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Victor Davis Hanson: Moscow’s Sinister Brilliance. Who wants to die for Tbilisi?
NRO ^ | August 12, 2008 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 08/12/2008 5:48:45 AM PDT by Tolik

Hard power trumps soft power — but power power trumps both


Lost amid all the controversies surrounding the Georgian tragedy is the sheer diabolic brilliance of the long-planned Russia invasion. Let us count the ways in which it is a win/win situation for Russia.

The Home Front
The long-suffering Russian people resent the loss of global influence and empire, but not necessarily the Soviet Union and its gulags that once ensured such stature. The invasion restores a sense of Russian nationalism and power to its populace without the stink of Stalinism, and is indeed cloaked as a sort of humanitarian intervention on behalf of beleaguered Ossetians.

There will be no Russian demonstrations about an “illegal war,” much less nonsense about “blood for oil,” but instead rejoicing at the payback of an uppity former province that felt its Western credentials somehow trumped Russian tanks. How ironic that the Western heartthrob, the old Marxist Mikhail Gorbachev, is now both lamenting Western encouragement of Georgian “aggression,” while simultaneously gloating over the return of Russian military daring.

Sinister Timing
Russia’s only worry is the United States, which currently has a lame-duck president with low approval ratings, and is exhausted after Afghanistan and Iraq. But more importantly, America’s attention is preoccupied with a presidential race, in which “world citizen” Barack Obama has mesmerized Europe as the presumptive new president and soon-to-be disciple of European soft power.

Better yet for Russia, instead of speaking with one voice, America is all over the map with three reactions from Bush, McCain, and Obama — all of them mutually contradictory, at least initially. Meanwhile, the world’s televisions are turned toward the Olympics in Beijing. The autocratic Chinese, busy jailing reporters and dissidents, are not about to say an unkind word about Russian intervention. If anything, the pageantry at their grandiose stadiums provides welcome distractions for those embarrassed over the ease with which Russia smothered Georgia.

Comeuppance
Most importantly, Putin and Medvedev have called the West’s bluff. We are sort of stuck in a time-warp of the 1990s, seemingly eons ago in which a once-earnest weak post-Soviet Russia sought Western economic help and political mentoring. But those days are long gone, and diplomacy hasn’t caught up with the new realities. Russia is flush with billions. It serves as a rallying point and arms supplier to thugs the world over that want leverage in their anti-Western agendas. For the last five years, its foreign policy can be reduced to “Whatever the United States is for, we are against.”

The geopolitical message is clear to both the West and the former Soviet Republics: don’t consider NATO membership (i.e., do the Georgians really think that, should they have been NATO members, any succor would have been forthcoming?).

Together with the dismal NATO performance in Afghanistan, the Georgian incursion reveals the weakness of the Atlantic Alliance. The tragic irony is unmistakable. NATO was given a gift in not having made Georgia a member, since otherwise an empty ritual of evoking Article V’s promise of mutual assistance in time of war would have effectively destroyed the Potemkin alliance.

The new reality is that a nuclear, cash-rich, and energy-blessed Russia doesn’t really worry too much whether its long-term future is bleak, given problems with Muslim minorities, poor life-expectancy rates, and a declining population. Instead, in the here and now, it has a window of opportunity to reclaim prestige and weaken its adversaries. So why hesitate?

Indeed, tired of European lectures, the Russians are now telling the world that soft power is, well, soft. Moscow doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, the European Union, the World Court at the Hague, or any finger-pointing moralist from Geneva or London. Did anyone in Paris miss any sleep over the rubble of Grozny?

More likely, Putin & Co. figure that any popular rhetoric about justice will be trumped by European governments’ concern for energy. With just a few tanks and bombs, in one fell swoop, Russia has cowered its former republics, made them think twice about joining the West, and stopped NATO and maybe EU expansion in their tracks. After all, who wants to die for Tbilisi?

Russia does not need a global force-projection capacity; it has sufficient power to muscle its neighbors and thereby humiliate not merely its enemies, but their entire moral pretensions as well.

Apologists in the West

The Russians have sized up the moral bankruptcy of the Western Left. They know that half-a-million Europeans would turn out to damn their patron the United States for removing a dictator and fostering democracy, but not more than a half-dozen would do the same to criticize their long-time enemy from bombing a constitutional state.

The Russians rightly expect Westerners to turn on themselves, rather than Moscow — and they won’t be disappointed. Imagine the morally equivalent fodder for liberal lament: We were unilateral in Iraq, so we can’t say Russia can’t do the same to Georgia. (As if removing a genocidal dictator is the same as attacking a democracy). We accepted Kosovo’s independence, so why not Ossetia’s? (As if the recent history of Serbia is analogous to Georgia’s.) We are still captive to neo-con fantasies about democracy, and so encouraged Georgia’s efforts that provoked the otherwise reasonable Russians (As if the problem in Ossetia is our principled support for democracy rather than appeasement of Russian dictatorship).

