Hagelian Didactics

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two interesting tidbits from GOP senator and potential Obama Secretary of State (or Defense) Chuck Hagel:

Hagel sent a letter to Condi Rice in February warning that already frayed relations with the Russians would worsen by backing Kosovar independence. He warned of unintended consequences and inflaming Russian sentiment against our strategic interests.

It is now pretty clear the the Russo-Georgian conflict arose, in part, as a result the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. This precedent enabled Russia to legitimately embrace claims of independence by South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Prescient Hagel. And also truthful. From an interview yesterday with the Omaha World Herald:

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the nation’s most prominent Republican officeholder to publicly question whether Sarah Palin has the experience to serve as president.

“She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel said Wednesday in an interview. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”

Palin was elected governor of Alaska in 2006 and before that was the mayor of a small town.

Democrats have raised questions about Palin since Sen. John McCain picked her as his vice presidential running mate. Most national Republican officeholders have rallied to Palin’s candidacy.

Palin has cited the proximity of Alaska to Russia as evidence of her international experience.

Hagel scoffed at that notion.

“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'” he said. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”

Chuck Hagel is droppin’ science.

And since the GOP doesn’t listen to him, I hope that Obama does and appoints him to his cabinet.


The Russo-Georgian Conflict and the Balance of Power

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This essay by George Friedman in the New York Review of Books explains the geopolitical causes and ramifications of the Russo-Georgian conflict.

For Russia, this was a calculated response undertaken to restore it’s influence among the former Soviet satellites. The message? America (and NATO) can’t and won’t protect you, so watch it.

For the United States, it was an embarrassment:

It is difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against US wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a huge breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the deployments of Russian forces or knew of them but—along with the Georgians—miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when its military was in shambles and its government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s and 1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that they would not risk the consequences of an invasion.

I would posit a third possible explanation, with a $1 billion payoff at the end – a percentage of which is certain to end up in Swiss bank accounts (I know, I’m a crank).

At any rate, the essay is worth reading.

And here, for your added benefit, is neocon Fred Kagan (of the illustrious neocon Kagan family) testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His perspective is precisely what you’d expect.


Did Bush/McCain Provoke War in Georgia?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Russian leader Vladimir Putin suggested that the U.S. provoked the Russo-Georgian conflict in order to benefit John McCain. Hmmm. One would love to rule out the idea as absurd, but given what we know about Bush/McCain and the general sleaze factor of the GOP, you can’t. So…is Putin right?

Well, here are some questions for some intrepid journalist to ask:

  • Things aren’t exactly turning out the way Saakashvili must have hoped. Did Cindy McCain go to Georgia to placate him? If not, why send her at all?
  • What contact did McCain’s top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, a former lobbyist for Georgia, have with that country’s government prior to the conflict?
  • Indeed, what contact did McCain have with Saakashvili before the conflict?
  • Did the Russo-Georgian conflict benefit the McCain campaign?
  • Does McCain regret the unstable exaggeration, “We Are All Georgians?”
  • I know we’re supposed to dismiss any suggestion of evil intent and/or political manipulation by our leaders as ludicrous. But don’t you think somebody should ask? McCain has an awfully close relationship with Saakashvili and Georgia. And provoking this conflict was, unquestionably, a stupid move.

    So why not investigate a little? If there’s just smoke and no fire, then our basic assumptions about our leaders will be reinforced. That would be a good thing for all of us.


    How Dangerous Is Quick-Draw McCain?

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    John McCain is an unstable hot-head who lacks the judgment to run the country. With his recent belligerent talk related to the Russo-Georgian conflict, McCain follows in the footsteps of the discredited neocons who still run the White House. This small cadre of right-wing radicals has had a disastrous stranglehold on power for the last eight years (see: Iraq).

    McCain’s talk, and the confrontational actions of these war mongers, has alienated a needed potential ally for the sake of a corrupt “democracy” that stupidly provoked the Russian bear. This conflict is Saakashvili’s fault and, no offense to the Georgians, I don’t want a nuclear holocaust for the sake of this impetuous amateur’s bad bet.

    Somehow, however, I think John McCain does. He is certain, that way, to go down in history.

