On War #271: Leave It Alone, George

William S. Lind
August 18, 2008

What interests does the United States have at stake in the war between Russia and Georgia? Only one: that we remain out of it.

It almost passes belief to think that the Bush administration, bogged down in two wars and planning a third (with Iran), might move toward a confrontation with Russia. Yet that is what the White House appears to be doing. The August 11 Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that

President Bush called the violence unacceptable and Vice President Dick Cheney…said Russia’s actions in Georgia “must not go unanswered”…

Asked to explain Cheney’s comment, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “It means it must not stand.”

That phrase should send cold chills down the back of every American. It precisely echoes President George H.W. Bush’s statement in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a statement that led to war. The White House cannot be unaware of the parallel, which means it is threatening war with Russia.

Have these people gone utterly mad? It is doubtful we should risk nuclear war for Alabama, much less Georgia.

A few facts are in order here. First, the current conflict was started not by Russia but by Georgia, which foolishly attacked the Russian dependency of South Ossetia. Did Georgia make this suicidal move with prior assurance of American backing? If so, Washington provoked the conflict, which would be as great a crime as the Bush administration lying us into war with Iraq.

Second, Georgia clearly lies inside Russia’s sphere of influence and as far outside America’s as it is possible to get.

Third, there is nothing America can do to defend Georgia except threaten nuclear war. We could send in a small “tripwire” force of a battalion or two – God help us if we do – and dare the Russians to attack it. But if they called the bluff – and I think they would – what then? It is impossible for the United States to wage conventional war with Russia in her own backyard. We would have to go nuclear, or back down and accept defeat. It is all too easy to guess which alternative the Bush administration would select.

President Bush has used Georgia to taunt and humiliate Russia, even putting Georgia up for NATO membership, which the Europeans were wise enough to block. This folly was part of a larger strategic blunder, going back to the Clinton administration, of treating Russia as an opponent despite the fall of Communism.

That blunder is now blowing up in our face, as Russia in turn uses war with Georgia to teach America a lesson about the dangers of overextension and the price to be paid for humiliating a Great Power. Prudence suggests we swallow our medicine and profit by it, tempering our ambitions and our arrogance with a dose of reality.

But under the King of Misrule, folly remains the order of the day. The Bush White House tells itself American power knows no limits. All that is required is that they show sufficient “will,” and the rest of the world will buckle.

Not this time. Russia has taken all it is going to take.

It beggars the imagination to think that America could find itself in a nuclear confrontation with a post-Soviet Russia. But if the White House acts in accordance with its rhetoric, the next few weeks or even days may witness just such a strategic catastrophe.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Direct line: 703 837-0483

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Filed in Uncategorized | 26 responses so far

26 Responses to “On War #271: Leave It Alone, George”

  1. loggie20on 18 Aug 2008 at 4:34 pm 1

    The neocon Napolean must not allow the Tsar his way.

    The neocon nut cases are talking as if “Weimar” Russia is the next global threat.

    To them Georgia is the American century parallel of Russian Anschlus. We must stop their expansion despite the cost. No Chamberlains in this administration.

    Forget that stopping Hitler cost the old world order, end of colonialism, empire and consolidation of communism in China and Central Europe. That Britain lost vast empire, was sapped to second rate power, and that the US now has neither an equivalent to Roosevelt nor Marshall to bail it out from over extended hubris.

    The nuclear option is the only option, Russia controls the heart land and would love for the US to do as Hitler and attempt to prove von Clauswitz wrong.

    The US could grab the Caucasus oil reserves and pay for the war. Just like Iraq!

    Do they still call it that city on the Volga Stalingrad?

  2. dkenbluon 19 Aug 2008 at 9:33 am 2

    geez loggie, Buchanan can be right on this issue (as he is here: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=28053) but it doesn’t mean you have to parrot his latest book. Stopping Hitler was a good thing, as was the end of Empire and Colonialism.

    Lind and Buchanon are correct. The point of being in NATO is that if you go to war with one of them, you go to war with all of them. Therefore adding Georgia and others in Russia’s backyard is needless provocation. TPM Barnett has good analysis as well, including notes on Turkey acting smart, here: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/aug/17/response-to-georgia-conflict-firm-but-moderate.

  3. […] Continue Reading » […]

  4. Mycophagiston 19 Aug 2008 at 1:06 pm 4

    Obviously, the last thing we, the earth, the Song Sparrows, need is a nuclear war. But Georgia is not the only East European country feeling the heat.

