Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Free Frank on the Russian Invasion of Georgia

Warner thinks the Europeans have plenty of reason to worry, given their dangerous dependence of Russian oil.

Discussions - 48 Comments

I'm more interested in what the US can do to prudently help Georgia. On the one hand, Georgia is an (informal) US ally and it is bad business to let an ally be smacked around. On the other hand, US options are limited. The sellers market in energy means that US sanctions are less effective as a threat. The strain on the US military of two wars means that even clandestine help to the Georgians puts our national security at risk. Russia could probably make things harder for us in Afghanistan and its not like things are going swimmingly there in the first place.

Mark Helprin has an interesting article in the Claremont Review about what he would prefer the US military to look like. His purpose was to deter China, but if Rumsfeld and Bush had expanded our military to something like what Helprin suggests, would our ablity influence Russia (and Iran) be much greater? What does that say of the prudence of Bush and Rumsfeld, who fought wars (one thrust upon them) while looking for reasons to not expand the military?

Is anyone aware of Dan Mahoney's views about the Georgia situation and what American policy should be?

Free Frank says "If Russia’s leaders want to carry their aggression and political poison farther west, how would most of Europe say no? How does most of Europe survive one winter if Russia turns off the energy?"

Why would it be in Russia's interest to do or threaten to do the latter?

If "carry their agression...further west" means bully Belarus and Ukraine, then this is a worry. Not that even a totally energy-independent Europe could do a damn thing to help the Ukraine without US support. But now let's really go west, and explain to me again what Russia will get by bullying NATO members like Poland and Lithuania? By acting as if it wants to revive the Empire? And what is this "political poison" they want to spread? You see the nutty narrative that's being spun here? And Pete's meditating on whether we should be sending military aid to Georgia! The day we have a new Mussolini in power in Russia, prepared to conquer countries like Italy was with Albania, Ethiopia, and Greece for the the sheer glorious heck of it, we'll know. And the Europeans especially will know. Indeed, Russian bullying will revive NATO's cohesiveness, which is definitely not something in Russia's interests as seen by the likes of Putin. Some of these heavy-breathers about the Russian threat should take a look in Mark Steyn's book about the stark demographic decline of the country. They've got nukes, they've got energy resources, they've got the security council seat, and they kept themselves from falling into the abject chaos that threatened them in the late 90s, but it's a very weak nation in many ways.

Here's a glimpse of the WAR MACHINE we're being asked to fear. And consider what the mostly rusted-frozen innards of this machine tell you about the workings of Russian society and its government in general.

Carl, you are totally right that Putin's Russia does not have the same kind of ambitions as the Communist or Nazi empires of the 1900s. Putin doesn't want to conquer the world and has probably given up on Poland too. When it comes to military conquest, Russia is strictly a local predator, bullying countries most Americans never heard of.

But that not nothing. Georgia had its troops in Iraq. The attack on Georgia (if it is sustained)leaves the US with bad options. The US could confine itself to diplomcy and let the war play out as it will. Ok. Maybe having Russia have its way is the lesser evil in this case. Thats kind of what I was driving at in my original post. That American power to intervene, even secretly, even if we wanted to, was sharply limited by circumstances

But its still bad business to stand around when your allies get invaded.

I certainly agree that Russia is no big threat and on that country's many weaknesses. But I don't hear much alarmist heavy breathing and actually regarded freedom-loving Frank as out of the mainstream. Still (as a few are saying) there ought to be more outrage. What we were accused of doing in Iraq the Russians are really doing in Georgia--naked, imperialist aggression, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and the disproportionate use of force in general, designs on another country's oil etc. And Georgia, of course, is one of our few real allies these days, not to mention a real liberal democracy.

Commentary magazine may be alarmist, but in the December 2006 Commentary, Leon Aron has an article on Putin's motives. He says, "Reformist governments in Georgia and Ukraine, which embodied the Bush adminstration's push for democracy and liberalization, have been viewed by the Kremlin as inherently anti-Russian." Okay, so now it is Medvedev's agenda (see Richard Pipes on "Putin & Co." in Commentary May 2008)--what he says is still worth considering.

Clearly the Germans did not read the Federalist papers cause if they did they would not have allowed Russia to control their foreign policy (as they are by being wholly dependant on Russian gas, which is a consequence of their anti-nuke and environmentalist policies). Russia is partitioning up the EU and NATO as it did Poland in the early 18th century!!

Europe (meaning Germany, who will block any effort to resist Russia) will do nothing here because it needs Russian gas else lots of Germans will die of the cold this winter. Also Europe will do nothing because again it will be divided and again the warning of the Federalist papers are all too powerfully true about how a external force could divide and frustrate common action by a weak factional confederacy.

