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Georgia On My Mind, Part I

The current crisis in Georgia has a lot of people thinking, and paying attention to a region of the world we tend to ignore -- the breakaway republics of the former Soviet Union. Hell, when most Americans think about "Georgia," we first think of the state and not the nation, which is smaller both in size and population. About the most significant thing most people know bout Georgia-the-nation is that it's where Joseph Stalin hailed from.

Well, Georgia-the-nation is front and center now, thanks to Russia invading and bisecting the little country, killing thousands in the process and bringing back into sharp relief the fact that while the Soviet Union is officially kaput, their former war machine is still a very, very potent force -- and very, very few of their nearest neighbors have the wherewithal to stand against Russia on their own.

Why should we care? There are lots of reasons.

First up, ever since Georgia became free, it has been both a fairly healthy democracy and a staunch friend to the US and the West in general. On a political and ethical stance, we ought to stand up for them as they have stood with us. It's the decent, honorable, principled thing to do.

More pragmatically, Georgia sits astride the pipelines that supply much of Western Europe with its energy needs. If Russia takes and holds control over those pipelines, they will hold yet another dagger to Western Europe's throat.

Most ominously, Georgia was one of the key captive states of the former Soviet Union. It was one of the first places the Soviets assimilated, and -- as I noted -- it's where Joseph Stalin hailed from. Its return to the Russian sphere of control is a very disturbing sign that Putin (and his puppet, Medvedev) are interested in bringing back the bad old days of the Soviet empire -- without that pesky pretense of Communism giving a veneer to flagrant, open thuggery and tyranny.

In this situation, it may seem a bit trite to say "how is this playing politically in the US?," but it's an essential one. The opinions of three men take absolute precedence in this matter -- the current president, and the two men who are vying to succeed him.

President Bush wasted no time in condemning the Russian attack, and offered support to Georgia. The precise form and efficacy of that support has yet to be determined, but it's a promising sign that he does take this very, very seriously.

Bush was also seen having a very heated discussion with Vladimir Putin while both were attending the Beijing Olympics, as reported by Australia's prime minister.

Senator John McCain has his credentials clearly lined up. He's been warning about the dangers of resurgent Russian imperialism, and even singled out Georgia as a potential flashpoint. McCain has also often echoed President Bush's oft-mocked declaration that he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and saw his soul; McCain says he, too, looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters -- "K - G - B."

McCain's first response to the Georgian invasion with a strong denouncement, returning to a theme that has been a mainstay of his for years now.

And then there's Senator Obama. Obama's first statement:

"I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict. Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war. Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis."


This was while the Russians were in the middle of a full-scale invasion of Georgia, with divisions of tanks killing people and destroying things at whim. And he thought that the United Nations should get involved. In case anyone needs reminding, Russia sits on the United Nations Security Council -- and has veto power over any actions by the Council, should it wish.

Senator Obama, to his credit, realized that his first response was too mealy-mouthed and wishy-washy, and quickly issued a new statement that echoed the sentiments of President Bush and Senator McCain:

"We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence. This is a clear violation of the sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Georgia - the UN must stand up for the sovereignty of its members, and peace in the world."

As noted, turning to the UN will not do a damned bit of good. Although it is nice to see him be willing to give a smidgen more condemnation to Russia, instead of pulling the old "both sides have acted wrongly" equivocation.

He's also pulling out all the stops, even going to the classic tactic known as "making shit up." Obama now says that he's been warning about Russian aggression for some time, even in Georgia. As nice as that sounds, there's not a shred of evidence of him ever saying such a thing in public before the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, Senator McCain has doubled down. He stated that "we are all Georgians," and is pushing hard for the US to do something tangible to help out the beleaguered people of Georgia.

So, what should the US do about the Russian invasion of Georgia? More to the point, what can we do?

That's an ugly question, one I'm going to have to think about for a while. Besides, this piece is long enough. I'll revisit the topic later today.


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Comments (29)

Robert Bidinotto has a good... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Robert Bidinotto has a good post up on this here.

One important parallel to pay attention to is this:

As Robert Tracinski notes today in TIA Daily, "Putin is following the playbook of the Sudetenland crisis that Hitler engineered in 1938 as a pretext to invade Czechoslovakia. Hitler armed and supported ethnic Germans in a separatist province on the Czech border with Germany, then he used the alleged need to defend these ethnic Germans as a pretext to annex the Sudetenland. Having breached Czechoslovakia's borders and rendered the country indefensible, Hitler simply swallowed it whole."

Jay TeaConsider fo... (Below threshold)
joe:

Jay Tea

Consider for a moment, Kosovo, 9 years ago.