    With all due respect, Mr. Putins ambitions resemble not those of Stalin, but the old Czarist Empire. Why is Ukraine so worried? Are they afraid that the linguistically Russian (although ethnically Ukrainian) East Ukraine will suddenly have an independence movement? Will there be a new Republic set up and controlled by Moscow?

    Can it be that Russia, IS a threat to legitimate goals of other people? Should we do nothing?

    Just as obvious that the world doesn’t need a nuclear war, is that Mr. Bush is the last man you would want to be in charge at this time. But that observation doesn’t make Russia disappear off the map.

    Some of the Europeans seem to disagree with Mr. Linds characterisations of them Ms. Merkel has just stated that she is in Favor of admitting Georgia to Nato. What do other Europeans think?

    Dave

  5. senor tomason 19 Aug 2008 at 5:10 pm 5

    “It is impossible for the United States to wage conventional war with Russia in her own backyard. ”

    And George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice know this. Their recent anti-Russian rhetoric is aimed at the American people, not at the Russians. Hot air for domestic U. S. propaganda purposes.

  6. EmeryNelsonon 19 Aug 2008 at 5:40 pm 6

    I have no doubt that Jorge is without a clue on grand strategy. The US under his leadership bounces like a tumbleweed in the wind. However, Putin is different kind of leader altogether and we better pray that he’s not reading John Boyd. After seeing the results on the ground in Georgia, and listening to Jorge’s hollow words, a chill ran down my spine. The US is hanging by a thread militarily and economically, although, the right wing pundits seem to think our power is unlimited. The question we need to ask is how difficult would it be to act in concert with Iran, and others, to hand the US a severe defeat?

    Putin is inside Jorge’s OODA loop… and why should he stop with Georgia? Let’s look at what he’s done with Georgia in relation to Boyd.

    *Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.

    After years of feeling like second class citizens the general feeling amongst Russians is that they’re back and ready to challenge us. His approval ratings within Russia are atmospheric. He’s completely united the country behind him.

    *Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.

    We were completely surprised by the Russian invasion. Men like me, who already thought poorly of Jorge, can’t see anything but disaster if this man continues as president. The people in my circle (which were largely Republican until Jorge did his worst) who support Bush can be counted on one hand. The vast majority range from outraged to worried.

    *Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.

    Putin certainly did this. Those who are tired of the heavy handedness of the Busheviks are excited and supportive of the Russians.

    *Attract uncommitted States to our cause.

    This remains to be seen but obviously Iran and other states will respect Putin for this.

    *End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.

    This is another unknown but with the US military committed all over the globe, equipment warn and unmaintained, our choices will be limited to say the least. If Putin is careful, and doesn’t insult us like we have Russia, he can limit our power for a long time to come while we deal with our severe internal problems. Chances are high that we might even come out of this with the Russians being our friends.

  7. Maxon 19 Aug 2008 at 8:30 pm 7

    Emery mentions,

    “we better pray that he’s not reading John Boyd.”

    http://tinyurl.com/5aavlp

    “US military surprised by speed, timing of Russia military action”

    M

    [CR: The Russians actually got pretty good at blitzkrieg tactics by the end of the war. Their attack on Manchuria (August – September 1945) is still studied today. I remember reading Savkin’s book on operational art and tactics much earlier in my career, and Boyd used to mention it sometimes when he was giving Patterns.

    I think they know how to do it, but they probably don’t have very many forces with the training to carry it out.]

  8. Maxon 20 Aug 2008 at 8:26 am 8

    “Their recent anti-Russian rhetoric is aimed at the American people, not at the Russians. Hot air for domestic U. S. propaganda purposes.”

    Perhaps, however, let’s give serious consideration that this retoric, however potentialy innocous, is in fact now backed up by actions that speak far louder than words.

    http://tinyurl.com/6xwodb

    “Rice signs missile defense deal with Poland”

    Now, If the Russians were to conduct themselves as the Isrealis,
    would to a similar placement in thier own neighborhood,
    or as the US probably might to similar if placed in Cuba,
    for example, one might expect an airstrike against that
    target.

    This is potentaly a very dangerous development.
    And probably not in the best interests of the world
    much less the United States right now.

    However, that hasn’t detered Washington at all
    recently.

    The inane beligerence being exibited in US forgien policy right now, in the twilight of this administration, and in the face of what continues in Iraq, particuarly Afganistan, possibly to include Iran, and with looming very serious potential trouble with even Pakistan, is to me, utterly astonishing !

    I quote a line from a favourite hollywood movie;

    “You’re going to get something you never
    barganed for, and only a lunatic wants.”*

    * Sydney Lumets classic Failsafe.

