Summary: Patrick Buchanan is one of our few original political writers. He often says things of great wisdom, and often things which with I totally disagree. This is one of the former. Derbyshire’s comments also match my views (except the ambiguous last sentence). McCain’s bizarre remarks demonstrate why many regard the prospect of his presidency with fear.
I agree with this:
As Chamberlain gave a war guarantee to Poland he could not honor, the United States began to hand out NATO war guarantees to six Warsaw Pact nations, the three Baltic republics, and, soon, Ukraine and Georgia. Should a hostile regime come to power in Moscow and reoccupy these nations, we would have to declare war. Yet no matter how much we treasure the newly free Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, their independence is not a vital U.S. interest, and never has been. And the threatened loss of their independence cannot justify war with a nuclear-armed Russia.
… As Britain threw over Japan and drove Italy into the arms of Hitler, Bush pushes Putin’s Russia into the arms of China by meddling in the politics of Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus, planting U.S. bases in Central Asia, and hectoring him for running an autocratic state that does not pass muster with the National Endowment for Democracy.
– from Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, by Patrick J. Buchanan, pp.421-2.
There are some spectacles that are at once tragic and farcical. One such has been the sight of Georgian troops scuttling back from assisting us in whatever it is we imagine we are doing in Iraq, to help defend their homeland, while Condoleezza Rice stamps her foot, George W. Bush watches a basketball game, and John McCain says that he will do such things, what they are, yet he knows not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth.
We are governed by fools. At least Putin knows what he wants, and how to get it. If only freedom had such leaders!
The WWII analogy is apt. Politicos feel bold and brave declaring alliances, having second thoughts only when they are called to honor them.
This good sense contrasts with the recommendations of Presidential Candidate McCain, “We Are All Georgians“, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 14 August 2008 — Excerpt:
The world has learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. A cease-fire that holds is a vital first step, but only one. With our allies, we now must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to end violence permanently and withdraw its troops from Georgia. International monitors must gain immediate access to war-torn areas in order to avert an even greater humanitarian disaster, and we should ensure that emergency aid lifted by air and sea is delivered.
We should work toward the establishment of an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their country back together. This will entail reviewing anew our relations with both Georgia and Russia. As the NATO secretary general has said, Georgia remains in line for alliance membership, and I hope NATO will move ahead with a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine.
We must help them through this tragedy, and they should know that the thoughts, prayers and support of the American people are with them. This small democracy, far away from our shores, is an inspiration to all those who cherish our deepest ideals. As I told President Saakashvili on the day the cease-fire was declared, today we are all Georgians. We mustn’t forget it.
This is bizarre on several levels.
(1) How are we going to “persuade the Russian government to end violence permanently and withdraw its troops from Georgia.”
(2) I doubt much that many nations will enroll in his “independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions.” There are never enough crazy nations around when we need them.
(3) Extending our alliance, the US defense shield, deep into the Russian sphere is influence is just nuts. Saying we are all Berliners beautifully expressed a logical and fundamental alliance, at the heart of NATO. Saying we are all Georgians is pretty, but writes a check we are unlikely to honor. The apt analogy in American history is our encouragement for the Hungarian revolt (esp. the CIA’s), only to watch the horror of the Soviet Union’s reassertion of control.
(4) Perhaps most important, his premise is probably wrong. As Matthew Yglesias says in “Overhyping Georgia“, The American Prospect, 13 August 2008:
The reality, however, is that world history in the relevant sense isn’t made often at all. That’s what makes it noteworthy. And it’s especially unlikely to be made in remote, obscure countries unless — as in Sarajevo in 1914 — major countries use events in obscure ones as a pretext to escalate longstanding conflicts.
… But while Russia’s punishment of Georgia may not have major consequences for America or for world security, a hysterical American response just might. Most obviously, if we were to take things like John McCain’s Aug. 12 proclamation that “we are all Georgians” seriously, we would be in the midst of a shooting war with Russia and literally risking the end of human civilization in a nuclear exchange.
By all accounts, McCain just wants to engage in some irresponsible posturing rather than to follow through on the implications of his words, but even excessive posturing and loose talk of a new Cold War with Russia would have real costs.
So it goes in the waning years of the American hegemony, as too many of our leaders lack an awareness of limits — limits to our resources, limits to our ambitions, limits in our place in the world.
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).
Other posts about the Georgia-Russia fighting
- The Russia-Georgia war threatens one of the world’s oil arteries, 10 August 2008
- Perhaps *the* question about the Georgia – Russia conflict, 10 August 2008
- Keys to interpreting news about the Georgia – Russia fighting, 13 August 2008
- What did we learn from the Russia – Georgia conflict?, 13 August 2008
Click here to see a list of all posts about strategy and military theory.