What did we learn from the Russia – Georgia conflict?

Here are some useful comments about the conflict between Russia and Georgia.  IMO just Russia reasserting is traditional sphere of influence, into which the US was foolishly expanding.

Contents

  1. The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 12 August 2008
  2. South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams“, Gary Brecher (The War Nerd), The Exile Online, undated
  3. The South Ossetian War: Some thoughts“, Helena Cobban, ‘Just World News, 10 August 2008
  4. On US over-stretch“, Helena Cobban, ‘Just World News, 12 August 2008
  5. Prudence, Perhaps“, Joshua Foust, Registan, 13 August 2008:
  6. Another Hard Landing for Russia?“, Eugene Rumer, Washington Post, 13 August 2008

Excerpts

1.  “The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 12 August 2008 — Excerpt:

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 August 8.

2.  “South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams“, Gary Brecher (The War Nerd), The Exile Online, undated — Except:

There are three basic facts to keep in mind about the smokin’ little war in Ossetia:

1.  The Georgians started it.
2.  They lost.
3.  What a beautiful little war!

… The Georgians bided their time, then went on the offensive, Caucasian style, by pretending to make peace and all the time planning a sneak attack on South Ossetia. They just signed a treaty granting autonomy to South Ossetia this week, and then they attacked, Corleone style. Georgian MLRS units barraged Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia; Georgian troops swarmed over Ossetian roadblocks; and all in all, it was a great, whiz-bang start, but like Petraeus asked about Iraq way back in 2003, what’s the ending to this story? As in: how do you invade territory that the Russians have staked out for protection without thinking about how they’ll react?

… Most likely the Georgians just thought the Russians wouldn’t react. They were doing something they learned from Bush and Cheney: sticking to best-case scenarios, positive thinking. The Georgian plan was classic shock’n’awe with no hard, grown-up thinking about the long term. Their shiny new army would go in, zap the South Ossetians while they were on a peace hangover (the worst kind), and then…uh, they’d be welcomed as liberators? Sure, just like we were in Iraq. Man, you pay a price for believing in Bush.

… The biggest American aid project was the GTEP, “Georgia Train and Equip” project ($64 million). It featured 200 Special Forces instructors teaching fine Georgia boys all the lessons the US Army’s learned recently. Now here’s the joke – and military history is just one long series of mean jokes. We were stressing counterinsurgency skills: small-unit cohesion, marksmanship, intelligence. The idea was to keep Georgia safe from Chechens or other Muslim loonies infiltrating through the Pankisi Gorge in NE Georgia. And we did a good job. The Georgian Army pacified the Pankisi in classic Green-Beret style. The punch line is, the Georgians got so cocky from that success, and from their lovefest with the Bushies in DC, that they thought they could take on anybody. What they’re in the process of finding out is that a light-infantry CI force like the one we gave them isn’t much use when a gigantic Russian armored force has just rolled across your border.

… Luckily, South Ossetia doesn’t matter that much. I’m just being honest here. In a year nobody will care much who runs that little glob of territory.

… What’s happening to Georgia here is like the teeny-tiny version of Germany in the twentieth century: overplay your hand and you lose everything. So if you’re a Georgian nationalist, this war is a tragedy; if you’re a Russian or Ossetian nationalist, it’s a triumph, a victory for justice, whatever. To the rest of us, it’s just kind of fun to watch.

Veteran journnalist and writer Helena Cobban (bio) has published two articles of interest about the G-R fighting at her blog ‘Just World News’.

3.  “The South Ossetian War: Some thoughts“, Helena Cobban, ‘Just World News, 10 August 2008 — Excerpt:

The final outcome on the ground from this nasty and damaging little war are still far from clear. But some of the broader implications for world politics of what has been happening are already emerging:

1. The “west” is hopelessly over-stretched, what with all its current commitments of troops in Iraq, a crisis-ridden Afghanistan, and (still) in the Balkans. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was most likely relying to a great extent on the NATO forces pulling his chestnuts out of the Ossetian fire if they should start to burn there. But NATO is in absolutely no position to do that. All the US could do to give him any concrete help was to gather up and return to his country the 2,000 Georgian troops who had previously part of their occupation coalition in Iraq. That airlift is happening right now. But it will do little to affect the balance on the ground in the Caucasus, while it will certainly cause considerable disruptions to the US project in Iraq.

2. Russia is coming back as a force to be reckoned with in world politics. This is no longer the 1990s– which for Russians was an era of economic mega-crisis, dismemberment, and rampantly atrocious (mis-)governance. The Russia of the years ahead will not have the great weight in world politics of the Soviet era. But neither will it be the confused, resource-starved pygmy of the Yeltsin era.