Many eastern Europeans foresaw this and this is why they still look to the US for their security guarantees and this is why they risked alienating their European neighbors by their supporting America's Iraq policy.

Given that the Georgians are a US ally, the fact they put combat troops in Iraq and are integrated into US combat training, is enough for the US to act and act with might now. To do nothing now is to betray a friend and to hurt America's already battered credibility. If we don't do anything here in Georgia we will suffer another Vietnam loss of credibility in the world, especially with the new democracies in East Europe and Caucasus.

Even if we only use our Air power we can demonstrate that our word is our bond and we can be counted on as true friends and allies. Talking and posturing is not enough.

This is 1938, and this time the victim is fighting back (the Czech's gave in to World Pressure and didn't and we see how their fortunes went!!). Russia cannot really wage a real war and everyone knows it. Real use of our Air power to support Georgia (and even if we limit their area of ops to the territory of Georgia like we did in the Korean conflict).

Again the Russians actions here are right out of Hitler's play book. The pan-Slavic card to allow them to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign state, the demanding of putting its military or integrating that part of the other country into their country is exactly the same course Hitler took in 37-39.

The Afghan issue is one that concerns me the most. Russia is of two minds here, one they fear Islamic radicals more than we do but at the same time they fear the spread of our power and influence over their former empire. Thus they have two differing interests here and this will shape their actions. But the future of Russia transforming into a normal and healthy European state and that will happen when it looses its imperial ambitions and this will happen when it can no longer exercise any power or control over its former imperial subjects. Who are now free, healthy and strong states on their own terms, backed up by the West.

As for our fight in Afghanistan, if we surrender Georgia now, our hands will be as controlled by the Russians as our Hands were tied by the Saudis in 92-02 in regards to Iraq. This is to say that the other Stans will turn even more to Russia than they are currently and Russian interest will shape how the Stans will allow us to do in Afghanistan.

Is America's credibility really hurt? I take that assertion as has something to do with Iraq and today, with Iraq now starting to be recognized as a budding success, is America's crediblity hurt?

Would America's credibility be hurt by not supporting Georgia? Yes, that would be a serious injury. Kind of like how Vietnam was!

Clifford, engaging in open military conflict against a nuclear power, when our own military is badly overstreched in two medium sized operations would not be prudent.

One thing about the 1938 analogy. Hitler could not be appeased because he wanted the whole world. I doubt thats what the Russians want. However, seeing agression prosper probably makes future agression more likely, if not by the Russians, then by other predators.

I'm all for the US giving aid to Georgia but I don't see how American planes bombing Russian tanks does not become the Russo-American War. The actions of the US government during the Falkland Islands War might be a model. The US could share intelligence and help resupply the Georgians just like the US did with the British. That woould be keeping faith with the Georgians. It might even be a policy that maintains both prudence and honor in a difficult situation.

Not only Ukraine and Belarus, but also the Baltic States and Poland and Czech Republic. The actions by Putin's youth movement in Estonia last year plus the cyber attacks on the Estonian gov't and the failure to protect the Estonian ambassador is one bit of evidence of what Russia is up to here. This is the soft edge of the wedge, the same tactics Hitler used in Austria and Czech in 34-36!

In Czech Russia spend millions of euros to spread Anti-missile shield propaganda and other anti-American messages to fight against the gov't setting up the radar sights there. They are doing as much in Poland to stop the missiles bases from being put up and here in Poland the current pro EU gov't is tacitly aiding Russian aims by trying to get a better deal for Poland than the last gov't did. All the while the Russians play one part of Europe against another, all to insure that Europe will never be strong enough (nor have even the desire) to say no to Russia.

The strike against Georgia is part of something really coordinated on Putin's part, as days before his regime is starting to restrenghten ties with Cuba!!

Pete then give the Georgians A10s and F22 (even if they are piloted by vollunteers like the AVF in China in 1940)!! Given them the tools to protect themselves, like we gave the Brits and the Soviets in 41.

Clifford, my every sympathy but it is not World War II and the idea of F22's piloted by American volunteers is otherwordly. An open to the public version of lend/lease is only slightly more realistic. Any effective military aid to Georgia will have to be low key (though it might stil be effective). Even that might be more than the US government actually chooses to do, it was only one totally obscure guy's suggestion about how the US might realistically help Georgia under present circumstances.

The problem for Georgia is the size of its forces, if Russia just throws bodies and barrages it will win by sheer numbers. Thus sharing of mere intelligence is not enough. The example is not the Falklands, but China in 37-40.. where the US did not formally enter the conflict but sent volunteers to fight. Perhaps this is what we need, non-governmental contractors or volunteers to fly US weapon systems to assist, but not being formally part of the US military.

