The Child of Preemptive War

Yesterday my aunt in Arizona and I got into our usual squabble about politics and world events.  She's an nice woman, a retired nurse that sadly has drunk the kool-aid John Airbus McCain has put out.  Well today she sent me an email with the subject line "John McCain would handle Russia".  You can pretty much guess what the whole email was about.  At first I thought I would respond with highlight the usual deficiencies in neo-con foreign affairs.  Then it hit me, what's going between Georgia and Russia was indeed because of neo-conservative foreign policy!  

Jerome a Paris noted in his recent post about the current conflict, that the US has no moral standing to critique Russia's actions.  Many would disagree, but he is right.  Indeed, no nation has a true moral high ground on this.  At one time, or another, one country or region has done some harm to another.   Sure the names have changed over time, but what we see his history rhyming.

Prior to opening up Pandora's Box of War

Preemptive war is now a fact, but it didn't have to be this way.  We all know what the world was like before Bush took office.   We were a "superpower", but we still worked with nations.  Yes, at times, one could say America has been a bully.  But consensus building was among our goals, that through multilateral institutions, we could accomplish great things.  That was, until George W. Bush and his neo-con good ol' boys took office.  Instead of building upon the past investments in diplomacy, we decided to take for granted our preeminent status and cheapen and coerce our friendships.

Since the end of the Cold War up until 2002, the US held up a moral authority of sorts.  Yes, Vietnam and other incidents tarnished our image, no doubt.  But policy makers knew and advanced the idea that having friends and working with them was paramount to our survival. Multinational efforts like disaster relief to Sarajevo, peace keeping and diplomacy, that's what held up stability for the most part.  Smart people, in places like the State Department, read up on history on the kinks and quirks of the various regions of the world; a knowledge that the neo-cons disregarded.  For them, they knew what was right, regardless of even those who had experience in the areas of the world they wish to deploy our troops, like the French.  

Yet can you blame the Russians?  Many have, yet from their perspective, what they are doing is absolutely correct.  We, well our government actually, cannot judge them because the Kremlin is utilizing the same thinking the White House did for Iraq.  Add to that that Russia had gone through a long period of loss of influence due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Imagine you are Moscow, head of a super power with almost half the world under your sphere or as a client state, then almost over night seeing that all disappear.

Closer to their home, their linkage to neighboring countries under the guise of communism gone, they had gone back to much older ethno-religious ties.  Yet, here they watched, one nation after another of "theirs" head towards the West, and in their eyes, Washington.  Keep in mind, the leaders of Russia maintain some sort of old Cold War era thinking; to many, we're still a major rival if not an outright enemy.  So when we talk of NATO expansion, can you blame them for getting nervous?

Often, I go to the local Russian and Georgian food shops on Devon Avenue, here in Chicago, and while there chat up with a mostly immigrant audience.  Old ties die slow, let me tell you.  For many, and I've heard this in my family as well, there are the Slavs and then the rest of Europe.  Moscow may be taking this to the next level and saying there is Europe, the Slavs, and Russian-linked Slavs.  Like the neo-cons and their crazy idea of forming a crony League of Democracies, perhaps Putin is Russia's version of a neo-conservative and wants a reformation of a Russian empire of sorts.

Who really knows, perhaps he is simply using the South Ossetia situation as giant gesture to Washington that they ought to reconsider NATO expansion.  I suspect though, our actions towards Iraq gave Moscow the green light to do a similar action. Indeed, what the US did with its invasion was the security policy equivalent of the detonation of an atomic device at Los Alamos.   Perhaps, had we never gone in  such a unilateralist fashion, that instead of tanks, the Kremlin would be deploying diplomats; that would have made the Georgian president look more like the "bad guy" to the press than what is happening now.

It's sad really, we had an opportunity to turn away from old antagonisms and bring Russia into the fold.  Unfortunately, the only attempt the West made was through neo-liberal economic policies that aided in the forming kleptacracy of the Yeltsin era.  Indeed, we at times didn't treat Russia as equals but as some sort of undeveloped basket case.  I remember watching a documentary on WTTW about post-Soviet Russia.  In it was a segment where these Russian dignitaries were visiting I believe was the White House. Well, the segment went on with this one incident where we were actually lecturing the Russians on silverware, as if they were new to it!  

Preemptive War's dangerous future

Our entrance into Iraq with such military gusto, Russia's tanks marching across Georgia, makes me wonder whom else will feel the need to do a preemptive war?  You can't deny, that other countries like China, India,  and Israel are secretly circulating their own ideas between their general staff.  If it's good for America, why not us?  Given that the US has essentially neutered the UN, there is no real international alternative to a major power flexing it's muscles under the guise of defense.  And there are no rules to preemptive war, there is nothing to stop a grouping of nations from initiate such an activity.

Of course, this may not happen tomorrow or next week or next month, but it will happen.  Perhaps not the nations mentioned above, but there will be such an incident.  Maybe, as we head into peak oil or some sort of food crash, that some middle-tier power won't decided to invade it's neighbor for grain.  It will believe it has justification because it felt it had to stop a "potential threat."

