Saturday, August 09, 2008


The nasty news from the Caucasus about what nationalism produces has managed to push the news of nationalism-stoking nonsense in Beijing off the front page. 1500 reportedly dead already, two days into the war. One can argue about what has caused the war, but the short of it is that the Russians are violently reasserting that Georgia is part of their sphere of influence. In a strategic sense, the Russians have already won, since the fact that NATO clearly ain't coming to Georgia's rescue means that now there is no chance that Georgia will join NATO in the foreseeable future.

The neocons will of course wring their hands and waggle their fingers about the immorality of hanging the Georgians out to dry, but from my point of view, Daniel Larison seems to me to get the essential point exactly right:
Obviously, I understand why Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and Georgians are not interested in having Russia hold sway over their countries. They want to preserve their national independence, and they view Russia as the historic oppressor or occupier that must never be allowed to regain control. I get it. I can even understand why they, or at least some of them, would actively seek the protection of other great powers to prevent that happening, but what has never been clear to me is why Americans should be willing to harm our relations with the Russians for the sake of countries in which we have no particularly important interests and which Russians consider part of their sphere of influence, if not, in fact, historically theirs.
As James Baker rightly put it about the breakup of Yugoslavia, we got no dog in that fight. (And please, spare me the nonsense about potential oil pipelines.) In fact, if we'd listened to Baker about the Balkans, then very possibly Georgia might not be getting subjected to its current fate.

Update: The Politico has a nice summary of Obama and McCain's reactions to the Georgia crisis. Nickle version: whereas Obama is measured and calm and reacts like every other sane world leader, McCain has what we might call a "neoconniption"--which may have something to with the fact that McCain's top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, has recently been working as a lobbyist for the Georgian government.

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