    Now throw this into that mix, do the math, and build a snowmobile.

    http://tinyurl.com/5ltnw8
    “Large U.S. bank collapse ahead, says ex-IMF economist”

    MaXimillian

  9. Maxon 20 Aug 2008 at 10:07 am 9

    CR: “The Russians actually got pretty good at blitzkrieg tactics”

    No Dougbt Chet, I’d be a fool to dis-agree.

    I think a big part of the point I tried to make and wether or not
    “they” know about “Boyd,” or thier own version of “Boydinski.’
    ;0)
    What concerns me most is that despite our touted resourches,
    intelligence, sattelites, electronics, spys, cyber, etc, Our people
    were apparently “Shocked And Awed” by this, to apply our own discredited cliche.

    Moreover, that imples the Ruskies were well inside our OODA
    loop, or ability to percieve and even imagine on that one.

    That does not “bode” (Boyd) well. (play on words)

    MaX

  10. Barryon 20 Aug 2008 at 10:43 am 10

    Russians pretty good at blitzkreig by the end… in Manchuria 1945

    Well they had twice thrashed the Japanese –expanding out of Manchuko — seven years before.

    In those cases the Russians led with their strength : massed artillery. The success of the German Blitzkreig was largely due to Russian overconfidence in having their forces too far forward .

    Stalin (who Georgians say was an Ossetian) had a whole year to prepare for the German attack after Hitler won in France, he preferred to think the Germans were scared of him or bent on invading Britain.

    German forces suffered their heaviest casualities in the opening months when their advance slowed enough to allow the Soviets to organise artillery and play their strong suit.

    [CR: True.

    The point is that 3GW/maneuver warfare/blitzkrieg was not unknown to the Russians as far back as the later stages of WWII. We might be making a mistake if we assume that we are the only military capable of employing them today.]

  11. EmeryNelsonon 20 Aug 2008 at 3:02 pm 11

    Over and over we keep hearing that the US military was shocked by the speed of the Russian advance and we had no warning as to Russian intentions. This is ridiculous in the extreme since they had warned of doing this since 2006 if Georgia tried to use force in Ossetia. It says more about the glacial pace of US operations (and a lack of Intelligence analysis), which is caused by command bloat, centralization, and an over reliance on technology. We can’t imagine that foreigners could operate faster than the US military. The only thing that should cause “Shock and Awe” is the repeated failures of the US to divine the simplest intentions.

    The facts below were good as of 2006. Corrections in the Russian order of battle would be appreciated but it’s not likely to be worse today then it was at that time. In fact the Russians have spent the last two years modernizing and reorganizing their forces and it’s probably much better than in 2006.

    58th Army HQ, the ones responsible for the invasion, is located less than 130K (80 miles) from the Georgian Border at Vladakavkaz (SP?). Units from the 76th AB were also involved although I’m guessing that it’s only one Parachute regiment, likely the 104th (The 58th Army rapid reaction force. It’s kept at full strength and has the best equipment including BMD 3s). The total troops involved in the operation numbered 15,000 according to Georgian and Press reports (which likely come from Georgian sources). This is probably an exaggeration and it’s closer to 8000 with support units (Spetsnaz, engineers and forward air) keeping it below 10,000. This was not a huge operation and they were already on the border. Unlike us, the Russian intel gave Putin and his minions a heads up as to Georgian intentions.

    One Motor Rifle divisons (MRD) is stationed in Northern Ossetia and and another in Abkhazia, although it’s likely less than one MR regiment in each location. From press photos it appears they have BMP 3s and the latest Russian tanks. This wasn’t hard. It’s as if the Mexican army tried to retake Texas (assuming we had a somewhat functional command apparatus) as far as logistics and available units go.

    Doug MacGregor pointed out that we trained the Georgians in COIN (ethnic cleansing?) and they had no chance against an armor heavy combined arms team. Perhaps that is the central point.

  12. Barryon 21 Aug 2008 at 5:56 am 12

    Seeing Russia as the threat has great advantages for the army. I bet they are already dusting off a proposal for the XM2001 Crusader artillery system that Rumsfeld denied them.

  13. Barryon 21 Aug 2008 at 7:16 am 13

    Russia’s strength will inexorably declinine along with it’s population, it will need the West to prevent it from being dominated by China who have the population and economic vitality to dominate the region in a generation.
    The EC is the biggest threat to the Ukraine and Baltic countries if their people get freedom of movement with full membership of the EC all those states will simply implode ; they will be left with the old and workshy, most of the young or enterprising will leave just as they are leaving Poland now.

  14. Maxon 21 Aug 2008 at 8:52 am 14

    “Over and over we keep hearing that the US military was shocked”

    You’ve done very well bringing this information to the thread Emery.