3. Westerners who thought they could easily redraw international boundaries as they pleased, without consequence for their own interests, will have to rethink the wisdom of that tactic. The national boundaries drawn up and laid down in, basically, the post-1945 era, are in many places highly imperfect. (Especially throughout Africa!) But the system of boundaries and sovereignty that they represent acquired its own logic, however imperfect. Tinker with one, and the whole system threatens to unravel. I tried to argue that point — among others– back in February, when I expressed my criticism of the move that many western nations made toward recognizing (and even encouraging) the Kosovars’ declaration of independence. Lots of food for thought there for the Iraqi Kurds, too…

This latter point about the wisdom of the tendency many westerners have shown in recent years to encourage secessionist movements– especially those seeking to secede from countries they disapprove of– is worth a lot more exploration.

4.  “On US over-stretch“, Helena Cobban, ‘Just World News, 12 August 2008 — Excerpt:

So what does it all mean?

It means that this conceit that members of the US political elite of both parties have nearly all entertained for the past 15 years: that the dominance of the US military over just about the entire globe is really, kind of the natural order of things… and that yes, of course, our country has “vital” interests in very distant parts of the world that yes, of course, we need to be able to protect — on our own, if necessary — now, that entire conceit is no longer going to be sustainable.

… So we need a radically different model of how the world’s countries can act in response to the security challenges that just about all of our countries face.

As it happens, this model exists. It is one that the US itself created, back in 1945. It is one based on the unassailable foundations of a commitment to finding nonviolent ways to resolve thorny international conflicts, and a deep respect for the equality of all human persons and all nations. It’s called the United Nations.

These reports contrast with the floods of nonsense.  First, traditional kubuki by the US government (playing for the delusional folk in the audience who take this seriously). 

5.  Joshua Foust looks at the US government’s reaction in “Prudence, Perhaps” at Registan, 13 August 2008:

President Bush just interrupted the Olympics — I guess no more slapping asses at the beach volleyball court? — and called Russia out, saying it is not behaving like a responsible member of the international community. He sternly warned Russia that he expects Russian troops to safeguard Georgian civilians “of all ethnicities” (a nice dig to claim that Abkhazians are as Georgian as Georgians), and that he is sending Condoleeza Rice to Paris and then Tblisi to confer with Sarkozy and demonstrate support for Sarkozy.

As if Putin cares what we do.  Bush “calling Russia out”, sending Rice to Paris — these things are just theater.

Experts are equally capable of shallow analysis.  Here we have one who sees the future only as a repeat of the past, blinded by the shining illusion of American hegemony.  Perhaps Russian’s petro-power will prove supreme.  Perhaps American (not Russian) attitudes must change.

6.  “Another Hard Landing for Russia?“, Eugene Rumer, Washington Post, 13 August 2008 — Excerpt:

The Russian military is showing off its newfound strength, punishing the Georgians for their sins, the greatest of which is forgetting in whose back yard they live. Moscow has warned Poland and the Czech Republic not to deploy U.S. missile defense components on their territories. The Kremlin has also told Washington that it should mind its own business.

We have seen something like this before, though. Thirty years ago, flush with oil and gas revenue, the Soviet Union was threatening Europe and challenging the United States. In 1979, Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan and seemed poised to keep going to fulfill centuries-old Russian ambitions of reaching the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

… But who is to say that Russia’s victory in Georgia will not lead to another disaster in a few years?

There is plenty of trouble brewing in Russia, not unlike the trouble to which Moscow turned a blind eye 30 years ago, as its tanks rolled into Afghanistan and caused a break in relations with the West. … The conditions in Russia look different from the conditions of 30 years ago, but Russia’s reality is still grim. Moscow may have more billionaires than other European capitals, but the Russian population is still shrinking, the average Russian man is not expected to live past 60, oil still dominates the country’s economic future, and the taps are running dry.

No matter how the current crisis is resolved, the consequences for East-West (that Cold War term again) relations will be far-reaching. The stain on Russia’s reputation in the West will not be erased for years. It will take a very different — and most improbable — Russian attitude to repair the damage. … It will take skill and patience to get Russia to a soft landing from its present high.

Rumer is a senior fellow at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Prevous posts in this series

  1. The Russia-Georgia war threatens one of the world’s oil arteries, 10 August 2008
  2. Perhaps *the* question about the Georgia – Russia conflict, 10 August 2008
  3. Keys to interpreting news about the Georgia – Russia fighting, 13 August 2008

Click here to see a list of all posts about strategy and military theory.

49 thoughts on “What did we learn from the Russia – Georgia conflict?

  1. Funny how intelligent commentators (Cobban, Rumer) can draw exactly opposite lessons from the same event! As in medicine and auto mechanics, diagnosis in international relationsis an art, and often has to proceed by experimentation, usually along the lines of what’s worked before for the diagnoser. In other words, we’ll just to wait and see whether the US or Russia ends up running Caucasion energy supplies. And who has the patience not to over-react to the other.

  2. I’m more concerned by how the Georgan president has reacted to a single planeload of US humanitarian aid as implying some sort of US military assistance.