Another reason why what we do in regards to Georgia will have impact is that Poland will not agree to base the ABM system here given our security promises cannot be trusted, and I suspect the Czech will renig on their agreement on the same grounds. And the Russians know this and this is why they are going full hog there. Its not a slap in the face at Georgia, its a direct slap at the US and if we don't act and act decisively now we will pay for it big time later.

WWII was not WWII in most American eyes until Dec 7, 41. And Putin, unlike Hitler, is rational and will not risk nuclear war, so very powerful intervention and assistance to Georgia will force Russia to back down and most likely end Putin's career.

As for US forces being over stretched, historically we are better off than we were pre-41. The historical trend (except for the Cold War) in American politics is to underspend on Defense until its too late.

Clifford, several points.

1.The US did not just share intelligence during the Falkland War. Resupply and updating of Georgian military equipment might make sense if the conflict goes on long enough.

2 There are not going to be enough volunteers with the requisite skills going to Georgia to make any difference in the near future. This fight is going to have to be carried by the Georgians.

3. Poland and the Czech Republic are formal allies. Legally, an attack on them is an attack on the US. The situations are different and everyone knows it including the Russians, which is why they are flexing their muscles in Georgia and not Poland. Thats one of the reasons why the Georgians were so intent on getting into NATO. If anything, this Russian action pushes easternn Europe (and maybe parts of Western Europe) closer to the US

Pete point 3 is just wrong. Over here (I am writing from Warsaw) what matter is not a piece of paper guaranteeing security (Poland and Czech have seen these mean nothing in the past), but actions that back up what people say. The failure to help an informal ally who has sent its troops to fight with you and for you will be seen that our promises are hollow. It will lead both Poland and Czech to rethink the cost and benefits of trusting the US and given what Russia as spent spreading fear over here, we cannot afford to be seen as not keeping our promises.

Clifford, Putin is different from Hitler (and Stalin) not only in that he is deterable in more instances, but that his ambitions are different. Hitler and Stalin really did want to take over the world. I doubt Putin has any such ambition.

In one sense we are better off than we were pre 1941. We also do not have a draft and there is no prospect of one in the forseeable future. The fact of the strain on our actually existing military is a fact and is unlikely to be remedied in the near future. Its one of the constrainsts any US policymaker has to deal with. There is also the fact of a public wearied by seven years of war. Any President who tried to rally this American public, to deploy this American military against Russia would... well I don't know what but it wouldn't be pretty.

On your point on underspending on the military, I totally agree. But we did underspend and leave our naval and ground forces too small for the commitments we took on (never mind a new commitment to deploy US forces in defense of Georgia). Thats one of the reasons this is such a pickle. I'm all for remedying this but any fix (short of a full war mobilization which isn't gonna happen short of a Russian attack on a NATO country) is going to be long term.

Your interpretation that a strong American military intervention will cause the Russians to back down is not crazy, but it is the most optimistic scenario. Building a strategy based on the most optimistic scenario caused us to come to grief in Iraq, how much worse to count on such optimism against a nuclear power. Lets spell it out. Going to open war with Russia is going to open war and all possible consequences are on the table. Given our current military commitments, how would the US military handle even very determined Russian conventional resistance?

On our Eastern European allies. Given Russia's recent turn for authoritarian agression, is this really the time to be devaluing their security commitments from the US? Especially when the case of Georgia highlights the importance of NATO membership?

But you there is some very basic justice to your points. As I wrote earlier, it is bad business to let an ally be bullied. But that does not change the constraints that the US faces. The right policy also has to be the prudent policy. A previous want of prudence has contributed to this pass.

I think the problem here is that we are over estimating Russian capacities. They put their best units forward for this operation which looks like it was in planning for months. There is usually a increase in fighting in the two regions at this time of year, as winter sets in, the separatists forces have a harder time getting stuff from Russia. The Russians calculated that there would be a Georgian response and so they would retaliate with forces and then after being resisted by Georgian forces, bring in a army to crush Georgia and then to scare off the Europeans. They want to kill off NATOs willingness to embrace Georgia and support the anti-western/anti-gov't forces within Georgia. So timing was critical.

I think a 24 hour ultimatum by the US for Russia to get out of Georgia or else, and the putting in the air several B-52 wings and fighter wings with their re-fueling support, may get the Russians to back down. The key is the Russian access to Georgia is rather limited and if the US struck the mountain access routes, the Russian Army would be cut off and could be chopped up by the air.