    If that’s the case, one suggestion raised maybe that US intelligence and military services are once again overstating and exagerating the capabilites and potential threat imposed by the Russians.
    As they were proven to have done to varying degrees throughout the cold war, in promotion of self interests.

    M

    http://tinyurl.com/5vjsu5

    “”As for the Russian army, he scoffs, “They are not capable of a new Cold War. They are badly dressed, badly equipped, and many of them are drunk. There are just a lot of them.”””

    http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=307366

  15. Barryon 21 Aug 2008 at 12:25 pm 15

    “many of them are drunk”
    – Alcohol was issued to the British soldiers going over the top in ww1. This was Navy rum and highly alcoholic, in one account troops that got a double ration by mistake were falling about unable to leave the trenches.
    They may have been drinking but it takes a lot to get Russians drunk, sounds like celebratiing victory to me. Some Argentinians attributed the Falklands war to General Galtieri’s whiskey inbibing. Good thing Putin is that rarest of Russians: a teetotaler.

  16. loggie20on 21 Aug 2008 at 4:03 pm 16

    About Crusader, it had a very unfortunate name for the oil sheik lovers, how Clintonesque!

    The need for shock and awe should get tons more money for FCS.

    There is an indirect fires version in the FCS family of systems.

    FCS is the most expensive approach to delivering force by C-130 to be trounced by the Russian Army in some unimportant adventure the US Army needs to justify it achieving a third of the DoD largesse.

    Too light, too soft, too unreliable and too dependent on the support tail.

    The answer to the Russian Army is to meet it in Poland for the first time undiminished by its bulk.

  17. Maxon 22 Aug 2008 at 7:15 am 17

    “They may have been drinking but it takes a lot to get Russians drunk, sounds like celebratiing victory to me.”

    Interesting observation, also entertaining.
    It’s entirely possible, and not out of character, particualry in light of what leaked out and we heard of Soviet forces imeadiately after the fall of communisim.

    However remember that’s Saakashvili talking, so we take it all with the proverbial TON of salt.

    I for one find it’s difficult to trust much in the way of news coming out of there these days, and from practicaly any source or slant.

    However that keeps us thinking, so It’s all good.

    Max

  18. Mycophagiston 22 Aug 2008 at 12:43 pm 18

    Takes a lot to get me drunk, which in turn allows me to mix my drinking with my thinking. But then again, I’m of Ukrainian background, not Russian.

    The success of the Russians against Georgia, is much like the success of our military against Iraq. We whupped em good! And trust me on this, I can go to any elementary school in the country, and whip anyone up to sixth grade without a problem. :)

    Ahh, I can see a future in Pro Boxing! (Just keep me away from those high school kids)

    Dave

  19. Maxon 03 Sep 2008 at 9:20 am 19

    EM says,

    “Putin is inside Jorge’s OODA loop… and why should he stop with Georgia? Let’s look at what he’s done with Georgia in relation to Boyd.”

    Brilliant analysis and supported in this article;

    http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=13397

    “To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin – with former Russian president (now prime minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.”.

  20. Mycophagiston 04 Sep 2008 at 3:58 pm 20

    Maxs wrote:
    http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=13397

    Interesting link and article – Thanks.

    But there is a premise in that article that implies that an overiding “interest” of Russia is the control of Caspian Sea oil? Is that true? If it IS true, then don’t we have an inherent interest in controlling Middle Eastern oil?

    Since Russia’s “needs” do not include possession of this oil, what then is their overiding interest? Control over European energy sources?

    Once a question reaches the question of overiding interest, I kind of shake my head. We have such an interest in access to oil, not necessarily controlling it. This action on the part of the Russians is a threat to everyone elses interest, not so much an inherent one of their own.

    If this is correct, then they, more than we, are taking and playing a high risk game.

    Dave

  21. Maxon 05 Sep 2008 at 9:03 am 21

    there is a premise in that article that implies that an overiding “interest” of Russia is the control of Caspian Sea oil? Is that true? If it IS true, then don’t we have an inherent interest in controlling Middle Eastern oil?

    Sure, but consider that the Caspian region WAS the dominion of the old Soviet Empire. They’re invested there heavily.

    What can be said of the middle East and the USA ?

    Who put the moves on the Middle east first, in this centuries
    round of agression ?

    The Brits might have a claim ?

    I agree with your position overall, and find it irronic that it’s
    ok when we do it, and a crime against humanity when “they”
    do it.

    Maybe I’m an idiot, maybe, someone needs to set me straight
    on that one.

