Stand up to the bully!

History offers up a few moments when the world is presented with a choice:  someone is committing a naked act of aggression on someone else, and we can choose to ignore it, or we can stand up to the bullying.

Ignoring the bullying is the preferred option ~ who wants to get involved in a messy situation with no end in sight.  Standing up to the bullying is the right (morally and strategically) option.

It is time to stand up to the Russian bullying in Georgia.

Let us first consider the motivations for ignoring it:

(a) Georgia provoked the whole thing. 

Sadly, a section of the progressive left would have us believe that the whole situation was provoked by Georgia.  Sadly, the history of the world is filled with examples of small countries committing naked acts of aggression on larger, more powerful, neighbours, thereby provoking a war in which they get wiped out.  Examples of this include this one and this one.  

In the present case, it is clear that regardless of actual/perceived/proviked Georgian provocation (and here, I am just repeating an argument made by the Georgian President--it is a compelling argument), the Russians were preparing for an invasion for at least a few weeks.  How else do you explain the fact that about 100 Russian tanks rolled into battle within a few hours of the "Georgian provocation".  It does not matter how powerful you are, you simply cannot mobilize and move that many tanks that quickly unless you are preparing for just such an event.

It is also clear that regardless of any actual or perceived Georgian provocations, the Russian response has been disproportionate.  Can anyone honestly argue otherwise ?

(b) The US has no right to lecture the Russians because it has been less than pure itself

This is an argument offered up by Andrew Sullivan, as recounted in this diary .

This is true ~ the US has been less than pure in this front in the past.

It is also irrelevant.  

And it should be irrelevant.  "Do not cast the first stone unless you are pure" was a fine argument for Jesus to make ~ it is not appropriate for us to adopt that argument for convenience.  And if you disagree, please also promise not to condemnt North Korea, or Iran, or Pakistan, or Israel, or Palestine, or the Taliban, or Al Quaeda.. for anything that they might do.

After all, noone is completely innocent.. so why should anyone have any right to complain about anyone else.

(c) The US cannot do anything

This is another silly argument offered up by those who would prefer that the US (and the rest of the world) sit back and ignore what is going on.

So what can (should) the world do ?

The answer to this question is not as vexing as it seems.  History has offered up plenty of similar examples in the past.  Using those examples, we know what is the morally right thing to do, and we also know that the morally right course of action is also the strategically most advantageous.  In formulating a response, we should keep these guidelines in mind.

(a) always retain the moral high ground. 

The response should be deliberate, and measured... with a limited objective of stopping the aggressor, and reversing the aggression.  The objective should never spill over into containing the aggressor... where we rapidly squander the moral high ground.

(b) ratchet up the response slowly and deliberately.

The response should be slowly ratcheted up with a view of giving the aggressor a small (but finite) window of time to reverse his/her aggression without the use of force.  The use of force should never be ruled out, but should not be the first option on the table.

Along those lines, I support Pres. Bush in his initial calls for Russian withdrawal, followed by threats of isolation (such as expulsion from the G-8) and the more recent promise of sending American aircraft and naval vessels to Georgia.

(c) be prepared to ratchet up the response to a catastrophic war.

Yes, this is the scary part.  But absent a willingness to do this, we will fail.  Examples of this include John Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis.

Yes, a war with Russia would be catastrophic... for everyone!  That is the strongest motivation to ignore what the Russians are doing.  But, if history is any guide, ignoring the aggression now will only result in a larger problem down the line.  (I will refrain from citing examples in support of this.)

(d) be prepared to accept victory

This, sometimes, is the difficult part.  The aggressor will oftentimes look for a way out, and will seek a face saving formula for withdrawal.  A wise course is to give the aggressor the time and space necessary for this, without rubbing their nose in.  Botched examples of this include the treaty of Versailles, and the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war.

The US is faced with a choice here:

we can either stand up for the people of Georgia, or we can stop claiming to be the leaders of the free world !!

Tags: bully, Georgia, russia (all tags)

Comments

22 Comments

Re: Stand up to the bully!

