost, and we ought to encourage Georgia to behave according to, well, that fact.

Hold on. Josh just said that this isn't to advocate a policy of forcible intervention on Georgia's behalf. Why is everybody interpreting him as if he had advocated precisely that?


(Disclaimer: I haven't had time to read Josh's other posts on his own site on this topic. Too busy arguing in the other thread, home schooling, and watering the darned lawn in our mini-drought.)

Russia took the collapse of the Soviet empire as best could be expected; being reduced from a global to regional power has to be an irritant to the Russian psyche. Having NATO expand to the Near Border was pouring salt on the wound. After seeing Georgia was trying to follow that course, Russia played a game of cat and mouse with Georgia’s irreparably stupid President. After he played right into their hands, they took the parts of Georgia they consider to be rightfully theirs by ethnic attachments and are now trying to intimidate the Georgian President into resigning as punishment for his vanity. Ultimately, it serves the side of stability for Saakashvili to step down and the sooner the better. It is folly to think that Russia has some revisionist hope of reclaiming its lost empire, they are just asserting the right of a regional power to control what happens along its border, they are not practicing regime change half a world away.

Josh:

Who is arguing that?
My argument was with the particular bit of unreason that I specifically quoted in my first post in this thread. I still consider it manifest unreason, by the way. You've given me no reason to think otherwise.

Lydia:

Why is everybody interpreting him as if he had advocated precisely that?
I'm not. I was responding to Josh's reply to my criticism: "I do appreciate that we're getting down to fundamentals here: namely, the desire to avoid a moral imperative." I'm not discussing the particular concrete conflict, I'm discussing the general principle he articulated, which I think is plainly hogwash.

I suspect that when Josh said that at second thought, there's no difference between those two statements (the second being "The Georgians can go to hell"), he meant that that is really where many people are coming from who say the rather lengthy thing that Maximos said. This seems to me to be made clear by Josh's later comment:

No: merely that this "moral imperative" is one of the factors to consider in our action, or lack thereof. Simply disposing of it as a means of arriving at one's preferred conclusion is, in its own way, quite appalling.

Look, Zippy, you just said on the other thread that it can even be legitimate to use military force against a country on the basis of its evil treatment of its _own citizens_, to free them from such evil tyranny. In other words, you yourself aren't nearly as fiercely and committedly anti-interventionist as some of the people on whose side you might momentarily appear to be on this particular pair of threads.

But if you can say that, then so much the more might it be argued that moral considerations might make it legitimate (at a minimum) to intervene when one country attacks and invades another country. No, not every time and any time. But the rights and wrongs of the matter need to be thrown into the mix.

I think Josh is reacting negatively here to what I react negatively to in many of Jeff's and other paleos' statements in these areas, what I called in my comment in the other thread the "paleoconservative two-step": First we talk about how Russia is picked on by the Russophobic U.S. and about how Russia isn't as bad as it seems, how our whole approach to it should be different. Then when Russia does something that sure as heck looks aggressive and inexcusable, like invading its neighbor, suddenly it supposedly _doesn't matter_ how bad Russia is, because nothing that happens "over there" is our business anyway, we should be neutral and not take sides, etc., etc. Step 2 here might be characterized as "strict don't-care isolationism." But anybody who has been listening all along knows perfectly well that Step 1 came first and that we'll get back to that in the end, when Russia momentarily stops embarrassing her defenders by doing things that look like they justify the statements of the so-called "Russophobes."

So, while I agree with the purely limited point that even if Russia is very bad indeed this doesn't entail that we should intervene militarily, I think it should be faced that "the Georgians can go to hell" is more or less the attitude of someone who either really is a don't-care isolationist (though I've never met one of those, as I said in the other thread), or who is in the don't-care isolationist stage of the paleocon two-step.

Golly. I just read Day 5 of Trevino on this conflict. He sure doesn't sound like a "let's go give our blood for Georgia in this conflict" guy to me. Quite the contrary. Counseling Georgia to suck it up, in fact, as far as its lost provinces are concerned. But he has some interesting thoughts on pressure on Russia. Very interesting. And not a one of them involves firing a single shot. Yet, please note, these non-military, diplomatic forms of pressure on Russia (presumably, not to go farther and, for example, re-take all of Georgia or get any ideas about, say, the Ukraine), are deemed outrageous by Maximos, as witness the very existence of this post.