From what the Russians learned of the Western reaction to Iraq, they expect their best apologists will be American politicians, pundits, professors, and essayists — and once more they will not be disappointed. We are a culture, after all, that after damning Iraqi democracy as too violent, broke, and disorganized, is now damning Iraqi democracy as too conniving, rich, and self-interested — the only common denominator being whatever we do, and whomever we help, cannot be good.

Power-power
We talk endlessly about “soft” and “hard” power as if humanitarian jawboning, energized by economic incentives or sanctions, is the antithesis to mindless military power. In truth, there is soft power, hard power, and power-power — the latter being the enormous advantages held by energy rich, oil-exporting states. Take away oil and Saudi Arabia would be the world’s rogue state, with its medieval practice of gender apartheid. Take away oil and Ahmadinejad is analogous to a run-of-the-mill central African thug. Take away oil, and Chavez is one of Ronald Reagan’s proverbial tinhorn dictators.

Russia understands that Europe needs its natural gas, that the U.S. not only must be aware of its own oil dependency, but, more importantly, the ripples of its military on the fragility of world oil supplies, especially the effects upon China, Europe, India, and Japan. When one factors in Russian oil and gas reserves, a pipeline through Georgia, the oil dependency of potential critics of Putin, and the cash garnered by oil exports, then we understand once again that power-power is beginning to trump both its hard and soft alternatives.

Paralysis
Military intervention is out of the question. Economic sanctions, given Russia’s oil and Europe’s need for it, are a pipe dream. Diplomatic ostracism and moral stricture won’t even save face.

Instead, Europe — both western and eastern — along with the United States and the concerned former Soviet Republics need to sit down, conference, and plot exactly how these new democracies are to maintain their independence and autonomy in the next decade. Hopefully, they will reach the Franklinesque conclusion that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
 


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Russia
KEYWORDS: geopolitics; georgia; russia; vdh; victordavishanson; war
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To: ClearCase_guy
You may be right. In which case, what's the point of NATO? And what's the point of the UN?

Who ever said there was any point to NATO or the UN?

The only purpose that I can discern for those organizations is to entangle the US in a web of foreign alliances, which can inhibit or obstruct American freedom of action while allowing our enemies to proceed unchecked.

41 posted on 08/12/2008 8:02:24 AM PDT by Jim Noble (When He rolls up His sleeves, He ain't just puttin' on the Ritz)
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To: ClearCase_guy
You may be right. In which case, what's the point of NATO? And what's the point of the UN?

Who ever said there was any point to NATO or the UN?

The only purpose that I can discern for those organizations is to entangle the US in a web of foreign alliances, which can inhibit or obstruct American freedom of action while allowing our enemies to proceed unchecked.

42 posted on 08/12/2008 8:02:27 AM PDT by Jim Noble (When He rolls up His sleeves, He ain't just puttin' on the Ritz)
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To: mick

MOSCOW (AFP)—French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday it was “normal” for Moscow to defend Russian-speaking people beyond its borders, but added that Georgia’s territorial integrity had to be respected.

“It’s perfectly normal that Russia would want to defend the interests both of Russians in Russia and Russian speakers outside Russia,” Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy went on to ask which camp Brother Putin would like the French Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals sent. It’s only the normal course of business in the EUrinal EUtopia.


43 posted on 08/12/2008 8:05:07 AM PDT by steveyp
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To: Obadiah

Because they’re frauds? Their so-called anti-war stance is a prop. It’s nothing but a tool to tear down their opponents and clear a path to power. And once they get that power everything they claim the US to be times 10.

The so-called liberals are nothing but bloodthirsty tyrants who will kill you, me, our families, and anyone we associate with. All they want is to control the US or whatever democratic country they reside in with an iron fist. They could care less what Russia or anyone else does.


44 posted on 08/12/2008 8:20:33 AM PDT by Free Vulcan (No prisoners. No mercy. Fight back or STFU!!!)
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To: Tolik

Ukraine has a sizable minority of russians amongst it, and if you think come a cold january the fops of euroland are going to go to bat for some color coded revolutianary up to his or her armpits in snaky deals (like the gas queen)then you will be disappointed.


45 posted on 08/12/2008 8:34:17 AM PDT by junta (White liberals the soft underbelly of the fat pig known as the Democratic party. apologies to pigs)
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Comment #46 Removed by Moderator

To: Tolik

Excellent article by VDH, as usual. The RATS in DC had better start waking up.


47 posted on 08/12/2008 8:53:30 AM PDT by jazusamo (DefendOurMarines.org | DefendOurTroops.org)
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To: Tolik
The invasion restores a sense of Russian nationalism

Facism works every time, whether it's Mussolini, the Nazis, ChiComs (misnomer) and now Russians. Here's the standard definition:

The great irony is that Russia is embracing an ideology that killed 25m of its citizens 65 years ago.

48 posted on 08/12/2008 8:59:06 AM PDT by semantic
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To: Free Vulcan

You are wise. You truly see beyond the veil.


49 posted on 08/12/2008 9:06:25 AM PDT by Obadiah (I remember when the climate never changed, then Bush stole the election.)
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To: steveyp

Thanks.....and you make an excellent point...don’t the french have a saying about the more things change the more they remain the same?