Hear, hear!

by freedom78 2008-08-13 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

Yes, dammit !!

by SevenStrings 2008-08-13 09:14AM | 0 recs
And one more thing...

let us not even discuss Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain here.  We have one, and only one, President.  What Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain would do is irrelevant!!

by SevenStrings 2008-08-13 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

The first c is not a silly argument.  In fact, it's a pretty damn strong one.  The second c is completely disproportionate to the situation at hand--sorry, but I don't think risking WWIII and a nuclear conflict is a particularly good idea (when talking "catastrophic war" with Russia, those are the stakes), especially not over a territorial squabble that doesn't need to involve us.

Just a guess--you aren't draft age, are you?  Because advocating a course that could lead to "catastrophic war" involving American troops, while our military is grossly overstretched in two wars already, means a draft is necessary and casualties could be astronomical.  There's a reason wars between great powers are fairly rare these days, and it's absolutely insane to willfully walk towards one over a piece of disputed territory to which we owe no treaty obligations and which holds no real strategic importance to our country or the region.

There are ways to contain and coerce Russia that don't involve hard power, and to advocate bypassing them this early is insane.  To claim that Russia can't be swayed by anything other than military force is to fall for the central lie that underlies neoconservativism hook, line and sinker.

And don't try to make some sort of false dichotomy like "either we help Georgia or we cease to be the leader of the free world."  We're a leader, and we're powerful, but we're not omnipotent, and we can't afford to be reckless.  And make no mistake: launching a third war, and against a nuclear power, is as reckless as it gets.

by Jay R 2008-08-13 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

Since you believe that the first c (the US cannot do anything) is a very strong argument, and since I clearly disagree on this, it would be moot to discuss anything beyond that.

And yes, I am of draft age.. I am also male, with no mental or physical defects

Thank you for expressing your thoughts nevertheless.

by SevenStrings 2008-08-13 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!


That's crap.  Why not move a couple of combat brigades from Iraq to Tblisi?  Are they so tied down in trench warfare with the Iranian Army or something?

The rest of your talking points are also standard Anti-War Fundamentalism 101.  It's always too hard and too risky for too little gain, and there's never any principle truly at stake....

by killjoy 2008-08-13 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

You'd have to be on crack to think a couple of combat brigades would be sufficient to defend Tblisi from the Russian military--we probably wouldn't even buy the city an extra two hours.  Which means what you're REALLY suggesting is using US troops as human shields, and risking their lives for what, exactly?  Putin hasn't shown signs that he wants to do more than embarrass Saakashvili and eject Georgian troops from South Ossetia, both of which are accomplished.  If he wanted to take Tblisi he could have easily done so already: he knows the costs of doing so are too high with regards to economic considerations in the EU to risk it.

Sarkozy is handling this very well so far, and only a fool would want to risk the diplomatic gains we've already made AND the lives of thousands of Georgian civilians and US troops by escalating the situation.

A bit of humiliation over Georgia beats the hell out of a land war in Europe.  Hopefully the people running the negotiations in Moscow understand that better than you.  That's not anti-war fundamentalism, it's political realism.  And it's certainly not 101, though it is shocking how completely sophomoric so many comments on these threads have been, considering the subject of great power politics and balancing interests among regional powers require a more sophisticated analysis than "they're bad, let's git 'em!"

by Jay R 2008-08-13 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!


What a joke.  Do you have any idea how many troops the Russians have sent in?  About 20,000.  Any general who can't hold up that kind of force with an equally armed force half that size isn't worth beans.

This all wouldn't have gone this far if Bush had stationed a 'tripwire' American force, as was the case in Germany and is the case in Korea.  That would be the point of deploying one now.

Explain this 'land war in Europe' paranoid sillyness.  I'm so sure Putin would love a two or three front fracas with armies and air forces whose primary war planning and training is to kill invading Russian armored columns.

by killjoy 2008-08-13 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

You've really got a hard-on for starting a new war, don't you?

It takes a high level of naivete to think Putin would risk a war against the EU--he probably won't even risk his natural gas concessions to Germany.  There's no need for Europe to enter a larger war with him in order to contain Russia.

