Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
It was sometime in the 70s. The Turkish airborne had just jumped into Cyprus and occupied a large part of the island. I was walking up Tremont Street across from the Common when I saw the last stragglers hurrying to a demonstration. The sign a child was carrying read, "America Help Us Drive Turks From Cyprus."
I did not stop to ask one of the demonstrators why this country should drive the Turks from Cyprus. Greek people are fun, passionate and manic. A discussion with such lovable folk goes only so far. That is not to say, one on one, you can't have a rational discussion. Most Hellenes I've met are intelligent and would stand out in Lake Woebegone. The group thing, is another matter.
The Greeks are an organized pressure group. The Turks are still in Cyprus. What this means is one or more of a few possibilities.
1. We need the Turks more or as much as the Greeks.
2. The Turks are strong enough that it would be no fun to engage them in battle even if we could prevail.
3. The Turks are organized and can lobby us as well as the Greeks even though there are far fewer Turks here.
The Sibel Edmonds case is evidence for 3.
So every country around hires lobbyists who ask for money, arms, troops, support and love. We've had the slick Georgians trying to play us like a violin. The tune hasn't worked as well as they wished.
Is all this a good thing for the United States? I recommend the Jason Raimondo's article of August 27, Foreign Lobbyists and the Making of US Policy. My only quibble with it is the sub title is more important than the title, American politicians are for sale – and so is our foreign policy.
It is not new, but it is still afflicting us. Justin quotes Washington's farewell address.
"nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests."
We agree. In another blog, we make proposals of constitutional reform with the knowledge they have no chance of enactment. The Neutralist will propose a reform that we hope against hope is made law.
No nation may send people to this country to lobby the congress and/or executive on behalf of a foreign country. No citizen of this country may lobby on behalf of a foreign country, whether paid or unpaid, the congress or executive.
Now the next part of the bill would set the penalty. I remember the old "Branded" TV series where Chuck Connors would have his rank ripped off and his sword broken and he would be pushed out of the fort. Most of the lobbyists wear business suits and carry palms. It wouldn't be the same.
Still, we've given it some thought and remembering that defenestration is the traditional Czech method of dealing with those disagreed with, we have come up with a solution.
The guilty will be taken up in a transport, their palm will be taken from them and thrown out the door. then, the lobbyist will be pushed out of the plane a la Chuck Connors while the theme of the show is being played.
Thus the complete law will read.
No nation may send people to this country to lobby the congress and/or executive on behalf of a foreign country. No citizen of this country may lobby on behalf of a foreign country, whether paid or unpaid, the congress or executive.
The penalty will be deplaning without parachute at an altitude not less than 5,000 feet.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
99% was great. I take issue with
Apparently Barack Obama doesn’t yet know it, judging by his initial response to news of the Russian invasion of Georgia, which was to call on “both sides” to cease fire and then go to the U.N.
Later he changed his position to correspond to John McCain’s more grown-up position that Russians have to pay a price if we expect them to change their behavior.
The words "John McCain's more grown up position" do not work.
Some people seem to think that, if we had already included Georgia in NATO, Russia would not have attacked. But what if they attacked anyway? Would we have done any more than we are doing now?
Would that have protected Georgia or would our inaction have just brought the reliability of our protection of other NATO countries into question?
His last words nail for him the coveted Neutralist Article of the Week award,
If anything, we ought to be thinking about pulling out of NATO ourselves. European countries already have the wealth to produce their own military defense. If they do not have the will, that is their problem. What American officials can do is keep their mouths shut if they don’t intend to back up their words.
Congratulations, Thomas. We know you have had other encomia in your career, but we award you anyway.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Hey, maybe they have. Maybe, they have decided to emulate a country that invaded another country for no reason. Or maybe Russia had a reason. We could have a discussion on this, but Al is too afraid to allow comments.
Here he steps in it.
mighty Russia with its huge army, navy, and nuclear arsenal is so unhinged by fear that it is willing to undo the difficult diplomatic work of almost two decades?
No, Al, we promised Gorby that we would not run NATO, that worthless array of spongers, up to his borders. We lied and Putin is changing the equation.
His last paragraph is a keeper.
Think about it. Clint Eastwood always says, "a man's got to know his limitations." The same is true for a nation. Already on a one way superhighway to oblivion, Russia is in the process of destroying its bridges behind it.
That goes for any country, Al.