And nations do not have to employ actual armies anymore to accomplish such goals.  There is nothing to stop a nation from initiating preemptive war through the utilization of agents.  For example, India may employ mercenaries or subversive groups in Pakistan to cause further instability or outright collapse.  Terrorists have often declared their intentions and gone on a systematic campaign of unconventional warfare against a targeted nation.  George W. Bush's administration has managed to submerge a nation's defense policy to that of a terrorist group.

Tags: Conflict, Defense, George W. Bush, Georgia, Neo-Con, Preemptive War, russia, war (all tags)



a tips jar for peace

If only cooler heads would prevail.

by johnny venom 2008-08-11 11:17PM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

As right as you are, I really hope that we move away from this kind of posturing. We have set such a dangerous precedent, and while having a Democrat in the WH helps, having a congress with a backbone helps even more.


by dannybauder 2008-08-12 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

War is bad.

Dumb wars are worse.

Dumb Pre-emptive wars lead to more dumb pre-emptive wars.

Stupidity all around.

Thank Bush for ruining our world.

by Why Not 2008-08-12 05:43AM | 0 recs
Putin is a McCain supporter

This much should be clear, both from the timing of this action and from the logic that you state.

Putin and the Russian New Oldguard fear a united international community aligned with an Obama-led USA.  He is not intimidated by an internationally-despised US led by John "pre-emptive war is OK" McCain.  He doesn't care in the least about a military conflict with the US - he welcomes it.

What is to be the moral high-ground from which the US condemns a move to seize the ports in Ukraine?  With enormous piles of petro-collars and a stranglehold on Europes energy throar, at what point does Europe find the fortitude to do more than politely object?

This is the message that needs to get across: Putin wants John McCain to be President.


by chrisblask 2008-08-12 06:04AM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

There has been a de facto rule since WW2 that countries can't be coerced into changing their international borders.  If one goes through all of the conflicts which have occurred during the past sixty years, possibly the majority turn on this principle.

Eg., the world community will never recognize the government of Northern Cyprus, Jerusalem will never be recognized as the capital of Israel until there is some treaty, Iraq couldn't annex Kuwait, Great Britain will never be coerced into surrendering sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, Gibralter, etc.  Long list.

The Bush administration broke this rule in Jan, '08, when it recognized the independence of Kosovo (which was detached from Serbia without that government's approval).

When Putin talks about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the comparison he makes isn't to Iraq but Kosovo (if the US can detach this province from Serbia by citing self-determination--Kosovars don't want to live in Serbia--why shouldn't Russia have the same rights with respect to these other two regions?).

The whole point of having this rule of inviolable borders is to make it impossible for someone to go to war by citing national self-determination as his just cause.  

The abandonment of principle occurred between 1998 and 2008 (and Clinton played a role).  Not suggesting these are easy issues, btw.  They're as tough as they come.  But many saw this coming.  What the US needs to do, somehow, is reaffirm this principle, or else we'll see small wars breaking out all over the place.  

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-08-12 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

Excellent response.  However, I don't see how the US or NATO can put this genie back in the box, unless they want to hand Kosovo back to Serbia (unlikely).  

by markjay 2008-08-12 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

thanks for the great post johnny.

by alyssa chaos 2008-08-12 08:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Aunt in Arizona

Why do you bother with this with your aunt?

Tell her to have a nice day.

by susie 2008-08-12 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Child of Preemptive War

Intersting read Johnny Venom, it is similar  to the theory of moral relativity which takes away the US/Western/Christian as Moral leader and equates all religions, ways of life, government idealogies by saying, who really is to judge what one culture, country, or religion does as good or eveil(I am taking a lot of liberties in my paraphrasing of this theme).  There are a lot of parallels, some good critical thought.  

My viewpoint, is that Russia wants to control the pipeline as a means for maintaining its oil dominance in the region and, yes it still harbors a massively deep resentment against the ways of the West: it lost a cold war and went from tied in 1st to irrelevant for a long period of time, that cannot feel good.  I also think Russia is actually exceedingly wealthy right now due to oil money.   I would think they have been investing their money into weaponry and technology.  Their Army seemed to have taken Georgia apart in an instant, though I am not sure if experts are surprised by that.

It is a power play by The East for oil.  One could consider it their play for a balance of power again, getting back to the good old days of the cold war.  It mirrors us, but not many people want to admit it because "Our empire is better than your empire".  Since I live in the US and have everything I cherish here, I am rooting for us.  I just don't know what we should do.  I am also afraid of China and I am concerned about their relationship wih Russia.  China could crush us economically in a heartbeat, just call in our debt and we're done.  But China needs the US economy to continue to amass its power and wealth.  They are the only country that continually gets 10% growth while everyone else, including Europe and Japan are heading into recession.  This is real concern, our play here is critical, I just don't know enough to know what is the right play, maybe go with majority Western Opnion, whatever that ends up being.  

by KLRinLA 2008-08-12 03:37PM | 0 recs


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