    Moreover, it’s a big mess, all’ round, and I don’t pretend to understand.
    M

  22. Maxon 05 Sep 2008 at 9:29 am 22

    Another thing to consider is that Georgia is litteraly on Russia’s
    door step, as say Canada is to the the USA, and NOT clear on the other side of the world.

    Perhaps the only reason the US hasn’t invaded Canada is because
    of the profound cultural, scocial, economic, cultural, and lingustic like mindedness, and far more signifcantly and also what protects the Mexicans, is that the Canadians are fully co-operative in dealings
    with the lions share of thier resourches and are not withholding or giving preference-in dealings with others.

    Imagine if Canada and/or Mexico decided to stop selling thier oil
    to America, and started dealing extensively with China instead ?

    At top speed, the Abrams M1s can be from Fort Drum in upper
    NYS to Ottawa, in a matter of hours.

    Here’s another fine disertation covering the larger issues,
    and direction of American Defence and the national interests
    that’s likely to be of interests and garnish considerable empathy among the ranks.

    http://tinyurl.com/5nmagz

  23. Mycophagiston 06 Sep 2008 at 4:24 pm 23

    Max wrote:
    “Perhaps the only reason the US hasn’t invaded Canada is because…”

    And Mexico?

    Here I speak for myself – My normal reation to events, is what did America do now? Is this Always a fair reaction? IS recent history simply a summary of every pot that we have our fingers in? Are there other players?

    On the one hand, I believe our country is reaching the point of, if not economic collapes, then certainly a collapse from the affectation of being the only super-power. We are indeed, running on empty. And just what will occur if the Russians have a stranglehold on European energy resources?

    If our geopolitical moves are often immoral, is that an excuse, intellectual or otherwise, to forgive their moves?

    As in all things Bushy, he’s screwing the works up. Doesn’t mean, that like a stopped clock, he can’t be right for the wrong reasons.

    As your first link put it, “The Georgians fell into the Russian trap”

    What’s so moral about a Russian trap?

    Dave

  24. Maxon 07 Sep 2008 at 11:50 am 24

    Dave says,

    “SNIP what did America do now? Is this Always a fair reaction? IS recent history simply a summary of every pot that we have our fingers in? Are there other players?”

    Interesting Dave.
    I’m not going to bite on a suggestion of a world-wide orchistrated
    consperacy that maybe “out to get, America.” That includes Russia’s vital interests, in their own backyard, and just as we claim to have ours, and no matter how tenious and far flung, they have their’s
    as do others including China.

    The upshot being that to do so, would to once again go backwards, and emphericaly affrim the US propensity (obsession and compulsion) to admonish responsibilty, and always blame others.

    It might be interesting to take a look at the invasion, protracted
    occupation, and virtual annexation of Iraq from the purely bussines
    and investment perspective.

    Disguarding lofty concerns over human suffering, sacrifice and loss,
    hedgemony, hubris, and dis-enfranchisement & alienation in the court of public & world opinion, including short and medium term support.

    Take the profesionaly detached view of an investment banker, or oil company executive, as is co-incedenentaly, the current President Of The United States, turned professional politician.

    Here’s some information to start with. Do an analysis of investment
    from the perspective of a futures contract, investment, VS potential
    to reap and sustain profit re-couping investment very many times over.

    Do the math, build a snowmobile, see if it flys, you may be surprised.

    Afganistan of course is an entirely different proposition, and from
    the same narrowed perspective a non-win scenario.

    M

    http://www.auburn.edu/~thomph1/iraq.htm
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0110/dailyUpdate.html
    http://tinyurl.com/5jpqbk
    http://tinyurl.com/5gh66f

  25. Mycophagiston 08 Sep 2008 at 7:24 pm 25

    Well Max, you don’t have to convince me that the kettle is black, what about the pot?

    Are we not under the impression that Shevradnasi was overthrown to create a pro-western government? But Georgia already had a pro-western government.

    And Russian tells us that American money caused Shevradnasis fall (all names are spelled wrong)

    But the only money was provided by that well known Bush tool, George Soros.
    http://www.registan.net/?p=5674 Registan.net » Shevardnadze Smacks Down Interviewer

    http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LL238441.htm Reuters AlertNet – INTERVIEW-Shevardnadze says Georgia must join NATO after war

    And what’s going on in Russia as Putin tightens the screws?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nashi_(Ours) Nashi (youth movement) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Dave

  26. Maxon 09 Sep 2008 at 2:52 pm 26

    “Well Max, you don’t have to convince me that the kettle is black, what about the pot?”

    Applogies, I often forget who I’m interacting with,
    where I am, I think there’s a name for that.

    ;0)
    M