Maybe Les Russes are in a quagmire that they can't easily get out of. Or, just maybe they are better at realpolitik than we are. Time will tell.
Al Fin isn't too confident of that however as he has stopped commenting on the subject. Why the cowardice, Al?
It is sad to see someone behave such a small way that he has to stoop to twisting other 's comments. When he has lost the debate he shuts it down. I present it here for you to judge. I take no joy in observing his descent into loserdom.
14 August 2008
Russia Loses Planes to Own Missile Systems
The basic ineptness of the Russian military is further exposed by its inability to protect its planes against missile systems designed in Russia. This is not surprising, since the Russian military sits atop an inept science and technology infrastructure. When the Ukraine joins NATO, Russia will begin feeling the pinch.
The Russians have admitted to losing four aircraft (three Su-25 ground attack bombers and a Tu-22 bomber flying a reconnaissance mission.) Most, or all, appear to have been brought down by the SA-11 BukM1 surface-to-air missile systems...Georgia claims to have downed ten Russian aircraft as of August 11th, and the true air losses won't be known until photos appear of all the aircraft wreckage. It is interesting that Russia was unable to come up with effective countermeasures against missile systems they had designed. _strategypage_via_Instapundit
Russia is losing half its population every 40 years, due to high death rates and low birth rates. Meanwhile, Russia's Muslim population is exploding rapidly, as are the Muslim populations of Russia's central Asian neighbors. And don't forget China, who desperately needs Siberian mineral assets.
posted by al fin at 5:40 AM
Joseph Moroco said...
Yay, we won. Russia lost some planes.
Friendly fire would never happen to us. Just ask the Tillman family.
Thu Aug 14, 12:45:00 PM HST
The loss in population is long preceded by a severe reduction in the number of military age cannon fodder.
Thu Aug 14, 02:22:00 PM HST
al fin said...
Right, Carl. Russian women are unwilling to bear children for the motherland, and Russian men are unwilling to fight for it. Hence the ragtag conscript army.
The force in Georgia is the best trained and equipped tiny fraction of the Russian forces. And most of their planes are probably crashing due to lack of maintenance, rather than Georgian missiles.
Thu Aug 14, 03:35:00 PM HST
Joseph Moroco said...
As to Russian equipment, yeah maybe it ain't so good, but they have sure captured a lot of our spiffy stuff to copy in the last few days.
As to population. There are a lot of Americans who are not pulling there weight here. I'm not one of them. I have three kids.
So how many offspring have t
he baby making machines, Al and Carl?
Thu Aug 14, 04:21:00 PM HST
al fin said...
I sometimes wonder why people who call themselves "anti-war" go to such lengths to defend the vicious war-making of tyrants. Curious, that.
I have disowned all but three of my children. They show an alarming intellectual precocity, and an unfortunate tendency to hunt down drunken blog commenters and play elaborate practical jokes on them.
Fri Aug 15, 04:33:00 AM HST
Joseph Moroco said...
I defend no tyrant. I like neither Putin nor Bush nor that Sash whatever his name is.
Noting the lose of the equipment or that our country was made to look foolish is hardly praise for Vlad. The man had a good inning, so noted.
What is silly is your triumphalism in the face of disaster. You may not agree with my belief in Neutralism, but logic demands that you say, we screwed up, let's think about what needs to change.
As a neutralist, I support the foreign policy of the founders. If someone attacks us, I want to whup them. In that sense, to call moi anti war is an error. I think that makes more sense than wanting to whup someone who hasn't attacked us. Got it?
Fri Aug 15, 05:04:00 AM HST
al fin said...
Ah, but the only triumphalism being exhibited here is your rather inebriated joy over Russian victories over the tiniest of its neighbors.
The ongoing catastrophe that is Russia needs no cheering on from the likes of yourself.
Fri Aug 15, 08:13:00 AM HST
I saw nothing that would make it seem his sight is copyright protected, so I will reprint it all here so that my few readers can judge the neocon and jingo mindset that is gleefully leading my beloved nation to ruin.
13 August 2008
Russia Running on Fumes
For all its big-power bluster, Russia is weak and vulnerable. Russian tanks and aircraft may have smashed the fledgeling Georgian Army with ease, but most of the weaponry was Cold War-era and many of the troops conscripts. Anyone who has seen the Russian Army operating in the Caucasus knows that the military will need a generation to modernise. Meanwhile America, and its main Nato allies, are decades ahead in military technology and combat experience.