    At this point, all we can do is let Georgia get runover by a bus if thats what the Russians desire.

    Either he knows this and is trying to squeeze propaganda value out of it (and dangerous propaganda at that), or doesn’t in which case he’s a delusional individual.

  3. “What did we learn from the Russia – Georgia conflict?”

    Extend US presence and influence at every opportunity.

    U.S. to take control of Georgian ports: Saakashvili” Reuters, 13 Auguwts 2008 — Opening:

    TBILISI (Reuters) – President George W. Bush’s pledge to send aid to Georgia means that the U.S. military will take control of the ex-Soviet state’s ports and airports, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Wednesday.

    “You have heard the statement by the U.S. president that the United States is starting a military-humanitarian operation in Georgia,” Saakashvili said in a television address.

    “It means that Georgian ports and airports will be taken under the control of the U.S. defense ministry in order to conduct humanitarian and other missions. This is a very important statement for easing tension.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Be careful about believing everything you hear about events in a war zone.

    Pentagon says no plans to control Georgia ports“, Reuters, 13 August 2008 — Opening:

    ” The Pentagon said on Wednesday it did not plan to take control of Georgian airports or ports as part of an aid mission, apparently contradicting a statement by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

    “We are not looking to, nor do we need to, take control of any air or sea ports to conduct this mission,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.”

  4. Wait! There’s more! The export of freedom and democracy across the world dosn’t come cheap mind you.

    McCain adviser got money from Georgia” By PETE YOST, Associated Press — Excerpt:

    WASHINGTON – John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

    The payments raise ethical questions about the intersection of Randy Scheunemann’s personal financial interests and his advice to the Republican presidential candidate who is seizing on Russian aggression in Georgia as a campaign issue.

    McCain warned Russian leaders Tuesday that their assault in Georgia risks “the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world.”

  5. This is a purely Danish perspective: Russian military activities around Denmark are currently at the level of the Cold War. Just in the last half year the Danish air defence has been activated seven times by approaching Russian fighter-bombers or bombers. When I write activated I mean that the Danish air force had to put fighter planes in the air to pursue Russian planes.

    The result? Nothing. We are deeply preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan and just recently we send several warships to patrol in the Indian Ocean. We are a small northern european country and yet somehow we feel strong enough to have warships in the Indian Ocean.

    As a matter of fact the Europeans are living in a state of denial regarding Russia. We deny that it matters that Russia no longer can be regarded as a liberal democracy (perhaps some kind of democracy, but definetely not liberal). We deny that Russia is a military threat and we deny that enlargement of NATO or the deployement of a missile shield in Eastern Europe could possible provoke the Russians. We deny that the dissolution of the ABM-treaty or the suspension of the CFE-treaty should matter. We deny that Russian threats about putting Iskander missiles and bombers in Belarus or Kaliningrad should matter. As a matter of fact our leading politicians, officers and defence experts don’t even debate it. Instead our defence debate is about the fighting in Afghanistan and why we haven’t already intervened in Burma or Darfur. For all intent and purpose a country like Denmark (or Sweden) has no longer a military prepared to defend Denmark. Instead we have an expeditionary force intented to be used solely for international operations far away from Denmark. Our intelligence work is about preventing islamic terrorist attacks in Denmark (our embassy in Pakistan was destroyed in June by a bomb). Not watching out for the Russians. Our ground forces are being prepared to fighting insurgents. Not for fighting well-trained conventionel forces.

    Perhaps the war between Russia and Georgia will change something. But I have noticed there is a strong pressure against too strong reactions against the Russians. We have a substantional trade with Russia and I have inside information from a friend working there that the beer company Carlsberg that they are working against a too strong political reaction against Russia. Anyway, it might be more convenient and hope that somehow the problem will go away. That has been the reaction until now.

    All this brings me to the Americans. Last year I wrote about the potential Russian threat in a Danish paper and I was told by a leading expert in a rebuttal that we could always rely on the Americans in case something went wrong. Well, the Georgian president would surely disagree. President Bush was in Beijing when the fighting broke out and except for some – hmm – forceful comments he did NOTHING. What kind of messages does this send to the Baltic countries, the Ukraine or Poland for that matter?

    We have to talk with the Russians. But we also have to start to think about what to do if that doesn’t help. Because it is payback time for 20 years of humiliation since the fall of the Soviet Union.

  6. Please let me add something regarding the Russian air activities: I am not sure regarding the other NATO countries, but Danish diplomats have – as far as I am informed – not been in touched with the Russians regarding this problem. I mean – come on: How can you solve an issue if you even deny there is one?

  7. WHY THE RUSSIANS ARE IN GEORGIA

    I’m a former State Department Foreign Service Officer who specialized in Soviet/Russian political sociology. My PhD thesis (1969) was on the failure of the Soviets to integrate non-Russian nationalities into a common Soviet culture (in spite of 50 years of very heavy-handed Sovietization in all the non-Russian “republics”).

