UPDATE: Publius wonders how what the Russians in Georgia is any different than what the neocons here want from our government and, in particular, Israel's...
Because we’re so good, we can use force whenever and wherever we want. We won’t be excessive of course, because we’re constitutionally incapable of being wrong.
These militant nationalists also share a paranoid sense of decline. The great nation is always in danger of being overrun or embarrassed. There’s always some threat among us. Thus, there’s always some need to re-establish our strength and greatness – preferably through force. Because we’re so good.
My point is that the problem with the Russia response is, at bottom, the same problem with the response to the response. That problem is nationalism. Russia is doing exactly what the neocons want America and Israel to do.
Generally speaking, though, nationalism is almost always the problem. Looking abroad, we usually find ourselves at odds with various countries' nationalist wings...
[...]In America, though, the ideological soulmates of these people are the Bill Kristols of the world. Like the militant nationalists in every country everywhere, they think their country is the best country. They like clamoring for war to fight decline and to demonstrate strength.
If anything, though, the Russian nationalists have a leg up on the Iraq War cheerleaders because their invasion actually served a strategic military purpose. Allowing Georgia into NATO would be a humiliating disaster for Russia. It would also be a genuine military threat (particularly for a country still traumatized by WW2). Further, there was actually a military attack on Russia interests.
In Iraq, by contrast, there was no strategic threat. No attack. Nothing. But we invaded, bombed the crap out of their cities, and deposed their sovereign (if despicable) government.
To be clear, I deplore what Russia is doing. But I’ll do without the outrage from Bush and McCain, thank you. Russia is simply implementing tactics that are part and parcel of these men’s worldview and foreign policy philosophy – i.e., the philosophy of militant nationalism. Sometimes we call it neoconservatism.
Yeah, pretty much.
What McCain and others deliberately leave out of the discussion is that Georgia picked this fight. It is a total mismatch and they botched it horribly (failing to cut-off the tunnel?), and now they are getting their ass summarily kicked.
Russia, is overdoing it and punishing Georgia severely, but this ain't the Soviets on the march—no matter how much McCain pines for another Cold War.
UPDATE: An excellent on-the-ground analysis of the Georgian conflict. Plenty of blame to go around. Money quote:
Now the United States has ended up in a situation in the Caucasus where the Georgian tail was wagging the NATO dog. We were unable to control Saakashvili or to lend him effective assistance when his country was invaded. One lesson is that we need to be very careful in extending NATO membership, or even the promise of membership, to countries that we have neither the will nor the ability to defend.
In the meantime, American leaders have paid little attention to Russian diplomatic concerns, both inside the former borders of the Soviet Union and farther abroad. The Bush administration unilaterally abrogated the 1972 anti-missile defense treaty and ignored Putin when he objected to Kosovo independence on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent. It is difficult to explain why Kosovo should have the right to unilaterally declare its independence from Serbia, while the same right should be denied to places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The bottom line is that the United States is overextended militarily, diplomatically and economically. Even hawks such as Vice President Cheney, who have been vociferously denouncing Putin's actions in Georgia, have no stomach for a military conflict with Moscow. The United States is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs Russian support in the coming trial of strength with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
Instead of speaking softly and wielding a big stick, as Teddy Roosevelt recommended, the American policeman has been loudly lecturing the rest of the world while waving an increasingly unimpressive baton. The events of the past few days serve as a reminder that our ideological ambitions have greatly exceeded our military reach, particularly in areas such as the Caucasus, which is of only peripheral importance to the United States but of vital interest to Russia.
Obama has mistakenly jumped on the NATO-for-Georgia bandwagon as well. It's not a good idea.