These people never learn....or maybe they learn and don’t care....or maybe they care but are too cowardly to do anything about it.


50 posted on 08/12/2008 9:06:48 AM PDT by mick
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To: semantic
There is no doubt that the American left are enemies of this nation and if successful will help foster the destruction of the world’s greatest super power — a house divided against itself cannot stand.

It really puts the Drill Here, Drill now issue in perspective.


Bump!
51 posted on 08/12/2008 9:09:17 AM PDT by roses of sharon (SAVE YOUR GAS RECIEPTS, SEND TO PELOSI!)
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To: junta

I don’t imagine Russia do any active military actions in Ukraine - brothers-Slavs, after all. But it can easily knock a few teeth of Baltic countries - “protecting” Russians there. Especially that they (Baltic countries) had some commemorations of the WWII soldiers that fought on the side of Nazi Germany against USSR, and don’t recognize Russian as official language (it does create hardship for Russian speakers).

Speaking about Ukraine - I understand that despite price increases they still get Russian oil and natural gas with prices significantly lower than market price. They can be squeezed hard there. (I understand your reference to Julia Timoshenko, but otherwise claim ignorance in whatever she is up to).


52 posted on 08/12/2008 9:29:01 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Red Badger

Many Russians appreciate Stalin’s achievements in bringing Russia (pardon me, USSR) back to greatness and are happy to forget millions killed in the name of it. Reading Russian forums: practically unanimous support of whipping the Georgians. Giddy happiness, I’d say. No word on contradiction in supporting separatist movement in the neighbor’s borders while squelching a whiff of separatism inside own borders. Not many really want a return of communist party, no. But many are nostalgic for the Empire power. And US is a number one enemy for way too many people.

It does not look good.


53 posted on 08/12/2008 9:42:47 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Diana in Wisconsin
Diana,

How can we now bomb Russia over this incursion when they still have nukes when he couldn't do it either from 1949 till the end of the Cold War with much more provocation then.

Unfortunately for little Georgia, they made some serious tactical errors regarding Putin and are reaping the windfall. No one likes it but beyond saber rattling we aren't going to do much until after Putin gets what he wants in place there.

Nobody wants a nuclear wasteland over Georgia.

We can't even tolerate 4000 dead over a 5 year war of low intensity. How on earth could we stand a war of Biblical proportion...and over some little place on Russia's border with names few folks can even pronounce.

however...nice post in spirit...to hear that sorta mettle from a woman is encouraging...I respect that

I think some Americans including myself to a degree got lulled into thinking that dismantling the USSR meant Russia as a nuke threat was diminished...sadly it only takes a few to land and they have them and the delivery systems. We'd win but at what cost?

54 posted on 08/12/2008 9:52:38 AM PDT by wardaddy ("Cause my grey hair just can't cover up my redneck.")
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To: ClearCase_guy
Openly and enthusiaticly bring Ukraine under the umbrella of NATO

Yes! We could once again see German Panzers deploying on the banks of the Don River!

55 posted on 08/12/2008 10:31:55 AM PDT by glorgau
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To: mick

“We need to immediately convene NATO and grant membership to Ukraine.”

We need to immediately convene NATO and grant membership to Georgia.


56 posted on 08/12/2008 10:34:10 AM PDT by PurpleMan
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To: ClearCase_guy; mick

Hanson also said this:

“The geopolitical message is clear to both the West and the former Soviet Republics: don’t consider NATO membership (i.e., do the Georgians really think that, should they have been NATO members, any succor would have been forthcoming?).”

and I suspect he is correct. Europe is Europe, and a paper treaty is not going to affect their profound aversion for standing up for themselves. NATO is not worth the paper it is written on. I somehow suspect that the US should consider whether their financial and manpower investment would not receive better rewards in a new alliance with countries that understand what it is to lose their freedom and are therefore willing to fight for it.


57 posted on 08/12/2008 10:58:31 AM PDT by dervish (I looked into Putin's actions and saw evil)
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To: steveyp

What did Sarkozy say?


58 posted on 08/12/2008 11:00:39 AM PDT by dervish (I looked into Putin's actions and saw evil)
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To: Tolik

Quite intriguing, A potential Obama presidency is a catalyst for Putin, the fascist, to overthrow a democratic country on their borders. There could be a silver lining to this stupid evil thrown on the world from Putin, Americans are being alerted quite dramatically that the way of Obama’s and Europe’s soft power philosophy DOES NOT WORK and that we must always apply Reagan’s ‘peace thru strength’ principles.

AND DRILL DAMN IT!!!


59 posted on 08/12/2008 1:17:59 PM PDT by Fred (The Democrat Party is the Nadir of Nihilism)
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To: ken21
angela merkel, the chancellor of germany, opposed georgia’s admission to nato last month, after president bush’s trip.

Germany has become dependent on Russian natural gas. They will have to go along with whatever Russia wants to do on the european continent.

60 posted on 08/12/2008 1:38:20 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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