It’s been so long I almost forgot how fond the American left is of “blaming America first” for anything bad that happens in the world.
Bush sneezes in Beijing and it’s America’s fault a typhoon erupts in Bangladesh. We send a couple of hundred advisors to Georgia in order to help them re-organize and train their minuscule 26,000 man army while giving them advice and encouragement in building a democracy and, POOF! It’s our fault that Vladamir Putin chose to invade the sovereign territory of a tiny, nearly defenseless neighbor, burn villages, bomb cities, and generally cause a lot of mayhem.
The argument being advanced – that we pissed Putin off by aiding Georgia – is ludicrous. It presupposes that we should have turned our back on what by any stretch of the imagination is a friend in a part of the world where having countries friendly to the US is absolutely vital to our security and the security of the west. Of course we assisted Georgia in readying itself to resist Russian aggression. Of course we tried to help them in building a democracy. They’re an ally. We will also help the Ukraine fend off Russia as we will Poland and other formerly captive eastern bloc nations if they wish it. This is what the United States is supposed to do. And if it pisses Vladamir Putin off that nations formerly under Russia’s thumb do not wish to return to that arrangement, let him hang.
No doubt it is important to consider how Russia views our assistance to Georgia, the Ukraine, the Baltic states, and former Warsaw Pact countries. But there seems to be a nearly universal belief on the left that Russia’s feelings in the matter should be the overarching consideration and not our own interests nor the desires of these now independent states to remain free of Russian domination. By in effect, taking Russia’s side in this matter (or at the very least accepting their rationale), the left is telling the ex-captive nations to go hang rather than Putin.
I would hesitate to bring up Yalta given that a lot of revisionist history has been churned up about that fateful conference except even the revisionists recognize our miscalculation of Stalin’s intentions. Short of war, there was probably nothing we could have done to prevent the Red Army from dominating eastern Europe. But this time around, we do indeed have options that put the onus of conflict right smack in the Russian’s lap.
Our meager assistance to the formerly captive nations of the old Soviet Union do not threaten Russia in any way. We are not building million man armies or huge military bases with massive numbers of aircraft and material. We are not asking for permanent bases in the Black Sea. Our military assistance to those nations has been small and defensive in nature.
And the fear that these nations have of Russia that drives them to seek alliances with powerful friends should elicit the support and sympathy of the left, not condemnation for getting Vladamir Putin angry.
Assisting smaller nations with their wish to live an independent existence is an option we didn’t have at the end of World War II. Now that it’s there, we have rightly seized it and in perfect accordance with our tradition as a protector of democracies and our national interests which benefit by having friends in a vital part of the world, we are assisting nations who do not fear domination by us but do fear what a resurgent Russia might do to re-establish their hegemony.
Of course, all of this is as plain as the nose on your face – which is why the left is twisting itself into pretzels trying to ignore it. Our assistance to Georgia was “provocative,” we are told – as was sponsoring their membership into NATO. This despite the fact that we insisted that before Georgia was accepted as a NATO member, the status of both breakaway provinces must be resolved peacefully which is hardly “provocative” and more along the lines of “incredibly reasonable.” And how less than 1,000 military advisors and a few hundred civilian contractors is “provocative” to anyone except someone seeking to make excuses for Russian aggression is beyond me.
Ah but we are “encircling Russia” by offering NATO membership to Georgia and the Ukraine thus threatening them. The excuse of Russian encirclement was the Soviet’s rationale for enslaving Warsaw Pact countries back in the day so perhaps it is not entirely a surprise that this old canard would be pulled out of mothballs to justify the unjustifiable.
In order to accept that as an excuse, you must posit that NATO threatens to invade Russia someday or that the alliance would build forward bases in the Caucasus with massive amounts of men and material. NATO doctrine has always been defensive in nature; that is, the alliance’s reason for existence was to respond to Soviet aggression in western Europe, not start World War III. The “encirclement” excuse shows that the left believes NATO is an offensive threat to Russia, a preposterous notion that no one outside of the most anti-American of bigots could possibly think is true.