I can only say, that's exactly what I predicted in the other thread.

Lydia gets it, and says it far better than I did anyway.

"...But he has some interesting thoughts on pressure on Russia. Very interesting. And not a one of them involves firing a single shot."

You sound surprised about the lack of violence. I wonder why.

This proposal; 1)issuance of a MAP, or even outright NATO membership, to the Ukraine might lead to shots being fired. Again, do we want a trapped Bear?

And what does 2)Expulsion of Russia from the G8
achieve, beyond fueling more tension and strains?
Besides the same Europeans that prevented Georgia from joining NATO aren't going to fall in line on this one with winter and higher energy bills looming.

Or; #3)turn up the heat on the Belarusian regime, sounds like more instability. Is that the goal?

I can get behind this; 4)we ought to lend what support we may to independent media personnel — and their means.

And this too, I think; 5)cyber-warfare- "to invalidate .ru domains from which Russian attacks emanate".

What though is the endgame? Is there a more palpable alternative to Putin waiting in the wings? Or, are we entering a new Cold War?

Agree wholeheartedly with this; "...Georgia has mostly — though not wholly — itself to blame"

But if you can say that, then so much the more might it be argued that moral considerations might make it legitimate (at a minimum) to intervene when one country attacks and invades another country. No, not every time and any time. But the rights and wrongs of the matter need to be thrown into the mix.
Sure. I wasn't responding to Josh's N-part series on some other blog, which I haven't read and probably won't read. I was responding to a specific nonsensical statement in this thread, which, by the way, I still consider nonsensical.
But anybody who has been listening all along knows perfectly well that Step 1 came first and that we'll get back to that in the end, when Russia momentarily stops embarrassing her defenders by doing things that look like they justify the statements of the so-called "Russophobes."
Perhaps that really is the dynamic, and the anti-interventionists in these discussions are all - well, except for me, since I know I'm not - closet Russophiles. If so, that is too bad. I'd rather have a more sane discussion all around.

It doesn't help the discussion's sanity when Jeff says something perfectly reasonable and true -- that "no moral determination [of who if anyone is in the right and who is in the wrong in a particular conflict], however firmly rooted in facts, stands in a necessary relationship with any prudential judgment concerning our actual policy in the region," (keyword necessary) -- and the elicited reply is that this is "at first glance more palatable and reasoned than, 'the Georgians can go to hell.' At second glance, of course, there's no difference."

No, really, it doesn't help.

I really should probably just avoid these kinds of threads though. They really aren't my cup of tea.

I was responding to a specific nonsensical statement in this thread....

You know, the statement's only nonsensical if you ignore .... the actual discussion in this thread. This, for example, and several other colored words as well. If you're truly stuck on your interpretation of that -- as opposed to what's plainly meant by it -- there's not a lot to be done at this point.

If I considered your gloss on Maximos' words to be accurate, Josh, and further expected univocity in everything you say (which would be highly unusual -- my own writing is not always perfectly consistent), then yes, I would probably agree with you. Though that is almost tautological.

I don't consider the fact that the principle you articulated and I criticized is inconsistent with other things you've written to be a problem with my criticism.

Inconsistent? Really, "Zippy"? Really?

I know this is the Internet and all, and the impulse is to NEVER BACK DOWN, even when you're not sure what you're defending, but -- well, think of your dignity, man. Despite the freely chosen pseudonym, no less.

Look, let's go over this one more time: You appear to believe that I believe that there is, as you put it, "a moral imperative for us to intervene in every conflict." You further appear to believe that I believe that this "moral imperative" overrides all other pragmatic, prudential, and horticultural concerns. Both your beliefs about my beliefs are false.

My sincere hope is that this helps. If it does not, I am happy to let WWWTW continue to be an object of its own title, and abandon it to its preferred univocity.

You appear to believe that I believe that there is, as you put it, "a moral imperative for us to intervene in every conflict."
I don't claim to know what you believe. Nor do I much care, for that matter.

That you spouted a piece of unreasoning interventionist agitprop that you refuse to retract and that happens to be incompatible with other things you say is incoherent. I know you'd like to shift the burden of your own incoherencies onto others. Personally, I think you should just retract the agitprop and continue with your other commentary. But that's just me.

