I suppose that the first thing we could say about the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia is how President Bush and his State Department have once again dropped the ball. When you look a little closer, it reveals some basic facts about the decay of U.S. authority in the world:
- The U.S. has no moral authority to tell the Russians or anyone else not to unilaterally invade another country, especially a region of strategic oil importance (which Georgia is). The U.S. did something very similar in Iraq. Furthermore, the U.S. lacks the authority to criticize Russia on the “collateral damage” of civilian lives. There has never been a serious conversation in the U.S. (by the government, citizens, or the press) about the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were directly the victims of the U.S. bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Georgia has sent a large percentage of its armed forces as troops to Iraq, and yet the U.S. is unable to protect its ally from Russia (either in the form of military or political support).
- The U.S. has limited bargaining / diplomatic weight in the matter. France’s Sarko has powdered his nose and is running around doing all of the diplomatic work that the U.S. used to do. This trend, as we have seen with Turkey and Qatar in the Middle East, highlights the U.S. diminishing role as a power broker.
- The U.S. is, at present, ill-prepared to deal with potential military threats. Regardless of what John McCain may think, the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq. It is over-exposed in Iraq and simply does not have the resources at hand to deal with any new, foreseeable or unforeseeable conflict that may arise. Compromising security by keeping soldiers in Iraq (to protect oil fields or so that McCain can say “we won the war”) is grossly irresponsible.
- The U.S. has no moral authority to criticize either Russia or Georgia on human rights. The Bush Administration — through its policies of torture and foreign detentions — has the worst human rights records of any developed nation.
- No matter how you look at it, the U.S.’s efforts to get all of Russia’s neighbors to join NATO — a cold war military alliance with military bases and missiles pointed at Russia — from a Russian standpoint is very threatening and feels like intentional isolation.
- While I do not promote nuclear proliferation or would ever want countries like Iran to have nuclear capabilities, the U.S.’s insistence that only selective nation’s have the nukes, together with its record of unilateral invasions, make it very easy for nations to convince their people that the U.S. is a real threat. Think about it. You live in the Middle East. The U.S and Israel have the most state of the art armed forces in the world and say that no one else is allowed to have similar technology. Everyone now knows that the U.S. invaded Iraq based on false pretenses just for oil. What stops it from bombing another country (say Iran) in the region based on false evidence? And if one country gets the nukes, then the other ones need them too. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, the U.S. is getting all of Russia’s neighbors and former members of the Soviet block to join NATO and some of them — Poland and Georgia — to fight in U.S. wars. Has the Bush Administration, through its draconian foreign policy, unwillingly started a news arms race?
Finally, the Russian / Georgia crisis also says something about the E.U. and its inability to manage its surroundings. Regardless of Sarko being “out and about”, the fact of the matter is that the E.U. continues to be a compelling idea but not a reality.