Thursday, August 21, 2008

Georgia, on my mind...

I've been enjoying the Olympics. It may be degrading to the games that speed- walking and trampolining are events, and I'm still unenthused by many other events, but overall, few things are more exciting and inspiring than the Olympic games.

Then there's the news. At least, the headlines. You have to dig if you want news.

Seems like Russia is up to their old tricks. That's what the AP, Reuters, CNN, FOX, ABC/CBS/NBC, MSNBC, etc. are all saying. Russia invaded Georgia. Russian tanks are rolling through Georgian streets threatening people, destroying stuff; Putin is passing the vodka around and sharing a laugh with Medvedev while they both wear bear hats and clank their cycle and hammer together in a maniacal toast.

Well, thankfully, all our mainstream news outlets project approximately the same message, so it is simple enough to turn off the TV. I googled a couple of things.

Have you heard of the places called South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

Neither had I. But I had come to discover that contrary to the TVedia ideas I had that Russia was trying to take over Georgia -- Saddam Hussein into Kuwait style -- Russian troops were actually mostly limited to this defined regional area. It's an area that had apparently declared its independence from Georgia in the 90's, though no one recognized it. It's an area whose people want to be Russian rather than Georgian, or maybe neither.

And, as more first hand accounts started coming out of Ossetia, it turned out that it was Georgia who had built up troops and invaded Ossetia in an attempt to clense it of Russians. Concommitantly built up Russian tanks and troops then invaded (though apparently some Russian troops have been in Ossetia for awhile now) to push them back and actually defend the Ossetian people. Weird, huh?

It was Georgian troops killing Ossetians and bombing buildings, and it was Russian troops defending them. Again, weird. The paranoid in me can't help but wonder about the timing of Georgia suddenly getting a green light on this. The Olympic games, Barak Obama on vacation in Hawaii, McCain now looking tough and enjoying an opinion poll bump. But coincidences do happen.

Quick, what do Georgia and Poland wish they had in common?

Answer: NATO.

Many of these former soviet republics are attempting to fast track into NATO. Thankfully, several NATO member nations are trying to cool off this U.S.-led expansion. Georgia was one of these nations that was initially rejected. This rejection is being condemned by U.S. neocon leaders, like McCain, who insist we lay out a MAP (Membership Action Plan) for Georgia's inclusion.

But can you imagine this situation if the U.S. were bound under NATO through Georgia's inclusion to fight Russian troops over a territory of maybe 80,000 people who want to be Russian anyway? Is that really what we would ask our troops to do? I mean, we (and Israel) already are giving Georgia equipment and support, but what if it were our own Marines over there?

How would you characterize the just cause for that fight?

What about Poland then? Oh yeah, well we're putting Patriot-2 missile installations there. Russia is thrilled. So is Poland. They've been caught between Russian aggression and Western indifference before. So they're signing it into the missle contracts, that we now will legally owe them protection. We're just finding all sorts of ways to tip-toe our way into a hot war with Russia. It's already dawning on me that we're in a new cold war.

I was never a big fan of history, but I remember a take-home point from one of my high school teachers (shout out to Dr. Monahan) that large wars are caused by friendly treaties that drag countries into conflicts. I recall the advice of our Founding Fathers, "avoid entangling alliances." This is not an isolationist position, but a common sense one; a position that the neocon fraternity seems to blatantly undermine.

With the upcoming political conventions, the ensuing debates and a population that is haggling over intangibles like "experience" or "toughness" or "security", I think it's important to pay attention to real actions and policies of candidates (or regimes). Personally, I wish the people of Georgia and Poland the best of luck, but I probably wouldn't fight for them.

Oh yeah, and there's a ton of oil in the Caspian Sea basin... don't forget about that. I knew there had to be a financial reason lurking around here somewhere.

But until then, I'd rather get back to the Olympics...

(Author's note for additional reading: The Russia/U.S. via Georgia situation,
Poland/U.S. missile agreement, and U.S. Global Military presence.)


Roller said...

Great post. You covered a lot of points very well.

I have been getting most of my news on this via the BBC, which I find to be a trustworthy news source. I thought the chronicles article you linked was very objective and comprehensive - thanks for the link!

The battle in South Ossetia was a gift to the Russians (the Chronicles article even sounds postures that the Russians were baiting Georgia). Georgia's antics in Ossetia turned out to be a convenient way for the Russians to show everyone who was still big dog on the block. The Russians knew as well as the Georgians should have that there would be no international intervention so long as they didn't sack Tbilisi.

And isn't it curious, as you mention, that there's a big BP pipeline through Georgia, that the Russians would like as much as we would.

That the missiles and systems in CR and Poland are to defend against Iran and NK is an insult. Honestly.