Russia is also facing a severe demographic crisis. Its population is shrinking by 700,000 people a year. The UN estimates the population will fall below 100 million by 2050, down from around 146 million today.
As for the economy, it is booming thanks to natural resources that account for 70 per cent of the country's wealth. But the oil price is in a state of flux. Russia has failed to diversify. Should energy prices fall sharply, the economy could collapse, as it did a decade ago. _TimesOnline
Russia has been building up to its invasion of Georgia for several months. It managed to scrape together enough tanks, planes, and elite troops to subdue one tiny neighboring country. Putin hopes that this act will send a message to Europeans and the rest of the west, that the Russian bear still has a mean bite. But is that the message that comes across?
Western powers may not do much immediately about his squeeze on Georgia, but over time he will find he has created conditions for the emergence of a coalition to contain Russian energy power. His immediate neighbors, with fresh memories of Soviet domination, will be even more eager to align themselves with the West and NATO. Possibly even the myopic Germans will discern they've gone too far in putting themselves in energy hock to Moscow. _WSJ
Russia's weapons are old technology. Most of its ships, submarines, and large transports are poorly maintained. Its men are mostly draftees, lacking basic equipment and almost entirely unmotivated to fight for a country in decay.
Russia depends upon its energy resources for most of its wealth. But Russia lacks the technical expertise to develop its own resources. It must contract with outside corporations to develop oil and gas fields--then inevitably Russia nationalises (steals) the assets from the multinationals. Eventually, Russia will find it hard to get business partners, and the flow of oil and gas will drop rapidly.
Russia's rapidly shrinking population can no longer supply the manpower needed in defense, technology, energy, and other vital fields. As related here before:
The share of high-tech products in Russia’s exports is only 0.6%, “a shameful rate” according to Vladimir Fortov, a member of the Russian Academy of Science. Over the past 15 years, he says, Russia has not brought to the market a single significant drug. The average age of Russia’s scientists is well over 50. One of the main commercial activities of Russian research institutes is leasing or selling their property and land.
Scientific inventions tend to be developed abroad. The chain that turns a scientific innovation into a marketable product simply does not exist, says Mr Fortov. And the key to creating it, he argues, is not setting up state corporations, but unshackling the system from bureaucracy and letting private companies operate freely. “We have tried everything else and we know it does not work,” he concludes. _Economist
But Russia under Putin will never allow private companies to operate freely. Free enterprise creates wealthy individuals, who could develop their own powerful networks of people and resources. Putin would never stand for rivals of any kind.
So Russia is a doomed country, with not much time left for this strutting and posturing. Even the invasion of tiny Georgia required almost a year's buildup, and severely stressed Russia's logistical capacity. When Russia falls from overreach, its neighbors will rush in to loot the country. But Putin and his cronies will be gone, living on billions in Swiss bank accounts. The Russians still alive inside Russia will pay once again for allowing corrupt leaders to sell them phony national greatness for their sheeplike complicity.
posted by al fin at 11:19 AM
Perhaps they should all learn to speak Beijinghua.
Wed Aug 13, 12:39:00 PM HST
Bruce Hall said...
An aging bear is still dangerous.
Wed Aug 13, 02:25:00 PM HST
al fin said...
China certainly has its eyes on the mineral wealth of Siberia, Kurt.
Yes, and so is a wounded bear, Bruce. But if an opponent understands the bear's injuries and limitations, and plays the bear correctly, he can seize the advantage.
There is a reason that bears never built cities, nor domesticated animals and plants. A reason why there are more bearskin rugs in human dens than humanskin rugs in bear dens.
Wed Aug 13, 03:41:00 PM HST
Snake Oil Baron said...
"An aging bear is still dangerous."
And possibly rabid. Likely smelly.
But Europe is in no state psychologically to stand up to Russia, no matter how crappy its military has become and they would likely play their (now traditional) obstructionist role if America tries to be too helpful to Georgia.
And then there are the nukes. Even if some of them are nonfunctional and even if the Russians are nowhere near as likely to use them as jihadis would be, just having them makes Russia a problem politically.
Russia may be rotting on its feet but it is still a threat to many. NATO may be of some worth after all if only that giving immediate membership to Georgia and the Ukraine would be an unmistakable line in the sand and enrage Putin (When your enemy is quick to anger, seek to annoy him - The Art of War, I think).
