Hegemon Hold "Em
It is a senseless policy, apparently meant to intimidate Russia, but why? For the sake of perpetuating international tension so as to strengthen the forces that with Cheney and Bush have been promoting constitutionally unaccountable executive rule in the United States?"
William Pfaff, August 19, 2008.
The art of analyzing international affairs is somewhat like discovering new planets. The astronomer notes the behaviors of observable objects; when those objects behave in a manner that other observable phenomena can't explain, the astronomer begins hypothesizing what unseen phenomena may be present whose gravity could have produced an otherwise irrational event.
So it is with the ongoing monkeyshines between Russia and the Borscht Republic of Georgia. Assuming that Georgia is a "rational actor," it doesn’t make sense for it to have invited invasion from Russia by launching an offensive into South Ossetia.
Georgia's deputy defense minister Batu Kutelia admits that his country's forces were unprepared to repel the Russian attack, but that's a bit like saying Mexico isn't prepared to repel an invasion from the United States. Georgia has a 20,000-man army, built with salvage yard Soviet-era equipment at a cost of $2 billion and trained pro bono by the U.S.
The main reason the Georgians didn't get ready for Russia's invasion, though, is because they didn't think they needed to. "We did not prepare for this kind of eventuality," Kutelia told the Financial Times. "I didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this." If Mr. Kutelia really thought that, he's sufficiently incompetent to take Condi Rice's job.
In July (yes, just last month) Russia held a military exercise in the North Caucasus region. Georgia claimed that Russia planned to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia said that Georgia intended to take the two regions by force. The Blind Boys of Alabama could have seen Russia's invasion of Georgia coming.
Hence, one can't avoid concluding that the Georgians were counting on intervention by a higher power to stay Russia's hand, and the higher power they had in mind probably wasn't God.
Help from Below
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has been making "me so horny" overtures to the Bush administration for some time. Described by Helene Cooper of the New York Times as a long-time "darling of [Washington's] diplomatic dinner party circuit," Saakashvili made the rounds in D.C. five months ago to urge the U.S. to flip Russia off and muscle Georgia into NATO. At the White House, according to Cooper, "President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer." Saakashvili called this Washington trip “one of the most successful visits during my presidency.” That may be true, but even a private lap dance from Bush in the Oval Office shouldn't have given Saakashvili the idea that Bush was ready to bail him out if he goaded Russia into invading Georgia. And Saakashvili should have known he didn't have an exclusive thing going with Bush when, three weeks later, Bush was sighted at a Black Sea resort with a certain ex-KGB agent named Vlad.
At this point in our search for a plausible scenario, we can't help but sense that influences emanating from behind the curtain of the Office of the Vice President of the United States might have been in play. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that if any country gets invaded these days, Dick Cheney had something to do with it. Here's Cooper's take on the maneuvering within the administration: "Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression."
I can't decide who among Cheney, Saakashvili and Cooper is dull enough to believe that Georgia could defend itself against Russia with a truckload of shoulder-fired SAMs, but I'm guessing that at least Saakashvili believes it because everything else he's done lately indicates that he's dumb as a quarry.
Hegemon Hold 'Em
Henry Kissinger supposedly remarked once that the reason infighting is so vicious in academic circles is that the stakes are so low. Apocryphal or not, the Kissinger comment reflects the game theory principle that says rational players will take risks in inverse proportion to the stakes involved. That in part explains how the world survived half a century of nuclear brinksmanship between the ideologically opposed super powers.
It also largely explains why Bush's Cheney-centric foreign policy seems so reckless. It's patently obvious that an administration that made John Bolton its ambassador to the United Nations has no interest in diplomatic solutions to any international issue. Like Big Brother's Inner Party in George Orwell's 1984, the New American Century neocons—who at this point encompass Big Energy, Big Arms, Big Media and Big Jesus—seek to maintain a constant state of low level war in order to preserve the social order of which they constitute the oligarchy.
The Big Brotherhood operated in a balance of power environment. Oceanea, Eurasia and Eastasia could fight each other on remote frontiers indefinitely without a decisive conclusion because none were sufficient to overcome the others. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, inherited a hegemony; no other power can match theirs because America already kicked everybody else's can at least once, and nobody wants to go bare knuckles with us again. This simply can't be repeated often enough: America spends as much or more on defense as the rest of the world combined, and the rest of the world combined isn't going to fight a war with us. Russia and China, our closest military competitors, spend about a tenth as much on defense as we do. Iran, the nation that presents our biggest "challenge," has a defense budget less than one percent of ours. Al Qaeda, who after seven years of our woebegone war on terror remains a "strong and competent organization," has a defense budget on par with that of the Campfire Girls.
So it's hard work keeping America at war with teddy bears and paper tigers and Islamo-fabulism, but Dick Cheney and his constellation continue to throw every ounce of influence they can muster to deter peace. And they can continue to be as aggressive in their pursuit of forever war as they like; the threat of the entire planet perishing in a contest between superpowers is over. Oh, if the Cheney Gang gets a little sloppy a U.S. city might go up in smoke, but no big. We got plenty of cities, and there's nothing like a mushroom cloud every now and then to keep the proles in their foxholes. America might go broke financing all these cock and bull wars, but the oligarchs won't, so what, them worry? They're like players at a Vegas poker tournament; they're betting house money so they can raise all they want.
I hope that when Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party recover from their mile-high hangover, they realize what an enormous job they have ahead of them. Dick Cheney will be out of office soon, but his gravity field will persist for a long, long time. Changing America's trajectory will take a lot more than a three-word slogan.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.