If it does not, I am happy to let WWWTW continue to be an object of its own title, and abandon it to its preferred univocity.
Well, at least you aren't in a position to just delete the entire group blog without so much as a peep to contributors, to give them the opportunity to archive their own material. I know you are well respected by some folks around here, but your perpetual absence wouldn't break my heart a bit.

Kevin, I find your reactions to Josh's suggestions pretty interesting. You seem to be saying, "Oh, let's not do that; that might cause tensions with Russia." Well, yeah, and pretty much anything that might be effective at letting Russia know that she can't just have a bunch of satellite states (reassuring the countries Josh lists) are things Russia isn't going to _like_. What did you expect?

As for what the "endgame" is, I think Josh makes that pretty clear: Reassuring other countries around Russia that they aren't going to once more become Russian satellites. Such strategies might even have to be used to try to prevent Russia from retaking all of Georgia, though that is me speculating, not Josh, and maybe others know better than I that Russia isn't going to try this at this time. But the main point Josh is making there is that we _do_ have leverage, and we should use it to contain Russia. The term 'contain' certainly doesn't make me go ballistic, whatever effect it has on others. It seems to me not an unreasonable term, especially given recent events.

I have more to say on the subject of non-military actions, military conflict, neutrality, and foreign policy in a comment on the other thread, here:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/08/learned_thoughts_on_the_russia.html#comment-28715

It says a lot that I think is important.

Reassuring other countries around Russia that they aren't going to once more become Russian satellites.
Are we really, objectively, in a position to offer that reassurance? Serious question.

Well, yeah, and pretty much anything that might be effective at letting Russia know that she can't just have a bunch of satellite states (reassuring the countries Josh lists) are things Russia isn't going to _like_.

What entitles the United States to maintain satellite states - satellites in which State Department operatives and government-funded NGOs (irony duly noted) engineer regime changes in accordance with American geostrategic interests - and disqualifies other great powers from maintaining satellite states? For the record, Georgia is more an American satellite than it ever could be in the Russia sphere of influence, inasmuch as America has already proven itself capable of effecting regime change in Georgia, while the Russians would be utterly incapable of governing Georgia, as evidenced, among other things, by the fact that they have not, and will not conquer Georgia and attempt to administer its government.

In other words, what entitlement does the United States have to do that which we deny to others? Until this question is answered, we will have failed to reach a discussion of fundamental principles. What I too often perceive in anti-paleo foreign policy critiques is either this incoherence, or a strange two-step, the first step in which is the admission that we perhaps ought not do X, the second step of which is the dogmatic insistence that, having once done it, we must perpetuate it, and defend it against the encroachment of foreign powers. We shouldn't do it, but we should keep doing it.

Feh.

Are we really, objectively, in a position to offer that reassurance? Serious question.

Well, we could at least assure them that if Russia rolls the tanks in, we will do such-and-such, which might have an impact on Russia. So we do some of the things Josh suggests and save the others in our pocket. That's one idea. And selling them arms is another possibility. Or building anti-missile sites (ahem).

We shouldn't do it, but we should keep doing it.

Well, Jeff, then two can play at that game: Perhaps Russia shouldn't have had peacekeepers in Ossetia and assured Ossetia of its independence from Georgia, so they shouldn't keep doing that. Maybe in that case they should have just let it go when their peacekeepers got killed.

I hear this sort of thing all the time from the paleo side: "What's that, we got into Gulf War I because Kuwait was our ally and got invaded? Well, we shouldn't have made Kuwait our ally in the first place. So there. So Gulf I was unjustified."

If one can just back up the videotape of commitments like that and renege on them if they should never have been made, then the same might be said of Russia.

Lydia, that is a textbook illustration of the problem with anti-paleo foreign policy analysis: whenever the incoherence and hypocrisy of American strategy is demonstrated, instead of reckoning with that reality, the anti-paleo deploys a strategy of misdirection, a sort of reversed tu quoque: "but country X behaves just as execrably as you claim America behaves." Perhaps so, but that is not the point. We are not responsible for the incoherences of Russian foreign policy, but for our own, and we are under no obvious obligation to respond to the incoherences, and the consequences, thereof, of Russian foreign policy.