The Russians put their best units forward here, the rest of the army is rotting away as all reports have told. Action now will make the Russians realize they may lose face big time and then the hollow shell of what is Russia cave in on itself.

Look even Ukraine has told the Russians that any ships used in the blockade will not be welcomed back into port at the Russian base. So too have the Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Presidents support for Georgian sovereignty tells us how important this is for our younger NATO allies. Our German allies are afraid of having their Russian gas turned off, so are opting to turn a blind eye. A forceful reminder of their moral responsibility here, since Russia is following their example of 38 here and if they want similar results they better risk their gas access.

If I could throw in a question, please; if the U.S. gave its 24 hr. ultimatum would it be believed by Russia? OK, two questions, would we back it up?

I read today that we are flying Georgian troops back from Iraq. This seems like a back-door way of saying we back Georgia, not Russia, in this conflict. More would be nice, but can we do more?

Clifford, do you really think that B-52s bombing Russian military units would cause the Russians to back off? Maybe you are right but What kind of game of "I bet your lives" would the President be playing to count on that scenario? Is Russia more or less formidable than Iraq? What prudent stateman would initiate an attack on Russia with several bomber wings and just hope that the Russians would back off.

Kate, we surely are backing Georgia, at least diplomatically. As we should. I would go further (with intelligence and supply)but well short of an American military assault on Russian units.

Everybody settle down.

Nobody is going to lift a finger to help Georgia, and as for NATO, --------------- if NATO can't be bothered to fight in Afganistan, after Article V was invoked, --------- does anybody really think that European foreign ministers are losing much sleep over what's happening to Georgia.

And as for the oil, ---------------- Washington hasn't any intention of reversing the dollar flows regarding petroleum. They see those dollar flows as a means of civilizing and pacifying cultures. They're thoroughly convinced that terror derives from poverty and lack of opportunity. That's why nobody has much real interest in making the United States energy independent, and making the United States the foremost energy supplier in the world.

Dan in all too many ways is probably right, sadly. And if that is how it is, perhaps the Islamofascists are more right than we are, that we deserve to die. Its like Will Kane in High Noon, we know what ought to be done, but no one wants to do it... and the Marshall must act alone. Just imagine if he just ran and ran and ran and left the city to Frank Miller and his gang.

Dealing with the Russians now will be much less costly in lives and wealth than having to deal with them in the future when their petro/gas wealth finally does trickle down to their military and they can afford to modernize the Russian military to 21st century capacities.

Just because the just wait strategy worked the last time, mean it will work the same way in the future.

Also Dan, at least on European Foreign Minister is losing sleep about Georgia, its the French one, cause he is in Tiblsi.

Like most Americans, I know just about nothing about South Ossetia. I roamed the Internet looking today and found an assortment of sources and the situation looks complicated. Comments like, "To Georgia's deep annoyance, most South Ossetians have Russian passports and the Russian rouble is commonly used in trade." and "If it weren’t for the pension I get from Russia, I would starve to death”. and "Georgians account for less than one-third of the population."

It does seem a horrible precendent to set to stand by and watch Russia take a geographic piece of Georgia, of any nation. However, it is hard to say "poor Georgia", despite Russia suggesting that the aggression all the fault of Georgia. Georgia does not seem to have treated South Ossetia all that well.

Yet any former Soviet republic and even Poland certainly have reason to be alarmed. All of Europe ought to be alarmed at increasing Russian power, especially as they pay to support and extend it. Is America or are they watching the Olympics and enjoying the illusion of world unity?

Russia is counting the fact that Americans don't know anything about South Ossetia (much less Georgia) other than what they see on TV, and that GWB is weak, politically, and that we think of Russia as a bully, but a weak one. We do not take it seriously, even when our interests are at stake.

Pete is right. America is not prepared to do anything about this.

One further note. According to news reports, both Pres. Bush and Senator Carl Levin have refused to rule out military aid to Georgia. Under the circumstances that kind of aid is the most that Georgia can reasonably hope for. Russia's future actions also matter. If Russia is satisfied with expelling Georgian troops from South Ossetia then whats done is done. If Russia tries for a full occupation of Georgia, or demands the instalation of a client regime as a condition to ending bombing, then the likelihood of of American (and not only American) indirect help to Georgia increases significantly. If Putin is smart, he'll conclude that he made his point and move on.

I suspect that if the Russians press on and the Georgians don't totally fold, we will be seeing American sent anti aircraft and anti tank weapons on the battlefield.

Pete's comment landed while I was writing mine. That's good news. Thank you.

CLIFF, talk is cheap. You know that. They're just going through the motions. NATO, as VDH has frequently remarked, is now a talking salon, a boutique organization, without the willpower or the means necessary to do anything other than chirp.