    Now, as the rhetoric flies, where is the statesman to stand up and cool things down? The Russians are not communists and their “democracy” isn’t much worse than the Georgians. Not only should we not be at war with Russia (we should be building and strengthening an alliance), but we can’t be at war with Russia. Setting aside that there is no vital U.S. interest at stake in Georgia, we simply can’t afford it financially.

    This is another area where Quick-Draw’s lack of judgment is dangerous. Our treasury is empty. We are borrowing hand-over-fist to pay for our misadventure in Iraq. This borrowing has destroyed our economic flexibility to wage war. Frankly, we’re going to need to borrow a lot more just to salvage our economy (see: housing bailout, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac). A real war with Russia would be disastrous and wind up destroying America, one way or the other.

    But this irrelevant to Quick-Draw McCain because there is an overarching principle at stake and reason and America’s best interest are peripheral factors in his thinking. What principle, you ask? A desperate desire for war. Cold, hot, whatever. This guy needs war. He is driven by a desire to outdo his father and bathe himself in glory. (You could speculate that another reason for this is that McCain is ashamed of being a POW.) He comes from a martial family and his entire mindset – that history is made by warriors – reinforces this idea.

    How dangerous is Quick-Draw? Deadly, America. If you want more war, bigger war, deadlier war, McCain is your man.

    Here is a motley cast of characters standing opposed to McCain’s Georgia policy: Pat Buchanan, Thomas Friedman, David Ignatius, Richard Clarke, and the man who tore down that wall, Mikhail Gorbachev.


    Georgia: Smart Move or Miscalculation?

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    The Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) offers a broader strategic look at the Russo-Georgian conflict in a post on its blog. What is MESH?

    MESH is a community of scholars and practitioners who are interested in the formulation of U.S. strategic options for the Middle East; it is a project of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

    Got that?

    At any rate, this post by member Walter Laqueur, and the subsequent comment by a professor at George Mason, pulls the lens back to take a quickie strategic view of the landscape surrounding this mini-war, in particular it’s affect on the Middle East. Bottom line? Though the Russians feel absolutely justified advancing on Georgia, they may have miscalculated the long-term impact of the move.

    Here, also, is the always thoughtful (and often brilliant) Belgravia Dispatch on McCain and Russo-Georgian conflict.


    McCain Exploits Georgia for Political Gain

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Is there anything this guy won’t now do?

    He’s got an editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning proclaiming once again that, “We are all Georgians.” But what does this mean? Tough-talk posturing by a neocon Churchill wannabe? A remark preparatory to an effort to involve us militarily in this war? Or merely an opportunist’s political calculation to, once again, swing the debate away from the crumbling American economy to foreign affairs?

    The answer is probably all of the above. Which means that McCain is a ideological fantasist, war-mongerer, and political sleazeball. Hey, let’s elect him president!

    McCain warns darkly:

    Some Americans may wonder why events in this part of the world are any concern of ours. After all, Georgia is a small, remote and obscure place. But history is often made in remote, obscure places.

    Is he so politically desperate for war that he would turn a regional conflict that can be resolved diplomatically into a second Cold War? Didn’t you know, he is saying, that there aren’t just evil Muslims out there, but also evil Russians?

    Give us a break, McCain. One war at a time, okay? (You may not of noticed, but we can’t afford any more war, cold or otherwise. Our treasury is ten trillion dollars in the hole.)

    McCain has never felt that he has lived up to the warrior achievements of his father and grandfather. There is only one way left for him to do that: the presidency. It is a mark of his desperation that, even at his advanced age, he continues to press any shameful opportunity to help him resolve his daddy issues.


    Is Bush Courting War?

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    The announcement that we are sending humanitarian relief into Georgia presents a danger for the U.S. If the soldiers who are providing this aid come under fire or are wounded or killed, what is our next step?

    I think it’s safe to say that the Russians don’t want a war with the United States. Given the irresponsibly belligerent talk from John McCain (and the trotting out of Hitler warnings again from the usual neocon suspects), can we say the same of Bush? Is it possible these men would court war to maintain power?

    I am afraid to say, I can’t answer those questions with certainty.

    Let’s all hope the Russians come to their senses.