Whoever created the map you linked wasn't very subtle in their opinion. How many personnel do we really have in Canada, and Greenland, and Australia - and the whole country is red? And we really have bases/installations in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan with those governments? What exactly constitutes a base or installation? It's fine to criticize our global military presence, but we're not the English empire.

Again, great post.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the comments, Roller.

I guess I've become particularly crabby over the past few years about our global reach as a nation. True, we're not the English Empire, but what are we? I think it's pretty clear that we are some sort of empire, and that's what I haggle over.

Philosophically, I used to accept the doctrine that part of our duty as Americans was to "make the world safe for democracy." I don't believe that anymore, at least based on the way that our leaders have used that idea over time.

Free trade is still a problem in the world, if you can believe it there are still huge pirate forces on the ocean! So I think we need a largely present Navy.

But as I've been exposed to more concepts of "blowback" as well as practical concerns about bureaucratic military expansion (rather than useful and purposeful military structure), I've found myself arguing against a lot of our "interests" around the world.

Practically speaking, have we learned anything from our past? Was Vietnam a war worth fighting? If democracy is truly the revolutionary force that it is, then shouldn't we allow it some power over time? Won't hollow, coercive regimes collapse eventually without our assistance?

And it begs the question, how often are patriotic slogans fed to us when really its just a big money grab? That ticks me off.

I just heard today that Russia recognized the independent states of Ossetia and Abkhazia. Great. They don't really have the right to do that, but is this really our fight? Like you said, Russia is the big dog on that block, whether we like it or not.

Tricky tricky... but this is the kind of debate I hope more and more people participate in... one blog at a time!

Ryan said...

p.s. so I'm not cynical enough to believe it's *only* about oil, nor am I naive enough to believe it's about democracy, but the fact that our nation has become increasingly dependent on *foreign* oil is playing a big part ina lot of this.

Here is an interesting link that is dealing with some of these things on a "curing the disease" approach, rather than a "let's scramble for more oil" approach.

Roller said...

I have to admit I don't know enough about ole T. Boone's plan to comment on it (yet), but I see his commercial almost every morning on CNN, and it at least makes me happy that people have to pay attention to it.

Very minor note - Russia's parliament voted in favor of recognizing the two indies, but Medvedyev (Putin) would have to make it official. From what I heard that isn't expected.

I'll try to check out the Pickens plan tonight.

And, I enjoy reading your thoughts on our nation's role in democratizing the rest of the world.

Next stop - Antarctica. Liberate the Penguins!

Ryan said...

MOre than you would ever want to know:

Austin said...

Go back to Russia, Mick. Not really. I just think it is a great Simpson's line by Barney when Lisa brings out Gazpacho at Homer's BBBQ.

The mainstream media's simplification of this issue is understandable, but I am glad you will not stand for it. You can come back to America. You have even opened my eyes a little bit. And if I can change, and you can change, we can all change.

Roller said...

Nice inspirational touch, Austin. I feel like I've been hearing that message a lot lately... just can't place where I keep hearing it... oh yeah, been watching a lot of Rocky IV these days.

Guess I totally missed the call on Medvutin abstaining from the South Oskhazia shout out to freedom. Still, it means nothing internationally, as Rye pointed out.

Now, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have signed with their own indie label 3 times prior to this, and Russia barely sighed at it. Now they recognize? I wonder if this is some attempt to legitimize kicking Georgia in the head. Maybe so, maybe not.

Liked the second Chronicles article too, Rye. I thought the analogy of Russia putting a missile defense system in Mexico to defend against rogue South American states was hilarious.

Control for smilers can't be bought.
The solar garlic starts to rot.
Was it for this my life I sought?
Maybe so, maybe not!

Coovo said...

Speaking of history class, remember when part of our country wanted to be independent and Abe Lincoln, was like, "Nu-uh." Snapping his fingers while making the Z motion with his hand.

I certainly don't have the answers here nor the attention span to read supplementary articles, but I do think my boy Ryan has more knowledge than that dude Webster who wrote the dictionary. Never met a topic that this guy couldn't form an opinion on.

The Olympics were fine I thought. Thank god the USA men's basketball team won gold. If you took about the combined salaries from that team, you could turn South Ossetia int the next Dubai before Christmas. God forbid we lose ever again. My question is why don't we take next 12 NBA players and compete them in Team Handall?

How about men's volleyball. First Gold since 1988, after their coach's father in-law was murdered and mother in-law severely injured. What? They all play professionally in Russia?

Good post McCabe. Shawn Johnson for NATO director.

Roller said...

Anyone see that Putin has now accused the U.S. of orchestrating Georgia's attack in Ossetia to benefit one of our presidential candidates (gee I wonder which one)?

