Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Thoughts on Georgia

With the tragic events of the last weeks, the world has discovered the Republic of Georgia, with more reporting and analysis than that nation has seen in 20 years. The Georgians are now at the mercy of geopolitical forces beyond their control. It is their plight that concerns me, rather than whether Saakashvili is a hero or a jackass, or whether Russia precipitated the conflict or merely responded to a provocation. Daragahi and Spiegel with the Los Angeles Times offer a succinct and excellent analysis, here. They quote an American diplomat who expounds on the nature of the Georgian people. In so doing, he hits close to the mark in explaining the passion this remote corner evokes among its citizens and visitors.

"These are the most romantic people in the world. They're very gallant, in the stupid sense," said Bruce P. Jackson, a close Bush administration ally who has worked extensively with Saakashvili and other leaders in the emerging democracies of the former Soviet bloc. "Do they really listen? They're very much 'the Charge of the Light Brigade' people. It has a lot to do with personal honor."

I understand what he is saying, even the use of the word "stupid." The world could use more such stupidity.

(This picture and previous from John Graham's blog, here.)

When it comes to foreign policy, I find myself in increasing agreement with Pat Buchanan. Like him, I believe our foreign policy has been needlessly Russophobic; that we have failed to understand Russia, and consequently wasted the golden opportunity to forge alliances following the end of the Cold War; and that Russia has quite legitimate security concerns in its own neighborhood, as do we in ours. That said, I think Pat paints with too broad a brush, is overly simplistic, and not a little judgmental when he states:

"American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight--Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end."

But Pat goes on to make an excellent point in analyzing Russian concerns (or paranoia, as some would charge):

Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.

Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow.

How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior?

For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia’s space and getting into Russia’s face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost—in Tbilisi.

The entire article, here.

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