What will likely happen instead is a lot of palaver, placation and procrastination.
Wed Aug 13, 03:54:00 PM HST
Russia has been building up to its invasion of Georgia for several months.
Are you aware that Saakashvili shelled Tzkhinvali with Grad launchers for 15 hours before the Russian army intervened?
Do you know that over 1500 Ossetians were killed during this bombardment? This was completely ignored in 95% of the western media. ( Here's why: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4518254.ece )
JFYI, the Grad launcher is not a pinpoint-accuracy weapon, but basically a rocket artillery, an area of effect weapon. Anyone who gave an order to use such a weapon against a civilian town is a murderer.
If you don't belive me (I'm Russian and live in Russia), ask Ossetians.
Wed Aug 13, 09:41:00 PM HST
The Russian Nation has gone through many ups and downs. It is now in a retreat phase, but it will surely rebound. Fact is that even now, when it is coming out of generations of destruction, still has the willpower to fight and win.
Wed Aug 13, 11:08:00 PM HST
al fin said...
Vladimir: The story you linked to did not verify the 1500 Ossetian civilians killed by Georgian shelling. There are certainly a lot of claims of atrocities flying around.
The Ossetians do not love Russia any more than they love Georgia. They merely want autonomy. If Russia wants to adopt them, Russia will eventually regret the intervention.
J: When Russia is losing almost half its population every generation due to low fertility and high premature deaths, it is difficult to predict a rosy long term future for the bear.
Thu Aug 14, 05:50:00 AM HST
neil craig said...
This was certainly the view a week ago & I agree that, successful though Russia's economy is, it is too dependent of gas & oil. Nonetheless it is growing considerably faster than Americsa & very much faster than Europe's.
However the military achievement here was quite outstanding. Georgia may be a small country, though the US was training & upgrading it, but big countries have tripped over their own toes in taking on small ones before (Somalia, Lebanon & indeed Vietnam come to mind).
Russia has, in 4 days, at a time & place set by Georgia, in mounaineous defencible territory, completely annihilated Georgia's army.
The comparisons the Russians will take are with Stalin's Winter War with Finland & NATO's Bombing War with Serbia. Neither went to plan & both took 3 months to wear down a tiny enemy.
The "uni-polar world" is dead & America will have to get used to not being able to poke the Russian bear withn impunity any more.
Thu Aug 14, 06:32:00 AM HST
There is an element of truth in what Vladimir has to say here. Georgia is not entirely blameless in this debacle. Georgia granted autonomy to South Ossetia about two weeks ago, then turned around and invaded them. The reason they did this is because they did it once before with another breakaway province and they thought they could get away with it again.
Also, Russia's invasion was not "excessive" use of force. Historically the best fighters in the Soviet military were Chechen and Georgian. Since the Russian army knew what they were up against, they used more force than they would have against another opponent.
It is worth noting that much of the "Russian" mafiya is actually Georgian. Something that Vladimir is no doubt aware of.
In any case, Al Fin is right that the Ossetians are one of these tribal ethnic groups seeking autonomy from everyone else around them. The whole area is full of these tribal entities that have been around for thousands of years. Tribal entities and politics which the not so pretty heads of Washington DC and the beltway are completely incapable of understanding.
This is good enough reason for us (the U.S.) not to involve ourselves in these places.
Thu Aug 14, 06:33:00 AM HST
al fin said...
Clinton's Kosovo caper was a textbook lesson in administrative ineptness. The Albanian mafia now has a larger foothold in Europe thanks to the wag-the-dog bombings there. Clinton wanted to make up for dropping the ball in Bosnia, and ended up making twice as big a mess.
As for losing Georgia's mafia, Russia does well enough in the mafia department with its former KGB thugs. The stray reporter in Russia who is too outspoken against Putin's tyranny is rapidly dispatched by the criminal regime in place in Moscow.
At any rate, Russia is a dying land. Consider this latest saber rattling an early death throe.
Thu Aug 14, 07:02:00 AM HST
The story you linked to did not verify the 1500 Ossetian civilians killed
That's not why I posted that link. The article points out that Saakashvili hired a Belgian PR agency to provide 'war coverage' to foreign media.
The Ossetians do not love Russia any more than they love Georgia.
There's a simple test for this. What country did the Ossetian refugees flee to? Georgia or Russia?