FWIW, if the a friendship model of foreign policy is at all applicable in the real world, then the Russians are as justified in supporting the Ossetians and Abkhazians, who sought their protection after suffering Georgian depredations in the early 90s, as we are in supporting Georgia; and to reconcile these competing obligations of friendship, we will have to make recourse to a realist analysis of the objective American interest in the Caucasus, which, once more, lies not in increasing hostilities with Russia.

Well, we could at least assure them that if Russia rolls the tanks in, we will do such-and-such, which might have an impact on Russia.
I have no problem with that in the abstract. When we get to particulars I start to become less sanguine:
And selling them arms is another possibility.
I'm not at all sanguine about selling arms to polities which have demonstrated that their first resort is to shell civilians. Not at all.

Even if we were dealing with more upstanding citizens, which doesn't seem to be the case, I wouldn't be sanguine about "you attack a treaty member and the US declares war on you automatically" agreements. I know "we'll do our best for you, but Russia is a big dog and we have to live with her too" is not a very satisfying position to take. And in cases like Iraq-Kuwait, where it is reasonable for us to expect that we don't have to adopt a position like that, we shouldn't. Count me out as a critic of the justice of ejecting Iraq from Kuwait.

But unsatisfying as it may be, it is a position which reflects the facts w.r.t. Russia, as far as I can tell.

That you spouted a piece of unreasoning interventionist agitprop that you refuse to retract and that happens to be incompatible with other things you say is incoherent.

You're just going to have to explain this in detail, quotes and all. This makes no sense -- especially the inconsistency charge -- and I suspect your conclusions, such as they are, are based upon some false assumptions. Spell it out, please, if only for heuristic purposes.

Well, at least you aren't in a position to just delete the entire group blog without so much as a peep to contributors, to give them the opportunity to archive their own material.

This is odd, and bitter, and strange, and irrelevant. Come to think of it, it may explain your bizarre spleen here ....

Finally, from Jeff: .... whenever the incoherence and hypocrisy of American strategy is demonstrated, instead of reckoning with that reality, the anti-paleo deploys a strategy of misdirection, a sort of reversed tu quoque ....

Declaring your interlocutor ipso facto incompetent or dishonest? Declaring that incompetence or dishonesty an intrinsic product of an opposing ideology? That's awesome. Lydia totally deserves that for trying to engage with you! Take that, anti-paleo!

You're just going to have to explain this in detail, quotes and all.
It is all right up there.
This is odd, and bitter, and strange, and irrelevant. Come to think of it, it may explain your bizarre spleen here ....
That you are, as far as I am concerned, an unrepentant ass, does indeed make me tend to treat you as a hostile interlocutor.

I, of course, totally deserved the much lengthier and more fulminant accusation of a precisely analogous nature in one of these threads on Russia and Georgia. Lydia thinks paleocons and anti-interventionists incoherent, and possibly dishonest, in their argumentation; I tend to think that something similar is often true of the anti-paleo factions in these disputes. I suspect, moreover, that the reason for such inconsistencies is an undisclosed premise or presupposition, but we've not yet gotten as far as the identification of the first principles of the anti-paleos, at least not in my estimation.

So, Maximos, you're saying it's _okay_ for us to make Georgia our friend and to back Georgia up as our friend, and that to do that, we have to appease Russia? I'm trying to wrap my brain around that implication.

How does this apply to Russia's controlling a third of Georgia and threatening not to withdraw if Georgia's president is not deposed and, presumably, a candidate more to its liking put into place? How can we show friendship to Georgia in this situation by "not increasing hostilities with Russia"?

As for tu quoques, your entire approach to this entire thing is one big tu quoque: "Harrumph. America has satellite states, too, just like Russia does. Don't we? Don't we? Well, how come it's okay for us and not for them?"

I mean, where does one start? You know well that I'm a critic of this Iraq war. Rolling tanks into a sovereign nation and refusing to leave until they set up one's preferred puppet government is _armed invasion and conquest_, and as far as I'm concerned it has a very high standard to meet for justification. And guess what? We don't control Georgia in that way or in that sense. Now, I know, I know, you're going to say that it's really just the same thing, whatever influence we have in Georgia. It's always "really the same thing" from your perspective. Economic influence is the same thing as military conquest is the same thing as hegemony. I get that. I've gotten it for a long, long time. But I don't have to agree with it.

