by Koan, Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 12:28:21 PM EDT
So I'm a little disheartened about the lack of diaries/commentary on this site about the ongoing crisis in the Caucasus. I've been itching to find a good discussion so I could add my uninformed/off-the-cuff opinions, but it seems the thing to do today is to either relive the primaries, discuss the Edwards soap opera, or post uncritical Obama campaign talking points on the front page.
So I'll make my own damn diary, and opine as I please! Man I love teh Internets.
1. This is a major move by Russia, and it has as much to do with Georgian repression of the South Ossetians as the invasion of Iraq had to do with WMD. Putin's been fucking with his neighbors over gas and oil resources for years now (see: Ukraine in 2005, Belarus in 2007) and this invasion clearly has designs beyond the disputed regions of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia. Currently, Russian forces are sitting outside of Tblisi, and the Russians have all but acknowledged that they seek full-fledged regime change, probably to control the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline and thereby monopolize fuel deliveries to Europe.
2. It's a major move against the U.S. Russia's rhetoric has been strongly critical of America, and this move comes against our strongest ally in the region. Georgia as the third-most troops of any country in Iraq, and has pushed for NATO membership. Putin is a stone player, and he knows exactly what he's doing.
3. The U.S. has no sticks to use against Russia, and everybody knows it. Thanks to the Bush administration's systematic squandering of any moral authority the U.S. once had, we have not a lick of credibility in the international community. Putin has so far steadfastly rebuffed any attempts at diplomacy, and his dissing of Bush and Sarkozy in Beijing before flying directly to the front was basically a major middle finger to that coalition people love to call "The West." What are we going to say? "You can't unilaterally intervene in another country merely to control their natural resources!" Nope, lost that card. "Your citing supposed Georgian abuses of the Ossetians is an obvious pretext!" Uh, don't have that one either.
4. The U.S.'s inability/refusal to come to Georgia's aid is chilling our other allies to the bone. The basic deal the U.S. has made to our allies in recent years has been: "support our adventures in VietIraq, and you'll be on our side, subject to our protection and whatever market aid we can give you." You think Ukraine, Pakistan, Taiwan, South Korea, et al are reassured by our inaction as tanks roll into the Georgian capital? This is where George W. and the U.S. were hugely popular, and which underwent a rare, peaceful transition into a Western-style democracy--the very transformation we urge on everybody in the world if they don't wanna get regime-changed. Now they know how good our word is.
5. Barack Obama needs to step up, like now. His initial statement was kind of wishy-washy, playing the same kind of on-the-one-hand equicovation that people used to use in the Balkans back in the day. ("The Serbs and the Bosniaks both need to stop the violence!") And his campaign's statement trying to tie the crisis to its current theme--McCain as corrupt insider in bed with the lobbyists--was a serious misstep. It made him look petty, small-minded, and out of it. If I were Plouffe I'd be on the horn to him right now, saying "Barack, this is a major world crisis, you cannot be seen surfing in Hawaii while John McCain is playing statesman."
I've staked a lot of my support for Obama on my belief that he has it in him to be a major statesman and player on the international scene. Right now, the free press McCain is getting while Obama mellows on the beach only helps him, playing as it does to his campaign's main theme that McCain, not Obama, is the only candidate capable of taking on Putin without being played. Obama strengthened his initial statement, I was pleased to see--now he needs to come back from vacation and show us what he's got. How will his multilateral, carrots-and-sticks, talk-to-our-belligerents foreign policy handle this particular crisis?
I want to see it.
[As always: my take only, of course.]