What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Learned Thoughts on the Russian-Georgian Question

Lawrence Auster has initiated a lively thread for discussion of the Russian-Georgian question, and its relation to American foreign policy, posting numerous substantive comments from many of his regular correspondents. For the moment, I'd like to highlight what is, in my estimation, the most perspicacious of the lot, written by Sage McLaughlin:


I'm in the midst of a master's thesis that concerns this subject, and I've really struggled with the conflicting commentary and analysis while I have conducted my research. I really, really don't want to get into a big thing about it, so I'll keep my comment (sort of) brief. The problem is that there is a school of geopolitical thought which sees the only possibilities as Russia-the-evil-superpower (as was undoubtedly the case during Soviet times, whatever the Russophiles on the Right may say), or Russia-the-eternally-prostrate, whereby American power permanently fences Russia within a severely proscribed territory so as to prevent it from dominating global politics. The truth of the matter is, our overweening concern to oppose Russia at every turn, and to issue security guarantees to states within its historical and cultural sphere of influence, has given the Kremlin every reason to believe that the U.S. is an inveterately hostile enemy that will never allow Russia its place in the sun.

So what is that place? Well, before there were superpowers, there were simply Great Powers. Russia has long been one, and attempts to keep her from Great Power status have always failed, and failed disastrously. It's easy to forget that Poland existed under partition by the Russians, Prussians, and Austrians for well nigh a hundred years ("Poland" appeared on the map for the first time in about 125 years after WWI and the 1920 Polish-Soviet War), and that Russia's sphere of influence has always included political dominance of Eastern Europe more broadly. To cast this as some resurgence of the Soviet empire, wherein all the states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia were united under a single scepter in Moscow, is historical asininity of the worst kind. It is to suggest that while America's sphere of influence ought to extend to wherever we can find a willing ally, Russia has for all intents and purposes no legitimate sphere of influence beyond its own borders--if we could hector them into submission over Chechnya, we would, in spite of the fact that there are no obvious good guys in that situation and that even if there were, it would be absolutely none of our business. Let the Iranians and the Azeris deal with that, for goodness' sakes, and if they don't find it particularly worth their while, then why on earth should we?

The point is, the height of Russian power may have been embodied politically by the Soviet Union, but that is not to say that Russian power must necessarily trend in a Soviet direction. Americans rightly go into apoplexy over things like international monitors commenting on the integrity of our elections, but U.S. policy makers literally declare the Putin-Medvedev government so politically blighted that they must never be allowed to exercise their power over their immediate surroundings without the threat of NATO retaliation. This is insanity. The irresponsibility is matched only by the hubris of such a position. We don't have to like what Russia does any more than they like what we do (for example, invading and occupying its Middle East clients for the most indirect of strategic rationales). And I do think we ought to argue against such things and oppose them politically where it is necessary and appropriate to do so, but some perspective has to be maintained.

If we have an image problem in Georgia (and Eastern Europe generally) for failing to rush to their aid, then that's the Bush administration's fault for extending such unrealistic promises of strategic partnership to countries wherein we have absolutely no vital interest. That's an argument, not for extending deterrence to every conceivable anti-Russian political establishment on the planet, but rather for prudence and a hard-headed sense of proportion. What is worse--failing to keep a promise you can't possibly back up, or making such promises in the first place? Neocons seem to be taking the former view. Using backroom assurances of assistance in the event of trouble, thus destabilizing Russia's immediate frontier by encouraging irresponsible behavior on the part of hostile neighbors, all for the sake of extracting support for our ill-conceived Mesopotamian adventures, isn't sound geopolitical strategy. It's short-term thinking with long-term consequences.


Sage's commentary speaks for itself in terms of quality, so I'll add only the observation that the dominant school of geopolitical thought in America, according to which Russia is either a colossus bent upon global domination or a prostrate power, supplicating the West for a few scraps of assistance, hedged about and subjugated - which seemingly entails the conclusion that Russian weakness, when it exists, must be exploited, while any Russian strength must be countered, so as to transform it into weakness - presupposes, as its sometimes-unspoken premise, the American Unipolar Moment, or Benevolent Global Hegemony. Only America, and American allies, are licitly entitled to maintain spheres of influence.

Another commenter, Dmitri K., writes that


I am not a great supporter of Russian politics, including its policy in Georgia. But the real issue is not Georgia, which not many really know about. The real issue is the subjugation of non-liberal Russia to the world order.

This also, it seems to me, is an astute observation, inasmuch as the American conception of BGH, which envisions the United States at the head of an interlocking array of forms of global administration, economic, financial, military, political, diplomatic, is to foreign affairs what high liberalism, of the Rawlsian-procedural neutrality, is to domestic politics generally. Both theoretical architectures presuppose that they constitute a neutral administrative framework, a non-ideological, non-comprehensive political, economic, and cultural space within which differences between "comprehensive doctrines" and national identities are mediated and ultimately transcended. Hence, the American foreign policy establishment often finds the persistence of national identities, or religious and cultural identities, inclusive of those which find expression in great-power, sphere-of-influence politics, difficult to comprehend, or, at least, to accept. America's mandarins imagine that such loyalties, when articulated as over against a liberal/cosmopolitan/globalist, are exercises in atavistic obstructionism, precisely because they do not perceive, or claim not to perceive, why anyone would regard neutral administration as a threat. Bearers of those historic identities, for their part, perceive in the proceduralist architecture a relativization of their commitments, which, moreover, masks the substantive commitments of the proceduralists themselves. The threat of liberalism to traditional religious and cultural identities domestically is formally identical to the threat of globalization and BGH to national identities and aspirations geopolitically; moreover, BGH and globalization are the expressions, in foreign affairs, of liberalism - a liberationist doctrine warring against traditional identities, yet often obfuscating this reality, in essence "forcing the world to be free", as liberalism defines freedom.

What strange times in which we dwell, that America has become a revolutionary and revisionist power, and Russia, a conservative, though often unpleasant, power.

Comments (219)

Another excellent post on this unfolding tragedy, but calling the rapacious gansters presiding in Russia "unpleasant" is a gross understatement. They splash Russia's cultural canvas with Orthodox icongraphy only for purposes of crowd-control. They are not conservative in the sense that they seek to preserve a particular way of life, or a traditional society. That one was obliterated years ago by the same noxious Western imports that produced Putin & Co. And Russia is too ravished by the efects to pose a humane alternative to Liberalism anytime soon. Our Jacobins have her in the cross-hairs, but the differences are in degree,not kind.

Precisely. Russia is conservative in the circumscribed sense of resisting the revolutionism of our own foreign policy, and beyond that, it is a dying culture a few stages in advance of our own.

The resistance to the Liberal imperium better grow strong domestic roots real soon, or we will beat several cultures to the grave.

Although he tends to write mostly about the U.S. and western Europe, Paul Gottfried has written 3 very learned books on the subject of U.S. multicultural liberalism and its adherents' desire to spread this ideology to other parts of the world, especially those deemed backwards and "undemocratic." IMO, these works are must reading for conservatives.

The reason that these "liberals" hate Russia, is the same reason they hate the American South, traditional Christianity, etc. These things are roadblocks to their hegemony.

The reason that these "liberals" hate Russia, is the same reason they hate the American South, traditional Christianity, etc. These things are roadblocks to their hegemony.

Wellll. Let's not get carried away. Not even a little bit. I have to say, I think Kevin is right to be a little less sanguine about Russia's putative "Christian conservatism" than this when he says,

calling the rapacious gansters presiding in Russia "unpleasant" is a gross understatement. They splash Russia's cultural canvas with Orthodox icongraphy only for purposes of crowd-control.

Agreed, Lydia, but my point wasn't to paint Russia as conservative in any true sense, just to state that Western multiculturalists find them a "conservative" impediment to their hegemony by dint of Russia's refusal (for whatever reasons) to get with the multicultural, anti-nationalist program. I didn't mean to imply that Russia, the U.S. South, and traditional Christianity have anything in common, necessarily, other than their resistance to multicultural liberalism.

Every village needs cops, including the global village. Where there's no police, things turn into Mogadishu, both literally and figuratively. If Russia were simply doing its share to police the neighborhood in its part of the global village, I'd be pleased. Indeed I'd be more than pleased; I'd be enormously grateful. Free nations and free peoples need to push back the frontiers of evil wherever and whenever they reasonably can. In such an enterprise, Russia could be a wonderful ally.

But it is not. I can distinguish between cops and thugs. I can distinguish between police work and opportunistic hegemony. I can distinguish between resisting evil and perpetrating it. Right now, Russia is falling onto the wrong side of that equation.

No one is saying Russia is to be kept perpetually prostrate. (I honestly know of no serious thinker who advocates such a thing, though some there might be.) But Russia needs to be part of the solution, not the problem. That is not a role it has filled well in the last hundred years. If it wants the respect of respectable nations, it needs to earn it. To date it has not, and recent events in Georgia do not help.

Dr. Bauman,

Thank you for that well-articulated comment!

All this talk about the unjust subjugation of Russia while seemingly ignoring Georgia's unjust subjugation at the hands of Russia:

Mr. Saakashvili, who came to power in the pro-democracy Rose revolution of 2003, became a vocal irritant for the Kremlin, strengthening ties with the U.S. and challenging Russia's monopoly on the transport of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea region.

Russia succeeded in its military goals. It punished Georgia's President Saakashvili and demonstrated to its neighbors that it is the sole military power in the region, said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in an interview in Tbilisi. "Do you see any other troops here?" he said.

(source: WSJ: Russia Agrees to Halt War Drubbing of Georgia Deals a Blow to U.S. Foreign Policy)

Certainly Georgia's desire to be free from the Russians was prior our policy to help her.

This being the case, I do not see how our policy could be called revolutionary. On the contrary, it looks to me like a traditional alliance based on a shared interest; in this case, keeping the Russian boot off the Georgian neck.

You're begging the question. What is the American interest in "keeping the Russian boot off of the Georgian neck"? That would be, interest, as in, something bearing a discernible relationship to the security of the American heartland, as opposed to something that gives us the sentimental warm fuzzies.

It's in our interest to do the right thing. Keeping the Russian boot off the Georgian neck is the right thing.

"I can distinguish between police work and opportunistic hegemony."

Michael,
Russia hasn't accepted all of Liberalism, but it has accepted its premise; Man can Live on Bread Alone. The reason we're over there pushing NATO membership,building military bases and rousting about in Russia's backyard is the lucrative chain of bakeries in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea.

Anyone looking for a more noble sounding narrative to mask the libido dominandi should consult David Frum.

Besides, you're not advocating we play "global cop" and undertake a police action against Russia, are you? Michael?

All this talk about the unjust subjugation of Russia while seemingly ignoring Georgia's unjust subjugation at the hands of Russia:

South Ossetia, if I am not mistaken, has been semi-autonomous for over a decade. Russia has legitimate interests there and legitimate reasons to have troops there, legitimate peacekeeping operations and the fact that over half the residents of South Ossetia are Russian citizens being two of them.

Saakashvili is the one who foolishly started the shooting. Did he really expect Russia to not respond? There is a price to folly, and, while his foolishness might not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict, it does make it difficult for me to view Georgia as a poor, put-upon nation being unjustly crushed by Russian boots.

It's in our interest to do the right thing. Keeping the Russian boot off the Georgian neck is the right thing.

As opposed to keeping the Georgian boot of the Ossetian neck?

Kevin asked:

"Besides, you're not advocating we play "global cop" and undertake a police action against Russia, are you? Michael?"


Yes, I am, though by "police action" I don't necessarily mean we need to resort to force. Police do many things short of shooting.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I'm inclined to think that it has to be us -- or no one. Is there anyone else you think can or will exert effective pressure on Russia? I believe pressure is required because I do not think we can leave the resolution of this travesty to Moscow's alleged good will. That alleged good will is the cause of this crisis, not its solution.

Isn't this is the kind of talk that got us into WWI -- poor little Belgium? I don't think we had any choice by the time we got to WWII and Pearl Harbor, of course, but does anyone still think that we had to enter the Great War, and that what we accomplished by entering was a good thing?

Michael,
How would you feel about Russian bases in Mexico and Canada and their building a pipeline in Alaska?

We used Saakashvili for expansive geopolitical ends and he used us for self-aggrandizement. It was doomed to fail once the Russians struck back. All we can do is grow wiser from the experience and close down NATO.

You are aware that had Europeans not denied NATO membership we would be committed to sending troops, are you not?

Sorry should read; had Europeans not denied Georgia membership into NATO we would be committed to sending troops, are you not?

Kevin,

Join the club! Everyone mistypes -- and no one more than me!

Until I see someone actually refute Josh Trevino, I stand with the views articulated on his site, and with the reasons he puts forth for them.

I suppose a couple thoughts about American interests in this area spring to mind, along with Russian interests.

First off, the only pipeline that is US backed goes through Georgia, specifically Tbilisi. This pipeline goes from Baku, Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey. If this pipeline is cut, the only other ones go through Iran or Russia. Insofar as energy and oil supplies are regarded as legitimate national and strategic interests, then I think the argument that America does have an interest there is correct. However, Russia has made it fairly clear that the Near Abroad is within their sphere of interest, much like the Monroe doctrine put South America in the US sphere.

Secondly, the Russification of many of these areas, particularly under the rule of Stalin, makes me question some of the legitimacy claims of the Russian Federation. For example, how the Chinese of treated Tibet, and imported millions of native (Hans?) into the region does not legitimize their claim to the area.

Thirdly, under international law, my understanding is that the UN and CIS have admitted that the contested territory is part of the Georgian state (I may be wrong about the CIS). Therefore, if there is a certain amount of revolutionary and lawlessness occurring within these regions, the government has a legitimate claim to subdue it.

Finally, I seriously question the formation of Russian identity and Orthodox identity. If you look at the role of religion, ethnicity, and nationality in Central Asia, you will discover that ethnicity is tied very closely. Their has been a resurgence among Russians in identifying Orthodoxy with Russian-ness. When I encountered this idea, I definitely saw it as being very different in how we in the West form identity. However, I can see how this will be problematic for Christians, insofar as it can allow us to rationalize our behaviour on ethnic grounds rather than Christian ones.

had Europeans not denied Georgia membership into NATO we would be committed to sending troops

If Georgia were in NATO, perhaps Russia would not have invaded.

Do you really think that the Russians want to start exchanges blows with the U.S. military? I doubt very much that they would have invaded if they knew it meant war.

I'm just waiting for a teensy, weensy little bit of paleo outrage over Russia's invasion of Georgia. Maybe the use from _that_ quarter of the phrase "violation of international law." It's not like they never use the phrase or don't believe in it. Or if they want selectively to decide that international law doesn't exist, there might be just this idea that, you know, there's something even mildly outrageous about Russia's invading Georgia. Perhaps on the basis of that ol' love of localism and hatred of invasion and hegemony that we hear so much about otherwise.

But no, we can't be outraged. Only sad. It's only tragic. Because if we said, "That's pretty outrageous," maybe it would sound like we believed in U.S. military intervention, and the anti-interventionist imperative is far too important for a paleo to be anything but sad about a situation where somebody might favor U.S. military intervention.

It's not like I'm claiming to know a whole lot about this situation, but I know enough to know that I'm farther than ever before from being anything remotely like a paleoconservative on foreign policy. If they keep talking, I'm likely to turn into an interventionist in sheer reaction and "yuck" feeling, which wouldn't be rational, perhaps, but would be humanly understandable.

Russian violations of international law - there, I said it! Happy now? - are inevitable reactions to repeated American and Western violations of international law, the names and occasions of which we all know well. For that matter, were I to apply my preference for localism to the situation as an ideological template, no clear answer would be forthcoming: would I endorse the territorial integrity of Georgia within her Stalin-drawn boundaries, or would I endorse the local autonomy of the ethnically, linguistically, and, to some extent, culturally distinct Ossetians (a Persian people descended from the Avars)?

The trouble is that we've selectively decided, for well-nigh two decades, when international law is applicable and when it is not, and now we've received a comeuppance. I'm not overjoyed about that; I'm rather disquieted that it has come to this - but that is the way that reality works: you don't get to engage in special pleading in geopolitics, which is what we've done during the entirety of our Unipolar Moment.

As for the nature of my criticisms, I generally restrict them to my own nation, because she is mine, because I love her, and am desirous that she pursue a more principled and honourable path in foreign affairs; this, mind you, is a philosophical precept to which I adhere: it is preferable by far to condemn one's own transgressions than the transgressions of others. This is applicable to foreign affairs for reasons analogous to those that render hegemonism immoral: foreigners generally love their nations as we love ours, and are responsible for those nations, as we are for our own.

Max:
Am I getting this right?:

(1) When Russia transgresses international law, the US is to blame.

(2) When the US (allegedly) transgresses international law, the US is to blame.

(3) When, as the world's only superpower, the US resists Russian hegemony, that's hegemony.

are inevitable reactions to repeated American and Western violations of international law, the names and occasions of which we all know well

The only American invasions I know of recently are of Afghanistan (which even most anti-interventionists admit to have been legitimate) and of Iraq. Surely the claim isn't that Russia has invaded Georgia as an inevitable reaction to America's invasion of Iraq. I think we'll find that these Western violations of international law, which we "all know well" and to which Russia is "inevitably reacting" by invading Georgia will turn out to be something other than invading anybody. Not, mind you, that I think we should have supported Kosovo's independence. I don't. We shouldn't have. But please. Let's remember that _military invasion with tanks and stuff_ is supposed to be a _huge deal_ to paleocons. Like, to the point of fury. But apparently not in this case. It isn't a special thing at all. It's just a matter of sitting around and saying, "Hey, America did x. Let's inevitably react by invading Georgia."

"Insofar as energy and oil supplies are regarded as legitimate national and strategic interests, then I think the argument that America does have an interest there is correct."

Finally, an admission as to why we are there, stripped of the phony moralizing, chest-pounding bravado. Energy dependence. Let parents decide if sending their kids to secure the Caspian Sea oil drum is in their family's best interest. And let us all be grateful that Russia isn't eyeing Alaska or Mexico.

"I'm just waiting for a teensy, weensy little bit of paleo outrage over Russia's invasion of Georgia."

Lydia this thread began with the acknowledgement that Putin is a gangster. We should though acknowledge our role in alienating him from an alliance of Realpolitik. You will recall that he invited our military presence into the Caucasus so as to facilitate our operations against the Taliban. We've since rewarded the gesture with encirclement. Imagine some semblance of the Warsaw Pact in our hemisphere and you get a taste for what Russia is experiencing.

Michael, a quick visit to Trevino's site revealed little beyond pictures of a very attractive family. One that I hope, like hundreds of thousands of others, never has to bear the brunt of his reckless, death-dealing policy proposals.

I'm too ignorant of the particulars to add anything intelligent to the discussion of particulars in this particular conflict. But in the abstract it seems straightforwardly possible for Russia to be behaving unjustly, on the one hand, and at the same time for it to be unjust and/or grossly imprudent for us to insert ourselves into it.

Again I ask: World War I, anyone?

It simply isn't the case -- at all -- that either we intervene, or we are ratifying the unjust acts of others. How many millions of people have to die at the feet of that false dichotomy?

Kevin, I'm going to speak fairly frankly, though actually there's a whole lot more that I could say and am not saying: You prompted Jeff to admit that Putin is a gangster. I'm glad to see that he agreed. Well and good as far as it goes. But it wasn't spontaneous on his part.

There is no outrage from Jeff about Russia's invasion of Georgia. And despite what he says about Ossetia, I doubt there will be any outrage if Russia takes over Georgia, not just that one region, altogether. No outrage at all. Not even a little. Vague phrases like "I'm sorry it's come to this" and "it's a terrible tragedy that these two Christian nations [gag--L] are at war with each other," "we hope for a speedy resolution of the conflict." And the phrase "Russia's violations of international law" is immediately followed by a completion of the sentence which amounts to "are America's fault."

Mind you, I myself have grave doubts whether there is such a thing as international law. But in other contexts, Jeff and those who tend to think as he does on foreign policy do not have such doubts. Hence my prompting. But outrage at Russia's actions does not require the use of that phrase.