    It was obvious to me for decades that the Soviet Union was going to fall apart independent of the drama of the Cold War – not a popular position at the State Deparment in those days. It has been amusing to see America, specifically Republicans, trunpeting the claim that Ronald Reagan personally caused the Soviet “loss of the Cold War” and the breakup of the Soviet (formerly Russian) empire.

    Then I watched the second American invasion of Russia (the first invasion was military and occured after the Bolshevik revolution to try to install a right-wing government that would keep Russia in WWI – it failed on both counts). The glories of unrestrained caveat emptor greed-based capitalism were shoved onto the Russian people by “consultants” from the U.S. Government and every major capitalist business that assumed Russia was now for sale cheap. The unfolding of “privatization” (the official scripture of conservative Anglo-Americans) destroyed the stability of the Russian economy, allowing a massively corrupt set of oligarchs to steal the national wealth – and then for the authoritarian ex-KGB crowd under Putin to take it all into their own hands.

    What does this have to do with the current situation in Georgia? Well, since 2000 the U.S. has very openly and arrogantly re-instituted the Cold War on a unilateral basis (employing the NeoCons usual mistaken assumptions about American omnipotence in the New American Century) by abrogating long-standing treaties with Russia, signing anti-Russian military treaties (up to and including NATO membership) with countries that surround Russia (and were once part of its national territory), and then pushing for the placing of missiles in those countries. Russians, with a lot of help from Putin’s centrally-controlled media, have again become paranoid about the U.S. wanting to “get the Russkies.”

    If, instead of this aggressive and derisive approach to a weakened (“defeated” was the NeoCon image) Russia, the U.S. had treated them like an equal partner in world affairs and inducted them into an integrated world society (as we’re openly trying to do with China), they would not be so paranoid now and feeling so needful to start actively protecting themselves against the rush of American military encirclement.

    With no particular subtlety, the U.S. has openly chosen Georgia to be the Israel of the Caspian region – a small state which is a dependent client of the U.S. that we trumpet as “the only real democracy in the region” and try to build up into the strongest local power and use to carry out military intimidation by proxy.

    The U.S. State Department brought Saakashvili to the U.S. as a young man, paid for his first-class Ivy League education (including law school), and helped him get a job with one of the most powerful law firms in the U.S. Then, when he went back to to Georgia to push the privatization and NeoCon agendas, the CIA under Bush assisted with the toppling of the government and Saakashvili’s “spontaneous” rise to power. He has been ecstatic with the very loud praise, financial, and military support he has received in Washington – the “Israel of Caucasus” model in action – and he just couldn’t wait for the next step (the induction of Georgia into NATO and full military buildup) before going grandiose.

    Try to picture yourself as a Russian (not necessarily Putin and his thugs, just an ordinary citizen), with the open U.S. military actions of the last 8 years surrounding your country and drawing the net ever tighter, arming your neighbors in the anti-Russian NATO alliance. You, whose grandparents were killed in the Nazi invasion of Russia, and whose great-grandparents were killed in the German invasion during WWI, and the Anglo-American invasion after the Revolution.

    The Russians thought the Cold War was over, and disbanded their anti-American Warsaw Pact. Now they have watched the anti-Russian NATO pact militarily attack a Slavic country (Serbia) because it wanted to prevent the breakaway of a non-slavik province, they see NATO expanding and drawing in every country on its border that it can, and they see the U.S. setting Georgia up (stupidly, yes) to become another NATO threat, and you see Georgia – with its U.S. State Department protege president – militarily attack a non-Georgian breakaway province, with the clear assumption NATO will attack Russia if you try to stop it.

    Sure, Saakahvili’s an egomaniac idiot, but the Russians either have to deal with the net that’s shrinking around their country now, or those NeoCons are going to keep pushing until they have to defend themselves under even worse conditions. If you were an ordinary Russian, what would you want your leaders to do?

  8. If you were an ordinary Russian, what would you want your leaders to do?

    I agree, and thanks for your insights. Dont’ forget the US and it’s asinine Missle Defence initiative.

    US Hedgemony has Russia boxed into a corner, and left a proud and noble pepole, belittled and humilated. The world is coming to hate the United States and everything it currently represents.

    As a matter of fact, I can tell you first hand that Even VERMONT now hates the United States.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Dislike and contempt are cheap and tawdry emotions when by citizens of their nation. From what I have read of the Vermont “independence” movement, it is largely a mode of displaying its members fine self-esteem and confidence in their moral wonderfulness. They hope to sit in their little kingdom and enjoy their freedom and wealth (ref the wealth and annual income of its members vs. state and national averages). Until someone comes and takes it away from them.

    As for the “world coming to hate the US”, that statement seems inconsistent with the large numbers of people willing to bear great hardship for the opportunity to lived in this land. How many people moved to South Africa during the white-only regime? The Soviet Union? Mao’s China? Castro’s Cuba?