Russia's intervention is akin to what the West did when they took action against the Serbs. Do the words, pot, kettle mean anything to you?

Surely you can see the similarity?

joe, I don't see where JT e... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

joe, I don't see where JT endorsed the military action against the Serbs 9 years ago, do you?

What I'd like to know is wh... (Below threshold)
Eric:

What I'd like to know is where are all of the peace protestors? Why don't we see any peace marches in the street? Where is Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan? Where are all of the Hollywood celebs who were so vocal about Iraq? Why haven't they been on TV condemning Russia?

joe, when the UN "took acti... (Below threshold)
cirby:

joe, when the UN "took action" against the Serbs, did the UN spend several years funneling money and weapons into the Serbs to convince them to cause trouble in the first place? Nope.

Were the real problems in Serbia caused by former Communists and then-current dictators creating the wonderful new phrase "ethnic cleansing? Yes.

The biggest problem in South Ossetia isn't caused by the Georgian government. It's caused by a decade and a half of Russian military involvement in a region where they want to control basically everything.

Here's another: of the dramatic claims against Georgie by Russia and the South Ossetian government officials against Georgia, there's been almost NO independent proof. The biggest amount of images coming out of there have shown nothing but the sort of damage caused by heavy armored units fighting a blitz-type war. In other words, the initial justification for the Russian invasion was pretty much just made up out of whole cloth, except for the part where Georgia fired at some of the guerillas funded by Russia in an area where Russia was supposed to be keeping the peace.

It's interesting how positi... (Below threshold)
Weegie:

It's interesting how positions get reversed.

In Kosovo, it was the Russians who supported the Serb claim to sovereignty over Kosovo, while America (and its allies) decided that it should be sovereign.

Similary, the Russians upheld this principle regarding Chechnya, too.

But regarding the current situation in Georgia, both Russia and America (and its allies) have reversed positions regarding sovereignty of breakaway provinces.

Now, I consider the current crisis to have been of Russian origin; they precipitated the escalation by sending an armor column to support the South Ossetians. And their forces seemed quite ready for action from the start.

And of course, their actions should rightly have been condemned, immediately. No platitudes; condemnation.

If Obama had said anything ... (Below threshold)
hermie:

If Obama had said anything about Georgia, the MSM would've used it to bolster his very sad foreign policy credentials, and Chris Mathews would've gotten another thrill up his legs.

Libs mindset for every cris... (Below threshold)
GianiD:

Libs mindset for every crisis is you have to talk, people need understanding, etc. (Look at how that has worked with the inner city gang problem in all of those big blue cities).

Their philosophy is why VT has become a haven for sexual predators. Libs have endangered mothers and children in that once great state by thinking they can talk their way out of a crisis. Here's hoping the people of Georgia will be safer than the children of VT.

embargo grain shipments,fre... (Below threshold)
1903A3:

embargo grain shipments,freeze financial assets,supply aid to Georgia,and covert ops to protect the pipelines and to cause as much trouble to the soviets as possible. just saying.

Obama:We should c... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

Obama:
We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence.

Sen. Obama, Russia sits on the UNSC. Good luck getting Russia to sign off on a resolution calling for Russia to "end the violence".

Maybe Sen. Obama could get Russia to sit down and talk to Russia. (/sarcasm)

Loss of the pipe line would... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Loss of the pipe line would only be about 1million barrels a day. The BTC pipeline was already shut down to repair damage done to it by the PKK in Turkey. The world market hardly noticed.

Mr. Tea has succeeded in si... (Below threshold)
Herman:

Mr. Tea has succeeded in sinking to a new low (for him) with regards to superficiality. Not one word, NOT ONE, regarding why Russia attacked.

Here, Mr. Tea, let me help you out. From Wikipedia:

"On August 8, 2008, Russia sent troops across the Georgian border to South Ossetia to stop Georgia's massive offensive against its breakaway territory in which up to 2,000 civilians (at least 1000[24] ) and about 20 Russian peacekeepers were killed."

Now bear in mind that we sent troops all the way to Afghanistan when slightly less than 3,000 people were slain in Sept. 11, 2001.

As his post shows, Mr. Tea's simplistic mind works in the following manner:

1. "Georgia friend of U.S."
2. "Oil go through Georgia. LOVE OIL!!!"
3. "Must stop bad Russian Bear again."

It's notable too that Mr. Tea turns his unwarranted wrath upon Senator Obama. What the hell are Chimpy and Condi doing about all of this? HELLO, MR. TEA, BUSH IS PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. not Obama!!! Are both Bushie and Condi still on vacation? Compare the actual words of Bush's call for restraint with Obama's call also for restraint. Mr. Tea, what precisely is the difference?