And I think it's absurd to the point of being laughable to say, "America is my country and I love it; hence, it's reasonable for me to blame Russia's invasion of Georgia on America and to be able to find nothing but the most milquetoasty words in blame of Russia for an outright invasion of a neighboring country."

Every time Jeff starts talking about foreign policy, I realize more and more that we are on different planets. Soon I think it's going to be different galaxies. As I've said in an e-mail to someone on this lately, I have my own Inner Anti-Interventionist to deal with. Moreover, I think Zippy has a very good point and puts it very clearly. But could we _please_ get a little consistency from the paleo side on what type of action from Country A against Country B is worth foaming at the mouth about? Even just a little?

Lydia, this paleocon, if that's what I am, and I'm not sure that I am, isn't particularly outraged because the fate of Georgia is quite low on my list of concerns. The only discernible American interest is "credibility," to which I respond by saying that since there was no good reason for the United States to be issuing or implying guarantees to Georgia in the first place, I'm completely unpersuaded. Who rules in Tiflis is only slightly less important to me than who rules in Ouagadougou.

"slightly less important" should read "slightly more important."

Dr. B, am I getting this correct?:

1. When America transgresses international law, it has no consequences, and establishes no precedents. Everyone is supposed to wink and nod and proceed on their way, for the imperium has spoken.

2. When America repeatedly proclaims its intention to subject even a prostrate Russia to containment, the Russians are supposed to suck it up and take it.

3. The United States is entitled to pretensions of benevolent global hegemony, applied whenever and wherever deemed expedient, while other nations are not entitled to influence their neighbours, even via soft power.

4. American foreign policy is uniquely virtuous, while Russia's is uniquely vicious.

even via soft power.

I'm looking for the soft power in this situation. I'm looking hard, but I'm not seeing it.

So, Cyrus, I really don't know the answer to this: Just how upset have you been about America's invasion of Iraq? And if you were really outraged, was it because, in your opinion, major military invasion and conquest of a sovereign nation without a sufficient casus belli is supposed to be seriously wrong?

By the way, I wonder what the paleo reaction would be to calls for private divestment from Russia in protest of its actions. Perhaps that would help to tell us how wrong their action is really taken to be and whether this is just all about the question of whether America should become militarily involved.

Surely the claim isn't that Russia has invaded Georgia as an inevitable reaction to America's invasion of Iraq. I think we'll find that these Western violations of international law, which we "all know well" and to which Russia is "inevitably reacting" by invading Georgia will turn out to be something other than invading anybody. Not, mind you, that I think we should have supported Kosovo's independence. I don't. We shouldn't have. But please.

With respect to the former, no, that is not the claim. The American invasion of Iraq, illegal under international law - preemptive wars are illicit - merely contributes to the atmosphere of hypocrisy in which American foreign policy elites live and move and have their being. No, the violations of international law in question are the multifarious aspects of Balkan policy over the past fifteen or so years, during which the West selectively armed and trained Croatian, then Bosnian, then Albanian revanchists, both in selective application of arms embargoes and in full knowledge that the consequence of such material support would be the commission of war crimes, subsequently winked and nodded at ethnic cleansing, and brought this sordid policy to what is imagined to be its denouement by establishing the (formal) independence of Kosovo. Of course, along the way, the United States committed the war crime of bombing Serbian population centers during the 1999 Kosovo war, in an effort to induce capitulation without the introduction of ground forces. Doesn't seem significantly different from an armed invasion to me.

What is truly disquieting in all of this is that anti-paleocons seem to have an aversion to geopolitical facts and processes; it is presupposed that actions have no consequences, that American and European subversions of international law and the order of nation-states will go unanswered, that all of it will be a fait accompli, and that other nations will never have their own reasons for undertaking analogous policies. America will subjugate a Russian ally, but Russia will never deign to subjugate an American ally. America will endeavour to encircle Russia, and the Russians will never respond more substantially than to issue verbal expressions of displeasure. It's a low and filthy business, but Americans are wallowing in self-delusion if they believe that theirs is a special case in the geopolitical arena; this is just what it looks like when rival nationalisms come into conflict.

But it wasn't spontaneous on his part.

It is unnecessary to reference the transgressions of Putin in order to explain geopolitical developments. The Stratfor folks do it on a daily basis.

There is no outrage from Jeff about Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Is there some ethical obligation to froth at the mouth over this? What aspect of, "Russia's actions outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been disproportionate, and thus, unjust" is opaque? For that matter, why is there no outrage over the actions of Georgia in South Ossetia? They bombarded civilian population centers.

What I consider absurd to the point of risibility is the notion that America is entitled to comport itself unjustly, namely, as a hegemon, but that only foreign regimes behaving badly are worthy of criticism. Our own injustices, which we have some minute and indirect prospect of rectifying, if only by endeavouring to sway public opinion, should be passed over with discreet silence, while the injustices of foreign regimes should be trumpeted from the rooftops? After the past seven years, I've had my fill of this blinkered bellicosity.

Just how upset have you been about America's invasion of Iraq? And if you were really outraged, was it because, in your opinion, major military invasion and conquest of a sovereign nation without a sufficient casus belli is supposed to be seriously wrong?
I know you asked Cyrus, but I'll give my answer. "Outrage" may be a loaded word; but the strength of my objections to the Iraq invasion rests on two related things in addition to the fact that it was an unjust invasion: 1) the fact that it was our act, and 2) the fact that if we allow ourselves to perceive it as a just act, that will impact how we evaluate future acts. The second one is by far the most important. When we do something wrong, either as an individual or as a polity, there is of course the immediate effects of the wrong thing we did. But worse, much worse, is that having done the wrong thing, if we fail to repent of it that changes what we are. We become the kind of people who unrepentantly do that kind of thing.

And yes, I am concerned about the kinds of people my neighbors become, to be sure. But our first order of business isn't what kind of people the neighbors are, it is what kind of people we are.

Perhaps that would help to tell us how wrong their action is really taken to be and whether this is just all about the question of whether America should become militarily involved.
That's a great hypothetical. I tend to think that this is really about whether America should become militarily involved, and that all the moral posturing isn't helpful: that we have to be careful about buying into the narrative of the interventionists. Making a moral case about a conflict somewhere says almost exactly nothing about whether it would be just or prudent for us to intervene.

'But could we _please_ get a little consistency from the paleo side on what type of action from Country A against Country B is worth foaming at the mouth about? Even just a little?"

Lydia, here's my take. I'm disgusted both at Putin's bloody, crass power-play and our role in creating the conditions for it. As an ally he poses an embarrassment, but not nearly as great a humiliation as fighting side by side with Stalin. I therefore reject any rhetoric or actions that serve to exacerbate tensions and further alienate Russia from our side. And make no mistake; she should be our side. Foaming at the mouth will only obscure our strategic misjudgments since 1989 and create a new front of hostilities in a part of the world at a supremely inopportune time. Russia should be chastened, but also and more importantly, reassured as to our intentions. Our corection should be fraternal and honest. We too have invaded a soveriegn state under flimsy pretenses.

A Christian statesman prudently navigates his way in a dangerous world full of bad actors and varying levels of threats. He weeps at the plight of most of humanity and his own impotence to alleviate its many sufferings, for he is limited by moral and common sense restraints. His statecraft is not revolutionary or violent, save in cases of national self-preservation. Instead, he is intent on minimizing the causes for conflict, resigned to slow advances along the international chessboard, content to travel the high road of humble example,and avoid moralizing that masks naked ambition. Upon his death he will not be hailed as a "great man" as the world defines it, for he will have presided over a time of relative peace. But he will go before God as a faithful and loyal servant.


So, Cyrus, I really don't know the answer to this: Just how upset have you been about America's invasion of Iraq? And if you were really outraged, was it because, in your opinion, major military invasion and conquest of a sovereign nation without a sufficient casus belli is supposed to be seriously wrong?
I've prayed for forgiveness for having supported the US invasion of Iraq, among other things. Having supported it and repented of that support, I don't like to talk about it much anymore. I'm chastened and humbled by just how wrong I was at the time, and am therefore reluctant, even in the face of my congenital contrariness and quarrelsomeness, to argue about it.

Looking back, I was a great deal more upset about the Kosovo intervention, on one hand, and the failure of Clinton to go further against Iraq in 1998, on the other. My objections at the time were based solely on my interpretation of American geopolitical interest. Having since become a Christian, my thoughts on war and peace have evolved a great deal.

All of those preliminaries out of the way, yes, making war without a sufficient causus belli is a grave sin. It may also be against international law, but I share some of your scepticism of that concept.

"Having since become a Christian, my thoughts on war and peace have evolved a great deal."

Now your talking!

Did your wife deliver yet?

Brendon stated: "South Ossetia, if I am not mistaken, has been semi-autonomous for over a decade. Russia has legitimate interests there and legitimate reasons to have troops there, legitimate peacekeeping operations and the fact that over half the residents of South Ossetia are Russian citizens being two of them.

Saakashvili is the one who foolishly started the shooting. Did he really expect Russia to not respond? There is a price to folly, and, while his foolishness might not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict, it does make it difficult for me to view Georgia as a poor, put-upon nation being unjustly crushed by Russian boots."


Thank you Brendon for giving Russia such eloquent justification for the various atrocities that continue to be committed by its military forces, the likes of which include:

GORI, Georgia: Separatist fighters and Russian troops looted and set homes ablaze in Georgia Wednesday amid mutual recriminations over breaches of a truce that ended five days of bitter conflict. A day after the truce was brokered by France, Russia faced mounting criticism in the West for its military offensive and US President George W. Bush demanded that Russian troops withdraw from Georgia.

Russian armored vehicles patrolled Gori, the flashpoint Georgian town between the capital and South Ossetia, the breakaway Georgian region at the center of the conflict.

Hundreds of South Ossetian rebels with some Russian Army personnel went house-to-house in villages near Gori. They torched houses and looted buildings, witnesses said.

The body of a man, his mouth caked with blood, lay in a street in the village of Dzardzanis and nearby the body of a bearded man could be seen crushed under an overturned minivan, an AFP journalist reported.

Human Rights Watch said its researchers in South Ossetia had "witnessed terrifying scenes of destruction in four villages that used to be populated exclusively by ethnic Georgians."

"If Georgia were in NATO, perhaps Russia would not have invaded."

NATO's mission triumphantly expired in 1989. Extending both its mission and reach are de-stabilizng actions. Kind of like the Warsaw Pact rummaging around in our hemisphere.

A question one may ask at this point; are their any limits to the extent of our presence in the world and the number of entangling military treaties we should enter?

Any?

Max asked:


Dr. B, am I getting this correct?:

1. When America transgresses international law, it has no consequences, and establishes no precedents. Everyone is supposed to wink and nod and proceed on their way, for the imperium has spoken.

2. When America repeatedly proclaims its intention to subject even a prostrate Russia to containment, the Russians are supposed to suck it up and take it.

3. The United States is entitled to pretensions of benevolent global hegemony, applied whenever and wherever deemed expedient, while other nations are not entitled to influence their neighbours, even via soft power.

4. American foreign policy is uniquely virtuous, while Russia's is uniquely vicious.


I answer:
No, not even one. 0 for 4.

That's okay, then, you're likewise batting .000.

"Having since become a Christian, my thoughts on war and peace have evolved a great deal."

Now your talking!

Did your wife deliver yet?


Not yet. Little Katherine Mae has yet to appear. If she hasn't come by the middle of next week on her own, the doctors will, um, 'intervene.'

Russia should be chastened, but also and more importantly, reassured as to our intentions.

Kevin, what sort of chastening do you have in mind?

I admit to ignorance on this point: Do we give Russia foreign aid? (Heaven knows, we seem to give it to everybody under the sun.) Let's suppose, hypothetically, that we did. Who would support our threatening Russia with a withdrawal of foreign aid money if Russia doesn't get to the negotiating table with Georgia, make peace, and keep it? It's a non-military option for us, while making it clear to Russia that we won't be their friends if they go around invading their neighbors.

Show of hands?

NATO's mission triumphantly expired in 1989. Extending both its mission and reach are de-stabilizng actions. Kind of like the Warsaw Pact rummaging around in our hemisphere.

A question one may ask at this point; are their any limits to the extent of our presence in the world and the number of entangling military treaties we should enter?

Any?


No such limit seems to articulated or accepted, and since American imperialism is premised on a universalist ideology, none seems possible except as an unprincipled exception. Instead, each extension of the perimeter provides the rationale for the next extension. Perhaps ideology has nothing to do with it, and it is just the nature of empires to expand until something stops them.

I therefore reject any rhetoric or actions that serve to exacerbate tensions and further alienate Russia from our side. And make no mistake; she should be our side.

Russia is not on our side, Kevin. Deal with it.

Russia should be chastened, but also and more importantly, reassured as to our intentions. Our corection should be fraternal and honest. We too have invaded a soveriegn state under flimsy pretenses.

So you equate invading a terrorist-supporting rogue Muslim state with invading a civilized American ally. I see.

I'd support the conditioning of foreign aid upon a willingness to enter into negotiations, but to my knowledge, the only foreign aid we provide is intended to secure potentially loose nuclear materials, and I'm dubious that a cancellation of those programmes would ever be wise.

What is curious is that I'm queried concerning a hypothetical, and yet no one troubles to raise an analogous question concerning the actual state of affairs in Georgia, namely, whether we ought to withdraw some measure of support for Georgia, on account of her indiscriminate shelling of civilians in South Ossetia. We ought, at least, to be willing to say to the Georgians that we will not befriend those who besiege civilian populations.

Kevin:

Sorry, chap, but I'm with George R. on both points addressed.

Use of economic and diplomatic pressure, if it makes sense (which I don't claim to know): sure. My hand is up.

We ought, at least, to be willing to say to the Georgians that we will not befriend those who besiege civilian populations.

Does this extend also to the Russians?

Did I not just write that I'd support the conditioning of foreign aid upon negotiations, in order to express displeasure with an invasion which ended up targeting civilian populations? We ought to encourage both parties to enter into negotiations, and cease playing favourites in conflicts bereft of a clear American interest.

Well, in a sense, the fact that we're not doing jolly much, practically speaking, amounts in practice to a withdrawal of support for Georgia, doesn't it, Maximos? I mean, everybody I'm hearing admits that we more or less assured them that we'd protect them if they were invaded by Russia, and we're not, so that hardly sounds like anything other than a withdrawal of support. And this is aside from the question of whether we should have assured them of any such thing. I don't know how much our present hesitation is a result of our feeling that Georgia is in an ambiguous moral position, but there it is.

Maximos:

Sorry, I still couldn't get pass the Austerian rhetoric that began and continues to pervade the thread.

Your latest comments, though, seem the more reasonable.

Cyrus,
Hang in there, it's going to work out, but not without the obligatory stress and humble reminder how useless we men can be.

Lydia, the chastening comes in the form of withdrawal and some lofty rhetoric. The negotiating table is furniture belonging to the winner; Russia. She best be magnanimous. At least more than we've been since 1989.

George, "Russia is not on our side, Kevin. Deal with it." Are you going to run out of enemies any time soon? In resisting the Jihad, Russia best be on our side. The Cold War is over. Deal with it.

"So you equate invading a terrorist-supporting rogue Muslim state with invading a civilized American ally."

The people of South Ossetia didn't find the Georgian invasion "civilized". As an "ally" they should have listened to Rice who rightly predicted the consequences. And let's hope neither Putin, nor the American President are so sanguine in their application of force as you are, or we'll be in a shooting war with Saudi Arabia soon.

Kevin:

I still don't understand this "America invaded Iraq" and, therefore, "Russia has the right to invade Georgia even if it means acts entailing equal or greater atrocities".

It's just as bad as Brendon's "Georgia committed an unjust act" and, therefore, "Russia has the right to commit a similar injustice, even to the extent of committing various several atrocities as payback".

Well, in a sense, the fact that we're not doing jolly much, practically speaking, amounts in practice to a withdrawal of support for Georgia, doesn't it

It appears more a tacit concession that the arguments of some realists and noninterventionists, to the effect that Georgia is not worth the prospect of war with Russia, were the more prudent.

I mean, everybody I'm hearing admits that we more or less assured them that we'd protect them if they were invaded by Russia, and we're not, so that hardly sounds like anything other than a withdrawal of support.

It is an open question whether the Georgians misread or intentions, inadvertently or deliberately, or whether the assurances we provided them were ambiguous. The questions cannot be settled, as we will never know what transpired between our diplomats, the administration, and Saakashvili. The Georgians certainly believed that our military support would be forthcoming.

And this is aside from the question of whether we should have assured them of any such thing.

Of course, I'm going to suggest that we ought to have expressly stated that no American military assistance would be forthcoming in the event of an attempt to forcibly reunite South Ossetia and Abkhazia with Georgia. What is fascinating, and mysterious, is that, in the wake of recent joint Georgian/American military exercises, and the continued presence of between 100 and 150 American military and intelligence advisers, the United States did nothing, or noting effectual, to rein in what was assuredly known to be an impending military operation. We would have known of both the Georgian and Russian preparations, and we had not the slightest intention of intervening militarily, which suggests either unfathomable incompetence and temporizing on our part, or a belief on our part that a lightning Georgian offensive would present the Russians with a fait accompli, and dissuade them from any comparable response. Either way, a massive bungle, unnecessary and extremely costly in innocent lives all around.

I don't know how much our present hesitation is a result of our feeling that Georgia is in an ambiguous moral position, but there it is.

I'm dubious that this perception has exerted any influence. Rather, with George Friedman (Stratfor), I suspect that our hesitation reflects an accurate perception that our options are severely constrained, both regionally, and beyond, not least because we cannot afford to alienate a Russia we hope to involve in the Iranian negotiating/sanctions process.

Lydia, the chastening comes in the form of withdrawal and some lofty rhetoric. The negotiating table is furniture belonging to the winner.
'

Oh. I thought you meant _some_ sort of actual sanctions. My mistake.

The people of South Ossetia didn't find the Georgian invasion "civilized".

Kevin, is it your position that South Ossetia is a separate nation from Georgia? I didn't know that anyone thought that or contended that, but if we are going to start applying the word "invasion" in terms of equivalence between actions in one of a country's own provinces and real...invasion of neighboring sovereign states, I think at least the deliberate ambiguity should be noted.

Thank you Brendon for giving Russia such eloquent justification for the various atrocities that continue to be committed by its military forces...

It's just as bad as Brendon's "Georgia committed an unjust act" and, therefore, "Russia has the right to commit a similar injustice, even to the extent of committing various several atrocities as payback".

I'm sorry, but this is balderdash. Do you have the ability to comprehend the English language, or do you just feel justified in slandering me by imputing to me an evil position I do not hold? To say that Russia has legitimate interests and a legitimate reason to be in South Ossetia, and to say that I find it difficult "to view Georgia as a poor, put-upon nation being unjustly crushed by Russian boots," is not equivalent to saying that Russia is justified in violating ius in bello.

What part of "his [Saakashvili's] foolishness might not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict" is so hard to understand. Nothing I said in any way justifies disproportional responses and the intentional attacking of civilians. But Georgia is not innocent in this affair. She is the one who turned this into a full-scale military conflict, and she did it by killing both civilians and Russian soldiers who were in South Ossetia for the purpose of legitimate peacekeeping operations. This "Georgia good, Russia bad" narrative that the Western media is peddling is a lie. I don't like lies. Nor, quite frankly, do I like being slandered.

Brendon:

My coming to this interpretation (i.e., "Georgia committed an unjust act" and, therefore, "Russia has the right to commit a similar injustice, even to the extent of committing various several atrocities as payback".") of your various comments here and elsewhere cannot be helped.

Especially since you seem insistent on this "Well, Georgia started it first..." kind of reasoning, which is made even evident in your most recent comments above.

Ari:
My point is this; be careful when writing a morality play, unless your own actions conform to the morale of the story. Humility is as attractive in states as it is in individuals.

Lydia, I'm not sure we can impose official sanctions that aren't ultimately self-defeating. The Russians have sent a message about their own conception of a Monroe Doctrine. South Ossetia (Alsace-Lorraine?) is made up of a people who do not consider themselves Georgians. This situation may or may not foreshadow what could occur in the American Southwest in another generation, but we'd be wise to accept that Georgia used brutal force against a separatist enclave. A move that they were repeatedly advised against taking by our State Dept. Saakashvili is an arrogant fool and a liability to our interests.

http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/45119,features,into-south-ossetia-with-dull-eyed-alik

Kevin:

Thanks for the clarification.