So, no, I think it would be best for us not to have satellite states in the sense that all of these countries really were satellite states of Russia during the Cold War and in the sense that it sure as heck looks like Russia wants to make at least some of them states again. ("Roll in the tanks.") I'm not saying I couldn't get creative and imagine some weird circumstance in which we might be justified in thus conquering and controlling another country by sheer military might, but right here and right now, I'm not seeing it. A fortiori is this true for Russia who--and, yes, I think this is relevant--is a worse country than America.

One can either condemn all relationships of strong influence between countries, which I don't think makes sense, and which I don't think you want to do. But if you do that, you'll have to condemn Russia's invasion of Georgia. Or one can allow them and refuse to pass moral judgement. In that case, I don't want to hear any more squawking about American hegemony. So I don't think you want to do that. Or one can make distinctions. Obviously, that's the only reasonable thing to do. Some influence is okay in principle but is used for wrong purposes. Some conquests may even be okay. Many (most) outright conquests are unjustified. And so forth.

I can only conclude, Jeff, that you want to make distinctions from which you conclude that Russia's conquest of Georgia is, if not okay, at least not-really-so-very-bad-understandable-and-insofar-as-bad-America's-fault-anyway, but America's influence in Georgia and its "encirclement" of Russia with countries under non-military American influence is bad, bad, bad.

In which case, I can say only that this simply confirms my growing conviction that we inhabit different foreign policy galaxies.

We ought to have exhibited a truer friendship with Georgia, and a truer concern for the well-being of her people, by dissuading her leaders from provocative military operations that, regardless of the nominal legal status of the disputed provinces, was bound to invite a disproportionate Russian response.

As for tu quoques, your entire approach to this entire thing is one big tu quoque: "Harrumph. America has satellite states, too, just like Russia does. Don't we? Don't we? Well, how come it's okay for us and not for them?"

Well, then I propose a breaking of the deadlock, as Kevin has entreated on numerous occasions in the other thread on this subject. Answer the question of why American hegemony, however exercised, whether by economic leverage, covert financing of opposition parties, maintenance of a military presence, is presupposed as legitimate, while the same conduct engaged in by other nations is castigated as somehow unjust and invidious? I, at least, in response to the accusation of inconsistency and fallacious reasoning on my part, can answer - although this somehow fails to satisfy - that we are more responsible for our own foreign policy than for the foreign policies of other nations, that we should tend to our own gardens.

I'll have more later, be it today to tomorrow; as it stands, I'm late to a medical appointment.

why American hegemony, however exercised

Part of the problem between us, Jeff, is that "however exercised" bit. You do it all the gosh-darned time. It's like you think if you just talk that way over and over again, I'm eventually going to accept it and start arguing about so vast and vaguely defined a subject as "American hegemony, however exercise," which could just mean something like, "How do you justify the fact that American-owned companies own such-and-such percent of the such-and-such industry in such-and-such a country?" Well, I'm not. Rolling in tanks is way, way different and has a much higher bar of justification. It's not even clear to me that the fact of American-owned companies' having "economic leverage" in some country is some sort of _specific act_ that requires justification at all. There is no such thing as "hegemony, however exercised," and I won't talk about it as such. I don't like having conversational cards forced upon me and won't cooperate.

It is all right up there.

Up there in your head, I guess. Godspeed, "Zippy Catholic"!

We ought to have exhibited a truer friendship with Georgia, and a truer concern for the well-being of her people, by dissuading her leaders from provocative military operations....

There's been quite a few news stories circulating in the past 72 hours on how we tried to do exactly that. You can probably find them fairly easily.

Answer the question of why American hegemony .... is presupposed as legitimate, while the same conduct engaged in by other nations is castigated as somehow unjust and invidious?

The answer lies in the qualitative difference between America and the other nations in question. Which is to say, the answer is different for each specific example. (American hegemony over the Philippines was morally less defensible than British hegemony over Canada; American hegemony over Georgia now is morally more defensible than Russia's over the same; et cetera.) This is pretty straightforward if you're coming from the stance that America is the Fallen Babylon of our era. But in the world in which we actually live, it yields different answers -- and disagreement amongst honest people.