And PETE, "refusing to rule out military aid" is much like the line "all options are on the table" in regard to the Iranians. Levin is just some Dem affecting a toughness he doesn't really have.

However, we'd be fools to attempt anything directly, at least militarily. If you guys want to take care of business, then leave the Russians be, and take care of business in Tehran.

But if you insist on pay back with the Russians for this little venture, then insist that our coal be transformed to oil, and that we drive the price of gasoline below 75 cents a gallon. Punish the Russians by making the pipeline more trouble than it was ever worth.

OIL, it's all about oil. We've GOT to get our coal on the market. We've GOT to make sure that we're the ones supplying the second greatest economy on the planet, {Japan}, and that we then reach out to India. Do that, pay back the Russians and the petrokingdoms.

Tune to if you desire to learn more about this Caucasus venture.

But Georgia's attempt to muscle South Ossetia is nothing for us to jump into a shooting war about. This isn't the Low Countries, and we're not England. We have ALL the resources necessary to become the foremost energy supplier to the Anglosphere and the Free World. Were we taking care of business energy wise, -------------- we wouldn't even be seriously pondering a military response.

It might not be unwise to forward deploy NATO assets into Ukraine however. Just to make it clear that we won't allow the Ukraine to be ripe for Russian intimidation.

As for Georgia, they were brain dead to begin some whifty flirtation with the Russians over South Ossetia, especially when the Russians have historically held the Caucasus to be within their sphere of influence. That doesn't justify Russian actions, but it does throw historical light on what the Russians are doing.

An important issue that seems to be getting overlooked here is the fact that Washington seemed blindsided by the whole thing. How was it possible for the Russians to transfer forces, without the NSC knowing anything about it, or getting wind of what was in the wind

This entire thing smells of the CIA. Follow this link to the stories about American Mercenaries being involved with the Geogians. They guy who pointed out that they would be stupid to do this is right...unless they had a garuntee from us that we would back them up. Why would we do that...War is the most profitable endeavor for banking cartels and make no mistake about it that is who runs our country and the rest of the western world. Right and Left are simple divide and conquer mechanisms set up for social control, but they are obvious hegelian concepts. Remember that the NWO members love astrologly and numerology and this just happended to take place on 8808.

As a graduate I have to include this with disgust and hope that at least a few had the courage to stand up to this when it was going on.

Simply allowing Georgia to be subdued in the sense of total occupation or the installation of a puppet government (if thats what the Russians are aiing at) would not be wise for the US to allow without taking some action (which emphatically does not involve American forces firing on Russian forces).

the US does have leverage to make things harder for Russia. One upside of recent bad Russian behavior is that we have less to lose vis a vis our relations to Russia. They are not going to allow meaningful sanctions on Iran. Ok. That means we have less to lose if we supply Gorgia's military with better anti aircract and antitank missiles.

Needless to say, the best reasonable outcome given the current situation is for Russia to be satisfied with absorbing (officially or unofficially) the two breakaway Georgian provinces and leave it at that. The worst is something like Chechnya.

Dan, I'm all for developing our energy resources, but bad international behavior is not caused simply by by Russia's energy bounty. North Korea is poor and a troublemaker. The nature of the regime matters and so does what the regime leaders see they have to gain or lose by their actions. The purpose of US policy should not be to try to "get" Russia (please try the sushi Prime Minister Putin), it should be to do what it can to prevent an ally from being conquered, while keeping in mind our own limitations. Engaging in a war with Russia would (to my mind) be a crazy risk, but simply complaining while Georgia is conquered and occupied would be dishonorable and lower the value of being a US ally.

Russia has a number of options concerning its relations with the U. S. These options involve supplying weapons to unfriendly folks in the neighborhood, e. g., Iran.

Is this 1939? No. Is Russia Nazi Germany? No. But it is a bit like Wilhelmine Germany, and, whatever its overall military strength may be, it has shown that it can take the first step toward recovery of its status: maul bordering countries without any meaningful response from the democracies, which can or at least will indeed do very little but complain.

Wake up, the puppet government is already installed by us. Do the research...What is going on over there is the escalation of a conflict by our people. Months ago we wanted to get Goergia involved in NATO. That would mean that we were obligated to attack their attackers. There is no "good guys" in this. This is all about accomplishing the longtime aims of the Global Elite. Who would benifit most from the escalation of this conflict? Certainly not the Russian people or the Americans who will be drafted to fight. The people who will benifit are the same as who have benifited from every war in the last 200 years. That is the private owned banking cartels who will get the profits from the loans floated to fight these wars. Wait another week and see if we start to hear about Soviet infiltration in American Infastructure. Do you believe that this won't be used to expand the assult on individual liberty. The endgame of this obvious: Bankrupt American and leave poeple with hope other than the one that is presented by the Global elite and that is one world government.