I just saw the bit about our having invaded Iraq in a previous comment and became rather curious since I saw in other foras similar mention of our invasion of Iraq being used as some sort of justification for Russia's actions in this instance.

Brendon, I have to tell you that the following is a pretty mealy-mouthed statement if it was meant to lead us to believe that you think Russia has violated ius ad bello.

might not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict

I mean, heck, it even has a subjunctive at a very crucial point--"might not absolve." And the statement would be weak enough without that: "...does not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict" would be a bit better, but "overreaching" is still pretty weak.

Please note, too, that deliberate targeting of civilians is hardly the only question in play when we're talking about an invasion. There is also the question of whether the invasion itself is justified.

My coming to this interpretation (i.e., "Georgia committed an unjust act" and, therefore, "Russia has the right to commit a similar injustice, even to the extent of committing various several atrocities as payback".") of your various comments here and elsewhere cannot be helped.

Bull. I've made three comments total, all on this site, two on this post, including the one to which you just responded, and one on another post. In none of them did I ever say that Russia has any justification to violate ius in bello. I have, in fact, explicitly denied this: "his [Saakashvili's] foolishness might not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict..."

Especially since you seem insistent on this "Well, Georgia started it first..." kind of reasoning, which is made even evident in your most recent comments above.

Except Georgia did, in fact, "start it first," a fact that has bearing on any kind of moral reasoning about the conflict. That Russia may have had a justifiable ius ad bello does not grant them immunity from needing to adhere strictly to ius in bello. But it does prevent us from pretending that Georgia is innocent in this whole affair. You cannot start a conflict by shelling civilians and still claim that justice is on your side.

You cannot start a conflict by shelling civilians and still claim that justice is on your side.

Exactly!

Mind you, this applies all too well to Russia as well given their conduct in the conflict after the manner in which you had described the villainous nature of what you perceived of the Georgian injustice.

By no means did I mean any intentional disrespect or, worse, slander of your character in this regard but rather that the underlying premise I found in your comments -- i.e., (in a more mild tone this time) "Because Georgia did such & such...Russia has the right to do similar" -- was equally unacceptable.

"There is also the question of whether the invasion itself is justified."

Agreed and Georgia, Russia and the U.S. all have committed blunders that have soured the prospects for a stable international order. And let us note;
it is the innocent who syffer the mst during travesties like this, as they are largely powerless before the Princes of this World.

Remember that when listening to pundits issuing the call to war.

Are a sovereign country's actions towards its own citizens--even when wrong, even when atrocities--generally regarded as "starting it first" with some other country?

And I thought America was supposed to be so wrong for trying to depose Saddam because he was so bad towards his own people.

And I then expect to hear a hearty cheer for military intervention in the Sudan. After all, they started it first.

"Because Georgia did such & such...Russia has the right to do similar"
Did he actually say that or even something remotely like it?

This is probably one of those times when actually quoting what you object to would be helpful, it seems to me.

This looks more and more to me like a "nobody in the substantive conflict is particularly in the right" situation, though I only know what I've seen in the media and on blogs, so my substantive opinion on the particular conflict is probably worth less than the bits which represent it. But in that sort of situation I think it is a mistake to attempt to equate analysis of who did what and why with moral justification of same.

though I only know what I've seen in the media...


Zippy,

If you can't trust the media, then who can you trust?

I mean, heck, it even has a subjunctive at a very crucial point--"might not absolve." And the statement would be weak enough without that: "...does not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict" would be a bit better, but "overreaching" is still pretty weak.

I understand the confusion better now, but I still think that one cannot draw the conclusion that I think Russia's violation of ius in bello is justified solely on that. Saying, "He might not have been justified in killing that man, but the man did sleep with his wife," does not, in my mind, justify murder. Rather, it recognizes that there are mitigating conditions that shed light on the action and that are necessary to take into consideration when evaluating it. It is bad to violate ius in bello, but it is worse to violate both ius ad bello and ius in bello.

But I have no problem saying "There is a price to folly, and, while his [Saakashvili's] foolishness does not absolve Russia of overreaching in this conflict, it does make it difficult for me to view Georgia as a poor, put-upon nation being unjustly crushed by Russian boots." Or, if you prefer, "...it does make it difficult for me to view Georgia as a blameless victim of Russian aggression."

"Overreach" was a fair word to use based on the information I had when I wrote my first post. I had only recently began trying to inform myself in-depth on the situation, and at the time the last reports I heard where about Russian troops advancing further into Georgia proper that was necessary to defend South Ossetia. By "overreach" I meant overreaching their forces and possibly making a land grab under the pretense of continuing to defend South Ossetia. If I were writing it today rather than yesterday, I would explicitly say "his [Saakashvili's] foolishness does not absolve Russia of violating ius in bello in this conflict..."

But, quite frankly, my wording was still more just than those who seem to paint Georgia as nothing but an innocent victim. As I said before, you cannot start a conflict by shelling civilians and still claim that justice is on your side.

There is also the question of whether the invasion itself is justified.

South Ossetia is under Georgian control for a reason that boils down to "because Stalin said so." It doesn't much matter to me one way or another who control what piece of ground in the Caucasus, because it has little to no effect on me and mine. But, knowing what I know, I fail to see why Stalin's whims should bind the Ossetian people, even if these whims are recognized by most of the world. Especially when South Ossetia had been essentially governing itself autonomously for over a decade.

And I thought America was supposed to be so wrong for trying to depose Saddam because he was so bad towards his own people.
Speaking for myself, I think it is probably in some circumstances possible to licitly invade another country for that very purpose; so long as, of course, all the just war requirements are met. It just isn't what actually mobilized the US for war with Iraq. What actually mobilized the US for war with Iraq was nonexistent advanced WMD programs and a nonexistent al Qaeda connection. Take those motivations out of the basket of reasons proposed and the US would not in fact have invaded Iraq; therefore, given that those reasons were actually false (and therefore not certain), the invasion was unjust.

But I don't rule out the possibility of morally invading another country in order to free its people from a terrible tyranny, in some conceivable circumstances. That doesn't mean it is remotely reasonable to consider any of what occurred in Georgia a humanitarian invasion.

As I understand Brendon, he does believe that Russia has the right to invade Georgia, given Georgia's actions towards its province of Ossetia (!), but Russia is obligated to do so morally as to means, and may not have met that standard. But I could be misunderstanding him.

I want to add, apropos of some other comments earlier in the thread, that I do not think it is legitimate for a country to refuse to come to an opinion on other countrys' actions and to criticize only itself. Nor should we try to take such an approach to foreign affairs when viewing them as individuals. There are several problems with such an approach. First, it skews the moral judgement by treating one's own country as an agent and all other countries as merely passive reactors, which leads to viewing things wrongly--viewing others as not responsible for their own actions. Second, it makes it impossible to guide foreign policy by an accurate view of who is in the right. Faux neutrality is much worse than open side-taking, even in diplomacy, and even, perhaps especially, if we are merely to play the non-military role of peace-maker in this conflict or that, it behoves us to bear in mind that A may be more nasty and aggressive than B, more of a deliberate threat to B's existence than B is to A's, acting less in good faith, and so forth. Finally, in a thread quite some time ago Zippy said, contrary to the "realist" school of thought in foreign policy, that we should _not_ simply guide all our foreign policy actions in terms of our own interests but rather, among other things, in terms of friendship among nations. It's good to have friends (i.e., national allies), and we should come to their aid even when we have no other immediate interest in doing so. I think this is right. But if so, you can't choose your friends rightly among nations any more than among individuals if you criticize only yourself and never note clearly what others are doing wrong.

If I found myself consistently defending some of the worst national thugs on the planet in foreign policy debate after foreign policy debate, I would have to start wondering whether there was something wrong with my supposedly "neutral" approach to foreign policy.

Aristocles:

Or blogs either.

That is why I don't claim to know with any confidence whether any party is substantively in the moral right in the conflict; though I rather suspect that nobody is.

Given any conflict which is not a straightforward misunderstanding, it is always possible that someone is in the right morally. But that is hardly a necessary attribute of every conflict. Many conflicts, in my experience, have only wrong parties and no right parties.

Lydia, I understand the need to find a good guy in all of this, but you're search will prove vain. The goal here is not to compound the damage and rethink our own overly militarized foreign policy. We're destined to learn the limits of power. I would prefer the lesson came without any more carnage.

Brendon:

You stated:

"Rather, it recognizes that there are mitigating conditions that shed light on the action and that are necessary to take into consideration when evaluating it."

And you wonder why I came to my interpretation of your comments?

I cannot but help take notice of the implicit tone in your comments that seem to suggest Russia as a 'blameless' aggressor.

But, quite frankly, my wording was still more just than those who seem to paint Georgia as nothing but an innocent victim. As I said before, you cannot start a conflict by shelling civilians and still claim that justice is on your side.

And as I mentioned before, an act of shelling civilians does not justify a retaliatory act in kind.

But if so, you can't choose your friends rightly among nations any more than among individuals if you criticize only yourself and never note clearly what others are doing wrong.
I think the friend model is pretty good here. I'm very concerned about what I do; I am somewhat concerned about what my close friends do; I am still (but even less) concerned about what total strangers or bare acquiantances do; and I expect enemies to act abominably. That may make me seem nonchalant when discussing what strangers and enemies do, I suppose, but you have to consider the context.
I cannot but help take notice of the implicit tone in [Brendon's] comments that seem to suggest Russia as a 'blameless' aggressor.
Sorry guys; I just don't see this in what Brendon wrote. In fact I see the opposite. He just compared Russia to a murderer, for Pete's sake. How shrill does he have to become before he loses the "Russian appeaser" nametag?

Zippy,

I think the friend model is pretty good here. I'm very concerned about what I do; I am somewhat concerned about what my close friends do; I am still (but even less) concerned about what total strangers or bare acquiantances do; and I expect enemies to act abominably. That may make me seem nonchalant when discussing what strangers and enemies do, I suppose, but you have to consider the context.


This seems to be a reasonable notion.

However, among other things, you seem to be neglecting the fact that what total strangers/bare acquaintenance do may very well have consequences that have a direct bearing on you and/or your friends.

An excellent summary of our foreign policy prowess from Derbyshire;

"The sad thing is, Putin didn’t need to be that much of a genius, given the feebleness of his opponents. He took a quick glance at the Europeans, with their unionized, gay-friendly armies and their groveling accommodations to Muslim invaders, and dismissed them from his mind. He looked a little longer at America’s leaders, saw how they had dedicated all their national wealth and strength to propping up cynical gangs of bazaar carpet-sellers in Baghdad and Kabul, listened to their infantile babbling about “ridding the world of evil” and “spreading democracy,” heard the clink of devaluing dollars … and dismissed America from his mind. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize a fool.

Now I see our president has warned Putin that he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi “to demonstrate our solidarity with the Georgian people.” Well, if they’ve stopped rolling around laughing in the Kremlin yet, that should get them started again. I hope Condi doesn’t get stuck in a traffic jam behind one of those lines of trucks shipping Georgian politicians off to Siberia.

When did we last have an artful foreign policy? These guys are playing chess (which — Ralph Peters please note — Russians are awfully good at). We’re playing checkers. Badly.

Another headline here says, “Bush Squares Up to Putin.” Are they kidding? Get a bucket, someone’s going to need to collect the pieces."
http://www.takimag.com/sniperstower#2061

And as I mentioned before, an act of shelling civilians does not justify a retaliatory act in kind.

And I have never disagreed with this statement.

But, if it makes you feel better, I will spell out my understanding of the conflict.

1. There are historic, ethnic and cultural reasons to view South Ossetia's desire to secede from Georgia and rejoin North Ossetia as part of the Russian federation as a legitimate desire.

2. Georgia escalated this conflict into full-scale military action, and it did so not hours after it declared a unilateral cease-fire and offered to meet with Ossetian leaders with full autonomy for South Ossetia on the table.

3. Russia's response to the death of civilians and Russian troops legitimately stationed in South Ossetia may have been justified based upon my first point--it may have had a legitimate ius ad bello--but its disproportional response was unjust and a violation of ius in bello.

4. There are no good guys here.

5. The fact that there are no good guys here makes placing all moral blame in Russia's hands, as the Western media has certainly seemed to do, an act of untruth, if not an act of outright lying.

Is that clear enough?

The fact that there are no good guys here makes placing all moral blame in Russia's hands, as the Western media has certainly seemed to do, an act of untruth, if not an act of outright lying.

I thought my specific mention of a 'Georgian injustice' made this clear; however, if it helps any -- yes, based on the reported facts of the matter, I concur that there appears to be no good guys here.

I'm very concerned about what I do; I am somewhat concerned about what my close friends do; I am still (but even less) concerned about what total strangers or bare acquiantances do;

But who are our friends and who are strangers, who are close friends and who are medium friends, these things are all in flux to some extent, among nations as among individuals. And changes in that area will be in part a function of what the other party does. This is all the more true if we're going to go to bat for our friends, esp. if going to bat means that our own people die. I hear people in this very discussion telling us that Russia should be our ally. We can't evaluate that proposal rightly if we don't notice what Russia does. One thing, among others, that bothers me in these discussions is the sort of "don't care isolationism" that I hear in some comments (like when Cyrus said that he couldn't care less who rules in Georgia) _coupled with_ proposals like Kevin's that we should make an ally of Russia. I realize that Kevin and Cyrus are two different people, but Maximos certainly wants us to take a very different stance towards Russia globally, as he has made clear in post after post, yet he warns in this thread that we shouldn't take sides in a conflict in which we have no national interest of our own. It does not seem to me at all wise to take on a new "friend" while saying that we aren't taking sides about that friend's actions and that what that friend does is not our business to criticize, that we shd. only be criticizing ourselves, and so forth. And indeed, I don't really think that this is a stance consistently taken by paleoconservatives in foreign policy, no, not even towards Russia.

Lydia,
What is the greater threat, a resurgent, radicalized Islam or Russia?

Russia has been criticized here. Yet you want more. What is it?

Please elaborate on the standards you want imposed on "friends", but make sure we live up those standards too? And then explain how Saudi Arabia stacks up under your criteria.

Oddly, it the foreign policy that has been pursued since the fall of the Wall that is isolating us from much of the world. Maybe some self-examination is in order?

But you're telling us just to make frowny faces at Russia and then to turn around and make it our ally, Kevin. Some criticism. Honestly.

I'd be happy to break ties with Saudi Arabia. Very happy. Let's please start drilling in the ANWR tomorrow and then do it.

Kevin,

What is the greater threat, a resurgent, radicalized Islam or Russia?

Uhhh... Kevin, I think that you may be underestimating Russia in this regard.

That is why I said in response to Zippy's (Family &) Friends Model:

"However, among other things, you seem to be neglecting the fact that what total strangers/bare acquaintenance[s] do may very well have consequences that have a direct bearing on you and/or your friends."

At any rate, I don't think you fully appreciate the extent of Russia's "phoenix"-like (re-)emergence.

Lydia, we're reaping what we sowed regarding Russian and the Balkans. You seem to argue on the assumption we have special authority over there. We don't and that point has been violently driven home.

Who replaces the House of Saud, Bin Laden? Please stop with the ANWR bit. No one has ever suggested it could replace Saudi Arabia's output.

Please, some realism here.

Ari, I didn't think Russia would remain a vassal state forever. But, go ahead, is Russia an enemy simply because she's a state with interests that may occasionally collide with ours?

Geesh.

I'm in agreement with Brandon's five points above, and will simply add that it seems that for people of neo-con leanings the only criticism of American foreign policy that they will allow is one that argues we're not tough enough. Any criticism that implies that we actually may have done something wrong (other than an act of perceived weakness) is rejected out of hand.

I realize that a lot of this is a reaction to the 'blame America first' mentality of the Leftists; but it is in fact an overreaction. "America the Virtuous" is no doubt closer to the truth than "America the Vicious," yet it is a false dichotomy to state that the choice has to be one or the other extreme.

Kevin:

Ari, I didn't think Russia would remain a vassal state forever. But, go ahead, is Russia an enemy simply because she's a state with interests that may occasionally collide with ours?

"Vassal state"? Of course not.

"...she's a state with interests that may occassionally collide with ours?" Well, perhaps that should be an argument Islamic states that are a threat to the United States should be utilizing as well.

So, Kevin, if we have no special authority "over there," that means we should be buddies with Russia? And that follows how, exactly?

I realize we may well have no leverage. But that hardly means we should pick the biggest bully on the block and make him our friend.

See, I get so, so tired of the paleocon two-step: Stage 1-- "Poor, poor X [X is always some highly...unpleasant country that does highly unpleasant things like funding terrorism, hating America, aiding our enemies, and on and on]. America is pushing X around and being a bully to X. And X-o-phobes in America say that X is evil to justify all the mean things America is doing to X. But really, X isn't nearly so bad as they make out. In fact, we should be friends with X." Then X does something inexcusable. So we move to Stage 2: "Let's not talk, or at least not very much, or at least not without being pushed very hard to talk a little bit, about what X did. It was our fault anyway. Somehow. Because we were so mean to X, they merely reacted by beating up on Y. And it isn't any of our business anyway what other countries do. And if anyone says the moral dimension of X's actions matters and that maybe X really is a bad country, he's a hawkish neocon bent on our militarily intervening in the situation with X, which would be more of our meanness to X. Let's all say ten times now: It isn't any of our business who is in the right or in the wrong. We have no moral authority in that region. We shouldn't care about X. It's their business. Let's get our own house in order."

Meanwhile, we're just waiting to move back to Stage 1'--"Now, about that closer relationship between ourselves and the much-maligned X..."

Faugh. I'll have none of it.

Ari, is Russia an enemy? And don't we have working relations with Islamic states; Egypt, Jordan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, et al?

Let's be honest. A lot of thisi sturm and drang is a hang-over from the Cold War and the result of the neo-con toxins polutting our foreign policy establsihment.

Time to get serious about our statecraft and turn the page on the Uni-polar delusion and Liberalism's quest for unchallenged supremacy. We have a nation to protect, not a Utopia to build.

Kevin,

Let's be honest. A lot of thisi sturm and drang is a hang-over from the Cold War...

...And it doesn't really help that Putin was a lieutenant-colonel in the KGB "poised for revenge"

LINK:
RUSSIA UNDER PUTIN: The making of a neo-KGB state: Political power in Russia now lies with the FSB, the KGB's successor


EXCERPT:

ON THE evening of August 22nd 1991—16 years ago this week—Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB general, stood by the darkened window of his Moscow office and watched a jubilant crowd moving towards the KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square. A coup against Mikhail Gorbachev had just been defeated. The head of the KGB who had helped to orchestrate it had been arrested, and Mr Kondaurov was now one of the most senior officers left in the fast-emptying building. For a moment the thronged masses seemed to be heading straight towards him.

Then their anger was diverted to the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the KGB's founding father. A couple of men climbed up and slipped a rope round his neck. Then he was yanked up by a crane. Watching “Iron Felix” sway in mid-air, Mr Kondaurov, who had served in the KGB since 1972, felt betrayed “by Gorbachev, by Yeltsin, by the impotent coup leaders”. He remembers thinking, “I will prove to you that your victory will be short-lived.”

Those feelings of betrayal and humiliation were shared by 500,000 KGB operatives across Russia and beyond, including Vladimir Putin, whose resignation as a lieutenant-colonel in the service had been accepted only the day before. Eight years later, though, the KGB men seemed poised for revenge. Just before he became president, Mr Putin told his ex-colleagues at the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's successor, “A group of FSB operatives, dispatched under cover to work in the government of the Russian federation, is successfully fulfilling its task.” He was only half joking.

SOURCE: THE ECONOMIST

Lydia, at some point you will see the folly of trying to rearrange the world according to your ideological precepts and settle for a diplomacy that advances our national interest without the needless spilling of blood and squandering of resources. The world is a dangerous place. All the more so when we think we can bend it to our whims. Just look at what followed Wilson's 14 points in 1918.
Stalin. Hitler. 80 million dead. But, he died feeling morally superior, which I guess is the whole point.