Also, here's the best article I found in the western media on the topic:
Here's the most important quote:
"President Saakashvili blundered into South Ossetia, sending in an army to shell, kill and maim on a vicious scale (against US advice and his promised word)"
Thu Aug 14, 09:50:00 AM HST
Joseph Moroco said...
I thought this was your science site, not your jingo site.
George is screaming and yelling for Vlad to make nice. Vlad is saying, "You and what army?"
I'm betting on Vlad this time.
Whatever you want to say about the Russkies, their intel was on the money here and ours looked inept.
But, hey, if it makes you feel good to put a shine on a sneaker, go ahead.
Might want to look at stratfor's latest. Friedman nails it. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/russo_georgian_war_and_balance_power
Thu Aug 14, 10:19:00 AM HST
Yeah, what Friedman said. The US is a fairly small country compared to the whole rest of the world and we have to let China and Russia mind their business in their own backyards.
Maybe if we didn't complain about them doing stuff in Tibet or Georgia we wouldn't have to hear them complain when we do something in the Americas.
Thu Aug 14, 02:32:00 PM HST
al fin said...
Yes, but it doesn't work that way. Agitprop/misinformation nations like China and Russia will complain regardless of what the US does or says. Their governments are unsure of the loyalties of their own citizens, of course, so they must continually guard against deviant thoughts and acts.
Thu Aug 14, 03:37:00 PM HST
t This point, Big Al couldn't take it and closed the comments after his last bit of disinformation.
This is not to say Les Russes don't have big demographic problems. Still, honesty demands one recognize that they played their hand well this time.
See Al Fin on War I
Friday, August 15, 2008
Link to article.
The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power
August 12, 2008 | 1508 GMT
By George Friedman
Related Special Topic Pages
• Crisis in South Ossetia
• U.S. Weakness and Russia’s Window of Opportunity
• The Russian Resurgence
• Kosovo, Russia and the West
The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.
Let’s begin simply by reviewing the last few days.
On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.
On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.
On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.
The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.
The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?
It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.
The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.
That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.
The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.
The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.
From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.
Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.
Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.
By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.
The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.
The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.
Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).
In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.
The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thinking about the soldiers' plight is not pleasant. According to the Telegraph,
The soldiers will stay at Margha for about a month, when the next Chinook will arrive to take them back to a forward operating base for two days' break - just enough time to rest, take a shower and do their laundry, before they are sent out to one of the other remote combat outposts for another month of relentless guard duty. The men do 15-month tours in Afghanistan.
I am writing an article I hope to sell about a civil war officer. In researching his war, the hell that was a soldier's life came through. Marching to Shiloh, getting up in the middle of the night to be ready to advance at dawn, marching against massed artillery and rifle fire. Retreating via forced march in any kind of weather. Day's without sleep or rest. At least in that war, once disengaged, there was usually some rest. The outpost life seems a worse fate. I thought as I was reading it the sentence would say "the next Chinook will arrive to take them back to a forward operating base for two weeks' break" instead of "two day's." How do they stand it? I am guessing, better than anyone can expect, but not all that well at the end of the day.
Dr Ira Katz, the head of mental health services for Veterans Affairs - a government department that looks after the welfare of US war veterans - estimated recently that there were about 1,000 suicide attempts a month among war veterans, the highest number since records began.
The situation has got so bad that about 20,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq have been prescribed antidepressants - 17 per cent of those currently serving in Afghanistan, and 12 per cent of those in Iraq. The drugs help the soldiers cope with the unimaginable stress - for an overstretched military, it helps keep them in the field.
Living with death at your door is bad enough, but it is all a constant irritation. Who knows what drives you over the edge. Per Colonel Lang, "Men living on combat rations for months at a time? Constipation must be a problem."
The Colonel also points out,
Air power is lovely as a source of logistical and fire support, but "Margha" is resupplied by civilian contractors and has one mortar as its available indirect fire support? There is obviously not enough US air power available for either job.
His tactical suggestions make sense, but point up the futility of it all.
Both the foreground ridge in the picture and the one behind it should be covered with pre-registered artillery and mortar fires so that every attack by fire will be answered so rapidly that it will be extremely dangerous to fire from those positions. Dare I think of an aggressive program of ambush patrols on the part of these paratroops? There would have to be a lot more of them. They are now now more or less pent up in their little fort. The Taliban must think they have already died and gone to paradise. This is eerily reminiscent of old British experience in this same area.