Ask yourself this...What would it take for me to condone a mass conscription? Now wait a few days and it will happen. Would you condone a nuclear strike on a US target? You would call for revenge like the Lusitania had just been sunk.

Over at Contentions (Commentary Magazine's blog) Max Boot has some suggestions that I believe are very prudent. He suggests givning Russia 48 hours to evacuate Georgia. If they don't, the US sactions Russian financial assets (lets see how Russina elites like Putin when they lose billions of dollars of their wealth) and the US equips the Georgian military with Stinger antiaircraft missiles and Javelin anti tank missiles. i think his reasoning is sound with only one caveat, I don't think that it is reasonable to expect Russian troops to evacuate South Ossetia. The war has settled that much at least. But please read Boot yourselves. It is the first article I have read by anybody that proposes a policy that combines honor, Ameican interests, and a proper sense of the limits of American power.

This from Saakashvili in the WSJ today. Maybe Brutus reads this as disinformation? What the heck?

"Is Russia Nazi Germany?" Didn't the Nazis send Germans into other European countries surrounding them to have a pretext to defend them by invasion? I read that Russia has been handing out Russian passports to anyone who asks for one in the area. What a great way to make a pretext for annexation of a nation.

Pete: Engaging in a war with Russia would (to my mind) be a crazy risk, but simply complaining while Georgia is conquered and occupied would be dishonorable and lower the value of being a US ally.

Yes, but where does that leave us? We can't abandon Georgia, but we can't engage her enemy? What is an ally for? If we say, "Enough, but no more." to Russia, is that a position of strength that warrants that Russia will not do the same thing next year to the Ukraine? This is a just this once situation, right?

Its very sad to have to see paleoconservatives become the joke they are in their anti-war turn (echoing the New-Conservatives in the 60s and their Anti-Vietnam turn). With power comes responsibilities, that what Mel Bradford taught me, when he was alive...

I am also sorry is not here to scold many of his old friends who now morn the rise of American power, that the alternatives would not have been pleasing as they seem to assume. That our power status is something we should not be afraid of, but realize that it was the product of being true to our principles and protecting our interests, as well as the interest of our friends. So when we let our friends down, we betray ourselves. This is why I think we must act in Georgia now, let in 20 years hence we are facing worse problems and no one will be willing to help us because they simply don't trust us any longer.

Max Boot's suggestions are rather good and are most likely option taken by the politicians, lets hope they work. Neutralizing Russian air power is key here, as well as equalizing their armor power.

You wake up, pal. The Russians are an hour away from Samtredia, and you're complaining about NATO. I don't have a lot of interest in debating with some anonymous hack on the Internet.

In re Russia's intentions, well geo-politically speaking they have remained constant, to keep the Western European states weak and divided (heck an echo of the British policy towards Europe for the last 300 years). By doing that they can dominate the Central European area as well as the Caucasus as well as Central Asia.

I would like to respond to Comment 34 by Will Morrisey.

First thanks for your review of my Aristotle book... so you will understand the irony of people calling me a neo-con.

Yes, there are differences in that Putin is not a nazi in that he is not out to wipe out the jews, he will leave that to the Iranians. No he is not a nazi, but he is using Hitler's playbook to insure what he thinks is best for his regime. He is a machiavellian opportunistic who protects an extreme oligarchic regime that currently rules in Russia.

One only has to run into the nashi in Estonia or Ukraine to see how in deed how similar today's Russia and its proxies are to Hitler's Germany. Yes, different message and different dreams, but very much same tactics and tools.

But your point about what Russia can do is not so much wrong, but that is what they have already done and continue to do. They are doing things like give the Iranian arms or sell warplanes to China (only to have the Chinese steal the design and renig on the contract and make their own version), on one level to make money for the various oligarchs that run the Russian arms industry, but they also do it to give the US the finger and prove to the domestic populace whom they keep in poverty and prevent from benefiting from post-soviet rule by not changing the rules to give them legal rights to do so. They (the Russian elites) stoke pan-Slavic fires to hide their corruption and incompetence from the eyes of the Russians. Learning well from most Arab regimes, that Anti-Americanism is the best means of diverting the masses attention away from the real reasons for their pains and sufferings.