On a separate but related note, would Joe Biden be the VP nominee if this had never happened?

Coovo said...

I think so Matt. From what I read on TMZ Biden has mad foreign policy experience and with or without Georgia acting a fool, Obama has very little.

I heard on NPR the day Biden was announced, that he and McCain are good friends and that he even approached McCain about running with Kerry in 2004. No idea how legit statement is, but I thought it was interesting.

Wait, this kind of backs me up:


What about McCain's VP? Basically a republican version of Obama. Young, first-term, minority (if you count women as minorities). I think he hoping to draw those Hillary women over. But what I've seen from pictures, she's kind of attractive and has a nice rack. I'm in.

Coovo said...

Sorry, not familiar with html.

Ryan said...

Yikes, perhaps I am following these things too closely. I'm starting to call shots before they happen.

I think Putin is absolutely a goon. No question. I also think he's shrewd and intelligent. His accusations are probably not far off, since it seems that Georgia has been itching to jump into action and the U.S. and others had been restraining them. So maybe we relaxed the constraint at a convenient time?

The quote from Dana Perino is priceless in the worthless-priceless sort of way: "To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational," she said.

I've read from Obama camps that the Biden selection made itself, and I think that really is in direct reference to the Georgia situation. He also is a good pick because he's a rich, liberal white guy who has a great smile and is sort like an east cost bubba. Rich white liberal men are the base of the Democratic party, and Obama's biggest fans.

Sarah Palin is a great pick by McCain, because he'll pick up some of the cackling middle-aged white women disenfranchised by Obama. Clinton and McCain were running on virtually identical platforms at the time of the primaries if you can believe it, so her supporters are not necessarily Obama-liberal. They're more like McCain-liberal. Oh wait, MAVERICKS! Not to mention McCain could use some youth on his ticket. He's the oldest, non-incumbent candidate in history.

Coov, I think McCain's relationship with Democrats has been interesting, and it shows up in the article you posted about BidenCain. He has certainly reached across the aisle to make some friends and do some deals. I question why he has done this, out of principle? (I find evidence of none) Out of pure political shrewdnewss? And when have these people reached back across the aisle the other way in a quid-pro-quo?

Coovo said...

Ryan, please stay on topic. What about Palin's mammories?

I kid because because I don't know who Putin is.

I don't know enough about politics to say why McCain reaches around I mean across the aisle. I just thought interesting that Obama picked a person who in 2004 thought McCain could run with Kerry. Especially since Hillary has said some positive things about McCain at Obama's expense. But who knows, motives for sound bites and statements often reach well beyond our understanding.

It is ironic in this election time that I'm reading a book called The Outfit. It retraces the history of Al Capone's heirs and the amazing effect they had on the country. In particular the 1960 election of the Kennedy. I think Obama said yesterday "we are the party of Roosevelt and the Kennedys." Aftre reading this book, I'm like, are you sure you want to say that?

Roller, I'm sure you've read it.

Roller said...

Haven't read that book but it sounds good. Regarding the Kennedy election, do talk about the relationship between Joe Kennedy and Joe Bonanno? There's a good story behind that.

Coovo said...

Joe Bonanno. I don't think so. It covers mostly Chicago gangsters Curly Humphreys, Joe Accardo, Paul Ricca and Sam Giancanna. And Johnny Rosselli.

It's amazing the amount of crossover (including girls) between the gangs and the Kennedys.

Roller said...

Bonanno was in NY head of the (you guessed it) Bonanno crime family, one of the original 5 families in NY.

I read his son Bill's autobiography, "Bound By Honor" years ago, which was pretty interesting. The book opened with a story about a meeting between Joe Bonanno and Joe Kennedy, shortly before the election, and portrayed the two as very similar men.

In the end of the book, he claims that there was a second shooter in the Kennedy assasination. A mob hitman who fired from a sewer drain. While the assasination no doubt had the mob's fingerprints on it (Jack Ruby was a known mob affiliate) I've never heard the sewer drain theory even discussed by anyone else. Who knows.

I'd love to hear more about the book Coov. Worth a read?

Coovo said...

If you have time Don Rollo, I would recommend it. Gus Russo, author of The Outfit, also wrote living by the sword: the secret war against castro and the death of JFK. That sounds interesting. I wonder how it turns out.

I saw a transcript of an online interview Bill Bonanno gave about his book. He says that Johnny Roselli, the Outfits west coast and Vegas man, told him in jail in 1071 that he was on the grassy knoll. The book I just read puts Roselli in bed in Vegas.

I wouldn't say the book is pro-mafia, but it is definitely anti-upperworld in that they commit the same crimes but spend no jail time.