The "tripwire" was effective because a) before 1955, when West Germany was admitted to NATO, we operated with them under our nuclear umbrella and b) after 1955, we were treaty-bound to defend them in case of Soviet attack.  But as you undoubtedly know, we don't have a collective defense agreement with Georgia.  If we did, or if they were in NATO, it would be a different story.  But we never signed one, and we shouldn't pretend like we're willing to pretend one exists.  The anarchic society of international relations is uncertain enough without injecting a "will they or won't they" question concerning American interventionism: it might deter our rivals, but it might embolden our allies to rash and overly bold policies (in other words, if Georgia knew for certain we wouldn't send military assistance instead of thinking we might, would they have directly confronted Russian troops?).

The reason you don't start or recklessly expand wars in Europe is that it's densely populated and ethnically diverse, and it only takes a few days for an occupying force to kill thousands of civilians and minorities.  It's a pretty obvious historical pattern, and it's the height of stupidity to ignore it.  Plus, since you clearly never learned from the example of Iraq, wars don't always go as planned (in fact, can you name the last successful war against Russia?).  The Russian military is hardly a joke, and there will be extensive damage.  Starting a shooting war with a great power (one which, it's worth noting, American leaders spend half a century trying NOT to get into a war with), or even bandying the idea around like it's desirable without our direct security or treaty obligations in question, is just dumb.  Really, really dumb.

And I can't help but sigh in exasperation at your myopic notion that the West is all set to kill Russians, yet the Russians are apparently somehow incapable of returning the favor: they spent decades preparing their installations to withstand attacks from NATO, they spread their key facilities around their VERY large country, and they built up a conventional military to rival any in the world.  Acting like they'd be a pushover to beat is a sign of your arrogance and a total lack of understanding of history, tactics, and realpolitik.  

You're spouting an internationalist jingoism like it has any basis in fact, and what's really scary is that your opinion is not nearly as rare as it is dangerous.

by Jay R 2008-08-13 08:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!


First of all, enough of my relatives fought on the Eastern Front and lived behind the Iron Curtain, and others were/are in NATO.  I was drafted there, but didn't need to serve.  You really have no cred or sufficient knowledge to lecture me.  Let alone the situational measure that I would find your opinion better than a paranoid guess made from 4000 miles away.  Just when was the last time the Russians met a competent opponent on the battlefield, and what was the result?

It isn't the Cold War anymore, and it isn't the nineteenth century anymore either.  It is about giving small ethnic groups sufficient autonomy so that they can both evolve positively to modern social norms and evolve negatively, i.e. deal with their historical baggage and settle historical differences with a minimum of violence.  (Though that minimum may still be a pretty large amount.)  After which point they begin to merge into ever larger interest groups.

by killjoy 2008-08-14 09:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

If I could interject and add to a point you made... when was the last time the Russians faced a semi-competent opponent on the battlefield, and what as the result.

Ans: OBL, and his band in Afghanistan.  We all know what happened!

by SevenStrings 2008-08-14 09:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

The West must begin to stand up to Russia and America must take the lead .

Appeasement which has been Pres. Bush's policy as it relates to Russia must have an end or a limit.

The west should start thinking of kicking Russia out of the G8 which symbolizes Russia's place in the world, economic sanctions , financial sanctions and other punitive measures.

I continue to believe we must take the lead on this and our foreign policy should be based on the advancement of liberty and freedom , we shouldn't compromise on that.

by lori 2008-08-13 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

Lori,

I respectfully disagree with just about every word that you wrote.

Anyone here in military?  Anyone want to go over to Georgia and fight a war started because Bush was incompetent..again?

Sounds like a cycle that we want to break.

Are you going to volunteer Lori?

by snark adam excuse 2008-08-13 10:12AM | 0 recs
Russia called our bluff

I don't think bluffing some more is going to work.

by JJE 2008-08-13 09:33AM | 0 recs
Russia isn't a suicide bomber

I think we should study the first Gulf War for ideas on how to handle this.  As much as I despised George the Greater for causing the Saddam Hussein (and Noriega, and...) situation in the first place, he knew that punitive, lasting war on the aggressor nation would serve only to weaken American forces and standing in the world.