Well, Lydia's probably right to refuse the bait, but I took it, so there you go.

Up there in your head, I guess.
Nope. Up there in the thread, for anyone capable of reading.
Godspeed, "Zippy Catholic"!
Does that mean you are leaving? Because as I mentioned, I'm in favor of it.

Come now, "Zippy." Can't let it go, eh? You do know the answer to your complaint is just a few posts down, yes?

But soft! We're talking of hegemony now. Or, I should say, HEGEMONY.

Nope. Never saw a retraction, just saw equivocation.

Zippy:

Does that mean you are leaving? Because as I mentioned, I'm in favor of it.

Although Mr. Trevino's behavior may have seemed, let's just say, 'unpalatable' in some respects; however, you've got to admit, his comments as well as those by Maximos bring quite a number of thought-provoking elements into these discussions, which is essentially in the very same light in which I hold yours and Kevin's.

More food for thought (even if they are from the disagreeable types) rather than the trite variety found in other foras. These often are rare pearls in the vast ocean of mediocrity.

Note to Mr. Trevino:

"Zippy"

"aristocles"

Okay -- you have a thing against pseudonyms; we. get. it.

Can we now dispense with the rather puerile behaviour manifested in these quotation marks?

It's getting a bit much here.

By all means, make your arguments, but don't be so crude as to inject such sophomoric sentiments in them as to belittle your opponents.

Aristocles:

My personal preference for Mr. Trevino's absence is not limited to merely the matter of the particular intransigent asininity I criticized in this thread and the snarky replies to my criticism.

Nothing personal, "aristocles" -- I just don't respect pseudonyms. And, for the record, I used to go by "tacitus."

Never saw a retraction....

That's true. You did see an explanation, though.

Bottom line, "Zippy," is that you appear to have some preexisting personal issue with me that you don't care to explain. That's fine in itself, but it's killing this thread. At a bare minimum, may I suggest you provide the requested clarification as to what, precisely, you're upset about here? Linking once more to your upthread comment clearly doesn't cut it. You've got the time and energy to snipe and gripe, so put it to constructive use!

Nothing personal, "aristocles" -- I just don't respect pseudonyms.

That's well and fine (but to think this is coming from somebody who even admitted utilizing pseudnonyms in the past? Anyway...); however, if you would at least extend some semblance of courtesy to your opponents (i.e., Zippy), perhaps it would go a long way toward making a more convincing argument.

I admit, I get 'passionate' at times (Lydia could attest to this); yet, you seem to insist on taking this to a whole personal level with Zippy, as even evidenced by your latest comments.

I'm not upset in the slightest. I just (1) think the statement you made to Maximos, and "explained" without retracting, was asinine; and (2) prefer not to be in your company, especially here of all places.

If you had come respectfully with hat in hand and apology on lips it might be one thing, I suppose. But these are the very people whose group blog you just up and deleted one day, without so much as a warning to all of the contributors that it was going to happen, let alone a discussion.

Oh, and the next time you put a pseudonym in quotes I am going to delete the post, even though this isn't my thread, "Joshua", unless Maximos expressly asks me not to.

But these are the very people whose group blog you just up and deleted one day...

Hold on -- this actually happened?

If you had come respectfully with hat in hand and apology on lips it might be one thing, I suppose.

Apology for .... what?

But these are the very people whose group blog you just up and deleted one day, without so much as a warning to all of the contributors that it was going to happen, let alone a discussion.

This is just tremendously bizarre. For the record: the late, lamented Enchiridion Militis was no one's site but mine. Others were gracious enough to write on it, and I remain grateful for that. Before it was shut down, everyone was, in fact, notified, and given time to grab their data. If anyone complained that the time was insufficient, he or she did not complain to me -- I certainly would have given whatever time was requested.

What any of this has to do with you, or the price of tea in China, or the topic of this thread, is beyond me.

Upset? Bizarrely angry? Weirdly aggressive about respect for your pseudonym? You've hit the trifecta.

Hold on -- this actually happened?

No.