    While the last three were liberal darlings, folks with a true interest i the question voted with their feet to leave. Just as they do now, coming to America. And to other free nations.

    As for Russia, there is blowback from the conquests of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. They are a proud people, but nobility does not insulate any people from consequences of its actions.

  9. Regarding US overstretch.

    One thing to consider is that any number of wild cards could come into play that could seriously compromise the United States’ response to Russia. E.g.: Chavez could provoke a crisis in Latin America; Ahmadinejad could provoke a crisis in the MidEast; or Hamas could provoke a conflict with Israel

    ( Irony alert: note that each of these actually has been “democratically elected” )

    In contrast, short of another asteroid striking Siberia, it is difficult to visualize a scenario which would throw Russia for an equivalent loop.

    So Russia seems to be positioned to control its affairs while the United States must hope that Luck will be a lady tonight.

    Speaking as a chess player – and realizing that many Russians also are – I would presume that Putin and Chavez currently are having some very lively conversations.

  10. Regarding US overstretch. How many “fronts” do you think the US can handle Duncan ? Let’s explore.

    The current in Iraq, with casualites back to 1 perday in August. No big deal in the mil. stratigic context to be sure, but worrisome with the election looming. As is this latest payolla episode with McCain’s advisors. But I digress.

    Then we have Afganistan, where arguably we’re losing. A real potential, and maybe more likely than Iraq, with Pakistan.

    Then Iraq. Don’t forget Syria & N. Korea still on the Neo-hit list. You mentioned Venusella. Then take on Russia ?

    Instead of chess, let’s talk dominos, or maybe more appropriate for the USA, Russian roulette.

    All I can say is, Good luck with all that, you’ll need it. What do you think ? M
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I find the excitement over this tiny war difficult to understand. Russia is back, and reasserting its sphere of influence. My guess is that few will remember this in five years.

  11. Fabius Maximus replies: I find the excitement over this tiny war difficult to understand. Russia is back, and reasserting its sphere of influence. My guess is that few will remember this in five years.

    It’s the retoric out of Washington. Don’t or else, we’ll huff and we’ll puff,,,.

  12. I knew it was over when the Russians with lightning or blitzgeig tactics, had split the country top to bottom right through the middle. Telling was the American professional analysis, our pepole were “shocked and awed” by it.

    Let’s hope we’ve aquired a little respect for the Russians, afterall, without them, we’d probably be speaking German.

  13. Another good peice of critical analysis. TNI, not to be confused with Chet’s DNI.

    Playing with Fire“, Doug Bandow, The National Interest Online, 11 August 2008 — Excerpt:

    “The same claim is used for making formal such informal commitments as U.S. support for Taiwan. Tell China that the United States would intervene in any conflict and Beijing would have no choice but to back off.”

    “Oddly, proponents of this strategy do not take it to its logical conclusion. If the argument is right, then America should ally with every nation. Offer a security guarantee to any country threatened or potentially threatened by another, thereby ensuring that the world’s superpower will come to its defense. The result will be an era of world peace. The lion will lie down with the lamb. People will circle the globe holding hands and singing kumbaya.”

    “Unfortunately, alliances can promote war as well as peace. Perhaps the best example is the pre–World War I lineup of the Entente versus the Central Powers. Competing alliances created for the purpose of ensuring security turned into transmission belts of war, transforming the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s heir apparent into a global conflagration that killed upwards of 20 million people.”

    “Conflict in the Caucasus should be a wake-up call for Washington to stop promiscuously distributing security guarantees as if they were free. They are not. Alliances are not a panacea to stop war. In fact, for America they have increasingly become potential transmission belts of war. As would have NATO membership for Georgia.”

  14. Woah, CALM DOWN, Max. You’re scaring me with your over – enthusiasm. I understand a great many people DETEST the U.S. I think the bottmline is HOW is She gonna RECLAIM MORAL HIGH GROUND.

    It’s great to have you back on FM’s blog though, I don’t have that many links to articles online.

    Hope to hear from ya, dude.

  15. “I understand a great many people DETEST the U.S. I think the bottomline is HOW is She gonna RECLAIM MORAL HIGH GROUND.”

    More than that, how do we feel about ourselves these days ?

    As I told someone else offline, Americans are individualy so much better, capable, and deserving of so much better than they have, or the choices that they’ve had since 9-11, and most recently are being given.

    Look at the L8est relevations about John Edwards, for Ch*&st sake this guy was a leading contender ?!! He’s amoung the very best we can get, a contender ?!!

    Or McCain and his crooked advisors on the Georgian payroll ! You are seriously considering this man to lead and make honest decsions about your best interests ?!!

    Or the stuffed shirt Obama ? Reformed the Chicago schools to achieve a 49% pass rate ? Wow, ain’t that a great departure point to lead the country, AIM High !

    Or Hillary ? God help us.