We have to remember that Russia, however bellicose, is not a fanatical suicide bomber; they don't want war with the United States or NATO.  However weakened the US is by our ill-advised adventures abroad, we are, and will remain, the sleeping giant when push comes to shove.  An attack on American interests would give even George the Lesser a reason to re-deploy our Iraq troops post-haste, and Putin does not even want to consider a traditional stand-up conventional war with someone who has been mastering bunker-busting warheads and infrastructure dismemberment for years.  As good at skullduggery as Russia is, the US is the master of flat-out annihilation of battlefield enemies.

Nukes?  Out of the question.  MAD.  Putin doesn't want to die, and he doesn't want to rule over radioactive slag.  This bluff can be called.

The West has cards to play here.  The United States has cards to play.  The best result, I think, would be for Georgia to concede something like half of the disputed territories while getting assurances that Moscow's agents and sympathetic rebels stay in their half, and then sue for NATO membership again.  The liklihood of getting refused again seems pretty small at this point.

by Dracomicron 2008-08-13 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Russia isn't a suicide bomber

Well, a territorial split is probably out of the question, but an agreement over militarization in them is workable: EU peacekeepers permitted, everyone else demilitarizes for, say, five or ten years.  Putin won't risk his economic ties to the EU, and Sarkozy knows that uncertainty involving the Russian military (which, I gotta say, is more formidable that you seem to give it credit for) is inherently dangerous for Europe.

But you're right: Putin knows this isn't worth risking a full-scale war over.  But I'm fairly certain he also knows this isn't worth risking a loss of his trade agreements with EU member states, either.  There are more than a few ways to skin this kitty.

by Jay R 2008-08-13 08:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

I am not interested in threatening a catastrophic war as if the situation in Georgia is equivalent to putting nuclear missiles in Cuba.  It's just not equivalent.

Somewhere between ignoring the situation, which I don't recommend, and threatening WWIII over it there has to be a reasoned and proportionate response.  Part of the response involves getting our own house in order such that we have some sort of leverage over Russia aside from the military option.

The national interest requires a setting of priorities.  If you don't agree, then I'm not clear on what your objection was to invading Iraq.

by Steve M 2008-08-13 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

This whole mess was greatly aided by Bush's imcompetent foreign policy, no ifs, ands or buts.

It was completely avoidable.  Bush should not have walked into Putin's back yard and initiated a power struggle.  He basically led the Georgians to believe that he would back them up...he couldn't.

Putin has been playing Chess, and Bush is still learning the rules of Checkers.

by snark adam excuse 2008-08-13 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!

Being prepared to respond to something is not the same as initiating something.  I've never seen any argument in international relations or otherwise that places blame for launching a conflict merely because an entity is prepared to respond.

I think the record is pretty clear that Georgia provoked this conflict with its incursion of troops and armor into South Ossetia on Ausgust 8 and its shelling of Tskhinvali the same day, killing and injuring large numbers of people.

by markjay 2008-08-13 10:02AM | 0 recs
Georgia's fault?

If this was not planned in Russia they would not have had the troops ready to go in. There had been a steady buildup of Russian troops near the border for weeks prior to this. Georgian troops had been under bombardment from S. Ossetia and responded to this.

Is it an incursion when you move troops within your own country?  

by del 2008-08-13 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Georgia's fault?

Did the Georgians seriously not expect a response fron Russia?

They must have known that Russia would respond.  Then what?  What's the next step in the plan to hold that area?  

No strategy?  

Sounds like the neo-con virus is spreading:
Stupidity and lack of strategic planning is so evident in this situation.

by snark adam excuse 2008-08-13 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Stand up to the bully!
I think there is little US can do at this point as
  1. US can't scare Russia with war seeing what's happening in Iraq now.
  2. US is not going to get support for aggressive diplomacy (isolation) from Europe as they are too much dependent on Russia for their energy needs
  3. US pushing aggressively will only increase the already existing view (outside the US) that the US is trying to bully Russia, in what is a territorial squabble.
  4. Just because Russia is big and Georgia is small doesn't make Russia the bully. We cannot form an opinion based solely on the news from one side. We haven't seen news from the other side, all we hear is what the Georgian president is saying.
I think it is for Europe to take the lead (as they are doing right now) in this matter.
by devil 2008-08-13 10:03AM | 0 recs

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