Further to the above, be sure not to overlook the following in The Economist Aug 2007 article:

Over the two terms of Mr Putin's presidency, that “group of FSB operatives” has consolidated its political power and built a new sort of corporate state in the process. Men from the FSB and its sister organisations control the Kremlin, the government, the media and large parts of the economy—as well as the military and security forces. According to research by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a quarter of the country's senior bureaucrats are siloviki—a Russian word meaning, roughly, “power guys”, which includes members of the armed forces and other security services, not just the FSB. The proportion rises to three-quarters if people simply affiliated to the security services are included. These people represent a psychologically homogeneous group, loyal to roots that go back to the Bolsheviks' first political police, the Cheka. As Mr Putin says repeatedly, “There is no such thing as a former Chekist.”

By many indicators, today's security bosses enjoy a combination of power and money without precedent in Russia's history. The Soviet KGB and its pre-revolutionary ancestors did not care much about money; power was what mattered. Influential though it was, the KGB was a “combat division” of the Communist Party, and subordinate to it. As an outfit that was part intelligence organisation, part security agency and part secret political police, it was often better informed, but it could not act on its own authority; it could only make “recommendations”. In the 1970s and 1980s it was not even allowed to spy on the party bosses and had to act within Soviet laws, however inhuman.

The KGB provided a crucial service of surveillance and suppression; it was a state within a state. Now, however, it has become the state itself. Apart from Mr Putin, “There is nobody today who can say no to the FSB,” says Mr Kondaurov.

All important decisions in Russia, says Ms Kryshtanovskaya, are now taken by a tiny group of men who served alongside Mr Putin in the KGB and who come from his home town of St Petersburg. In the next few months this coterie may well decide the outcome of next year's presidential election. But whoever succeeds Mr Putin, real power is likely to remain in the organisation. Of all the Soviet institutions, the KGB withstood Russia's transformation to capitalism best and emerged strongest. “Communist ideology has gone, but the methods and psychology of its secret police have remained,” says Mr Kondaurov, who is now a member of parliament.

Russia is a deadly enemy, even more intractably so since Yeltsin left office.

Why? Because those now in power are the old Communists who lost their jobs in '89. They lost their jobs, not their intentions. Don't imagine for a moment that a successful career in the KGB makes you a statesman intent upon peace and justice. That's not Putin -- not now, not ever.

Now that the old Communists have their jobs back, along with the military wherewithal to make their expansionistic intentions a reality, you need to see recent events in Georgia in that light. Putin and his puppets are wicked, calculating, murderous men. If you cannot see the difference between what they do and what we do, then you lack even the most rudimentary powers of moral and political discernment, and have forgotten the horrific historical lessons that attach to those folks and their inhuman principles.

Are the Russian Communists more dangerous to us than militant Islam? Yes, though both groups are (literally) deadly threats.

Unless you theorize on that basis -- on the basis that we have multiple deadly enemies around the globe, enemies that have enormous resources and unrelenting ill-will, you are not theorizing for the real world -- a scenario to which I have not yet added China and N. Korea, among others.

"If you cannot see the difference between what they do and what we do, then you lack even the most rudimentary powers of moral and political discernment, and have forgotten the horrific historical lessons that attach to those folks and their inhuman principles."

Please refer to the false dichotomy I mentioned above, of which this is a variant; anyone who criticizes U.S. foreign policy and/or refuses to demonize an "enemy" is guilty of making us and them morally equivalent.

"Are the Russian Communists more dangerous to us than militant Islam? Yes, though both groups are (literally) deadly threats."

So many enemies. So few wars. Or, something like that.

It is this kind of perpetual search for monsters to slay that lead me to gently dissuade one son from going to a service academy and I'm working on a friend's son now. Maybe, I'll use this thread.

I enjoy these exhanges with you guys, but hope in time you both come to your senses.


Kevin,

Did you read The Economist article I cited or, at the very least, the excerpts of it I featured?

(N.B. - FWIW, I do not actually endorse the latest comments made by Dr. Bauman. His just happened to come after mine while I was attempting to post excerpts of the article citing the reality of Putin's "neo-KGB state". In fact, I am arguing independently of his.)

Kevin, I hear what you are saying here, I think.

Lydia, at some point you will see the folly of trying to rearrange the world according to your ideological precepts and settle for a diplomacy that advances our national interest without the needless spilling of blood and squandering of resources. The world is a dangerous place. All the more so when we think we can bend it to our whims. Just look at what followed Wilson's 14 points in 1918. Stalin. Hitler. 80 million dead. But, he died feeling morally superior, which I guess is the whole point.

To me, it confirms what I've thought for a long time: Scratch an isolationist, and you will find an apologist for our being positively _friends_ with the bad guys. I see this in the paleos all the time, as described above in the paleocon two-step. But Kevin, you are often worrying about the fever swamp yourself. I wish you wouldn't play this game of telling me, on the one hand, that however bad Russia might be, it's none of our business, that we should stick to our own hemisphere and mind our own business, but then telling me, on the other hand, that we need to be friends with that same bad guy, because the alternative is endless war.

Sometimes I wish I could meet a real isolationist. It would be a novelty. But I never do. They always have some pro-X agenda underneath.

Good grief, Kevin. No one is looking for more wars to fight. No one is looking for monsters. But if they exist, then play the man and not the ostrich.

Are you even now, after they invaded Georgia, seriously contending that the KGB leopards who lead Russia have changed their spots?


Lydia, at some point you will see the folly of trying to rearrange the world according to your ideological precepts...

Funny, I've never gotten, from any of her writing, that that's what she wants to do.

Ah, Michael, you don't get it: See, when Russia tried to have satellite states during the Cold War, that was bad. (The paleocons can grant that, now that the Cold War is over. I sort of wonder if they all granted it back then.) But if Russia tries to have satellite states now, it's just trying to be one of the "Great Powers" of the world and to have a "sphere of influence" in its own vicinity. Who could blame them for that? It's the course of nature. So under the new, post-Cold War labels, the same behavior is now dubbed "okay" or at least "understandable in response to American hegemony," it's Russophobic to think otherwise, and we mustn't try to do anything about it. In fact, we really shouldn't even say anything very strongly negative about it, because that would be counterproductive. In fact, now we should want to be allies with Russia and smile and look on benignly while Russia spreads out in its sphere of influence. Got that, now?

Lydia,

But if Russia tries to have satellite states now, it's just trying to be one of the "Great Powers" of the world and to have a "sphere of influence" in its own vicinity.

Let's be fair here; this whole notion began with the Austerian rhetoric that Maximos began this thread with and solely that submitted by Kevin.

Corrigendum: ...and [not] solely that submitted by Kevin.

...you seem to be neglecting the fact that what total strangers/bare acquaintenance do may very well have consequences that have a direct bearing on you and/or your friends.
Well, let me phrase it more precisely: the sense of 'care' I was using in that comment is the sense involved in moral evaluation. Naturally I care what various people do based on their material impact on the world. But the context my remarks were circumscribed by was a context of moral evaluation, so they should be understood in that context.

Aristocles, I would say my comment was directed _at least_ as much towards Maximos's position as towards Kevin's. Maximos is _constantly_ berating America for its supposedly nasty and unfair behavior towards Russia and has now interpreted the present conflict in terms of Russia's having a sphere of influence. But actually, they seem to me to be very much in agreement in this thread generally. Do you see a significant distinction vis a vis the point I was making in my last comment?

Lydia: Just saying that although Kevin may be part of the 'party'; don't forget the party leader here was actually Maximos.


Kevin:

I guess the Gospel According to The Economist was correct in having stated:

By many indicators, today's security bosses enjoy a combination of power and money without precedent in Russia's history. The Soviet KGB and its pre-revolutionary ancestors did not care much about money; power was what mattered.

...

All important decisions in Russia, says Ms Kryshtanovskaya, are now taken by a tiny group of men who served alongside Mr Putin in the KGB and who come from his home town of St Petersburg. In the next few months this coterie may well decide the outcome of next year's presidential election. But whoever succeeds Mr Putin, real power is likely to remain in the organisation. Of all the Soviet institutions, the KGB withstood Russia's transformation to capitalism best and emerged strongest. “Communist ideology has gone, but the methods and psychology of its secret police have remained,” says Mr Kondaurov, who is now a member of parliament.

Presented herein is EXHIBIT A:

TBILISI, Georgia - The foreign minister of Russia said Thursday that Georgia could "forget about" getting back its two breakaway provinces, and the former Soviet republic remained on edge as Russia sent tank columns to search out and destroy Georgian military equipment.

...

The Russian president met in the Kremlin with the leaders of the provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a clear sign Moscow could absorb the regions even though the territory is internationally recognized as being within Georgia's borders.

LINK:

Russia: Georgia can 'forget' regaining provinces

(Mr. Brendon: You may want to note the latter here.)

Peace!

Ari, I know about Putin’s thuggocracy. He has 8 billion in Swiss banks and he earned it the old autocratic way; he stole it. The world’s capitols are flooded with such loathsome types and navigating around, over and through them is the eternal challenge for the Christian statesman.

Michael; We have 2 wars going on right now. The Couch Commanders at Commentary would like to add Iran and are now warning us against an “armed restoration of the USSR.” Someone wants war. And if you see yourself as the world’s cop, there’s no end to deadly shoot-outs.

Lydia; the fever swamp is for those who cannot accept the limits imposed by reality. Instead the afflicted suffer from the delusion that they can make the world right and instill their “way of life” on alien cultures. Examples; our attempt to graft our forms onto the former USSR – we know how that turned out and who it produced - and Iraq. Enough said, though more could be spoken.

Throughout this entire discourse you have never answered the following;
1) Does America have a sphere of influence and where does it end? Does it end?

2) Does Russia have the same claim? Does any other nation, no matter how odious its rulers, rightfully exert such a claim?

3) Why do you define a reluctance to use military force in distant lands as “isolationism”? Is that your sole understanding of engagement – the use of force? What about diplomatic, cultural and economic ties, which I greatly favor? Do they not count?

4) The U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined. We have over 700 bases around the world. Do you find any of this excessive? Do you think others might resent it?

For this conversation to progress, we will need more than parodies about paleo cons – too at home with modernity for my taste – and the implication than not joining the hawks, somehow suggests a moral failing on our part. I think our reluctance to play Risk with Ralph Peters is born of a deep-seated revulsion towards suffering and oppression.

In defense of you my misguided, interventionist friends, I know all too well how the gifts of faith and patriotism can be exploited by those who possess neither. As Christians we are taught to seek justice. As Americans we want to share our blessings and hate the bully that deprives others of their due. Yet, history teaches us that the sorrow that is our companion through this vale of tears, often increases with the recourse to arms. A secret alliance here, an imprudent treaty there, and soon a civilization of 2000 years is consumed by fire. Fabricated threats in 2 different Gulfs; Tonkin and Persia and incalculable horrors follow.

Be wary of those calling for “swift and tough” responses they work for the Reaper, and recall instead the words of Kirk; “Not by force of arms are civilizations held together, but by subtle threads of moral and intellectual principle.”

Ask yourself why the heads of the Baltic states stand openly with Georgia, and why Poland now stands with us in front-line missile defense: They have seen the Kremlin on the move again.

If you have lost your fear of armed Communism, you have lost your grip on political reality.

From the International Herald Tribune:

President Lech Kaczynski [of Poland] left Warsaw in a government plane along with his counterparts from Lithuania and Estonia. The plane will stop in Kiev to pick up Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, while Latvia's president will join the group in Georgia's capital.

"This means the solidarity of five states with the nation that has fallen victim to aggression," Kaczynski told reporters.

"We may say that the Russian state has once again shown its face, its true face," he added. "We are saddened by that but we must accept the facts of life."

"It's true face", the manifest implication being an essentialist one: all appearances of goodwill and comity, all offers of friendship and amity, are mere dissemblings of aggression. The Russians are a load of drunken warmongers.

I consider such ravings to differ, not qualitatively, but merely in degree, from ravings to the effect that racial/ethnic group X is incapable of civilization, or that racial/ethnic group Y is engaged in conspiracies against all of the other ethnic groups. They are all alike expressions of bigotry, attempts to reduce geopolitical and cultural differences to expressions of fundamental and irreducible character, and are contemptible as such.

For that matter, the notion that armed communism is on the march is roughly as credible as the notion that the Bilderbergers orchestrate all world affairs.

Why do you define a reluctance to use military force in distant lands as “isolationism”? Is that your sole understanding of engagement – the use of force? What about diplomatic, cultural and economic ties, which I greatly favor? Do they not count?

Kevin, reluctance to use military force in a distant land is indeed one aspect of isolationism, but guess what? It's one I share. I've often referred to myself as having isolationist sympathies, and that's what I mean.

But I have often implied in these discussions (I don't think I've exactly been shy or unclear) that you and perhaps even more Maximos really want us to have closer ties with Russia, and that all the talk about not intervening militarily now in the Georgian conflict is about much more than just not intervening militarily. Basically, you oppose our bringing any pressure to bear on Russia, even non-military pressure, in order to induce Russia to leave her neighbors alone, which might actually be effective. (If I have time, I may have more to say about this in the other thread.) I think that your reactions to Josh Trevino's suggestions are very telling here. I suggested above in this very thread that it would be interesting to get a reaction from, implicitly, you and Jeff to non-military but potentially effective suggestions that clearly involve a _negative approach_ towards Russia, actually treating Russia as something other than a friend. Now I have that reaction, and I think it bears out my point: This isn't about neutrality.

Now, I happen to think that neutrality is almost literally impossible in many areas of foreign policy, so it's not surprising that you aren't really able to call for us to be neutral but rather are really calling for us to be on Russia's side. But I consider Russia to be dangerous and want us _not_ to be on Russia's side. That doesn't mean I want us to send troops to Georgia. Neither does Josh Trevino, for example. But it does mean that I don't want us just to sit by benignly and establish and maintain a new and more friendly relationship with the thuggocracy of Russia while she absorbs her neighbors, and especially we should not do this in the name of "neutrality," which it is not.

I trust I make myself clear.

It's a little surprising to me that you, Kevin, should take the position that you do, given that IMO you are less Russophilic in sentiment and explicit opinion than Maximos. (Nor would I call Jeff a "closet Russophile" but rather a more or less open one.) I can only conclude that the reason you take this position is because you recognize at some level that true neutrality is impossible, and you are so absolutely committed to our never, even indirectly and in the long term, begin drawn into any military conflict even by our non-military actions now, that you are insisting that we not anger the Great Thug Bear out of a sheer ideological commitment to the avoidance of even the possibility of later military involvement somewhere, somehow. And you realize that he who is not friends with the Great Thug Bear is enemies to the Great Thug Bear, so you are urging that we choose the former. To that I can say only that my reluctance about military action abroad, real though it is, does not go so far that I foreclose non-military, diplomatic options now on such grounds.

Indeed, I think that if we look back in history we will see that the approach you seem to favor, consistently applied, would have us lending aid and comfort, one way and another, to some of the worst atrocities that have ever been. If what this means is that military conflict in far away lands is in the grand scheme _sometimes_ inevitable if one makes moral diplomatic choices, and that our only choice is between being positively _friends_ with the evil and being their enemies, leading ultimately to war somewhere or other, I can only say, that's a shame, but so be it. Let's try to avoid it. Let's not go diving into it with a merry shout any sooner than we have to. But at the same time let's not insist that we must, today, positively appease the worst nations on the planet and lend our approval to their absorption of everything about them lest, tomorrow, we find ourselves in open conflict with them.

This comment has turned out to say so much that I want to say on this subject that I shall probably link it from the other thread.

If you have lost your fear of armed Communism, you have lost your grip on political reality.
I'm more afraid of unarmed Communism at home. Armed Communism abroad is a nasty thing, but America's resources are severely limited and sorely taxed, so we simply must prioritize. Given that China represents a greater threat to the US than Russia does, and presents a still greater threat to Russia herself, and given that China is ruled, not by ex-Communists, but by current, professing Communists who have no objection to forced abortions and sterilizations, imprisoning Christians and Falun Gong, ethnic cleansing, for-profit organ harvesting, and slaughtering protesters, I can see good reasons for making friends with Russia to balance against her. Russia may not be western as the term is traditionally understood, and has a somewhat nasty regime, but it's a great deal closer to us, and much less nasty, than China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or other countries of whose feelings and interests our government is so solicitous.

I believe that Maximos' assessment of U.S. behavior in the Balkans is flawed because he assigns our creation of Kosovo to some kind of hegemonic power-grab, when in reality it was an act of appeasement. The only thing we hoped to gain is the (ever elusive) goodwill of the Muslims.

That being the case, we should take this opportunity to inaugerate a more sane policy by 1) recognizing the traditional territorial integrity of Serbia 2) ordering the Russians to vacate Georgia completely and 3) announce to Serbia that 1 is conditioned upon 2.

This will accomplish four beneficial things: 1) It will establish Serbia as whole and free. 2) It will establish Georgia as whole and free. 3) It will cut the legs out from underneath the Russians. 4) It will give the Muslims everything they deserve, i.e., nothing.

That's not a bad idea; not a bad idea at all, though I'm dubious that the United States possesses the reservoir of international repute that would be requisite to propose it credibly, let alone realize.

Actually, the primary impetus for American Balkan's policy is precisely the misguided notion of currying the favour of the Islamic world, and establishing the multiculturalist, multiconfessional bona fides of the post-national order the West is midwifing. There are, however, grubbier (un)realpolitik interests implicated in that strategy.

"For that matter, the notion that armed communism is on the march is roughly as credible as the notion that the Bilderbergers orchestrate all world affairs."

I'll have to agree with Maximos here and an aspect of the Austerian rhetoric that had indicated:

To cast this as some resurgence of the Soviet empire, wherein all the states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia were united under a single scepter in Moscow, is historical asininity of the worst kind.

What Dr. Bauman suggests seems, quite frankly, paranoid speculation (the type reflective of the Domino Theory of former days) and more in keeping with what Kevin had suspected all along with respect to some Cold-War derived sentiments he perceived from some here.

Simply put, I doubt that the neo-KGB state is even interested in resurrecting the former Soviet empire.

Present-day Russia is interested in the expansion of its sovereignty -- yes (see Exhibit A above).

However, in rebuilding the Ole Communist Empire: uhhhh...no.


Hungary 1956
Czechoslovakia 1968
Georgia 2008

Apparently the Russophile and Pollyanna contingents on this thread know so much more about those in charge of the Kremlin than do the heads of state in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine, persons who actually lived under Moscow's murderous oppression, and who recognize it again when they see it.

Don't argue with me, argue with them.

Lydia,

You are correct, I am not a Russianphile, though my experience with Russians have, post- Cold War, always been warm. Prior, I lived near their KGB infested Embassy in NY, and they never enjoyed my taunts over the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey game. Funny, but the Red Army defenseman who gave up the winning goal off his skate, lives here now, has coached my kids, and is a great guy with many a harrowing story of life in the old Soviet Union.

You are also right, I want closer ties with, not estrangement from Russia. Why not? She is home to a wounded people owning a tragic history laced with a rich cultural legacy sired by Eastern Orthodoxy. The burden is on you to make the case that we should be hostile towards a nascent Russia, one who forms an obvious Eastern bulwark against the Jihad, possesses deep reserves of the plasma needed by modern economies and makes a better friend than enemy. As for her current masters and the other authors of this debacle; they will one day face a much sterner Judge than the jurists at the Hague. As an aside, note the response to China's many anti-human endeavors.

Do I think Trevino's recommendations, worthwhile? Well, cyber-wedgies seem to fall short of the heated rhetoric, but appear preferable to the other options; forcing her from the G-8 and more of the same cage-rattling that led to the Georgia debacle. I don't know what to say specifically, but my answer will lack bellicosity. I do support any approach that affects a withdrawal, the paying of reparations, the taming of armed ambitions and leads to a better relationship based on common, strategic interests.

What is continually missing from your response are answers to more fundamental questions, like; Does America have a sphere of influence and where does it end? Does it end? Does Russia have the same claim? Does any other nation, no matter how odious its rulers, rightfully exert such a claim? The U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined. We have over 700 bases around the world. Do you find any of this excessive? Do you think others might resent it?