    That’s it, that’s it ?!! Those are the best choices you can come up with to lead the country ?!!
    Unbeleivable !

    And Fabius gets all indignant because Vermont wants no part of this anymore.

    Sort this out, for God’s sake, save America ! Get feeling better about yourselves and the world will once again beat a path back to your door.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I am unsure what standard of comparison you are using to judge these people. Certainly not any objective comparison with the leaders of American’s past, other nations’ pasts, or those on the world stage today. Perhaps your benchmark is the leadership in Heaven. That is a rather high standard, and you must die to get there.

    On Earth our leaders are just people like us. As a long-term average, probably no better than us, no worse. They include a large number of liars and cheats, plus a staggering fraction of them committ infidelity (an almost biologically-driven perk of power, for most men at least). Would we elect better people? Would they want the job (perhaps not being driven by ambition and greed)?

    If Vermont finds a better way to pick its leaders, it will have done humanity a service that live echo down for a thousand generations. However, I suspect an investigation of its current leaders would show that they are just as flawed as the folks Max condemns in this comment.

  16. Fabius Maximus replies: I find the excitement over this tiny war difficult to understand. Russia is back, and reasserting its sphere of influence. My guess is that few will remember this in five years.

    This episode is the first clear sign that the United States has lost the initiative.

  17. Maximillian:

    Re: All I can say is, Good luck with all that, you’ll need it. What do you think ? M

    The best answer I can give you is a well known maxim from the chess classic How Not to Play Chess, by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky:

    Do not be content with attacking an existing weakness; always seek to create others.

  18. Eugene Znosko-Borovsky was a Russian chess master of the early part of the 20th century. A Russian aristocrat, during the Civil War, he fought with White forces, then fled to Paris, where he supported himself by teaching chess.

    Like many Russinn aristocrats of that era – the Russia of the ballet, of Fabrege eggs, and so forth, he was highly cultivated. This comes through in his writings, which are delightful to read. For that reason, I would recommend them for anyone seeking a basic chess foundation. They are fun.

    See these books (links are to Amazon):
    How to Play the Chess Openings
    The Middle Game in Chess
    The Art of Chess Combination
    How Not to Play Chess
    How to Play Chess Endings

  19. Max:”And Fabius gets all indignant because Vermont wants no part of this anymore.

    Sort this out, for God’s sake, save America ! Get feeling better about yourselves and the world will once again beat a path back to your door.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies:…”our leaders are just people like us. As a long-term average, probably no better than us, no worse.”

    The USA’s political “leaders” mostly do not lead. There are lobbyist mouthpieces, whose jobs revolve around maintaining a sham democracy. There are hard-core sociopaths, who make decisions. Neither class is a “leader” in the sense that David Hackworth was a leader.

    The US political class is almost entirely taken from the plutocrat class. Plutocrats are much more likely than average to be sociopaths. The political class *is* much more antisocial, much less moral, much more destructive than the average American.

    I don’t have a good way to choose good leaders, but I have a good way to avoid bad ones. It is as follows: learn to diagnose sociopaths at a distance, and do whatever it takes to avoid having them as leaders.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: An interesting series of bold assertions. And your evidence for this is …? I trust it quite firm, considering the extraordinary nature of your allegations.

    Also, what is your evidence that other nations’ leadership class are superior to ours in some way (this was the original point of the discussion)?

  20. Yeah, there’s a HUGE movement for Vermont to secede. That’s why I’m hearing about it here…

    Is Schueneman crooked just for being a lobbyist? Crooked implies laws were broken. Which ones? The other way to look at this is that McCain has an expert on Georgia on his staff, while his opponent first thought Atlanta was about to fall.

    Re: the Russian sphere of influence- the former Soviet states were in the sphere by conquest and never by choice. When these states had the chance to leave, the bolted for the door. Does that mean we have to let Russia gain them back by force? If that’s your position, fine, but don’t even use the phrase “moral high ground.” What other nations should be able to use the same ploy? Can Saudi Arabia overrun Yemen? How about South Africa taking over Lesotho? Maybe Guatemala can have Belize?
    .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree with your first two points; but the third paragraph is unclear to me. A sphere of influence is determined by the regional power’s influence. For example, we never asked the Latin American states if they enjoyed visits by our armed forces (up to and including Grenada) or manipulation by the CIA.

    “Does that mean we have to let Russia gain them back by force?”

    The point of a sphere of influence is that other great powers have little ability to interfere. Like us in Georgia. Attempting to do so will combine high costs, low odds of success, and great risks.

    “but don’t even use the phrase ‘moral high ground.'”

    What does this mean? Do we have some cosmic obligation to travel the world, interfering anytime we detect the forces of evil. Should we pass on some of these jousts, do we forever forfit the right “the moral high ground“?

    “What other nations should be able to use the same ploy?”