Given the paucity of support on the left for Georgia and, presumably the Ukraine in resisting Russian aggression, one can legitimately ask which allies we should be supporting? No doubt our support of Israel is “provocative.” Maybe we should pull the rug from under our friends in Tel Aviv. Have we asked China lately how they feel about us supporting the right of Taiwan to determine its own future? Sheesh! Talk about “provocative”...
In fact, using the rationale the left is using with Georgia, there are precious few friends outside of western Europe we should be assisting. If whether or not our assistance is “provocative” is the new benchmark for helping our allies, we will become very lonely very quickly. That’s because someone is always going to be mad at us no matter who we help. Syria was upset we were assisting Lebanon. Iran is mad we’re in Iraq. The Arab world is livid because we help Israel. Chavez is pissed at us because we’re helping Colombia. And on and on and on…
Building a foreign policy based on not pissing off your enemies (or friends for that matter) by subsuming your vital interests to theirs is wacky. But I suppose this is the Winnie the Pooh foreign policy we must come to expect when Obama takes office.
It’s not only in our actions that the left finds fault but also in our words. And it is here that the real cognitive dissonance takes hold and off we fly into La-La-Land for a lesson in “Why everything said about Georgia is warmongering and belligerent unless you act as if it is your fault the crisis ensued in the first place.”
Indeed, calling those who favor a strong, straight from the shoulder response to Russia “warmongers” without threatening war or even hinting at war shows just what kind of war the left would be willing to wage if it ever came to that. It is not “warmongering” to state the obvious – that the invasion of Georgia fundamentally alters the relationship between the US and Russia. It will not be “business as usual.” And telling the Russians that is not being provocative, or warmongering, or belligerent, it is simply stating a fact. Nor is it “warmongering” to strongly condemn, in no uncertain terms and without using weasel words the aggression perpetrated by the Russians on Georgia.
How standing up in the international arena for a friend being systematically taken apart by a hugely more powerful country and calling it “bullying” can be construed as McCain or Bush being “belligerent” is beyond belief. Words do matter, I would say to my friends on the left. And couching a response in diplomatic niceties and sentiments reflecting the idea that both sides are somehow at fault while Georgia is being ripped to shreds by an enemy 20 times its size is, to my mind, worse than cowardice.
Blatant aggression requires the use of language equally naked, stripped of its silly pretensions and delivered with the force of a Joe Frazier right hook. Diplomacy failed folks. The question of whether allowing the Russians respite from international pressure by using soothing, meaningless, soporific language instead of a roaring denunciation that makes Putin feel it and makes the autocrat cringe all the way back in Moscow is what was needed. And McCain delivered it while Obama didn’t. McCain’s instincts were correct. Obama’s were not.
It was Obama who, after an extraordinarily mild statement on Friday, August 8 which politely asked the Russians to please respect the territorial integrity of Georgia (while Russian tanks were already many miles beyond the border of South Ossetia and engaging Georgian troops on Georgian soil) eventually came around to McCain’s more assertive and indeed, courageous stance which condemned the Russians outright and called on pressure to be placed on Russia by the EU in addition to the United Nations.
Only later did Obama forthrightly condemn the Russians – after polls showed the voters instinctively approving McCain’s response over Obamas. That says a lot about both candidates, don’t ya think?
It is not a question of “fear.” This has always driven me up a wall when the left has accused those wishing to confront evil as being fearful. We confront Russia, al-Qaeda. and the rest of the world’s bad guys because it is the right thing to do. Armed with that knowledge and in the basic goodness of the US - if not always in practice – we can face the evil with a clear mind and stout heart – exactly the opposite of being fearful.
But for more political reasons than having anything to do with reality, the left insists on calling those who seek an aggressive war on terror or a tough stand against Russian belligerency as “fearful.” Perhaps for their own self image it makes them feel good to call those who think Russia is being beastly to the Georgians or those who advocate an aggressive war against al-Qaeda “fearful” – fearful of terrorism, fearful of Russia. That fear certainly isn’t present in the words spoken so far in this crisis by either Bush or McCain nor in any previous pronouncements on al-Qaeda can I glean any “fear” being spoken by either of those two.
Yes words matter – which is why in this case, the response of the left to Russian aggression and their unwarranted criticism of McCain and the Administration for speaking frankly, strongly, and realistically about this crisis shows how easily they wilt in the face of aggression. From the polls published so far, it appears the American people agree.