Well, I'll go read the Max Boot, but honestly, folks, the overall tone here is nutty (even if I respect Bates' Polish context). There will be wars. They will be on CNN. It might not necessarily be in our power, in our interest, or in our rights to do more than to threaten a few minor sanctions against the party most at fault or most influence-able. Yes, Russia is bombing civilians and violating Georgian sovereignty, but if you follow the links Kate gives, and if you've been following this generally, you know that it is a very messy situation. Russians have been there for centuries. Under the Empire and then especially under the Soviet Union, there was never much reason to set borders in close adherence to ethnic majorities, which means there are now A LOT of Russian-majority areas outside Russia itself. It is potentially a huge problem with the Ukraine. With South Ossetia, it seems they've had a kind of defacto quasi-independence for 16 years, and it was this Kurdish-no-fly-zone-like state of affairs that the Georgians were eroding and then (saith Putin) openly attacking this last Friday. So we do not have a neat this-is-Iraq-this-is-Kuwait situation by which to appeal to a classic UN condemnation of violated sovereignty. Oh, and even if we did, there's this problem of the Russian security council seat! And yes, I believe in spheres of influence. We diplomatically accept all sorts of nasty assertions of state power, with Tibet being exhibit A. But unlike the Tibetans, a whole lot of S. Ossetians want to be part of Russia.

Let the Eastern Europeans take the diplomatic lead on this. Let Poland, the Baltics, the Ukraine, or even the Germans or the whole damn EU come to us and say, "We've got a group that's going to apply sanctions to Russia, what'll it take to get you to come along?" And then the Russians can come to us and say, "What'll it take to get you not to go along with that?" That's the situation we want to be in, the situation in which we can plausibly say to the Russian leaders and the US-paranoid Russian public, "Hey, look, we want to be your friends, but you're scaring all these good people!"

Remember, the day after Iran tests its first nuclear weapon(hopefully on their own soil!), or after Israel attacks Iran, we are going to need the Russians (belatedly) on our side. Remember, there ARE worse Russian regime possibilities than a Putin-dominated government, and they will be helped by a plausible narrative of America pushing Russia around.

Now, as it should go without saying, that Bush and Rice and co. may know things I don't that demand an extraordinary response to the Russians this time around.

Kate, you are right that my suggestions do not leave us in a good place. A combination of Russian ruthlessness, the tactical errors of the Georgian government, and the years of strategic errors by Rumsfeld only allows for various degrees of bad outcomes. Saving Georgia's political independence (minus the two breakaway provinces), while preventing a Russo-American is probably the best that can be hoped for and even that is by no means assured. On a going forward basis, the expansion of the US military (along the lines of Mark Helprin's Claremont Review article) would be one first step. The fact of a strained American military is the most important factor in explaining the weak Bush administration responses to North Korea, Iran, and now Georgia. some pundits seem to think that the Bush administration has discovered the soothing power of diplomacy. The world's predators are more realistic when they see it as weakness.

Clifford, Max Boot's sugggestions represent the maximum plausible American response. I really hope that the Bush administration is willing to follow them (though I strongly doubt the sanctions will happen).

Again, you are of course right that abandoning an ally is likely to have bad long term consequences.

Hopefully these events demostrate the futility of trying to check rogue regimes through international institutions in which the current Russian regime maintains a veto.

Saakashvili admits in the linked article to Georgia starting the fight then calls upon the aid of the West to make a stand for Western ideals. Now the Russians have an American instructor/mercenary in custody. I have no problem with America taking an active role in world politics, but not to serve the ends of the world banking elite. You honestly want to send in advisors and start fighting a proxy war, all the while the dollar is down, and the police state has more power than ever. If we believe America has a place and an obligation to promote a certain idealism in the world by means of military action or economic aid how many steps away are you from greating one world government with thundering applause.

Dan, good point on the messiness of the status of South Ossetia. but several reservations.

1. The current Russian regime wants those "good people" to be scared. That is one of the purposes of the current war. They hope to profit both commerically and diplomatically by that fear. Putin is not like Obama. I doubt he feels bad when his country is called a big mean bully. More like a badge of honor.

2. We are not going to get any significant help from the current Russian regime when it comes to Iran. Concessions to Russia in the hopes of help with Iran is a sucker's game.

3. south Ossetia is no longer what is at stake. Russia has won that objective. The preservation of a liberal democratic US ally is at stake. There is no cost free way to abandon Georgia. Abandonment will only seem cost free in the short term.

4. you are right that the current Russian regime is not the worst one possible, but it is pretty bad. We have to wonder if an instance of succesful predation will make it more or less predatory. The answer is not clear (maybe Putin will be satisfied) but it is an important question.

Carl, let me explain what I mean by the danger of Vladimir Putin spreading his “poisoned politics” westward. I mean Putin has turned Russia into a tool of his ruthless, power-hungry anger, and democracies all over the world are paying dearly for his mischief.