    What does “should” mean in this context? The United Nations or World Court can speak to the “rightness” of Russia’s actions, if anyone cares. I doubt if anyone cares about President Bush’s view of the morality of Russia’s actions. Certainly not Putin, or the leaders of other regional hegemons.

    The world is not a schoolyard, nor are we its adult supervisors. What matters is not “should” or “ought”, but what we consider so important that we will wage war about. Georgia’s sovereignty is not on my list of such things, nor IMO on the list of most Americans.

  21. “If Vermont finds a better way to pick its leaders, it will have done humanity a service that live echo down for a thousand generations. However, I suspect an investigation of its current leaders would show that they are just as flawed as the folks Max condemns in this comment.”

    I’m so glad you brought this up; I’s so very glad. BTW; None cheated on their wives while she dies of cancer.

    James Jefford (R) – http://www.abc.net.au/am/stories/s302455.htm
    Bernie Saunders (Ind) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Sanders
    Patrick Lehey (Dem) – http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/08/13/leahy-isnt-giving-up/

    I’d take those three over the Scum YOU’ve put in charge since 2001. M
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s nice, but I do not understand your point.

    (1) How do you know the leaders of the VT independence movement are morally or ethically superior to our current leadership? To take the single point you raised, how do you know their rate of infidelity is lower than that of our current leadership? Background checks? Just guessing based on human nature, I suspect it is broadly similar.

    (2) What is this bit “you put in charge”? America’s citizens have collective responsibility for the election and acts of our leaders. Individuals can divorce themselves from this by surrendering their citizenship and leaving.

  22. “Is Schueneman crooked just for being a lobbyist? Crooked implies laws were broken. Which ones?”

    I’m with you, domination by lobbiest and wealthy vested interests is the spirit of true democracy and makes the USA what it is today. As proven in the track record of the current congress.

    Are you happy BTW ? How’s it going ? Still working ? Still able to make ends meet ? Do you have good health insurance ? Are you sure about that ? Do you like what you’re seeing ? Want more ?
    Why are you here then ? MaX

  23. “I suspect an investigation of its current leaders would show that they are just as flawed as the folks Max condemns in this comment.”

    Great point, great, glad you brought that up. Do a search,

    James Jefford (R) (Ind) Bernie Saunders (Ind) Patrick Lehey (D)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not get the relevance of this to my comment.

  24. “They hope to sit in their little kingdom and enjoy their freedom and wealth (ref the wealth and annual income of its members vs. state and national averages). Until someone comes and takes it away from them.”

    Sure? “Iraqi War Casualties (per capita) (most recent) by state
    .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Is this one of the talking points for the Vermont Independence movement (VIM)?

    The tiny number of folks in the VIM cannot take credit for the patriotism and sacrafice of the Vermont people as a whole. Furthermore, I suspect the families of the VIM’s members are far underrepresented in military service — and even more so on the roster of casuaties — vs both Vermont and the (lower) national averages. Unless I see data showing otherwise, this is IMO really hardcore nonsense.

  25. Fabius Maximus replies: I do not get the relevance of this to my comment.

    Of course you don’t, (no offense and you are after all a big boy), because you actually know and understand far less about VT than you do about Afganistan, Iraq, Georgia, or Myranmar.

    Yet you feel qualified to cling the “one Nation indivisible” notion, even while practicaly every other founding principle has since been forsaken. Get used to it. Max
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I will rephrase my objection to be more explicit. I do not understand the logic of your statement, which seems unresponsive to my criticism.

    I said that you have not shown that US leaders are more corrupt than those of other nations. You mention a few US leaders, whom are presumably corrupt. Do you really believe that other nations do not have two or three — or dozens — of corrupt leaders?

  26. “I said that you have not shown that US leaders are more corrupt than those of other nations. You mention a few US leaders, whom are presumably corrupt. Do you really believe that other nations do not have two or three — or dozens — of corrupt leaders?”

    Sure, but most are not self proclaimed “superpowers” throwing thier wieght around the world. With great power comes great responsibilty professor.

    What we have now, and for the forseeable future when it comes to America is simply not good enough. MaX
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Max, I hope you are kidding.

    “With great power comes great responsibilty.” Said by Spiderman in Amazing Fantasy issue 15.

    This is the motto of a superhero in a comic book. It is a nice goal, but an unrealistic expectation. Power does not grant honest or capable leadership; nor does honest leadership grant power.

    In the real world no nation has the capability to develop better leaders than others. The quality of national leadership varies due to factors beyond our control, perhaps beyond our understanding. Should any nation find this magic formula, it probably achieve world leadership (or control, depending on the nation and its goals).

  27. “I suspect the families of the VIM’s members are far underrepresented in military service — and even more so on the roster of casuaties — vs both Vermont and the (lower) national averages.”

    Pure Supposition, I gave you THE DATA. Unless I see data showing otherwise, this is IMO really hardcore nonsense. AGREED, The nonsense around here abounds. m
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You gave data on the statewide averages. It applies to the people of the State as a whole. It does not describe any subgroups of the State, such as the households of the VIM.

