Saturday, August 09, 2008

Is the caucasian situation like 1938... or like 1914?

The Georgians apparently think that this moment is "like 1938", where the West faces an indelible choice about whether or not to stand up to a tyrant to support a fledgling democracy. The Georgians are doing everything they can, moreover, to shame the West into coming to their aid, presumably military. (That's the point of Saakashvili's declaration that this fight is "not about Georgia any more. It’s about America, its values: we are a freedom-loving nation that is right now under attack.")

Unsurprisingly, they're having some success in finding sponsors among the very same policy intellectuals in Washington who should long ago have been run out of town on a rail for the utter bankrupting of their ideas in Iraq. Invoking 1938, of course, is like waving a red flag in front of the neocons, for whom every international crisis is "like 1938," where the choice is between virtuous bellicosity and knavish appeasement.

Unfortunately, that's the wrong historical analogy. A much more apposite analogy for what a decision by the West/NATO to stand up to Putin over Georgia would be, is 1914, not 1938 -- the needless escalation of a small regional conflict into a potentially massive military conflagration between Great Powers. I hope that someone smart in State or at the CIA is spending this weekend writing a memo comparing these two historical analogies. Because taking up the wrong historical analogy or antecedent could have truly catastrophic consequences at a conjuncture like this one.


Unknown said...

As willing I am to believe in Russian bellicosity, that article made me much less sympathetic to the Georgians.

Unknown said...

Er....Not so much after Russia invaded Georgia proper....