Friday, August 15, 2008

Since I've Changed My Mind . . . (UPDATE)

I must admit that I have been pre-occupied with the entire Russia/Georgia war this week. Apart from work, and my family's frequent absences, I have spent the bulk of time this week trying to figure out what, exactly, I think about this entire episode. Not, of course, that what I think matters all that much. Except, of course, as an informed citizen I think it does matter. My initial, knee-jerk reaction of support for Georgia I would defend as a typical American response of support for an underdog, knowing full well the Russian Bear would enter the ring and tear this little terrier up.

Having said that, and considered many of the mitigating circumstances, not least of which have been the repeated empty promises the Bush Administration has made to Pres. Shaakashvili, I have come full circle and realize that, as earnest and honest as my initial reaction may have been, it was wrong. The Russians did what had to be done, and have shown remarkable restraint (unlike the US, which has shown only ineptitude in Iraq and negligence in Afghanistan), all things considered (this is war, after all). In light of my own change of heart, I would recommend this piece by Strobe Talbott in today's Washington Post as an example of the kind of stupid thinking that is rampant across the political spectrum in foreign policy circles in Washington.

There is no reason at all to reconsider our relations with the Russians in light of this conflict. That is, to be blunt, ridiculous, and would be counter-productive in both the short and long term. Now, it is true that the conservatives tend to offer advice that empirically provides the exact opposite of the intended consequences, and it might be good to have so many people offering this particular perspective. Since so many insiders are counseling this garbage, it's a sure bet doing the opposite is the best bet.

Furthering good relations with the Russians in a post-Bush, post-Republican, post-Right Wing America is in our best interest, and while I weep for all those who are suffering, since all sides (including the Georgians in the path of Russian tanks; one should listen to BBC on occasion to get an idea of what people in the rest of the world think) blame Pres. Shaakashvili for their woes, I think it unwise to promote this obscure leader of a country most even in the policy-making community would be hard-pressed to find on a map as some savant of democracy in a sea of oppression. Punishing the Russians, in any case, is outside our capabilities and tough talk only makes clear our current weakness. Sending Condoleeza Rice is less than pointless, as Pres. Sarkozy of France has actually done the grunt work of making a peace deal; I think Shaakashvili is still holding out hope of American and European support for his beleaguered country (a country beleaguered, I repeat, by his own foolishness) will tip the scales in the Georgians' favor. This is foolishness in the extreme on his part, and every step official Washington makes in that direction only compounds the folly. Let the Europeans manage the affair, as they already have a good head start on it, and for the love of peace, please shut silence all the pro-Georgia nonsense in official circles in Washington.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall summarizes a joint press conference Pres. Shaakashvili held with Secretary of State Rice thusly:
[H]e is claiming that Europe is to blame for the Russian invasion because of the failure to grant NATO entry to Georgia. This is followed by some odd arguments about why Georgia didn't at the least give Russia a robust pretext by launching into South Ossetia last weekend. It's Czechoslovakia (1938 & 1968), Poland, Kuwait, Afghanistan and several other crises of the past rolled into one and we don't greet this like standing up to Hitler and Stalin our honor is lost today and our freedom tomorrow.

His conclusion? "[H]e's trouble."

I couldn't agree more.

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