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Sphere-of-Influence Sauce for the Hegemonist Gander

I write shortly after rolling out of bed, awakened at far too unripe an hour by my children. Nonetheless, we will soon be readying ourselves for Liturgy. As our parish includes both a decent contingent of Russians, and a sizable contingent of Georgians from the wider area, given the intensifying conflict between the two nations, I anticipate two possible scenarios in addition to the proper one of everyone attending to the transcendent proceedings of the Liturgy and minding his own political business otherwise: either there will be some tension between the contingents, conditioned by the relative cosmopolitanism of the Russians, most of whom are American citizens grateful in most respects for the opportunity to depart the uncertainties of the Motherland, and the fervent patriotism/nationalism of the Georgians - or the Georgians will all remain home, endeavouring to receive news from home and to establish contact with relatives. My prayers, with those of the Orthodox Patriarchs of Georgia and Russia, are for a speedy resolution of the conflict.

For those interested in commentary on the unfolding conflict, one can do no better than to peruse Daniel Larison's extensive coverage of the journalistic and political responses and apologetical maneuvers, all concerning a conflict which, despite the frothing of demented Russophobes, Cold War nostalgics, blinkered utopians, tendentious hegemonists, and selective enthusiasts for the Great Game of Petroleum Geopolitics, implicates no legitimate American interest.

America imprudently extended security assistance to a small nation with no connection to any vital American strategic interest, primarily as an element of a grand geopolitical strategy in which a non-prostrated Russia does not factor, and in which, as many current Western commentators are openly acknowledging, the control of Central Asian petroleum resources does factor, notwithstanding the manifest fact that Western dependence upon Russian petroleum reserves, and the reserves of Russian-allied states, cannot be mitigated substantially, let alone eliminated, so long as Russia remains an intact and functional state. American strategists cannot abide the commonsensical observation that patriotism means that citizens of other nations love their countries as much as we love ours, and labour under the delusions of exceptionalism and indispensability, not to mention the truly bizarre assumption that, if not for various false consciousnesses, citizens of other nations would be delighted to dwell under our tutelage and dominion.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the Russian campaign on behalf of South Ossetia is incontrovertibly the former's prophesied response to the West's world-historical blunder in facilitating the independence of Kosovo: the United States cannot logically traduce the international order of sovereign states at will, and then turn about to demand that other great powers respect that order where it both suits the declared interest of the U.S. for them to do so, but suits the interests of those powers to modify that order (It is worth mentioning, for what it is worth, that the status quo in South Ossetia simply was de facto autonomy from Georgia), and it is loathsome to listen to Bush administration officials, and John McCain, one of whose advisers was until recently a lobbyist for the Georgian government, prattle on about the sovereignty of Georgia. Yes, yes, we understand all of that. Now, hegemonists, heal yourselves!

Bottom line: shades of grey, and no legitimate and objective American interest. The outstanding questions concern how America, which has Georgia crawling with military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials, could have been caught unawares by the preparations, on the part of all involved parties, for the present hostilities. Perhaps they were simply so naive as to believe that they needn't have prioritized their geopolitical objectives, that they could indeed have their cake and eat it too, such that, regardless of 'transient' increases in regional tensions, the "logic of history" was on their side. That prospect is all too probable, and all too terrifying, signifying that our establishment is incapable of learning from history, even recent history; they learn nothing, but forget no grudges.

Comments (6)

I must say that Daniel Larison is in his predictable Paleo mode. While I think he is good for another viewpoint I hope people broaden their horizons a tad.

I swear looking at some Comment sections one gets a sense that folks that see neo cons under every bed just hope Russia gets its over with an just invade the whole country. Return things to the proper sphere of influence and such. Strange days indeed

None of us on the paleo side are desirous of a Russian invasion of Georgia. Many of us, to the contrary, are grieved that two historically Orthodox nations are warring with one another.

It is a matter of geopolitical reality that stronger nations will have, via trade, finance, and military associations/power projection, spheres of influence at the periphery (or beyond). There is no necessity of this being hegemonic, though it occasionally is precisely that. But it will have to be explained how the United States purporting to act as the guarantor of the independence - even to the point of open provocations - of various tertiary powers is different from the powerful neighbours of those tertiary powers having them within a sphere of influence. This sort of thing is, in reality, special pleading: some nations are entitled to spheres of influence, even halfway round the world, and others are not so entitled, even in their own backyards. This sort of tendentiousness on the part of the American establishment ill conduces to geopolitical stability, and the members of that establishment evince no cognizance of the precedents their own policies disseminate into geopolitical space.

Does Russia get to invoke a "Monroe Doctrine" of her own, even when governed by a ruthless set of thugs? I think she does.

We will one day look at the opportunity that was squandered in 1989 and recoil at the pursuit of some illusory uni-polar world, one we could never preside over without losing souls. I no longer wait for a modern-day Metternich or Christian Machiavelli (can such a creature be possible?) to surface, but would settle for a Nixon.

We certainly stepped in it with Kosovo. The KLA were many things, but decent men fighting for their freedom is not one of them. It's just too bad that Georgia is paying part of the price for our idiocy.

jh: "...hope Russia gets its over with an just invade the whole country."

Your wishes are coming to fruition --

Russians seize more areas of Georgia: Towns, military base captured; Moscow to brief NATO on actions

It seems to me that if we really wanted to make inroads into the Russian sphere of influence we would have instead helped the Serbs to maintain their territorial integrity against the Muslim pretensions.

If that position is unsound, then neutrality looks like it would have been the next-best option.

We seem, however, to have taken the worst possible course by helping to give Islam yet another sovereign state, and giving the Russians an excuse for dropping their long-running pretense of being a civilized nation.

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