"Obama now says that he's been warning about Russian aggression for some time, even in Georgia. As nice as that sounds, there's not a shred of evidence of him ever saying such a thing in public before the Russian invasion." -- Mr. Tea

Yet again Mr. Tea shows his lack of capacity to think deeply. What gets discussed and debated among Congressmen doesn't always make the nightly news, Mr. Tea.

Loss of the pipe l... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Loss of the pipe line would only be about 1million barrels a day.

Maybe 1 mbd is the current capacity of the pipeline, but many news reports state it was delivering just 100,000 bd before it shut down. Obviously, this is not how much of western Europe is currently getting it's oil and gas. I think the point is that this is (was) the only pipeline from the Caspian sea that Russia doesn't (didn't) control and that way it is (was) important.

Wikipedia. That's a solid ... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Wikipedia. That's a solid source. No opportunity for bias to enter in there.

If the Georgian gov't had b... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

If the Georgian gov't had been murdering South Ossetians the same way the Serbs were murdering ethnic Albanians, then we would be wrong not to support Russian intervention in the region. However, there is no evidence that that has been occurring.

As the world sits around humming and hawing, with France the only nation attempting to show any leadership, it's clear that right now is a very good time to be an ultra-nationalist Putinite Russian.

Compare the act... (Below threshold)
Martin Knight:
Compare the actual words of Bush's call for restraint with Obama's call also for restraint. Mr. Tea, what precisely is the difference?

Easy. Bush called for restraint and placed the blame squarely on the aggressor, Russia. Obama called for restraint and offered mealy-mouthed equivocation - the difference is as clear as it gets.

Yet again Mr. Tea shows his lack of capacity to think deeply. What gets discussed and debated among Congressmen doesn't always make the nightly news, Mr. Tea.

Yep ... but they do make (it into) the Congressional record. And there is no evidence there that Obama said anything ever about Russian aggression and Georgia. Nothing at all. The empty suit *is* making sh*t up.

Prior to Obama's appearance on the scene, omniscience was a trait usually attributed only to God. Herman's overwrought response here just serves to emphasize how close to reality the Right is when we say that the Left sees Barack as God.

Herman's last name should b... (Below threshold)
epador:

Herman's last name should be Goering.

Border security issues by m... (Below threshold)

Border security issues by major powers always represent some of the most potentially dangerous of all conflicts.

In 1962, the U.S. came very close to war with the Soviets over plans to assemble some missile launcher sites in Cuba only 90 miles from the American coastline. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy was delegated by his brother, President Kennedy to make a delinked agreement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to remove some American missiles located in Turkey near the Soviet border if the Soviets would not station any nuclear weapons or launchers in Cuba.

Today, on the Putin government controlled news-service, VOICE OF RUSSIA, there is an argument for Russia to give not only humanitarian aid but also to arm the Serbs in Kosovo. The U.S. has been arming the Albanians in that state. This presents the next dangerous showdown area between Russia and the Western powers.

The government of Georgia had sought membership in NATO, but was not yet a member of this Western military treaty organization. This is very important because it would have obligated all NATO members to defend another NATO state with military power. It would have meant NATO war with Russia.

The Putin dominated government is obviously seeking to put back together some old-style federation of former Soviet republics or at least support allies in border states to establish friendly states to Russia, and not the West. It is very easy to see real dangers for a showdown over one of these states meaning war between Russia and NATO, especially because Russia views this as important border security issue. This is very disturbing conduct for any state like Russia that wishes to be part of the G8 and wields great oil financial power around the world. Most of the world's recent oil billionaires have come from either Russia or Iran.

It has now become not too difficult to foresee the dangerous possibility of some military showdown between NATO and Russia somewhere in the future if Russia continues to be dominated by the paranoid foreign policy of Putin, who appears to be overly sensitive to every new border incident in any state near Russia viewed as a grave threat to Russian border security. Nothing could be more dangerous than this in my view.

Herman:"... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

Herman:

"Obama now says that he's been warning about Russian aggression for some time, even in Georgia. As nice as that sounds, there's not a shred of evidence of him ever saying such a thing in public before the Russian invasion." -- Mr. Tea

Yet again Mr. Tea shows his lack of capacity to think deeply. What gets discussed and debated among Congressmen doesn't always make the nightly news, Mr. Tea.

Why does simply noticing where Obama did or did not state this require one to 'think deeply' ?

An F-MRI can be used as a 'lie detector'. Apparently, lying requires more brain activity than does telling the truth. One might say, making shit up requires one to think more deeply.