I think your answers will help clarify things.

Some of those questions, Kevin, are so broad and even a little vague as to make them hard to answer. I'm sort of doing so a little bit at a time. For example, I don't give a tinker's damn whether others resent our military budget. It's none of their business what our military budget is. That's not to say that it's none of their business if we conquer their countries. That _is_ their business. But despite my opposition to the initiation of the Iraq war (which doesn't mean I think we should get out now, immediately, now that we've created the mess), I react very negatively to the whole "blame America first" approach. Very negatively indeed. When people start implying that Osama bin Laden flew planes into our buildings because we have troops stationed in the Islamic Holy Land of Saudi Arabia, I start retching.

What's really funny is that you should hear me talk at home about how we never declare or end wars, how we should declare and end them, we shouldn't have our troops stationed all over, we're not the world's cop. You'd think that you and I would have much in common. So, yes, I find it excessive. But such things always seem in cyberspace to come up in some other context where basically I'm being told, "Heaven forbid we should anger the Russians" and "Hey, Russia should be allowed to have a sphere of influence, too, shouldn't they?" and other things that annoy the heck out of me and that I disagree with, so you end up concluding I'm some sort of super-interventionist.

When people start implying that Osama bin Laden flew planes into our buildings because we have troops stationed in the Islamic Holy Land of Saudi Arabia, I start retching.
How about this: they flew planes into our buildings because they hate us; they hate us because we are infidels, that is, because they hate all non-Muslims; and they hate us especially because we are very powerful infidels with a very powerful middle east presence; and they hate us because the vast majority of the power they have at all, that is, womanly demographic power and not manly military power, stems from our own self-loathing and suicidal tendencies.

Dr. Bauman,

Apparently the Russophile and Pollyanna contingents on this thread know so much more about those in charge of the Kremlin...

Did you even read The Economist article I cited or even any of my previous comments? Or do you prefer to avoid such and would rather come to a conclusion about their opinions in the absence of the actual data themselves? Why, don't let the facts get in the way of such a well-drawn out conclusion!

This new sort of corporate state that Putin and his FSB (ex-KGB) operatives have built knows the weaknesses of the ole Soviet empire. The neo-KGB state they've established would wish to avoid such weaknesses that had, in fact, led to the inevitable Fall of that empire in the late 20th Century. Indeed, they've learned from the mistakes of the former empire.

Mr Kondaurov said it best: “Communist ideology has gone, but the methods and psychology of its secret police have remained”.

The latter of which (i.e., methods, psychology) speaks to the latter of your comments; however, they do not, in themselves, corroborate the paranoid (Cold War-derived) theory of a re-emergence of the U.S.S.R..

My personal fears revolve more around the neo-KGB state

; they do not subscribe to any sort of Domino Theory-esque mentality that you seem to be obsessed with as regards this whole Georgian affair.

Lydia,
It is important in Statecraft to have well-defined goals and the reasonable prospect and means for achieving them. I think part of the divide between us, stems from your absorbing the unspoken assumption of our bipartisan elites; our sphere of influence is...Everywhere! We're learning we don't have the means either in terms of manpower, or sustainable level of deficits, to continue to pursue an unstated, hazy goal of benevolent hegemony.

I know you are not a neo-con, but like many who've come of age after their enthronement, you are vulnerable to their manipulations. Working to correct this, short of forcing you to spend time in a rotating series of Washington DC-Manhattan loony-bins and Jacobin incubators. I hope it doesn't come to that.


The Crisis Has Passed. For now.

Despite numerous fatwa's; "If you didn't like Stalin, you'll really Hate Putin" and "We're All Georgians Now", the Neo-Con Call to Prayer went largely ignored. Their liturgy of war, including the ritualistic 2 minute hate, invocations to Mars, Sun Tzu and Podhoretz, and promises of quick and efficient industrialized slaughter of the foe, followed by free elections and pornography, was sparsely attended. High Priests blamed the "soft-willed and selfish American people" for the low turn-out.

True Believers expressed outrage at those mothers who, as they grasped their daughters hands, said: "never take an M-16 from a middle-aged stranger with a college deferrement in his hand". Men who send a woman off to war are resigned to the fact that she may come back divorced, pregnant or dead, but take comfort that the cause was just. And it always just. Atlanta Georgia, T'bilisi Georgia, each enjoy a spot within the "American Sphere of Influence". A sphere that, because it is everywhere, it is never here. Why settle for a country when an Empire will do? Having metabolized the religious instinct into an ideology of power, they have forsaken America and produced a jealous, restless God in her stead. One that demands fresh conquests and new sacrifices.

Stymied in their hopes to open an Eastern front for now, the Nec-Cons will console themselves with a Presidential election offering the kind of choice once renown in the Soviet Union. Mikheil Saakashvili will be awarded the well-appointed and lucrative Ahmad Chalabi Chair for Expensive Exiles at the American Enterprise Institute and hit the lecture circuit when not shopping on Rodeo Drive. The Neo-Cons will return to their wall Atlas to cherry-pick more miliatary alliances around Russia and targets in Iran.

Those who worship the One, True God, see their heresy for what it is, and must work to curb its appetite, restrict its range, shrink its pool of cannon fodder, and eventually sack its altar. The American Restoration must begin some time. Why not now?

Kevin:

My friend, does your appeal to a new Liturgy mean also an avoidance of the Facts?

Please consider:

LINK:
Evidence in Georgia Belies Russia's Claims of 'Genocide'
By Andrew Osborn in Tskhinvali, Georgia, and Jeanne Whalen in Moscow


EXCERPT:

'Russia's assertions that it was provoked into war by "genocide" in South Ossetia and that it is observing a cease-fire in Georgia came under new challenge Thursday, as the U.S. stepped up diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

Washington agreed to base missile interceptors on Polish soil, in a new sign of how Russia's invasion of Georgia is redrawing the geopolitical map.

On the ground in South Ossetia -- the contested region where fighting broke out last week between Georgia and Russia -- there was little evidence that Georgian attacks killed thousands of civilians, as Russia has said."

Try reading the WSJ & The Economist every once in awhile -- not bad those 2 Daily Missals, no?

"Try reading the WSJ & The Economist every once in awhile -- not bad those 2 Daily Missals, no?"

I do. Just not "religiously".

Today's the Feast of the Assumption. If you haven't already done so, you'll find the Queen of Peace at her Son's place.

That's interesting, Aristocles. And if it wasn't because of genocide, maybe that pipeline had something to do with it?

Nah.

Kevin, I can at the moment think of only one country--Afghanistan--that we have legitimately conquered and over which we have thus some sort of defensible right to exercise the kind of control that it sure looks to me like Russia would like to exercise over Georgia. So, as far as I'm concerned, neither we nor Russia has a large sphere of influence if that's what you mean by sphere of influence: "If we don't like your president, and if we want you to have to ship oil through our country rather than through a pipeline of your own, and if we can find a pretext in your treatment of citizens in a breakaway territory, we will roll tanks into your country and try to force you to depose your president and put one in place that we like better. Got that?"

No, I'm highly unlikely to defend America's having that sort of "sphere of influence," and, yes, I do think Russia is a worse country, and that matters, so a fortiori I'm not going to defend Russia's having it.

And, no, "economic hegemony" isn't the same thing, and I won't talk like it is. Not even close.

I trust that answers the question you keep asking, Kevin, about sphere of influence. I know, I know, you, Kevin, think me simple minded. I certainly don't have as much information as you do, and I grant that. But I think often that simple-minded evaluations of at least the facts one does have available end up being the right ones.

I should just add, just in case it should ever come up again in a year or two, that if our immediate neighbor were to begin raining rockets in upon _our_ cities, or if our immediate neighbor were entirely under the thumb of a terrorist organization that seized the heights at our border and did so, that would change the situation radically, and I think we would have both a right and a duty to respond militarily, even with great force, up to and including occupying territory to secure our own citizens at our borders in their own homes. Let him who hears understand.

Aristocles,

You are right that Russia is a neo-KGB state rather than an explicitly Communist state. But what essential difference is there between a KGB-state and a Communist state in practice? Also, do you really think that a KGB-state would hesitate to adopt a virulently neo-Communist platform if it promised absolute power -- which, by the way, was the real attraction of Communism to goons like Stalin?

"I know, I know, you, Kevin, think me simple minded. I certainly don't have as much information as you do, and I grant that."

Never said that Lydia, because that's not true. I said earlier you possess two gifts that are being exploited; faith and the desire to seek justice
hat comes with it, and love of country.

George R.,

But what essential difference is there between a KGB-state and a Communist state in practice?

EXCELLENT question!!!

That gets us into the heart of the matter; however, my personal views are much too lengthy in this regard to cover all the subtleties in a mere comment (besides, they include other sources much too capitalistic for some here).

One thing I'll just say is the fact that this neo-KGB state, unlike the former Communist empire, has/continues to operate (ironically) within a more American-esque type of polity -- at least, in appearance.

This 'redeeming' aspect of the new Russia is one of the few that distinguishes it from the old empire and makes it more amenable to the current World Order (as I mentioned, it's learned from the mistakes of that now extinct empire); however, it is also this very same aspect which makes it all the more dangerous. One of these being an underestimation of this new corporate state by folks as Kevin.

That is to say the worries that we have concerning the New Russia should not come from any paranoia that derives from the Cold War (i.e., the resurrection of the U.S.S.R. and the Domino Theory a la Cuba; suffice it to say, Putin & his FSB/ex-KGB coterie are more interested in the establishment of their New Russia); rather, it should come from the fact that this neo-KGB state seeks expansion of its sovereignty in Europe.

Now I see:

They're not Communists. They're KGB.

Aristocles, in your opinion, does that mean they're going to stop driving tanks in, seeing it as crude and un-corporate, and seek some other means to expand their sovereignty? This question isn't meant as an attack; it's merely an observation that in this present situation, they have not acted like I would expect a new-and-more-suave KGB state to act.

They're not Communists. They're KGB.
Yeah. The question, a genuine question, is is that better, or worse? I'm not really sure what a KGB-state absent its animating Communist ideology is likely to look like over time, but I can't imagine it is very pretty.

Lydia: What part of "...it should come from the fact that this neo-KGB state seeks expansion of its sovereignty in Europe" or other details in my current/previous comments did you not understand?


Bauman: Well, wow -- I'm impressed. It's just as 'reasonable' as:

"They're Protestant; therefore, Anti-Catholic."

Zippy,

If it helps, we should rightly fear the neo-KGB state not because of the paranoia that claims it seeks to rebuild the former Soviet empire but that it seeks out to establish Putin's New Russia.

There seems to be a distinction lost on some here.

Aristocles, my question was genuine. You yourself said you don't have time to explain in full detail the distinction you're making. I was actually asking you whether the rather ham-handed techniques in Georgia are an anomaly on your view. Myself, just from the description you have given so far, I would expect that on your view this new KGB state would be trying to engage in what Maximos likes to call "economic hegemony" and to achieve its ends by more indirect means rather than resorting to the older and cruder tactics that really do look on the face of it rather reminiscent of the USSR. It may be that this isn't in fact a consequence of the distinction you're drawing, but you haven't given us a lot to go on.

Lydia:

How can you say all those things after all my other comments on the thread -- even to the extent of my short of saying outright that the supposed Georgian injustice was merely a ruse perpetrated by Russia in order to facilitate expansion of its sovereignty to reclaim former states?

I just think that Putin & his FSB buddies have come to know better over the years and learned several lessons from the 'tragedy' of the Fall of the former Soviet empire and the significance of American-styled polity and the current World Order in statecraft.

Let's just say that they have come to appreciate 'the system' and learned how to 'work it'.

I don't believe they would be so stupid as to commit the same mistakes that contributed to the Fall of their once-cherished Communist empire (emphasis on the 'once-cherished'; the fact that it fell, I would imagine, would make the whole idea of this type of communist enterprise repulsive to Putin et al).

Also, having benefited from 'the system', I doubt they would go so far as to break it. This would be like "biting the hand that feeds you".

However, this does not mean that their intentions are 'benevolent' and, most especially, that we have nothing to fear from them, as Kevin and Brendon have wrongly assumed.

They will do what is necessary in building the neo-KGB state they envisioned which started with Putin.

The fact that they will do so this time 'by working the system' is what I mean by their having become even more dangerous than in the past since under such benign cover, folks like Maximos, Kevin & Brendon (among those folks here I have only the highest respect for) greatly underestimate their objectives and actions.

I wasn't implying that you're turning wussy, Aristocles, or that you think we have nothing to fear from Russia. I'm just trying to figure out how this new KGB state is likely to operate, on your view. As I say, it was a sincere question.

Without delving into any extraneous detail, but adhering strictly to the essence of the matter, the unfortunate reality is that Russia was in such a parlous state by the conclusion of Yeltsin's disgraceful tenure that the nation was confronted with a binary choice, namely dissolution or strong government centered in one of the few institutions that remained somewhat proficient subsequent to the collapse of the Soviet Union. While a government centered in the intelligence services, and particularly intelligence services descended from the KGB, is scarcely something to be lauded, it does not propound a revolutionary ideology after the fashion of the International, but practices a variant of nationalist great-power geopolitics; it may be avowed with certitude that the policies of such a nation will often be unpleasant, and occasionally monstrous; what may also be avowed with certitude is that the consequences for global stability of such a nation's policies are preferable by far to those that would have been probable upon a collapse of Russia as a functional state.

And yes, the techniques employed by a Russian state centered in the FSB, in order to establish a sphere of influence, will be, principally, economic, albeit orders of magnitude less sophisticated than the means employed by Western powers utilizing economic leverage to realize geopolitical objects. (And yes, for those who imagine my thoughts on the subject of hegemony unsubtle and equivocal, I do draw distinctions between various modes of hegemony, and between gradations within specific modes of its exercise. What occasions the apoplexy, I believe, is that I question the legitimacy of the entire business of the exertion of such influence, as I consider it inimical to the long-term flourishing of republican forms of governance here at home, as this business, by a process of accretion, associates the business of governance with issues, regions, and, most critically, claques of interests and lobbyists and factions, all passionately invested in affairs altogether remote from the self-government, under republican forms, of the American people as a people, as opposed to a noisy bazaar of interests scheming for the political sustenance of their private ambitions. Old-school libertarians as well as paleoconservatives can appreciate such an interrogation; if, for example, an American energy corporation wishes to invest in the exploitation of foreign reserves, why should the American government partially underwrite the enterprise by establishing an alliance with a nation or two in the region - why, that is, should public finances be directed toward manifestly private ends? I acknowledge that some will asseverate any number of putatively "obvious" answers; I just don't find them particularly luminous to the light of reason.)

I suppose that these observations could be posted with equal warrant in the other thread, where the subject of hegemony was expressly broached, though not by me - I referred specifically to the engineered regime change in Tbilisi, which is a phenomenon distinct from the ownership, by American corporations, of X percent of foreign company Y, a phenomenon I'd find much less objectionable were not the United States government often maneuvering abroad in order to facilitate.

I read Taki's every day, and I profit by it. But their collective reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia chills me to the bone.

Every weak, tepid little protest from the Bush administration elicits their unmitigated fury.

And every act of aggression by Putin et al elicits...well...another round of unmitigated fury against...the Bush administration!

People who so obviously hate Bush a hundred times more than they hate Putin & his KGB pals scare me.

They scare me to death.

Steve:

I think (hope) it is mostly because they view Bush and "mainstream" conservatism like an ex wife. One hopes that when it came down to brass tacks that one might trust one's ex wife to do the right thing more than, say, a serial killer.

It says something though that the hopeful possibility is that the reaction is emotional and irrational.

I suspect, though, that much of the reaction owes to an appreciation that bad foreign policy pursued by an American president is likely to have a greater adverse impact on America than, say, Russia doing unjust things in the pursuit of its great-power strategy. The latter may often make us squeamish; the former can result in futile wars and an impecunious use of the public fisc.

Now Moscow threatens Poland with nuclear weapons.

Why? Because Poland sees Russia invade Georgia and rightly deduces that other nations in the Russian "sphere of influence" are in serious danger. So, Poland turns to us.

No doubt the Russophile and Pollyanna lobbies here will continue to say that Russia's nuclear threat is OUR fault.

And will someone please tell me the day, or even the year, that Putin left Communism? I missed it.

No doubt the Russophile and Pollyanna lobbies here will continue to say that Russia's nuclear threat is OUR fault.

Yes. This has come up on another thread. It's Russophobic to think that Moscow would ever shoot missiles at Poland, but it is also active anti-Russian aggression for us Americans, with the consent of the Poles, to set up a missile deterrence system in Poland.

I realize that several of us, like you and me, Michael, would splutter, "But...but...if Russia has no intention of shooting anything at Poland, why don't they just laugh and say, 'Go ahead and waste your money, stupid capitalist Americans'? How could this set-up possibly be a threat against them? Why should they care?"

We obviously just don't get it.

Steve Burton is right again. He said:

"People who so obviously hate Bush a hundred times more than they hate Putin & his KGB pals scare me.

They scare me to death."

There is, indeed, much to be feared from those who cannot distinguish good from evil, or resisting evil from perpetrating it.

Yes, a Russian general uttered something incredibly evil, stupid, and bellicose, after the fashion of Chinese generals striking poses over Taiwan, or North Koreans raving about drowning the world in a sea of flame; meanwhile, back in the real world, none of these things is likely to transpire. At most, a handful of Russian targeting coordinates in their version of the 'football' will change.

I thought that the Russians wanted to take over the world. Now they just want to blow it up? Come on, people, it was a stupid and evil piece of overheated bloviation, not a policy paper.

I realize that several of us, like you and me, Michael, would splutter, "But...but...if Russia has no intention of shooting anything at Poland, why don't they just laugh and say, 'Go ahead and waste your money, stupid capitalist Americans'? How could this set-up possibly be a threat against them? Why should they care?"

Because they don't believe that we're wasting our money; they believe, in spite of all of their rhetoric about countermeasures, that, were we to dedicate sufficient resources to the system, we could make it work; they have believed this since Reagan proposed the ABM concept.

And will someone please tell me the day, or even the year, that Putin left Communism? I missed it.

He didn't have to resign communism; communism expired as the regnant ideology of the region when the Soviet Union expired. The new ideology is a mixture of a sometimes-truculent nationalism, great-power politics, and what James Poulos refers to as the 'pink police state': the admixture of managed democracy, authoritarian administration, and an apolitical sphere of consumerist/hedonist liberties. Just as many only the left need to reconcile themselves to the reality that fascism is not lurking within the right-wing psyche, many on the right need to reconcile themselves to the reality that communism, save for the bizarre amalgamation the Chinese state embodies, is dead.

OK, suppose that Russia arranged a pact with Mexico, promising that they would come to their aid, in the event of an invasion of Mexico by the U.S.

And suppose that it also formed such a pact with Canada.

Would I, or any other remotely rational American, feel the least bit threatened? Or possibly even "encircled?"

Or would we all just think it was a huge joke? Because we all know that there is not the slightest chance that the U.S.A. today would ever even *consider* invading Mexico or Canada?

Of course we'd laugh, because the premises would be absurd. But we'd probably feel somewhat encircled if Russia installed military garrisons in Mexico and Canada, which would be analogous to our military installations stretching from the Caucasus through Central Asia.

But we don't actually intend to invade Russia, and the Russians know that, even the lunatic who spouted off about Poland today. What our grand strategists envision is something rather like the scenario laid out in Brzezinski's The Grand Chessboard, according to which Russia becomes a post-nation like all of the other piece of European real estate. I cannot imagine why they'd fail to find that prospect incredibly alluring. Surrendering a national identity and yielding up ever-increasing chunks of sovereignty to international institutions of various types is such an attractive package!

One caught a glimpse of this post-nationalist mindset in the remarks made by either Bush or Rice today, to the effect that the Cold War is over, the era of great powers is over, and the era of spheres of influence is over. Our strategists at least feign to believe that the emerging post-national order is a sort of geopolitical analogue of procedural liberalism on the domestic scale; in practice, it appears to mean that the era of great powers has ended because there is but one hyperpower, and that the era of spheres of influence has ended because there exists but one sphere of influence, that of the hyperpower and the international institutions it either leads or attempts to lead.