A counter-battery mortar radar would be a good idea at "Margha" if they do not already have one. There should be US artillery positioned to support places like this, but in today's army that kind of thinking seems to have gone away.
If we haven't done this by now, it's probably because we can't. The resources are not there.
So what has this to do with Georgia, much the same as Iran. Every time we make the Iran adventure noises, the mullahs say, in effect, "Yeah, you and what army?" Now, Putin is as well. Heck, he may even have said it in the Great Hall to the "leader of the Free World." He could say anything he wanted and Bush would not be wearing his famous you know what eating grin.
The Colonel has another post, Let's make a deal - NATO and Russia in which he suggests,
The Deal: No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or "volunteers" into former parts of the USSR that are now independent.
That deal was, in essence, made with Gorbachev and we broke it. This is another reason why a neutralist foreign policy is the path. The United States, like any other country cannot be trusted. We have to enshrine a Neutralist Ethos as our way or we shall ruin ourselves.
I recommend the blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Still, to say something as insane as "Today, We Are All Georgians" gives one pause. No, John, we are not all. I shall never admit to being Stalin's countryman.
From a calculating point of view, this statement makes sense only if all or almost all Americans have become psychotic.
I hope he doesn't believe that stuff. That he would say it is scary enough.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
So what conclusions can we gather from the events.
1. Russia was ready. They probably had more than an inkling of what was to happen.
2. We look stupid.
Gee that intel reform of a few years ago worked miracles.
Maybe, when the USSR broke up, along with some nukes, we should have bought the men who became the FSB.
This contretemps should give us pause. Unfortunately, if past is prologue, we shall be Bourbon about it, at least in the learning nothing department.
One can only picture the meeting of Putin and W in the great hall.
Spiked's Brendan O'Neill has a good article on the subject. Their are a lot of them, but this one stands out due to its intro,
It is remarkable how quickly other people’s bloody tragedies can be transformed into simple morality tales by Western observers sitting in cushioned, air-conditioned offices.
Monday, August 11, 2008
NATO announced that Georgia's application for membership has been approved as the last of that country's troops fled the national territory during the Russian Federation's last offensive.
President McCain*, in typical aggressive poseur mode, vowed to escalate the rhetoric. He has asked Glenn Reynolds to rally like minded bloggers to aim barbs at the Former Soviet Union. He did not rule out the use of terms such as Stalinist.
In other news, Chickenhawk Hall of Famer, Max Boot called for allowing grammar school dropouts to enlist directly as NCOs to make up for the shortfall in petty officers serving in Afghanistan.
*If necessary, substitute Obama here
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
For the sake of discussion I'll grant you the term "Neutralist" even if it sounds like R. Douglas Stuart with a new coat of paint.
It seems, in the Finnish example, to require subcontracting one's foreign policy to a behemoth neighbor. In the Swiss example it means becoming, in essence, a free rider. What do you think would have become of the Swiss had Hitler taken Western Europe? If Stalin or any one of the fellows between him and Gorby had sent the motor-rifle divisions West? It's quite clear- the Swiss would, like the Finns, exist at the pleasure of whoever was running Europe. If things came down to a fight, the Swiss would have been reduced to banditry by any patient foe who could gain air superiority and interdict supply lines. Twice Western Europe faced such a foe, and twice the Swiss were spared this fate by American intervention.
The Japanese example you cite is similar in many respects. The Tokugawa regime, having "insulated" Japan from most outsiders, had little industrial or military capability. Thus Japan existed at the sufferance of her contemporaries for many decades.
Finally we come to my point- if the United States adopted similar policies and withdrew our influence from the outside world, we would eventually be in a similar situation; existing at the whim of whatever foreign powers stepped up to take our place.
If avoiding this fate means NATO membership and a military presence abroad, so be it. It's a price I'm already paying and I prefer it to the alternative.
Having said this, I eagerly await a response. I believe you've posted elsewhere that our military capabilities shouldn't extend much further than what is required to protect our borders, but I fail to see how this is compatible with a "Neutralist" foreign policy.
Neutralism has many problems, but I believe they are less than Imperialism. The Marxist term, correlation of forces, means that the moon has to be in the seventh house and Jupiter must align with Mars for the age of Aqarius to occur. Similarly, for the Switzers to fall, someone has to win the whole ball of wax.