Would be interesting if Rus... (Below threshold)
TexTaz:

Would be interesting if Russian tanks and artillery started to mysteriously explode at night, all why Bush and Rice swear that there are absolutlely no F-117's or B2's operating anywhere near Georgia (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

And was that Wikipedia entry edited from a Russian URL?

Russia has issued an ultima... (Below threshold)
Maggie:

Russia has issued an ultimatum to the U.S.
Choose Russia or choose Georgia.

Atlanta,s to damn hot,go ah... (Below threshold)
1903A3:

Atlanta,s to damn hot,go ahead and give it to,em.Oppsy wrong Georgia. LOL//being funny

"HELLO, MR. TEA, BUSH IS... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"HELLO, MR. TEA, BUSH IS PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. not Obama!!! Are both Bushie and Condi still on vacation?"

Actually, Obama is on vacation.

But more to your point, I guess you're not interested in what Obama or McCain would say or do about it. Seeing as one or the other will be our next President in 5 months, I'm very interested. But hey, I'm quirky that way.

"Mr. Tea has succeeded in s... (Below threshold)
cirby:

"Mr. Tea has succeeded in sinking to a new low (for him) with regards to superficiality. Not one word, NOT ONE, regarding why Russia attacked."

Because he (and everyone else who's not an idiot) knows that every reason that Russia gave was, to use a technical term, bullshit.

I mentioned this above, and the only thing resembling a response was (snicker) a Wikipedia cite, which might as well be a Russian press release.

No, the Georgians didn't kill a couple of thousand civilians. The Russians, from all evidence, have killed at least that many in the last few days.

What to do ..hmmmmFi... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

What to do ..hmmmm
First off...keep that cluster fuck called the U.N out of the situation. A Keystone cop skit will be of no help.

Second...Make Georgia a member of NATO. Let's see just how demented Putin wants to get.

Third..and ONLY a strong leader that can be taken at his word could pull this next step off. ------------------>

Sit Vlad down one on one at some summit and let him know, (that unlike IED's and bomb strapped monkeys which can be dealt with but are pains in the ass.) The US military being involved in ANY capacity with traditional battle field conditions excels to it's highest potential.

Vlad may be KGB, but he's not stupid...Russia doesn't actually wanna DANCE with the US. They just want to growl at babies... build their image in hopes that it will build their influence.

"Yep ... but they do make (... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"Yep ... but they do make (it into) the Congressional record. And there is no evidence there that Obama said anything ever about Russian aggression and Georgia. Nothing at all. The empty suit *is* making sh*t up." -- Martin Knight

Utterly ridiculous. First off, have you gone through the entire Congressional record? I highly doubt it. But it doesn't matter. Debates about pending bills get transcribed to the Congressional record. What gets discussed in private meetings between Congressmen (or between congressmen and administration officials, etc.) does not.

"Easy. Bush called for restraint and placed the blame squarely on the aggressor, Russia. Obama called for restraint and offered mealy-mouthed equivocation - the difference is as clear as it gets." -- Martin K.

Obama: "I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict," Obama said in a statement. "Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full-scale war. Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected." http://uk.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20080808/twl-uk-georgia-ossetia-obama-bd5ae06.html

Really equivocating, huh, dude? I guess you would have been happier if Obama had structured his statement more emphatically along the lines of "Russia-bad-Georgia-good-I-don't-do-nuance type mentality???

To all of those out there d... (Below threshold)
Herman:

To all of those out there denigrating Wikipedia, if you weren't protesting when your guy, John McCain himself, was PLAGIARIZING Wiki with regards to this very conflict, could you please KINDLY SHUT THE (EXPLETIVE-DELETED) UP??? Please?

Herman just used words that... (Below threshold)
Master Shake:

Herman just used words that I have used in my lifetime. EVERY SINGLE ONE of those, I have used before.

I demand that HERMAN THE PLAGIARIST be BANNED IMMEDIATELY!!!!

"Yet again Mr. Tea shows... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"Yet again Mr. Tea shows his lack of capacity to think deeply. What gets discussed and debated among Congressmen doesn't always make the nightly news, Mr. Tea."

You never heard anything either, did you, Herman? Please, point us to where Obama has indeed made public statements warning about Russia's aggression in regards to Georgia.

"Utterly ridiculous. First off, have you gone through the entire Congressional record?"

Have you? Or is your whole premise here, "Well, I'm SURE he MUST have said something somewhere." Show me the money quote, Herman. And not one he's made since the conflict started. He said, "For many months I have warned..." Who did he warn? What did he say? When did he say it?




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