  28. “In the real world no nation has the capability to develop better leaders than others.”

    A fair assertion, any other would attribute some racialy based attribute to Americans, even though we arguably tend to conduct ourselves with such Hubris.

    What I’m really getting at is that it WILL Require execptional leadership to extract America from the
    pit it is currently digging itself. Moreover, I do not see that coming anytime soon, much less in time to save America from itself.

    Do you ?

    As far as VT indpendence is concerned, I have no real tendency either way, but am reporting
    to you what I gather from interaction. And even if I don’t particuarly endorse thier interests,
    I can tell you that I am beginning to understand. It is a different mindset and attitude there,
    always has been.

    Having lived through the Canadian/Quebec experience I’m watching Vermont, and how fellow Americans, such as yourself, deal, or more likely based on what I’m hearing from you so far, in failing entirely to deal with that chalange. MaX
    .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: In my opinion, America’s survival and prosperity have never depended on its leadership — but on its people. I have faith that we will handle our current challenges as well as successfully as those in our past.

    Folks have counted us out in the past, and we have disappointed them. I am confident that we will continue to do so in the future.

  29. “Power does not grant honest or capable leadership;”

    Exemplified in present day Washington DC.

    “nor does honest leadership grant power.”

    Not so sure, look at Ghandi of India, or Nelson Mandella. Call it karma, or having GOD on your side.
    I could argue where that’s an essential element of 4GW and where even profound weakness can overcome overwhelming strength.

    What strikes me, and particuarly in thinking about the most recent extraordinary Bevevich/Moyers interview, we’re all watching and re-watching. Is the problem mainly the current American ladership ?
    OR mainly the American pepole ?

    I guess that just as Hitler sounded just great to a large proportion of germans, back in 36 or so.

    When things go horribly wrong, as Those who would complain today about $ 4.00 gas, the state of the economy, or stagnation on the war front, and who voted for Bush in 04, would be as Germans, who later complained about Hitler.

    There’s an old cliche, “you get the leadership, you deserve.” M
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Comparing our everyday leaders — anyone’s everyday leaders — to great names from the past is absurd. These are extraordinary people, which means greater than usual.

  30. “Folks have counted us out in the past, and we have disappointed them. I am confident that we will continue to do so in the future.”

    America is currently acumulating problems and crisis a lot faster than it’s solving any, or even coming close. It’s no quite 1968, (survived that) but getting there. The question is why ? Why does America have to hit rock bottom, and go right to the brink of disaster before things really change ? If we could all see the energy crisis back in the early 70s, some here lived it.

    If we could all see the folly of ill-concived and mis-guided military mis-adventures, (some here lived it, and sacrificed). Why does history have tro repete itself, and well within living memory ? To me it suggests a lack of intelect. M

  31. “Folks have counted us out in the past, and we have disappointed them. I am confident that we will continue to do so in the future.”

    That’s right, we have enemies lurking behind every lamp post, out to get us. That’s why we have the premptive war (the Bush) doctrine. M

  32. Fabius Maximus replies: Comparing our everyday leaders — anyone’s everyday leaders — to great names from the past is absurd. These are extraordinary people, which means greater than usual.

    Where “they” really ? Mandella or Ghandi, or just humble honest decent pepole who stood on prinicple and honesty. I know that concept maybe so alien,and far removed from present day American politics professor, and thus your need to brand them exceptional. MaX
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Our the thousands of national leaders around the world since WWII, you name a few who are not only famous in their own land in their own lifetime, but are in the history books of many different lands. And you say they are not exceptional? This is too far out for me, into tinfoil hat land.

  33. “They include a large number of liars and cheats, plus a staggering fraction of them committ infidelity (an almost biologically-driven perk of power, for most men at least). Would we elect better people?”

    And that leads to the tail of Bill Clinton, and the hysterical reaction and attempts to impeach him because of what happened with Monica. Similarly, and apparently with John & Robert Kennedy.
    Yet their popularity remains largely intact, and some speak of the good ol’ days of the mid-90s, and 98 perhaps being the last of the last. To various degrees each were successfull and inspring leaders,
    and we are content to overlook the transgressions. And the system inm those days, still worked to an acceptable degree for the overall benefit and well being of most. In the Edwards case, with so much having changed since 9-11, the term “sleeze ball” comes to mind. There’s a degree of loss of confidence in the entire US politcal system, and towards those directly involved. If alowed to continue unchecked, I beleive this will lead to real problems, domesticaly. M
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is just silly. These kinds of scandals are as old as the Republic. To look at a few of the more juicy rumors — ignoring the more comon ones about monetary corruption — there is Jefferson’s affair with one of his slaves, Sally. Jackson fought duels about his wife, the bigamist. And my favorite, about Grover Cleveland: “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha.”

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