Lydia writes, ironically: "it is...anti-Russian aggression for us Americans, with the consent of the Poles, to set up a missile deterrence system..."

I am reminded of T. H. White's parable of the ants: "they are attacking us by defending themselves!"

There is, indeed, much to be feared from those who cannot distinguish good from evil, or resisting evil from perpetrating it.
There is likewise much to be feared from those who divorce their appetite for justice from prudence, moderation, and humility. All over the world there are people doing awful things to each other. We can't end evil, David Frum notwithstanding, and there needs to be a good reason to involve ourselves in the disputes of other states or peoples besides a mere apprehension of injustice lest we exhaust ourselves in the process. American power isn't limitless, nor is that of the so-called West. Both are, to be frank, in serious decline.
Would I, or any other remotely rational American, feel the least bit threatened? Or possibly even "encircled?"

Or would we all just think it was a huge joke? Because we all know that there is not the slightest chance that the U.S.A. today would ever even *consider* invading Mexico or Canada?


With the current correlation of forces, it would be an arrangement more offensive than threatening, though the intent would be obvious enough. The US didn't shrug off Soviet intrusion into this hemisphere. In the event that Russia, or say China possesed military superiority over the US, and insisted on guaranteeing the security of Mexico and Canada while its official press reverberated with denunciations of our government and reminders of the Allende coup and the Mexican-American war, its cinema and television teemed with American ultra-nationalist villains, and well-remunerated former lobbyists for Mexican revanchists advised the Russian or Chinese premier, yeah, you're darn right rational Americans would feel threatened. And this is all assuming that the US hadn't suffered within living memory a catastrophic fall at the hands of the Russians or Chinese.

Cyrus: does the U.S. have an "official press?"

Where are you hearing these reverberations?

Are we talking about FOX news?

Describing Putin's Russia as "the admixture of managed democracy, authoritarian administration, and an apolitical sphere of consumerist/hedonist liberties" is one of the most remarkably stupid political falsehoods ever uttered.

Russia is "managed democracy"? What can that dose of contradiction possibly mean except "We rule the people who rule themselves? Has cognitive dissonance disappeared? I haven't heard that kind of double talk since the last time the Communists were in oppression mode.

"An apolitical sphere of consumerist/hedonist liberties"? You'll forgive me if I think that millions upon millions of Russians would be startled to hear their nation thus described.

You insist that communism is dead even though the same cast of communist era characters employing the same communist era tactics in pursuit of the same communist era foreign objectives stare you directly in the face. You think that the KGB is not communist even though it is run by the same brutal communists themselves who used to run it. I wonder, if the SS survived in Germany after WWII, and was run by the same folks who ran it before the war, doing the same things they used to do to the same persons they used to do it, would you actually say the SS was no longer Nazi because, well, Nazism is dead?

You insist that we are to blame for Russian aggression because in the face of Russian aggression elsewhere former oppressed nations turn to us for protection. You talk as as if crime fighters and former victims were the cause of crime.

You guys will say anything.

"Why? Because Poland sees Russia invade Georgia and rightly deduces that other nations in the Russian "sphere of influence" are in serious danger. So, Poland turns to us."

Michael and the Cold Warriors,
Negotiations over the proposed anti-missile shield began well over a year ago between the US and Poland and a narrow majority of Poles oppose the deal. The purported reason for the 10 interceptor missiles is to protect against a potential strike from Iran and other Middle Eastern rogue states. All of this predates the Georgia situation.

The Russian response to the policy of anti-missile shields in Eastern Europe was a counter-proposal calling for US and Russia partnership. The Bush Administration rejected the proposal.

Given Iran's lack of interest in Poland and the fact that 10 missile interceptors arrayed against a missile arsenal the size of Russia's are pretty much useless, we can only surmise the motives of all concerned.

Poland shares a border with Russia and as the price of admission into the EU was forced to take steps like this;
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E7DC1539F934A25754C0A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

I suggest you read the link from 6 years ago as it touches on many of the issues undergirding this debate.

A little historical perspective would be helpful before we go off on a bender. And, make no doubt, I am pro-Pole and view their victory in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 as one of the great modern-day triumphs in modern European history.


one of the most remarkably stupid political falsehoods ever uttered.

O RLY? That would explain, I imagine, why the approval ratings for the highest ranking Russian political officials are roughly equivalent to their polling returns in the last two election cycles, not to mention the appropriate application of the term to the Russian system, which has functioned primarily by excluding from the ballot a bunch of political parties and figures for which few Russians would ever vote, and by leaning on the media. As opposed to the transparently Saddam-like election returns in Georgia last year, after which Saakashvili had his goon squads disperse the protesters with truncheons and tear gas. Look, I have friends and relatives over there, and if you'd like to disparage them as stupid for corroborating my own analyses and perceptions in this manner, you're welcome to do so, just not in my threads. That's strike two. Strike one was your approval of the bigoted utterance of some or other Central European head of state. As I say, if you'd like to indulge your bigotries against my wife's people, you are welcome to do so, just not in my threads. (For the record, my wife's paternal grandmother was Georgian, and she has ancestry of Indeterminate Asian origin, from somewhere in the wild patchwork of ethnicities that is Russia)

I haven't heard that kind of double talk since the last time the Communists were in oppression mode.

Insinuation that your host is emulating a grotesque Twentieth-Century atheistical tyranny. Strike three.

You'll forgive me if I think that millions upon millions of Russians would be startled to hear their nation thus described.

Keep disclosing your ignorance, as you are obviously not familiar with, say, the economy of post-Soviet Russia, let alone the nightlife there, in both of which any pleasure or indulgence conceivable is available for those who have the money to pay.

You insist that communism is dead even though the same cast of communist era characters employing the same communist era tactics in pursuit of the same communist era foreign objectives stare you directly in the face.

Without the ideology of global revolution. Sorry, but Russian statecraft consists of great-power politics and a fervent nationalism, often undertaken by unsavoury means. Methodologies are not essences, and, for that matter, the ends of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia are not even identical. Assuredly, Russia ought to have reckoned with the sanguinary legacy of communism; it is, unfortunately unsurprising, given the significant dissolution of Russian society, and the Russian state, during the Nineties, not to mention the geopolitical situation of the post-Soviet era generally, that Russia has not reckoned with the legacy of communism. The respective circumstances of the military defeat of Nazi Germany and the reconstruction of Germany, and the implosion of a moribund Soviet system under pressures both internal and external and the joint Western-Russian orgy of primitive accumulation that ensued, are the primary factors explaining this tragic and faithless oversight.

You insist... You guys will say anything

No, what I insist upon, precisely, is a realist analysis of how American foreign policy, and the probable perceptions thereof, shapes the geopolitical environment and influences the policies of other sovereign political actors, which does not overdetermine the apportionment of responsibility one way or the other, let alone prejudge such matters. But insinuate once more than I'm recycling agitprop or proffering an apologetic for communism, and any subsequent comments from your IP will be summarily deleted from my threads, at a minimum. That's strike four, but since this isn't baseball, you don't get three complete outs. Capice?

The Russian response to the policy of anti-missile shields in Eastern Europe was a counter-proposal calling for US and Russia partnership. The Bush Administration rejected the proposal.

Not only this, but Putin's Russia was among the first nations to offer the United States significant assistance in preparing for the Afghanistan campaign, by providing basing rights in Central Asia, and securing from the Kyrgyz and Tajik governments similar rights on our behalf. This, I can assure anyone with a modicum of understanding, was not the gesture of a nation dedicated to a restoration of the Cold War, but that of a nation genuinely interested in a strategic partnership. America has badly botched relations with post-Soviet Russia, and inadvertently reinforced many of the most suspicious, anti-Western tendencies in Russian politics and culture.

believe, in spite of all of their rhetoric about countermeasures, that, were we to dedicate sufficient resources to the system, we could make it work;

Right, that we could make what Kevin describes as 10 missile interceptors and missile shields work. Um, so it should matter to the Russians if we could make this defensive stuff work, why, exactly? So this is threatening them how, exactly?

Kevin said:

"Michael and the Cold Warriors,
Negotiations over the proposed anti-missile shield began well over a year ago between the US and Poland and a narrow majority of Poles oppose the deal. The purported reason for the 10 interceptor missiles is to protect against a potential strike from Iran and other Middle Eastern rogue states. All of this predates the Georgia situation."

Yes, Kevin, we know when it started.

We also know what brought that waiting and opposition to an end: Russian aggression.

You are making my point.

Max:
In your circumlocution, you forgot to address my points, namely:

It's naked international aggression perpetrated by the same communists in the same communist way upon the same communist victims. I know that sounds to you like managed democracy and consumerist hedonism, but it isn't. And, we aren't to blame.

Earlier, I asked what day, or even what year, Putin left communism. The answer I got back: It left him. Please do note the subject of the verb. Did an ideology really decide one day to leave Putin, or are human beings the real actors in human history, and not inanimate things? I am not saying ideas are unimportant. I am saying that such answers are radically inadequate -- and false. So I'll ask again, hoping for a date: When did Putin leave communism? Here's another question: What evidence do you have that he ever left it? So, to be clear: I'm looking for dates and reasons.

I'm also wondering what definition you have of communism. At this point, to me, at least, your definition appears reductionistic, as if communism were, say, primarily an economic system, or a plan for geopolitical expansion. But because communism is a totalitarianism, it includes both (and much, much more) while reducing to neither. Besides, if it really were a system of expansion, you'd have to say what the heads of state in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine are saying -- but that you are not: We're seeing it again from Moscow in Georgia. So, I'm wondering what your definition of communism is so that I can see what you say Putin used to be but is not now.

If Russia had invaded Georgia with diplomats and aid, I'd say the leopard had changed its spots. That, as you know, is not what happened. What happened was a re-run of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.


Lydia,
I believe Russia's legitimate question for 5 plus years now, is why are they being cut-off from another Western institution, this time a protective defense system that even her closest neighbors can join. Remember too that up until 2002 we had such an arrangement with Russia herself in the ABM Treaty, one which we abrogated.

So a fair question, and as mentioned at least twice now (but no response by anyone here), by a nation that allowed us use of her air space, territory and military bases in our strikes against the Taliban.

Michael,
As of yesterday Polish public opinion was still leaning against it, but the Polish government received the necessary assurance that she will receive US military protection beyond the shield itself.

You keep mocking the term "Russian sphere of influence", but see no potential problem to our sphere extending 5000 miles away from out shores and into Russia's immediate neighbors. A double-standard, but one that is quite evident throughout this whole discussion..

Steve Burton;
You said earlier; "Because we all know that there is not the slightest chance that the U.S.A. today would ever even *consider* invading Mexico or Canada?"

That comment reveals a fatal inability to step outside of your own shoes, and try to see your country as others might. Let’s look objectively and try as exercise in self-understanding as a necessary step in Statecraft.

Kosovo was an air invasion against Serbia, Russia's Orthodox partner and close ally.

Iraq was an all-out attack against a "rogue state".

We allowed Israel to launch a very damaging assault against Lebanon in response to a Hezbollah attack on Israel.

These examples alone could cause another nation to view American intentions as more bellicose than your own self-image will allow. The real question is what is the impact our maneuvers in the former Soviet Union is having on attempts to forge a stable international order.

And by the way, Russia placing troops, missile defense systems, military and economic alliances and oil construction companies on North American soil would require a harsh response. The Monroe Doctrine is a morally justifiable assertion of national soverienty and prudent act of self-preservation. To argue otherwise is, like much that has been offered here, a reckless and glib dismissal of reality.

By the way, Max, I do know you literally said communism "expired" not "left." So please don't argue that the paraphrase makes a difference. It does not. The grammatical and philosophical points remain unchanged. Ideologies don't have a shelf-life and they don't actually "die" -- especially when they hold sway over more than a billion persons in China and millions more in N. Korea and Cuba -- not to mention many colleges and universities across America.

Kevin,
It's incredibly difficult to take seriously the idea that the US might really invade Mexico or Canada. No one is considering it.

Has there been discussion about putting such a policy on either major party's platform? Has it been brought up in Congress or put forth by the President, or by any member of his staff or cabinet? Are serous pundits arguing the pros and cons of the idea?

It is fantasy, pure and simple, much like the justification for Russian aggression.

Michael,
You've set up a straw-man.

The argument here is;
1)what would be our response be to a Russia military presence in our hemisphere. I say harsh.
What is your answer?

2)what is the perception in other capitols to an American military presence in their neighboring countries.

Kevin,

Not all so-called "spheres of influence" are created equal, nor are they managed in quite the same way. If Russia had worked inside her "sphere of influence" to make its neighbors more prosperous and more free, and to protect them from foreign aggression, or if Russia had entered Georgia in order to stop terrorism, we could talk about their sphere of influence and ours in roughly the same terms.

Heavens, I'd be happy if Russia did such things in Russia.

Kevin said:

"Michael,
You've set up a straw-man.

The argument here is;
1)what would be our response be to a Russia military presence in our hemisphere. I say harsh.
What is your answer?

2)what is the perception in other capitols to an American military presence in their neighboring countries."

I reply:

1. We have had a Russian/communist presence in our hemisphere for decades, sometimes more than one presence at a time. You know for yourself how we responded. It did not resemble the Russian incursion into Georgia.

2. That very perception is the straw man -- and the sort of fantasy I mentioned earlier.
We

So, Kevin, the reason that our placing a defensive missile-interceptor system in Poland is an aggressive move against Russia is because we wouldn't give Russia the same thing? Remember that that was the question I asked Maximos: How, exactly, is Russia threatened by our placing a defensive system in Poland? How is this aggression on our part? Why should Russia care? Your answer, if it's intended to be an answer to that question, is that Russia has a right to have a problem with our putting the defensive system in Poland because we wouldn't include Russia in the system. If that's intended to be an answer to that question, it doesn't seem to me to be a very good answer. Let's please realize clearly that Russia has spoken as if this missile defense system is some sort of threat to Russia. It's my opinion that such talk is the talk of a bully. "What's that, Twinky, you're set up to defend yourself? How dare you? We'll see about that. I resent that very much, Twinky."

Right, that we could make what Kevin describes as 10 missile interceptors and missile shields work. Um, so it should matter to the Russians if we could make this defensive stuff work, why, exactly? So this is threatening them how, exactly?

*Sigh*

ABM technology, assuming that it is technologically feasible, does not present the same moral quandaries as nuclear weapons, the legitimate use of which is difficult to conceive. However, the Russian concern is that we will eventually develop the technological means of overcoming countermeasures, and that the system will be expanded by subsequent administrations to provide coverage far more extensive than that afforded by 10 interceptors in Eastern Europe; moreover, the fundamental nonexistence of a legitimate first-strike threat from Iran, which possesses neither nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles with range sufficient to deliver them deep into the European heartland, against any target likely to interest the Mullahs, and is easily deterable - Iran is desirous of nuclear weapons as a matter of national pride, dating back to the reign of the Shah, for regional power projection, and as an insurance policy against regime change, and not for apocalyptic brinksmanship - causes the American obsession with ABM in Europe to appear to Russians as an exercise in dissimulation. Factor in the unilateralism of the Bush administration's withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and the disingenuousness of American dealings with Russia in the post-communist period, and, from the Russian perspective, American policy could not have been more precisely formulated to arouse suspicions. I'm uninterested in the game of attempting to discern and evaluate American and Russian moral valences, of saying, "we're obviously right, and they are obviously wrong, so they'd better just suck it up and learn to take it" posturing of the American establishment; the politics of moral clarity has too often become a politics of irresponsible posturing; a responsible and prudent foreign policy accounts for the perceptions and probable reactions of foreign powers and adjusts its strategies, always its means, and sometimes its ends, accordingly. We have not done this; that is, we have not conducted our foreign policy according to a realistic analysis of international relations, but have formulated foreign policy through sheer inertia, ideological commitments (and ideology is always an impediment to understanding), the transparently fraudulent assumption that American unipolarity is an essentially neutral form of global administration, and understandable identifications with the struggles and objectives of a legion of tertiary powers, despite the fact that these interests are not always consonant with the American interest per se, but with the American establishment's interest in the perpetuation of unipolarity.

What the Russians fear, therefore, is that a continuously augmented ABM system will eventually be sufficient to neutralize their own strategic deterrent, transforming, in effect, a defensive system into an offensive system, an insurance policy against the marginal consequences of meddling in the Russian backyard. Now, that all sounds a bit overwrought; but nuclear arsenals have always been a serious business, and the off-at-the-end capacity remove another major power's strategic deterrent from the policy equation would alter the strategic balance of power radically. Do I believe that the time will arrive when the United States will engage in brinksmanship with Russia, utilizing a robust ABM as a trump or bluff? No. However, the Russians perceive the matter that way, and we've done nothing to dissuade them; besides, one can easily cite chapter and verse from the foreign policy literature to demonstrate that the American objective with respect to Russia is to maneuver her into acquiescence with the post-national, post-modern neutering of nation-states after the (post) European model. The intended effect of ABM on Russia is, as it has been since the Reagan administration, primarily psychological, an accompaniment to the principal policies of containment and constriction. George Friedman of Stratfor has argued repeatedly over the years that America has not yet concluded with Russia as a competitor and even enemy, and will not relent until Russia has been ground into dust; that is merely an hyperbolic way of saying much the same thing that ZBig says in The Grand Chessboard: Russia must be compelled to accept incorporation into a transnationalist order that the United States envisions itself dominating (ZBig also envisions the United States, having once accomplished its objective in the creation of such a global architecture, yielding itself to international institutions, but this opinion is not necessarily shared by all in the FP establishment).

The bottom line is that conservatives are being co-opted by a combination of fear and repugnance at the misdeeds of nations such as Russia into an unconscious embrace of the very geopolitical forces that are subverting the nation-state, and therewith the conditions of the possibility of any sort of conservatism. At times, it appears as though conservatives will rail against the European project - though this tendency seems to be waning - except when that project heralds the prospect of neutering nations they abominate. But conservatives cannot have their cake and eat it too; either we support an international order of sovereign nation-states, with all of the complications, many undesirable, that this entails, for reason of the manifest benefits of that system for traditionalism, or we do not. We cannot indulge in unprincipled exceptions.

Now Michael, it is an extraordinary summer day and I am going back outside and I hope you enjoy it too. Maybe when we return you, Lydia or anyone else, might answer these questions.

1)what would be our response be to a Russia military presence in our hemisphere?

Your answer avoided it, since there has never been a Russia military presence in this hemisphere like equivalent to the one we have in region of the former Soviet Union.

2)what is the perception in other capitols to an American military presence in their neighboring countries?

Still waiting.

"Why should Russia care?"

Because this case is not isolated, we've excluded Russia from the very treaties and alliances we've opened up to everyone else around her.

That would trouble any self-respecting state, especially one that has seen a military invasion form the US against her Serbian ally and the establishment of a narco-terror state in the Balkans.

Is that really too difficult to assert? If so placee yourself in a similar spot.

It's naked international aggression perpetrated by the same communists in the same communist way upon the same communist victims. I know that sounds to you like managed democracy and consumerist hedonism, but it isn't. And, we aren't to blame.

Earlier, I asked what day, or even what year, Putin left communism. The answer I got back: It left him. Please do note the subject of the verb.

You're still begging the question. Communism expired as a viable ideological substrate legitimating the Soviet Union, the foreign policy of its constituent members, and the structuring of socio-economic affairs within those nations; its credibility and philosophico-religious appeal were fatally undermined by the internal contradictions of the Soviet Union, not to mention the superiority of Western societies, which became increasingly obvious as the Soviet Union opened under glasnost and perestroika, as well as the glaring incapacity of the Soviet system to respond to the American military buildup of the Eighties. Putin did not have to leave communism, to make a formal renunciation; as a man interested in power, communism no longer served as a legitimating vehicle of power, and so he, like so many others moved on to something that could so function: Russian nationalism.

Furthermore, great-power politics were conducted prior to communism, and have been conducted since its collapse in Eastern Europe, by means not unknown during the Cold War era; methodologies are adaptable to any variety of geopolitical and philosophical environments, and that is what has transpired since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, I note in passing that, despite the palpable absence of anything resembling communist ideology or economic practice in the FSU (excepting Belarus), an attempt is underway to analyze communism reductively as a set of foreign policy tools or objectives, as expansionism or great-power sphere-of-influence politics per se.