Yes. The blog was called Enchiridion Militis. I was invited to be a contributor by Paul Cella. I ordinarily refuse invitations to participate in group blogs -- my pseudonym helps -- but I have a deep and abiding respect for Paul. Several of the present W4 contributors were also EM contributors. One day Josh decided to just make it disappear, and without warning it was gone.

You never said "boo" to me.

What any of this has to do with you, or the price of tea in China, or the topic of this thread, is beyond me.
It had nothing to do with it, until you suggested that you were going to leave W4 and shake the dust off your boots. I continue to encourage you to do so.

Poking through old e-mails, here, and -- yep, Paul Cella asked me if we could add you to the site in summer '06, and I consented on his recommendation. Which probably explains why you didn't get any word from me on the shutdown beforehand, for which I apologize. That said, if you're so angry about it -- 20 months later! -- why on earth didn't you contact me? I had the site archives for quite some time, and I would have gladly sent over your work.

Again, this is exceedingly strange and puzzlingly angry behavior. If you need therapeutic attention, there are other, better venues.

Please, can we return to talking about hegemony?

Which probably explains why you didn't get any word from me on the shutdown beforehand, for which I apologize.
Accepted.
That said, if you're so angry about it -- 20 months later!
I'm not angry about it. The last time I even thought about it - or you at all - was probably around the time W4 was founded, until you showed up here all full of yourself in this thread.

If you think me "full of myself" (on which, guilty!), the best riposte is to engage and argue -- especially when I'm asking you to clarify and expand your argument. I'm just saying.

...the best riposte is to engage and argue ...
Apparently not. The one time I engaged an argument you advanced, your reply to me was an empty one-liner snark.

My own recollection is that there was something of a warning before EM went down. My memory is atrocious these days, but if I recall correctly, it was somewhere between forty-eight hours and four days. It's possible it was as little as twenty-four hours, but I think it was more, and it may even have been as much as five days. I have to say that even though it was sudden, came as quite a surprise to me, and was something I puzzled over a bit as to the reason, it's water under the bridge now, and it certainly isn't something I've held against Josh since then, taking everything into account.

Look, I can see saying that logically, the statement Maximos made that started this whole discussion (getting back to the topic) doesn't entail the statement, "The Georgians can go to hell." I would go farther and say that a person could make that statement while at the same time holding that a) the moral rights and wrongs of that situation as between Russia and Georgia _do matter_ to what we should do and b) under some circumstances we might even be justified in becoming deeply involved in the region and in the situation, and the moral rights and wrongs will be one part of what determines this. I take it that Josh thinks both of these are true, though again, he's never advocated that we ourselves go in with tanks. We're not the ones doing that (ahem). But in the context as a whole, I think that the line that Maximos and others of his mind are taking is that it's _none of our business_ what the moral wrongs and rights of the situation are and that the non-interventionist presumption is _so strong_ that b is pretty much just plain false in the real world. I can even recall, though I don't have time to try to look it up now, that Maximos had one post in which he literally castigated someone for saying that whether we intervene in some situation depends on the concrete facts of the situation and shouldn't be decided by an a priori commitment to non-intervention! I mean, as I understood him, Jeff was saying that that position (which heaven knows sounds moderate and reasonable enough) was insufficiently strongly anti-interventionist. At the time I restrained myself from pointing out that I have sometimes referred (on my own blog and once that I recall in a thread here) to what I consider to be an ideological and absolute commitment to anti-interventionism on the paleo right, and that that post confirmed my characterization. What does all of this have to do with anything? Well, when Josh said that on a second look, there is no difference between "The Georgians can go to hell" and the statement Maximos made, Josh was, as I read him, making a rhetorical point regarding this sort of absolute commitment to never being moved by the moral rights and wrongs to engage in foreign wars, or perhaps even in foreign entanglements that might lead to foreign wars. He wasn't saying that the two statements are logically mutually entailing or anything like that.

So it was a bit of loose speaking, and probably the more annoying because it was cleverly put and might arouse a hearty cheer from the more hawkish members of the audience, if we have any around here. This, I believe, is what Zippy is noticing when he calls it "interventionist agitprop." But it seems to me that as long as Josh is content to admit that the two statements aren't _actually identical_ in the literal sense and that someone could say what Maximos said while believing both a and b above, his later clarification should be accepted, and that accepting such clarifications is in general a good practical principle to follow in Internet discussions.

