Sunday, August 17, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

It's not every day that I wake up, look in the mirror, and see the sinister visage of Henry Kissinger. But that's a little but how I feel simply letting Russia beat-up Georgia. In doing so, we recognize Russia's sphere of influence in the Caucuses.
Realists like to say that spheres of influence are the best way to maintain peace between major powers. The USSR and the US never came to blows in Europe because we generally recognized their control in the East, and they recognized our control in the west. Of course, it meant that again and again we had to watch as Russia bullied it's neighbors.
Fred Kaplan.
This is where the heartless bastard part of the argument comes in: Is Georgia's continued control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia really worth war with Russia? Is its continued independence from Moscow's domination, if it comes to that, worth our going to war?

At this point, the neocons would enter the debate—in fact some, like Robert Kagan, already have—by invoking the West's appeasement of Hitler's annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. ("A quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing," is how Neville Chamberlain famously, and catastrophically, brushed away the aggression.)

A few counterquestions for those who rise to compare every nasty leader to Hitler and every act of aggression to the onset of World War III: Do you really believe that Russia's move against Georgia is not an assertion of control over "the near abroad" (as the Russians call their border regions), but rather the first step of a campaign to restore the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe and, from there, bring back the Cold War's Continental standoff? If so—if this really is the start of a new war of civilizations—why aren't you devoting every waking hour to pressing for the revival of military conscription, for a war surtax to triple the military budget, and—here's a twist—for getting out of Iraq in order to send a few divisions right away to fight in the larger battle? If not, what exactly are you proposing?

"Appeasement" is often used as pejorative, and it is true that Chamberlain's policy toward Hitler was the height of folly. But what about case where appeasement is in fact a wiser policy? Unlike Hitler, Putin clearly has only regional ambitions, which it's not worth risking a general war over.

1 comment:

Matt S said...

As far as I know, from what I've been hearing in the slightly fairer canadian media, Georgia attacked a breakaway region, the Russia responded and went farther than they should have. I think this whole crisis ends with a vote and we're done by Friday, but any country with half an ambition, democratic or not, will be damned before they let some territory slide to people who don't even want to be called Georgian.