But because communism is a totalitarianism, it includes both (and much, much more) while reducing to neither.

Yes. All communisms are expansionist (for the sake of argument; North Korea might be taken as a counterexample); it does not follow that all expansionisms are communist. Bellicose conduct towards neighbours is not prima facie proof of communism, or of the persistence of communism as the animating ideology and strategy of Russia.

What happened was a re-run of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

If anything, these analogies, which are false in the first instance, may also be invoked against the United States. In Hungary in 1956, the United States was perceived by the Hungarians to have offered assurances of some unspecified support, support that we were unwilling to provide, as to do so would have violated prudence. Likewise, with respect to Georgia in 2008.

At this stage, I'd recommend that we agree to disagree. Stuttering is an unattractive trait.


What the Russians fear, therefore, is that a continuously augmented ABM system will eventually be sufficient to neutralize their own strategic deterrent, transforming, in effect, a defensive system into an offensive system, an insurance policy against the marginal consequences of meddling in the Russian backyard.

Oh, this is amazing. Or perhaps just sadly amusing. Put in plain language, Russia might at some point want to hit some countries (like Poland) in Europe with nukes, and if there's an effective missile defense system in place, this would neutralize this Russian first-strike threat to drop nukes on these countries, which would mean that Americans and Europeans wouldn't have to _worry_ about Russia's nuking Europe, which would mean that the Americans and the Europeans could go ahead and do _other_ things the Russians don't like and consider "meddling," which in turn...

Ta-da!!! ...transfoms a defensive system into an offensive system.

Is it still Russophobic to say that Russia might be thinking about possibly dropping nukes on some part of Europe, or is it only Russophobic if Russia's detractors say it?

Uh, no, that Russians have no real desire to drop nukes on Europe. Their fear is that we will engage in brinksmanship with them once we have fully realized the capabilities of the ABM system: accede to our wishes, because you're out of strategic options, ie., we're capable of neutralizing your strategic deterrent, and our conventional forces are far superior, and etc.

I've already stated my disagreement with this perspective; we're not going to bluff them; we want them to think that we might bluff them. As I've urged repeatedly, if one wants to understand how other nations will react to American policy, one must attend to what they actually think, as opposed to assuming the most nefarious motivations conceivable, or projecting upon them a treacherous rejection of an American policy presupposed to be of the essence of virtue.

Denial that defensive systems can function, in actuality, or psychologically, as offensive systems to the extent that they provide, or are perceived to provide, insurance against blowback from offensive strategic maneuvers - by whatever means exercised - is simply blinkered. Americans are loathe to acknowledge this, because it flies in the face of our myths of American Exceptionalism, but this is simply how great geopolitical games are played. Are we going to threaten such a thing? Of course not. But we're playing head games with the Russians, encouraging them to believe that we might; it's a bit like playing chicken.

Fundamentally, I suspect that the problem some have with critiques of American foreign policy is rooted in a conviction that America is somehow qualitatively unique as a geopolitical actor, and that, in consequence, policies that appear to us malevolent or suspicious when pursued by other powers are, or should appear, beneficent to others when pursued by America. Other nations simply will not perceive American foreign policy in this manner, and Americans have a singular difficulty in appreciating this, because we tend to devalue the patriotisms of other nations, and presuppose that our global influence is essentially the construction of a set of neutral procedures, within which legitimate interests are arbitrated. I reiterate: other nations will not perceive our policies in this manner, as differences between nations and their interests are as fundamental and ineradicable as all of the human differences that egalitarians consider invidious. America's exceptional qualities are those pertaining to her extraordinarily providential domestic political arrangements and felicities, now fraying, perhaps beyond recovery, and not to her conduct of foreign affairs, in which she has comported herself much as any great power in her circumstances would have done, given the human propensity to adjust normative commitments to interests. Yes, America rebuilt Europe and Japan after emerging victorious from WWII; but she did so in precisely the manner required to ensure, to the extent that anything in history can be assured, that the vanquished would never again present strategic competition for American power. America was benevolent in these instances, but benevolent towards the ends that any great power in those circumstances would adopt. One may question whether the presupposition of uniqueness and qualitative distinctions between American 'hegemony' and the 'hegemony' exercised by a strategic rival - that is, the presumption of moral clarity, of the possession of some special virtue or exemplary quality - conduces to strategic wisdom and prudence, as well as self-consciousness, an awareness of the interrelationships of national mythology, realpolitik, and grasping interests, in the conduct of foreign affairs. On the evidence of the preceding twenty years, I'd have to conclude that the question must be answered in the negative. It is high time that we quit these myths, which have become self-serving and cynical, and tend to our own house, our own gardens, which are the very things that both reflect and sustain what is exceptional in our character and institutions - for only at home will we discover what has truly made America an exceptional nation in world history.

"I suspect that the problem some have with critiques of American foreign policy is rooted in a conviction that America is somehow qualitatively unique as a geopolitical actor, and that, in consequence, policies that appear to us malevolent or suspicious when pursued by other powers are, or should appear, beneficent to others when pursued by America."

Amen. We are so transparently virtuous that only a cur or rogue would question the wisdom of any facet of our foreign policy, or perceive aggrandizement, instead of moral rectitude in our motives.

What is odd about this blind-spot is it resides within the very same people who find less noble motives behind the direction in our domestic policies. I wonder why the federal government can be held as seriously lacking at home, but above reproach or fault at home? It makes no sense.

Conservatives used to have a deep-rooted aversion to grandiose schemes, social engineering, and a respect for the limits of power. Not anymore.

Now we hear cheer-leading for; playing "global cop", aggressive exportation of democratic capitalism into unreceptive climes, and a limitless ability to control the affairs of other nations, regions and cultures.

One size fits all. I'm from the government and here to help. We know what's best for you. These slogans first appeared on the Left. They now are Holy Writ for a new, scary kind of Right.

EDIT
I wonder why the federal government can be held as seriously lacking at home, but above reproach in its the conduct of its foreign affairs? It makes no sense.

As someone once said, "Inside every foreigner is an American waiting to get out." That seems to be the working assumption of our foreign policy.

"What is odd about this blind-spot is it resides within the very same people who find less noble motives behind the direction in our domestic policies. I wonder why the federal government can be held as seriously lacking at home, but above reproach or fault at home?"

Kevin, I think you meant "above reproach or fault AWAY FROM home" or something along those lines, correct? If so, I agree with you. Another facet of this disconnect has been explored by Paul Gottfried. The exportation of modern democratic capitalism to other countries necessarily includes the whole multiculturalist/diversity & tolerance gig. After all, it's not like it's old-fashioned mainstream American "mom and apple pie" democracy that's being exported.

Yet, many of those here in the states who strongly oppose this whole 'multicultural' trend, seem to have little problem with its being imposed elsewhere. As you say, it makes no sense.

Uh, no, that Russians have no real desire to drop nukes on Europe. Their fear is that we will engage in brinksmanship with them once we have fully realized the capabilities of the ABM system: accede to our wishes, because you're out of strategic options, ie., we're capable of neutralizing your strategic deterrent, and our conventional forces are far superior, and etc.

Well, whether or not they have any "real desire" to do so, apparently it bothers them that they should lose the threat of doing it. I mean, that's what the "strategic deterrent" refers to, doesn't it? The deterrent power of the possibility of their using nuclear missiles. It's considered aggressive on our part (by them) for us to remove that option for them, because at a minimum they want us to think that they might use that option and they want us to guide our foreign policy on the basis of, inter alia, the possibility that they might use that option.

To me this all just seems like simple logic: If they would never use nukes anyway against, say, Poland, then it shouldn't matter to them if we set up a defense system that would effectively make it impossible for them to nuke Poland. I don't see why this is not just simple logic.

Rob G, if we were exporting Mom and Pop and apple pie Americanism, would that make a difference to you?

I have a feeling it wouldn't make a difference to everybody in this discussion.

Well, whether or not they have any "real desire" to do so, apparently it bothers them that they should lose the threat of doing it.

Nuclear strategy is mostly bluff intended to prevent other great powers from doing stuff to oneself. That's why they fear losing the threat of being able to use nukes. It's why we retain our own nuclear arsenal: we fear what would happen were we to renounce the use of such arms and abolish them. It should be borne in mind that, during the Cold War, it was the United States which retained the option of a first strike; we were fearful, given what was regarded as the numerical superiority of the Soviet arsenal, of the consequences of a renunciation of that option.

It should be borne in mind that, during the Cold War, it was the United States which retained the option of a first strike

I even thought of mentioning that spontaneously but was in a hurry. That's why ABM is so much better than MAD, though, isn't it? And that's why as long as that's all we set up, they shouldn't be bothered. I realize this sounds simple-minded to you, but to tell people, "Now you can't bluff us this way anymore" really just shouldn't matter that much if it really was just a bluff. It certainly can't be magically transformed into an aggressive move.

That's why ABM is so much better than MAD, though, isn't it?

Yes, provisionally, given that the contemplated uses of nuclear weapons are morally illicit...

It certainly can't be magically transformed into an aggressive move.

Certainly it can: by effectively calling an adversaries' bluff and thus demonstrating your capacity to bend him to your will. Which is why... ABM is better than MAD, which did keep the peace, if and only if it is not exploited, even as a psychological trick, to extend benevolent global hegemony, or the European post-national project, or some other such thing. In other words, it is preferable contingent upon the character of our own leadership, and it is this that I question; if we're going to be a nation among nations, then ABM is just ABM; but if we're going to be the world's policeman, or the guarantor of some sort of post-nationalist international architecture, or an open hegemon, then it will become something more. It is, fundamentally, a question of who we are - the foundational question, as I perceive it, of the paleo approach to foreign policy analysis.

On your view, does it follow that it's aggressive to set up ABM stations anywhere but in our own country? That would seem a plausible extension of the view.

I think you're totally wrong. I mean, badly, badly wrong. This business of trying to see things from Russia's perspective in the way that you do, to the point of saying it's _aggressive_ to set up a _defensive_ anti-missile station in Poland, just seems to me a case of twisting the mind in knots and calling black white.

Whether the establishment of the ABM stations is aggressive depends upon the broader context of American foreign policy and the intentions of our mandarins - specifically, what American leaders actually do with respect to other nations. We're only entertaining this subargument because our evaluations of the overarching themes of American foreign policy differ; if it is an instance of calling black white to question, even at the margins, the wisdom of the ABM policy, then that is because, at some level, it has been presupposed that American foreign policy is, on the whole, licit and nonhegemonic. But, with respect to the latter, we - the American establishment - have already admitted that it is hegemonic. This point was indirectly conceded just this past week, as Bush and Rice proclaimed that the era of great power politics and spheres of influence has passed, and the Russia needed to acknowledge its passing - this, from the nation that proclaims itself the indispensable nation, the entire world its sphere of influence.

"...if we were exporting Mom and Pop and apple pie Americanism, would that make a difference to you?"

What is Americanism?

And why would we want to export it? Especially via military alliances that require the expenditure of lives and the maintenance of the largest "defense" budget on the planet?

"...apparently it bothers them that they should lose the threat of doing it."

No, the 10 anti-missile shields won't stop the Russians if their intentions are as evil as you contend.

We've covered this already. Their indignation is over the whole issue of being excluded from, and encircled by a foreign alliance.

In other words, I support ABM and

the explicit abjuration of benevolent global hegemony, however otherwise designated.

Would there be any circumstances in which you would support our setting up ABM stations in Poland, with the consent and perhaps even at the request of the Poles? Or is it just out, because Poland is far, far away, it isn't any of our business to be meddling "over there," and doing that is by definition meddling? And is that really what makes it "aggressive" on your view--that we're doing it "over there"?

And by the way, I certainly don't consider all American foreign policy licit. For example, I think we were crazy to support Kosovan independence. I think we shouldn't have invaded Iraq. It was wrong. And I shudder even to think about what USAID will be up to in an Obama presidency.

But the "hegemony" stuff, yes, I do question, at least as you, Jeff, use the term. Too much lumping. I've said that already.

Would there be any circumstances in which you would support our setting up ABM stations in Poland, with the consent and perhaps even at the request of the Poles?

Of course: the explicit renunciation, evidenced by concrete actions, of hegemonic ambitions in Eurasia.

But the "hegemony" stuff, yes, I do question, at least as you, Jeff, use the term. Too much lumping. I've said that already.

The trouble is that our policymaking elites within and without institutions of state lump it all together as an integrated approach, the object of which is the establishment of a post-national/transnational order, within which the United States will somehow stand as a preeminent power. I consider the multifarious aspects or modes of hegemony together because American grand geopolitical strategy considers them together.

Let me try to characterize my own approach to this stuff from an entirely different direction: I'm a cheapskate. I hate the national debt, the budget deficit, all of it. I'm sympathetic to some _very_ anti-inflationary monetary proposals. ABM systems and military presences elsewhere cost a lot of money, for which the American taxpayer is footing the bill, one way or another.

If we followed the economic approach I'd probably favor, we probably wouldn't be able to _afford_ to set up an ABM system in Poland, and the Poles would have to row their own canoe, sink or swim, or whatever you want to call it.

In this sense, and in several other senses (taking on responsibilites we can't live up to, making promises we can't keep, and so forth), I tend to think that a lot of this foreign activity (which Jeff and Kevin consider meddling) is probably bad _for us_.

And I'm not the world's most altruistic person, so I'm hesitant to conclude that we should keep going into debt in order to contain Russia. If that's what's involved. This is just an example.

But I do consider containing Russia to be a worthy goal. That is, it doesn't upset me. I think Russia is dangerous and that probably some of her neighbors would have just cause to thank us for containing her. Where I get annoyed at the hegemony talk is because it implies that the rest of the world has some sort of just grievance against us for actions that are, it seems to me, very often (not always--see Kosovo) _beneficial_ to the rest of the world.

So in a sense you could say that my isolationist sympathies are a result of selfishness and the idea that we are trying too hard to do good to the world, to our own excessive cost, whereas you guys's are a result of viewing America as doing ill to other countries and as being, in a non-trivial sense, one of the bad guys of the world.

It is high time that we quit these myths, which have become self-serving and cynical, and tend to our own house, our own gardens, which are the very things that both reflect and sustain what is exceptional in our character and institutions - for only at home will we discover what has truly made America an exceptional nation in world history.

Paid for by the George McGovern For President Committee.

I hope that the reason I don't like the foreign policy discussions here is that I am as ignorant about the subject as I think I am. The alternative is that the things I know do form enough of a groundwork to understand the situation, at least from 30 thousand feet; and if I do understand it from thirty thousand feet, well, lets just say that it isn't the sort of thing to brood over on a beautiful summer day like today was.

I hate it in these discussions when both sides seem very right, on the one hand, and yet seem to ignore the perfectly valid criticisms of the others side. It makes me think that the real situation is in fact significantly worse than either side is willing to admit: that we really are damned if we do, damned if we don't.

To pick on a particular point:

...to the point of saying it's _aggressive_ to set up a _defensive_ anti-missile station in Poland, just seems to me a case of twisting the mind in knots and calling black white.
The notion that ABM technology is an agrressive weapon is not new. If one side has effective ABM and the other does not, that gives the side with effective ABM a first strike capability which is immune from effective retaliation.

So yes, when both sides have effective offensive strategic weapons, the deployment of an effective defensive strategic weapon by one side is very, very scary to the other side. The other side would be crazy not to understand it as a potentially very aggressive move. It means that the side with both can attack with impunity. This isn't an invalid or offensive point, it is reality.

So, have we given Poland nukes with which it can hit Russia? If so, _that_ should be condemned as the aggressive move, not the ABM set-up in Poland. Obviously, we already have nukes here in the U.S. And presumably we have ABM set-ups here in the U.S. So what does an ABM set-up in Poland add to the situation? That we can nuke Russia from the U.S. with ICBMs without having to worry that _Poland_ will get nuked in return? That's not exactly what American mothers go to bed worrying about. The point is supposed to be that a new ABM set-up _in Poland_ is an aggressive move _on the part of America_. I'm sorry, but I still just absolutely do not see it.

"...whereas you guys's are a result of viewing America as doing ill to other countries and as being, in a non-trivial sense, one of the bad guys of the world."

I'm David Frum and I approve this message.


George R., before you drive by with the spray paint. Get it right. Here's quotes from the 1972 Presidential candidate, you and perhaps Lydia found too "isolationist".

"The time has passed when America will make every other nation’s conflict our own, or make every other nation’s future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs."

"Let us build a structure of peace in the world in which the weak are as safe as the strong—in which each respects the right of the other to live by a different system—in which those who would influence others will do so by the strength of their ideas, and not by the force of their arms."
Richard M. Nixon
http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres59.html

Lydia:
I can't answer the specific questions, because I don't know the specific capabilities of the ABM's in question. (I would be surprised if its capabilities were unclassified, at least if it is a modern system that is worth deploying at all).

I expect that ABM's which are capable of taking out ICBMs in the early stage of launch - that is, ABM's based close to the launch point - have advantages over ABM's based in the target zone. I don't assume that ABMs based in Poland have nothing to do with anything but defending Poland. At the very least a highly technical-information-rich argument would have to be made to that effect.

The point is supposed to be that a new ABM set-up _in Poland_ is an aggressive move _on the part of America_. I'm sorry, but I still just absolutely do not see it.
Right, well, clearly when you hear "ABM based in Poland" you have some very specific and highly constrained capability in mind -- something like the old Patriot tactical missile defense system perhaps. That may indeed be the sort of thing being pursued (I haven't a clue), but when I hear "ABMs based in Poland" I don't understand that to necessarily imply some strictly tactical system. (Nor would I expect any responsible government to simply accept a pat on the head and reassurance that it is merely tactical).

For that matter, even tactical ABM systems sprinkled here and there make our mobile tactical nukes more retaliation-resistant, by blocking retaliation at key fixed targets.

More generally, when someone speaks as though "defensive weapon" were a kind of incantation which can make any deployment of said weapon necessarily non-aggressive in nature, well, I just don't see that. I've played enough non-lethal corporate and other games with various arsenals of weapons, some more prima facie offensive in nature and some more prima facie defensive in nature (patents, for example, can make a fine offensive weapon), to be highly skeptical of pretty much any claim, in the real world, that "it is a strictly defensive weapon".

Lydia, there just is no clear inherent distinction between offensive and defensive military technologies. Offensive or defensive are descriptions of the uses to which those techniques and technologies are put in a particular context. Sometimes, they can be both offensive and defensive at the same time. German trenches in Flanders in 1916 were tactically defensive, but strategically offensive, as were Norman and later English castles in Ireland. Nuclear bombs are tactically offensive, but strategically defensive. Examples could be multiplied. Theater ballistic missile defense is a strategically offensive system because its purpose is to preserve the political and military ability of the United States to use its conventional military superiority offensively. A credible missile defense system provides some assurance to the front-line allies of the United States that they won't lose a city if they allow the United States to use their territory to launch an attack. It nullifies the deterrent of a small nuclear power and allows the United States to wage a conventional war. I don't think it's directed at Russia now, but it could be expanded to be so, especially as the Russian nuclear deterrent succumbs to neglect and attrition.

Steve Burton:

The US doesn't have an official official press, but it has an unofficial official press that does an excellent of policing the bounds of public discourse. The Gray Lady, the Washington Post, and other outlets of the prestige media, whose members attend the same schools and the same parties.

“Where I get annoyed at the hegemony talk is because it implies that the rest of the world has some sort of just grievance against us for actions that are, it seems to me, very often (not always--see Kosovo) _beneficial_ to the rest of the world.”

Lydia, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ quote of being wary of “those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." I think that an apt description of our elites.

So convinced are they of their noble intentions and the superiority of democratic capitalism that Fukayama can say; “Liberalism is the only ideology with the right to citizenship in this world” Our foreign policy establishment acts accordingly, and along the way creates an epic tragedy and geo-political blunder in Iraq. Where Iraqis once feared a barbaric State, they now fear each other.

