Thursday, May 6, 2004
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posted by Dan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM
Isn’t it fair to assume that the United States is more respected for invading Iraq? Would the results be the same if the Georgian thugs didn’t fear our military strength? Talk is cheap. You convince some people only by doing some occasional rear end kicking. Gosh, I wonder how the liberal media will spin this story so that President Bush receives no credit? After all, he supposedly can do nothing right.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
Oddly enough David, our military power really had little to nothing to do with the whole thing. Russia wants stability--it's good for business. We want it too, but we're willing to accept a little uncertainty to give democracy a chance. The Russians aren't dumb. They see the writing on the wall and are willing to spell it out real simple for their seperatist clients in the Caucasus. Because of the US, that message that they've carried is, "The people have spoken." Their rhetoric doesn't show a commitment to democracy and I don't think they have one for democracy's sake, but if we can make it worth their while, they'll push for it.
Incidentally, the Georgian story can't be told without George Soros and Bill Clinton. The former's Open Society Institute played a fantastic role in laying the groundwork for democracy in Georgia and US efforts that were wonderfully executed by career bureaucrats in the State Dept. and USAID began under Clinton.
As far as credit where credit's due, I am an enormous fan of how quiet the Bush administration is about what it's midwifed in the Caucasus. That's humility.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
“Oddly enough David, our military power really had little to nothing to do with the whole thing.”
Baloney. Military power is always the primary motivator. Talk comes second. As for the foreign policy successes of Bill Clinton---you have got to be kidding. His only success was the Balkans. This was achieved almost solely by Clinton’s eventual willingness to employ force. Mere jaw flapping did little good in saving lives during that tragic era.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
Instapundit linked to these following comments:
“Twice in six months, the United States and Russia have told corrupt, authoritarian, Soviet dinosaurs that it's their time to shuffle off into the sunset. Each time it was against Russia's better interests. Each time, the United States was firm in its commitment and made this commitment clear to Russia, the world, and Georgian leaders who insisted on holding back their people for personal gain. With the Ajaria situation, we also had a Georgian leader that took the world to task for its willingness to sell short Ajarian human rights and dignity for the sake of stability.
Say what you will about the Bush administration. Tell me it's all about oil. Tell me it's a plot to substitute fine Georgian wine with Coke. Tell me Saakashvili, a US-trained lawyer, was groomed for this role by the CIA.
I don't care.
Bottom line: half a million people are free tonight that weren't free this morning. Why? The Bush administration, the State Department in particular, did a fantastic job of sticking to its values and convincing Russia to stand by our side to bring freedom to Ajaria.
If that's unilateralism and cynical manipulation in pursuit of profits, pass it on down, I want some more."posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
I know he did David. I wrote those words.
Trust me, our +/-200 Marines training the Georgian Army under GTEP don't mean crap against the three Russian bases and the thousands of troops sitting across the border in Chechnya.
Russia still has untold and barely hinted at power in its near abroad.
We made it clear to Russia what we wanted and Russia figured it's just as easy for them to go along. We've built trust. We let them know we want our companies to profit in the Caucasus, but we don't get our panties in a bunch when theirs win out on contracts. We're also not forcing Georgia to play favorites. When it gets serious, the US and Russia are presenting a united front. Expect to see more of this in the future in Central Asia aimed against China.
As for it always being military, I've won out on enough negotiations with local and regional government officials in Uzbekistan on charm and manipulation to prove that extremely untrue.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
Oh, and I forgot. As to the Clinton successes, I'm standing by that. Georgia is more his thing than Bush's. Any administration would have done the same things, but the cultural contacts and democracy promotion programs started under Clinton were, whether you like it or not, programs of his administration. The fruit that Bush is harvesting in Georgia comes from a seed planted by Clinton's State Department.
I'm going to stand by Clinton because Bush is trying to do the same damned thing in Central Asia right now. It's a much better strategy for creating democratic societies in the lands ruled by our undemocratic allies than bashing them over the heads.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
“As for it always being military, I've won out on enough negotiations with local and regional government officials in Uzbekistan on charm and manipulation to prove that extremely untrue.”
No, you did not. These government officials always were reminded that you are an American---and that our country has the mightiest military in the world. That is a tacit, if not explicit, understanding. Ultimately, no foreign policy in this cruel world is successful unless one has the muscle to back it up. And this is why the mainstream Democrats are a danger to America. They have deluded themselves into believing the opposite. Did I say we should only bash heads? On the contrary, I argue that we need to do both: kick rear end and talk nice.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
You may very well be right to credit Bill Clinton for getting the ball game started. Nonetheless, George W. Bush won the game. He is also kicking some butt in Iraq. The two go together. It is not a mere coincidence.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
I don't disagree that Bush won the game and sure, Iraq makes people take us more seriously.
And fine, call me a liar about the negotiations. I was there, you weren't. The Navoi Xokimiyat & Viloyati rarely worried about military matters. There were reasons that they'd bend for an American and not a Russian (whom one should fear if one is an Uzbek who is always concerned with military matters):
1) Politics--I was an invited guest of the central government who had very good ways of getting political superiors to bring the hammer down. I didn't hesitate to use this.
2) Charm--half the time, an America smile can work wonders that you wouldn't believe. There were times I'd be brought in just to flash a dumb grin.
3) Prestige--there's something to be gained by knowing and working with Americans. Sure, it's partially because we're militarily mighty, but it's also because we're rich.