I haven't read Buchannan's new book, but long ago, I heard that Churchill's big strategy was too get the US into the war. If the Brits had absolutely no hope of US involvement, they may have done a deal with Dolph. We cannot speculate what that would have led to in history for good or ill, but it would have left Helvetia standing. If the correlation of forces had been that the war had continued, and the Brits had been knocked out and Germany had conquered Russia, maybe Switzerland would have been Finlandized. It could have been that Germany would have been so drained that it could not have said boo.
All in all, Neutralism has served the Cantons well enough. In fact, though I think it is fighting a rear guard action with its own PC, it is not in the maw of the European Union that appears to be instituting a Reich on its own. The Dutch Prime Minister opined that Wilders could publish, but he hoped to find grounds to prosecute. Come back Seyss-Inquart, all is forgiven.
As to Japan, they were not neutralist, the isolationism stemmed from the upper classes not wishing the people being armed. The early Brit imperialism meant having an army in France that was invincible, but Wat Tyler's archers almost overturning everything. The Japanese were defenceless against the outside world, but impervious to revolution. Engaged with the world, they did the Imperialism thing. China was too big a meal and still they took the bait FDR put out and went too far. Imperialism ruined them.
The point is, that even if Neutralism runs chance, Imperialism is a sure loser. Whether it is Athens and the Delian League, or the Soviet Union. Caesar conquering Gaul, led inevitably to Odovacer. Maybe it wasn't a week and a half later, but it was certain.
Our Imperialism is coming a cropper. As Neutralists, we would have more going for us than Switzerland, with our two oceans. If you think bugging the Russkies and Chinese is a brilliant strategy, fine. I would rather let them bug each other, which they might do if we were not in their faces. Maybe there is a way to be engaged in the world and not be imperialists. Unfortunately, sooner or later, you will get neocons.
I think about systems of government. Being a New Englander and former town officer, our direct democracy style of government is enthusiastically supported by, almost no one. It is difficult to get people to come out for the town meeting unless it is about the school budget and then they will mindlessly vote for anything. If you told them they were required to come to the town meeting, they would demand a dictator so they would not have to be bothered. Still I prefer the system we have now.
The point is, there is no philosopher's stone for a system of government, but some work better than others. The founder of a dynasty may bring heaven on earth while his idiot heir can make it hell. I am not a democrat, I prefer to think of myself as republican (small d and r). That is cute, because republicanism gives me enough leeway to say I'm for what works tolerably well constitutionally. So it is with neutralism. There is no magic FP. It has its problems, it is just not the sure loser interventionism is.
I wish I had more the time to give this. Certainly, several paragraphs are in my head. Finland should be addressed. Also, I did a google search for R. Douglas Stuart and found nothing much to look at. When The Neutralist Association attains a lush endowment, I shall assign such tasks to staff more talented than I.
I have treated a neutralist defense policy here. Henri Guisan's biography is an interesting treatment of the Confederation's fancy footwork during the war, but is like Samuel Johnson's comment on the Giant's Causeway, "worth seeing, but not worth going to see."
My son is of military age. He could save the fam a lot of money if he went ROTC. I have not supported that for reasons a reader might get from following this blog. It has bothered me a lot. From the link, you can see I believe everyone should be part of national defense, including my family.
What would I say if he wanted to do the Pat Tillman thing. If he said, I want to enlist for duty in Afghanistan, my answer would be, We have no chance of winning, we have no chance of changing that nation for good and our purported reason for going there no longer exists. There is no way our being there helps anything FP wise. Enlisting under those conditions is wrong.
Say it's your son. What do you answer?
Monday, August 04, 2008
My government, like most, purveys a lot of propaganda to convince it's citizenry that whatever policy it wishes to follow is right and good. Some of the propaganda is actually based in reality.
In my life, the anthrax scare is up there for the most transparent foolishness. I remember a local talk show host, Jay Severin shilling for the war big time. One afternoon he breathlessly intoned that it was reported that the anthrax involved in the letters had the footprint of an Iraqi lab and that if it did have that footprint, then, "We are at war with Iraq." Cut to a break.
You probably heard something similar.
Anthrax kinda sorta disappeared. It's come back, One guy got a settlement from the Leviathan rather than have the good name of Holy Mother State sullied. Another guy apparently offed himself, but it's a bit murky yet.
Does the anthrax episode make the case for neutralism. I think it helps. It certainly does not help the cause of the activist foreign policy.