When a President announces an aim to “rid the world of evil”, a radical change in both our understanding of human nature and the traditional conception of diplomacy has been declared. We are no longer pursuing realistic, well-defined goals of national self-interest, we are instead embarking on a moral crusade to remake the world; “There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.” For the Christian, Bush is offering a stark contradiction of the Gospels.

Those of other cultures having seen revolting images of the carnage that trails armies directed by utopians may not be so quick to assume our benevolence.

As of this week-end, we are now pledged to militarily defend a nation in a region that has been a cauldron of ethnic rivalries, wars, pogroms and Holocausts for hundreds of years. Should we be called upon to enter, we will do so not as an impartial arbitrator, but as a military proxy with a vested interest in a victorious outcome.

Lost in the whirlwind will be men and women who simply sought to defend their country, not to advance an abstract revolutionary ideal. The grievance of those they leave behind will be just. So too those who were "liberated".

Cyrus says,

Theater ballistic missile defense is a strategically offensive system because its purpose is to preserve the political and military ability of the United States to use its conventional military superiority offensively. A credible missile defense system provides some assurance to the front-line allies of the United States that they won't lose a city if they allow the United States to use their territory to launch an attack. It nullifies the deterrent of a small nuclear power...

Right, I understand that this is the claim. Zippy, this is the claim: Nobody in this conversation, including the guys I'm specifically arguing with, is saying that this ABM system in Poland is something that _itself_ can or is going to be used for launching an aggressive attack at Russia. The claim is that it's "strategically offensive" because it might let America and/or Poland do something _else_ while the Russians (poor guys) would have lost the threat--which of course we are supposed to take to be bluff, so that we aren't _really_ accusing the Russians of any plans to nuke anybody (which, of course, would be "Russophobic") yet still real enough that we should feel ashamed for taking that threat away from them--of nuking Poland.

This kind of double-speak makes me very annoyed. Worse, actually.

More clearly, we are to take the Russian nuclear threat to be so real that we actually have a duty to leave it untouched, to leave it to them as an option. But we are to take it to be so unreal that we don't actually get worried or rethink our evaluation of how aggressive a country Russia is when they utter threats like those they have recently uttered. We aren't allowed to say, "Well, if it's so phobic to think of Russia as aggressive, then they can have no objection if we neutralize their nuclear threat." No, we are obligated to let them _have_ a nuclear threat against Poland. But we shouldn't think of them as an aggressive country.

This is just _crazy_ thinking. The only way it even makes good nonsense is if Russia is taken to be so _good_ that it would never nuke anybody unless it was right to do so. Which I certainly hope nobody thinks.

This kind of double-speak makes me very annoyed.
It is not doublespeak. I - and any military strategist who should even be permitted to speak about the matter - would view the deployment of Russian ABMs in Cuba as an aggressive move. It could be there to make it impossible to stop the deployment of troops or tactical nukes, for example, which we would not be able to resist without a ground invasion once the ABMs are in place. For example.

I'm surprised that the term "Bay of Pigs" has not shown up in this discussion yet.

You can't take a weapon deployment as something that happens strictly "in itself". That would be like taking the movement of a pawn in chess as something which happens "in itself". The very notion is nonsensical, since the movement of the pawn only makes sense in the larger context of the game.

But we are to take it to be so unreal that we don't actually get worried or rethink our evaluation of how aggressive a country Russia is when they utter threats like those they have recently uttered.
Well, that is not my position. I'm the "everyone is right, so things are even worse than anyone will admit" guy, remember.

we would not be able to resist without a ground invasion once the ABMs are in place

Because otherwise we'd be resisting the troops by sending nuclear missiles?

But actually, the reason I used the term "doublespeak" was in particular because of the business about how we aren't supposed to take Russia to be a serious threat but _are_ to leave her her nuclear threat. So if you, Zippy, don't adopt that half of it, we'll disagree still, but I won't be saying you're going along with doublespeak.

Because otherwise we'd be resisting the troops [and/or tactical missile deployments] by sending nuclear [or conventional, whichever was proportionately effective against the military targets] missiles?
When the question is properly unpacked, the answer is a straightforward "yes". If the Russians were (say) launching an invasion from Cuba, I'd rather take out the invading force with conventional payload missiles or a tactical nuke (same missile, different payload) than sacrifice tens of thousands of American troops. I'd rather take out a tactical missile installation with a missile than with a ground invasion. An ABM system removes (can remove) those options, and can certainly be seen as an aggressive move intended to remove those options.

So-called "defensive weapons" do not block only aggressive options, they also block defensive options. Always. Give me a mildly effective offensive capability combined with limitless defensive capability, and I'll conquer the world by sundown.

Is it inconsistant for those that opposed the western intervention in Serbia to not, at least theoretically, be opposed to the Russian intervention in Georgia?

Thomas Yeutter asks: "Is it inconsistant for those that opposed the western intervention in Serbia to not, at least theoretically, be opposed to the Russian intervention in Georgia?"

I re-write: "Is it inconsistent for those who opposed the Western intervention in Serbia not to oppose, at least theoretically, the Russian intervention in Georgia?"

And I answer: yeah. It is inconsistent.

"I re-write: "Is it inconsistent for those who opposed the Western intervention in Serbia not to oppose, at least theoretically, the Russian intervention in Georgia?"

And I answer: yeah. It is inconsistent."

It is consistent to support the invasions of Kosovo, Iraq, Ossetia, Georgia and wherever else power-crazed revolutionaries have in their gun-sights. Anyone with plans for Russia, though better get started before winter. Those aiming at the United States might fare better, because most of our troops are elsewhere.

It would be inconsistent if and only if the intervention in Kosovo were being opposed on the grounds that national sovereignty, or the integrity of national borders, were absolutely indefeasible, and that no policy undertaken by a sovereign government, however monstrous, could justify violation of that sovereignty and those borders. But that was never the argument. Rather, the argument was that sovereignty and the stability of borders were orders of magnitude more important in international affairs than transnationalists, inclusive of the architects of the Kosovo intervention, were ever willing to concede, and that, in consequence, a high threshold for overriding them had to be set; moreover, the argument was - at least for me - that an intervention on behalf of Muslim irredentists who commit war crimes, smuggle drugs, guns, and sex slaves, and are linked to jihadist activity throughout the world, including in the West doesn't pass that test. Therefore, intervention was not warranted: leave it go, because this group of bandits isn't worth the trouble of overriding the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the case of Georgia, the situation was the legally irregular one of a separatist enclave which had signed an autonomy accord with Georgia, and had Russian peacekeepers maintaining what stability existed. And here, the argument was not that national sovereignty was of no account, or that the Russian invasion should be endorsed, but that the West had no real dog in the hunt, regardless of what the commentariat had to say about the situation, and that the West had no moral warrant for picking and choosing the times when sovereignty mattered, and when it did not. Is the argument for hypocrisy on the paleo side supposed to be that what accords existed between Georgia, the Ossetians, and the Russians were void of authority, and that the West ought therefore have invoked national sovereignty in opposing the Russian invasion - which was already denounced as excessive the moment it passed beyond South Ossetia? Whatever autonomy and cease-fire agreements existed prior to the war, between the involved parties, had authority for the parties directly involved, and any violation of the terms was a matter for those parties, and no one else - because the West ought not be rushing to apply any sort of ideological template to such circumstances. Because the high hurdle to be cleared before violating sovereignty is a consideration for policymakers in their deliberations regarding their own policies, and not for policymakers to throw around casually in geopolitics, as though each nation were to run a tribunal on the conduct of every other nation.

If anything, there is a consistency at work: in neither case was there a Western interest in intervention, and, if in the case of Kosovo, that meant that the Albanians had to suck it up and live with limited autonomy under Serbian administration, tough; and if, in the case of Georgia, that meant that Georgia had to live with the autonomy of South Ossetia, so be it. Unless the anti-paleos are now arguing that under no circumstances may outside powers intervene to prevent otherwise sovereign governments from abusing some portion of their citizens - which is why Russian peacekeepers have been present in South Ossetia since about 1993 - which would be interesting. Not even all paleos would go that far; there is no necessity of defending sovereignty without exception, because sovereignty is not an absolute good, though it should only be cast aside in exceptional circumstances, and because the West is not the arbiter of those exceptional circumstances; ie., there is no prima facie obligation of intervention in favour of particular sovereignties, just as there is no obligation to prevent each and every atrocity committed by a sovereign government.

Maximos, none of this is to suggest that Russia's response was proportionate to the blatant provocation by Georgia, or a wise counter-move to the ongoing Western strategy in their region. The satisfaction Putin enjoys now in reasserting Russia control over the oil-rich Caucasus will be tempered by the costs to follow.

We can discuss Who Lost Russia all we want, lament the Beslan massacre as a crucial turning point in Putin's rule, but it less important now. Besides, no amount of evidence will convince some here of US culpability in the way Russia has evolved post 1989. They are too deeply confirmed in the unassailable purity of their political ideals and share the view of Ben Wattenberg; "Remember this about American Purpose: A unipolar world is fine, if America is the uni." The sole Superpower moment has expired and most will avoid reading the troubling autopsy.

You can take heart in the revival of the Orthodox faith within Russia, but it is, like traditional Christianity in the US, hemmed in and co-opted by forces antithetical to the Gospels. I believe even more so.

History will judge Putin an atavistic autocrat, not a legitimate counterweight to an overextended, delusional Liberal imperium. No statesman appears on the horizon and Tracey Rowland's formulation to "replace the liberal tradition with the Eucharist" is the only genuine alternative.

We should tremble at what has been unleashed, ignore the geopolitical commentators, and pray for Divine Mercy. When Thomas Merton learned of his brother's death in WWII, he said he came face to face for the first time with the role his own personal sins played in the events that claimed his brother and millions of other lives. That is the appropriate spiritual insight for these times.

which was already denounced as excessive the moment it passed beyond South Ossetia? Whatever autonomy and cease-fire agreements existed prior to the war, between the involved parties, had authority for the parties directly involved, and any violation of the terms was a matter for those parties, and no one else - because the West ought not be rushing to apply any sort of ideological template to such circumstances. Because the high hurdle to be cleared before violating sovereignty is a consideration for policymakers in their deliberations regarding their own policies, and not for policymakers to throw around casually in geopolitics, as though each nation were to run a tribunal on the conduct of every other nation.

This is taking the "I only criticize my own country" principle to its logical conclusion. This is going to have to mean that even if Russia _does_ start acting like its old self (yes, yes, I know we're assured it never will), takes over all of Georgia, for example, then Maximos won't criticize them. Not his place. For them to decide whether that high hurdle of sovereignty deserves to be breached and conquest is justified. He can have an opinion only on his own country.

Or that's sure as heck what this sounds like to me.

Kevin, I agree with everything you've said in that last comment.

Lydia, no, that's not what it means, either as a colloquialism or as a logical entailment. Taking things - any things - whether an absolute defense of sovereignty or a defense of wanton interventionism - is precisely what we ought to avoid in foreign affairs. I've already argued that the Russian breach of sovereignty by going beyond South Ossetia was unwarranted, and also that repulsing it, or intervening against it, was not in our interest. The Russian intervention in South Ossetia itself, however, was justified under the terms of the local agreements already in place since 1993, and equally as warranted as any actual or hypothetical Western intervention to prevent a sovereign power's abuse of its citizens; ie., these matters are contingent and prudential judgments, ideally considered under the rubrics of Just War. Hence, the phraseology to which you object is meant to caution against the judgment that the Russian peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia was unwarranted, and that the Georgians should have been permitted to have their way.

"Rob G, if we were exporting Mom and Pop and apple pie Americanism, would that make a difference to you?
I have a feeling it wouldn't make a difference to everybody in this discussion."

That wasn't my point, Lydia. I think that one might have been able to make a stronger case for the exportation of old fashioned apple pie democracy, but that's certainly not what's being exported now. Therefore, the case for exporting it is weaker on the very face of it.

Kevin:

"...whereas you guys's are a result of viewing America as doing ill to other countries and as being, in a non-trivial sense, one of the bad guys of the world."

This is true to some extent.

Personally, I find it ironic that those who had protested against America in its so-called "empire-building" with Iraq look onto Russia's empire-building as Russia's historical right due to it having been the Once Great Power in the region and, moreover, don't even consider the possibility that the Georgian invasion was but an attempt at chokehold on its Black Sea pipeline to strengthen its newly-found economic power.

More credence was given to the conspiracy theory that America was after Middle Eastern oil in Gulf War I & II!

Lydia:

But actually, the reason I used the term "doublespeak" was in particular because of the business about how we aren't supposed to take Russia to be a serious threat but _are_ to leave her her nuclear threat.
Russia's nuclear threat is, vis-a-vis the United States, nearly the whole of her defensive capability. After twenty years of neglect, her conventional forces on land and in the air are no match for America's (her navy never was), and her strategic position with respect to China worsens by the day. The Russian government has made public in recent years its intent to rely ever more on its strategic rocket forces for its defense for the simple reason that it can not afford comparatively much more expensive conventional forces in the quantities or at the level of technological sophistication necessary to deter either China or the United States.

As I briefly mentioned in a post above, so-called strategic nuclear arms are, at the level of strategy and in the relations between nuclear-armed states, defensive weapons, the intent effect of which is to make both nuclear and conventional war between nuclear-armed states so destructive as to be utterly irrational to enter into. But nuclear arms are not truly offensive weapons in this context because they can not be used, first for fear of retaliation in kind, and secondly for the obvious reason that they annihilate their targets, since even the smallest ICBM and SLBM warheads in use today are many times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. Nuclear weapons tend to preserve, not undermine, the status quo between powers that possess them.

However, between nuclear and non-nuclear states, nuclear weapons can, in theory, be exploded offensively, as over Japan. More importantly and more realistically in present circumstances, their existence as a threat to which the enemy can not respond in kind provides an umbrella for conventional and proxy offensive measures and a final backstop against the consequences of conventional defeat. The Russians fear very much, perhaps unrealistically so, being reduced to this status with respect to the United States. You think it prima facie absurd that the United Stats has aggressive intentions against Russia, but for the same reasons the United States was never inclined to take the Soviets at their word, the Russians are not inclined to take us at ours, particularly when our actions and rhetoric readily lend themselves to a more minatory interpretation.

Interview with Charles Fairbanks (a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of State) at TNR:


We've lost 70 percent of our influence in the Caucasus in four days. The future is very dark, I think, unless either the Georgian public or the American government becomes much, much more serious and tries to retrieve the situation.

I follow you well, Cyrus. And I disagree profoundly. The more profoundly with you than with Zippy, because you want us to think that Russia would not use the very same weapons that you also think we have a duty to leave Russia the option of using.

I follow you well, Cyrus. And I disagree profoundly. The more profoundly with you than with Zippy, because you want us to think that Russia would not use the very same weapons that you also think we have a duty to leave Russia the option of using.
You disagree with things I'm not saying. I'm sure the Russians would use their nuclear weapons, just as I am sure the United States would use its nuclear weapons. We did, twice, threatened to do so explicitly more than a few times during the Cold War, and have always been at the forefront of nuclear weapon and delivery system design and deployment. Nor do I think the United States has a duty to preserve the Russian deterrent. I'm not sure the United States has any duties toward Russia - the idea sounds like a categorical error. I do think that it is imprudent for the United States to take measures that appear to nullify Russia's deterrent because of what it might lead both sides to do. I don't wish to take chances with nuclear weapons, the mutual fear of which is the only thing that has prevented great power war.

Cyrus said: "I don't wish to take chances with nuclear weapons, the mutual fear of which is the only thing that has prevented great power war."

Don't you know that Mutually Assured Destruction is MAD?!

I appreciate the clarification, Cyrus.

For the record, I think the U.S. shouldn't expressly threaten to nuke civilian cities and shouldn't have actually done so in WWII. I'm also much inclined to think that we would be much more hesitant to do so now than then. About Russia, I'm less confident.

Cyrus said: "I don't wish to take chances with nuclear weapons, the mutual fear of which is the only thing that has prevented great power war."

Don't you know that Mutually Assured Destruction is MAD?!


It is, but it works, while more high-minded efforts to keep the peace have failed quickly repeatedly. I don't like nuclear weapons - though I find them morbidly fascinating - but appreciate that much, and fear with some justification that had they not been discovered, we would have experienced at a great power war or wars that would have been to WWII as WWII was to WWI. That this has been achieved only by holding much of the human race at gunpoint is not moral, though it perhaps condemns us to a slightly more commodious circle of Hell than that reserved for those who actually kill, rather than merely threaten it.

For the record, I think the U.S. shouldn't expressly threaten to nuke civilian cities and shouldn't have actually done so in WWII. I'm also much inclined to think that we would be much more hesitant to do so now than then. About Russia, I'm less confident.
I agree, somewhat. I'm as appalled by WWII city bombing as you. As for expressly threatening cities, even a counterforce strike with nuclear weapons would kill millions of noncombatants, so the distinction is somewhat, though not entirely, academic. Besides which forswearing attacks on cities might be perceived by an opponent as weakening deterrence by holding out the promise that, if he could destroy ones counterforce-capable weapons with a surprise attack, he would effectively be safe. This is perhaps not as much of a problem for the United States, which still maintains its SSBNs, which are armed with missiles capable of first-strike accuracy. For the more ICBM-dependent, and generally less accurate forces of Russia, the calculus might be different, and they might be encouraged to preemptive strike in a crisis, on the "use it or lose it" theory. Now, it is plausible to me that the United States has a higher threshold for use of nuclear weapons than Russia, not least because we are more of a conventional threat to either of our most likely nuclear adversaries than they are to us, but there is a point at which our government would use them, and I believe that most if not all of the personnel responsible for carrying out those orders would do so. The Air Force and Navy certainly believe that they will.

Cyrus:

It is, but it works, while more high-minded efforts to keep the peace have failed quickly repeatedly. I don't like nuclear weapons - though I find them morbidly fascinating - but appreciate that much, and fear with some justification that had they not been discovered, we would have experienced at a great power war or wars that would have been to WWII as WWII was to WWI. That this has been achieved only by holding much of the human race at gunpoint is not moral, though it perhaps condemns us to a slightly more commodious circle of Hell than that reserved for those who actually kill, rather than merely threaten it.

Why, don't you know that, as the extreme moralists (i.e., the unilateral disarmament advocates) at the time of the SALT II Treaty so wisely declared then; had we (the U.S.) only dismantled our entire nuclear arsenal, such an heroic act would have so assuaged the fears of the Soviet Union that they would have likewise followed suit?

Why, don't you know that, as the extreme moralists (i.e., the unilateral disarmament advocates) at the time of the SALT II Treaty so wisely declared then; had we (the U.S.) only dismantled our entire nuclear arsenal, such an heroic act would have so assuaged the fears of the Soviet Union that they would have likewise followed suit?
Yeah... Sure. Wanna buy a bridge?

I take it the sarcasm of my statement regarding the unilateral disarmament advocates, the ideal moralists of its time (and ours), was lost on you... Oh well!

Au contraire, aristocles. It is my sarcasm that was lost on you. I remember the calls for unilateral disarmament. I was the kid who showed up to junior high with copies of "Soviet Military Power" tucked under my arm.

It seems that was, indeed, the case! My bad!

Personally, I find it interesting that rhetoric reflective of "America First" of WWII as well as those of the Unilateralists at SALT II can be found in many of the comments of certain interlocutors here and elsewhere.

It seems to confirm the passage in Scripture (Ecclesiastes perhaps?) that "Nothing is new under the Sun", or something to that effect.

Here's a Spiegel interview with "the greatest man of the century" Solzhenitsyn:

Solzhenitsyn also addresses the worsening relationship between Russia and the West. Why is this happening?


”I can name many reasons, but the most interesting ones are psychological, i.e. the clash of illusory hopes against reality. This happened both in Russia and in West. When I returned to Russia in 1994, the Western world and its states were practically being worshipped. Admittedly, this was caused not so much by real knowledge or a conscious choice, but by the natural disgust with the Bolshevik regime and its anti-Western propaganda.


This mood started changing with the cruel NATO bombings of Serbia. It’s fair to say that all layers of Russian society were deeply and indelibly shocked by those bombings. The situation then became worse when NATO started to spread its influence and draw the ex-Soviet republics into its structure.

Post a comment


Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.