Perhaps it's best to engage with Lydia. We appear to be of one mind on this matter anyway.

Well, Josh apologized, so I don't think there is any sense going into the several different ways in which the windup of EM was rude and irritating.

If I were to generalize my impression of these ongoing foriegn policy discussions, which (again) I usually avoid, and of which the present is merely an instance with the particulars of Georgia/Russia, it is that each side almost always - from my perspective anyway - seems to exaggerate and overstate what the other side actually says. "Georgians go to Hell" is just one particularly egregious example in a long line of such balderdash. Everyone is always looking for the subtext, for what the other guy really means but won't just say outright. I find the whole enterprise more than a little tedious. I really only followed these threads at all because I had a "uh oh, this is really starting to look a lot like the setup for WWI with just a few names changed" moment, and it is difficult to ignore something of such potential import.

Zippy,

"Georgians go to Hell" is just one particularly egregious example in a long line of such balderdash.

Do you consider Churchill's speech back in the days one such instance?

Which one? From my admitted historically ignorant perspective, Churchill was in many ways a great wartime leader in WWII, and in WWI he probably was instrumental in getting Britian involved in a regional conflict which at least in hindsight was a terrible deal for the British Empire.

But if the question is about his rhetoric, and do I think there were times that he was full of it: sure.

If I were to generalize my impression of these ongoing foriegn policy discussions, which (again) I usually avoid, and of which the present is merely an instance with the particulars of Georgia/Russia, it is that each side almost always - from my perspective anyway - seems to exaggerate and overstate what the other side actually says. "Georgians go to Hell" is just one particularly egregious example in a long line of such balderdash.

Narrowly, and apart from all of the subthreads in this conversation, I believe that I have been quite forthright about actual meanings: I'm not fond of open-ended alliances and assurances; this situation, as with many others to which it can be analogized, is not a black hat/white hat affair, but one characterized by shades of grey (For example, the Georgians were more in the wrong initially, as they hadn't the slightest prayer of succeeding in the attempt to retake South Ossetia, which fails a critical test of Just War doctrine; while the Russians are obviously more in the wrong now, since the nationwide bombardment and the continued presence of Russian armour well outside the boundaries of South Ossetia are manifestly disproportionate. For that matter, it is not immediately obvious that there is a clear solution to the existence of a separatist enclave within Georgian territory, given the propensity of the Ossetians and the Georgians to comport themselves with something far less than rectitude in each others' presence; regional autonomy, here, as would have been the optimal way to split hairs in Kosovo, is probably the best that can be hoped for.); given the various shades of grey, an outside power such as the United States, particularly as public rationales for involvement do not coincide strictly with the actual strategic rationales, ought to proceed with great circumspection.

Zippy:

It's just that you & Maximos (and no offense here to you both) seem more sympathetic to the "America First" speeches given at Princeton by the isolationists of those days rather than buy into the "United We Stand, Divided We Fall" rhetoric of Churchill.

Speaking solely for myself, yes, I am more sympathetic to isolationist rhetoric, for while it can occasionally be invoked for base motives, it always possesses the virtue of holding in first regard those to whom our primary obligations are owed; Churchillian rhetoric is occasionally warranted, but lends itself all too easily to grandiose imprudences.

Aristocles:
I definitely have isolationist tendencies. "We have to do this!" is very, very often followed later by "how were we supposed to know?" Comparing Maximos, Lydia, and I in a given concrete situation it is not obvious to me whether I would come out closer to one or the other.

There is one Churchill phrase that sums up all the eternal war rhetoric for me, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Gentlemen: Thank-you. I was just curious on your actual perspectives on the matter contra Trevino.

Dear Lady Lydia: You have one fine memory, contrary to what you may believe.

Step2: That quote is repugnant to my sensibilities, and nicely encapsulates my skepticism of those who are quick to counsel war, or confrontation.

I definitely have isolationist tendencies. "We have to do this!" is very, very often followed later by "how were we supposed to know?"

Dude! You owe me a quarter for copyright! :)

Dude! You owe me a quarter for copyright! :)
Fair use, fair use! I didn't say "what would it hurt", I said "we have to do this" :-)

Though I should have said "with apologies to Mark Shea ...".

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