Am I saying the U.S. should send troops to Georgia? No. (But I wouldn’t rule out U.S. transports of a few thousand Iraqi troops to Georgia.) There are other financial and political penalties we can impose on Putin for his blood-letting.

When he was elected to office, Putin could have committed Russia to making democracy and freedom work. Instead, he decided to making himself look like Russia’s indispensable man, and when he learned to believe his own propaganda, he undermined every democratic institution he touched. He bought up all the political parties (except, ironically, the weak Communists), corrupted the courts, took control of the TV stations and intimidated anyone who challenged his power.

Khordorkovsky’s in prison. Litvinenko’s dead of polonium poisoning. Putin, once a term-limited as president, suddenly is prime minister god-for-life.

Russia should be joining the community of democracies, of open and accountable governments. I don’t have to make all the arguments here; most of us probably agree that freedom is a human right and democracy is the world’s best chance for lasting peace and progress. Putin tosses aside the rights of man and the lessons of history.

No, he hasn’t come up with a new ideology dedicated to Putinism’s conquering the world. But his bullying temperament and his disdain for freedom imperils democracies every time he doesn’t get his way. If Western Europe’s democracies rile him, he can turn off their natural gas. If Eastern Europe’s democracies give him offense, he can order them invaded and turn off their oil. It won’t take long for that kind of extortion to make a farce of European freedom.

What happens the next winter the U.S. asks Europe to join sanctions against some outlaw nation (including Russia), but Russia says no? How does a democracy choose well between international law and death by freezing?

Having gutted Russia’s democratic institutions, Putin can pull surprises that no democratic leader would attempt. Secrecy and unaccountability are the advantages of dictatorship (advantages to the dictator alone). Putin put them to full use with Georgia. There he was in Beijing, toying shamelessly with President Bush as Russian tanks and planes attacked a democratic U.S. ally.

Then there is Iran. Putin does everything to profit from Iran’s nuclear program and from giving Iran every chance to build atom bombs. At every turn, he threatens a United Nations veto on any meaningful move against Iran’s semi-suicidal theocrats. If money were the only cost, we might ignore Putin. But lives and liberty are at stake, and Putin regularly raises the danger.

Wherever there is freedom, Putin adds hazards to the free. Wherever there is oppression, Putin offers comfort to the oppressors. It’s not an elegant philosophy. Maybe it's nihilism in pursuit of old glories. Whatever it is, it is a recklessly deadly cause. By pressing on with it, Putin is forcing the United States to waste precious resources preparing for the weirdest variety of global threats.

OK, what should the U.S. do now about Russia’s attack on Georgia? The U.S. can’t do anything about South Ossetia or Abkhazia, and everyone’s wondering now why that Russia-Georgia border wasn’t redrawn wisely when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. But now, the U.S. should focus all its economic and political power on saving the rest of Georgia and keeping President Mikheil Saakashvili and Georgia’s other elected leaders in power (until the next regular elections).

We can’t allow the precedent of illegally ousting democratic governments in nations clearly committed to democratic principles. The U.S. can impose several non-military penalties if Russia threatens Georgia’s democratic government or takes further steps to violate Georgia’s territorial sovereignty. You’ve seen some of the ideas:

* Propose that U.N. peacekeepers replace Russia’s fake “peacekeepers” in Georgia.

* Kick Russia out of the Group of Eight industrial democracies.

* Freeze Russian assets where appropriate.

* Declare the U.S. won’t take part in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

* Schedule the construction, over the next 10 to 20 years, of scores more nuclear power plants in the Europe and the U.S. Make nuclear energy as common in Germany, Britain, Ukraine and America as it is in France.

We should get on, too, with quickly deploying that NATO missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. Could we have dragged out that deployment any longer? Are we giving Putin more time to imagine reasons to oppose it? Thanks to the delay, Poland already is getting cold feet. We should carefully and rapidly consider bringing more Eastern European democracies into NATO.

Unlikely as this is, if Iraq’s democratic government offers to send Iraqi troops to help Georgia’s democratic government, let’s make that possible.

We also should get serious about creating a League of Democracies that makes its No. 1 goal the freedom, under representative democracies, of all people on Earth. The U.N. is simply too fascist-friendly.

While the Democracy League is debated, President Bush should immediately lay out what is at stake in Georgia. Bush should clarify, for all of us, the far-reaching damage inflicted by Putin’s poisoned politics, and he should remind all despots that freedom is not a luxury, it is a right.

* * *

Oh, and Brutus, please drop the conspiracy theories. It’s tough enough dealing with the obvious. In any case, it’s a safe bet that international bankers profit much more from peace than war.

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