David, I'm not saying that military might's not important, I'm just saying that it's not always the most important thing. It certainly wasn't with Ajaria. There's gotta be a credible threat that it will be used for anyone to worry about it. (Would you seriously suggest that military matters are front and center at WTO talks?) Russia knows we wouldn't consider Ajaria worth fighting over and we know Russia wouldn't either. Go read my posts. Bush called Putin, told him what he wanted, Putin could live with it (and earn favors from the US), and we worked together. If you know something about the situation in Ajaria I'm missing, please, do tell.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
“(Would you seriously suggest that military matters are front and center at WTO talks?)”
No, they are always in the background. It is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Once again, military might underpins everything regarding the interactions between nations.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
No, they are always in the background. It is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Once again, military might underpins everything regarding the interactions between nations.
is an improvement from:
Baloney. Military power is always the primary motivator. Talk comes second.
However, I'm asking you to prove me wrong and not repeat yourself. If you're saying that military might is part of the overall portfolio that makes up a country's power and prestige, I'm not going to have a bone to pick with you at all--you'd be right. To argue that military is the primary concern in a case where it's clearly not is something entirely different. Russia probably asked itself, "What is the quickest way for the port of Batumi to get up and running again so our companies aren't losing money?"
Russia is very slowly becoming and acting like a normal country with normal interests. We may have strong disagreements with these countries (think France), but using our military to get our way with these countries doesn't cross our minds (well, not the sane ones anyway).posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
“Corrupt, authoritarian, Soviet dinosaurs” ultimately care only about military might. They do not relinquish power unless subtly, or overtly, threatened with a serious butt kicking. I think you need to reread your own words. They are an unwitting contradiction to your indulgence in wishful thinking. Military power is definitely not sufficient by itself. When did I say anything of the sort? Still, the sweet talking is only useful if one has the muscle to back it up---and is willing to employ it when required. Our invasion of Iraq is scaring the crap out of a lot of tyrants in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Ever hear of a guy named Mohammar Qaddafi?posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
See, the thing you're missing is that neither we nor the Russians, threatened any military force in Georgia. It was the people that the leaders were afraid of.
The old Soviet dinosaurs care about plenty of other things besides military. It's different in every case. Only a madman would say otherwise. You can tell me I'm wrong, that the people I know and the experiences I have in the region are all some big lie if that's what you need to do to maintain your worldview. Your model has poor explanatory power (holding up a North African dictator, "socialist" or not, whose only potential bargaining chip is military in nature is a bad way to explain the former Soviet Union) and dreadful policy implications.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
“You can tell me I'm wrong, that the people I know and the experiences I have in the region are all some big lie if that's what you need to do to maintain your worldview.”
I do not consider you a liar, but as someone who deludes himself. My "worldview" is similar to Thomas Hobbes. In other words, I possess a very pessimistic perspective regarding human nature. America won the Cold War primarily because of its military might. Our worldly influence is due, first, last, and foremost, to our ability to kick butt. The rest of it is indeed important---and most certainly of secondary importance. Our message to other countries should be: we are nice people who also carry around a big stick. Don’t mess with us.
If you know what you are doing diplomatically, then it isn’t always necessary to directly threaten people. Subtle hints often work wonderfully well. Do you still disagree? If so, you need to vote for John Kerry. He will likely offer you the wimpy foreign policy that you seemingly find so attractive.posted by: David Thomson on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
Deluded is still an insult from someone who wasn't there.
FYI, David, I'm a Republican, and I'm voting for Bush. I'm not an ideologue though, I'm a realist. I appreciate Bush's willingness to follow through on a threat.
It's terribly reductionist, even if it contains truth, to explain all international relations with military. That really begins to breakdown into hopeless complication when you start talking about rich countries that aren't the United States. I know you'll say, "but they are protected by the US shield." Yep, but that's just another layer of complication.
If you want a suggestion, base your explanation on fear. Most of the time, our power comes from the fear that we strike into others' hearts. The fear can come from the threat of losing aid, trade status, the military, etc. If you want to argue that our wealth relies on our military strength, well, go right ahead, but cultural and legal factors come much more into play there (the Soviets weren't wealthy for those reasons). We get a helluva lot of power from our wealth.posted by: Nathan on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
I was just passing by, but I had to comment on your discussion.
Absolutely disagree with David on the role of the military power in the world history. Sure, it is important. But only as a part of the whole, never by itself. And most of the time it is secondary if not tertiary.
David, I believe, you are also completely missing the point on the results of the Cold War. US military might was not the primary reason for the disintegration of the Soviet Union (if it was a reason at all). If anything, the Soviet military might at the time was comparable to that of US (certainly in their nuclear missile capabilities). The primary reason was an internal malfunction of the ill-constructed Soviet machine. The poorly-built engine just would not run. It was just as inevitable as the death of my 1980 Chevy Nova... (We got it. Enough with the engine analogy already.)
As for the Georgian situation, Nathan is absolutely right. It's the people who Soviet dinosaurs are afraid the most, and it is the rising of his own people that contributed the most in Abashidze's demise. The main US contribution in this case was the careful nurturing of the democratic institutions in Georgia and the support of the free press.
That is precisely why the people in Georgia were waving US flags during the peaceful revolution. And what do people in Iraq wave?...posted by: Gregory on 05.06.04 at 11:45 AM [permalink]
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