Monday, August 18, 2008

Georgia on my mind

Shocking Republican behavior

My mother was angry at Tom Ridge: “What kind of idiot goes around saying there's nothing we can do about the Russian troops in Georgia?”

I admitted to being nonplussed: “Did Ridge say that? I didn't hear that myself. But no wonder you're mad at him. Republicans aren't supposed to tell the truth. It violates their most sacred traditions.”

Mom glowered at me, but she had the bit in her teeth and charged forward: “Even if everyone knows we can't do anything, you don't go around admitting it!”

“Well, if everyone knows, it's not as though he spilled any beans. Anyway, it's totally obvious. Bad foreign policy has stretched us thin and Russia is fully aware of it. We can whine and complain, but that's all we can do.”

“It's not the president's fault that our troops are in Iraq. If we hadn't gone in there, Saddam would still be in power. How would you like that?”

If it meant my cousin would still be alive, I'd like it fine. Shall we ask his parents what they think? Instead of saying it aloud, though, I bit my tongue. After a moment, I launched a different and less personal barb:

“I wonder if the press is going to ask questions about the foreign agent on McCain's campaign staff?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“John McCain has a registered foreign agent on his campaign staff. His foreign policy advisor has been a paid lobbyist for Georgia, trying to smooth its way to NATO membership. I wonder what assurances Randy Scheunemann has been giving to the president of Georgia? Did he imply to Saakashvili that he could count on U.S. support if he sent troops into South Ossetia? Everyone keeps saying that an emergency in foreign affairs will benefit the McCain campaign, even though I'm not sure I believe that. But did Scheunemann believe it? Did he see a chance to start one by encouraging Saakashvili to invade South Ossetia?”

“That makes no sense. Ossetia is part of Georgia! A country can't invade itself!”

“I certainly don't want to push the analogy too far, Mom, but do you think the people of the state of Georgia would have agreed with you as Sherman came marching into Atlanta? Different Georgia, I know. But the point is that Saakashvili set this off when he sent troops into the South Ossetia province. Russian troops were already there as peacekeepers because the province has been rebellious in the past. A deal was brokered by the international community to calm the situation and Russia provided the troops to police the peace agreement. That's the apple cart that Saakashvili overturned. It gave the Russians the perfect excuse to move in more troops and take over the province.”

“But I thought Russia invaded Georgia.”

“Russia certainly has invaded Georgia, Mom, but the Russians didn't really start this. The government of Georgia did. But it's complicated. I'm sure the version you saw on Fox News is simpler and breaks things down into good guys versus bad guys. That's pretty convenient, isn't it? We should all be grateful for simplified news from Fox.”

Mom did not look grateful, but I think it was my mockery of her beloved Fox News that sparked her lack of gratitude.


William said...

“It's not the president's fault that our troops are in Iraq. If we hadn't gone in there, Saddam would still be in power. How would you like that?”

I wouldn't give two shits. If I thought about him at all, it would be with the same level of regret as I regard the many other dictators around the world who don't actually threaten me or my country -- most of whom we don't bother about, and some of whom we even, disgracefully, call allies.

Anonymous said...

Russia certainly has invaded Georgia, Mom, but the Russians didn't really start this. The government of Georgia did.

I think the situation is a bit more nuanced than that. Russia has been picking this fight for a long time, and it's no coincidence that they were able to respond with overwhelming force almost immediately.

The Russian government has not changed so much since Soviet days; it remains obsessively paranoid about Western influence on its neighbours; the recent action had several goals, one of which was to send a warning.

At least we have some great clips of Republicans saying "You don't invade sovereign nations in the 21st century."

Zeno said...

I don't disagree with you, Aramael. It seems clear that the Russians are busy shoring up their sphere of influence. But I don't labor under the delusion that my parents are hungry for nuance. And when I say that the Russians didn't start this, please read it as referring simply to the present unpleasantness and the incomprehensible decision of the Georgian government to move troops against Russian peacekeeping forces.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it was an odd thing to do -- it's like Saakashvili thought that Russia wouldn't respond because Putin was at the Olympics. Or something.

Have you read The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman? She's not my favourite author of the popular history genre, but it's an entertaining read, and the thesis is that governments are really bad at acting in the best interests of their country. This is at least the third big example of that this century alone.

Love your blog by the way. It's very measured, and you always have something interesting to say.

Zeno said...

No, Aramael, I haven't read Tuchman, but I'm aware of her book and its main thesis. The evidence keeps piling up, doesn't it?

And thanks for the nice comment about my blog. I appreciate being appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my pleasure -- I appreciate the fact you write it! Although I do wish every now and then to hear about the smart students that inspire you; there must be a few, surely?