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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8419/disarm-the-lesson-of-the-georgia-fiasco/

Disarm: The Lesson of the Georgia Fiasco

August 22, 2008 by

George Bush, with the clock ticking down the last months of his presidency, nearly started yet another war that might have escalated in the manner of World War I: a diplomatic failure backed by arms that resulted in a superpower clash.

It is a wonder that the world has survived his “war on terror,” which turned out to be a war on American liberty and anyone in the world who got on his nerves. His confrontation with Russia in defense of a belligerent little client state of the United States could have sealed his fate and ours too. FULL ARTICLE

{ 13 comments }

Max August 22, 2008 at 10:36 am

It is quite sad to see an article by Mr. Rockwell himself being built entirely on the notion that an entity that received military support granted by current US government, or, to that extent, any US government, is unequivocally evil, and definitely more evil than any of its opponents. Being a Russian citizen myself, I can only say I’m a bit surprised that when comparing two imperialisms one might find the Russian version preferrable.

The point I desire to make, therefore, is that Mr. Rockwell’s view is, first, considerably biased and, second, his comment is seriously flawed methodologically – in favour of emotions.

Calling Saakashvili a revanchist and a wannabe-dictator might appear a good point. However, both accusations are in fact quite far from reality. Let’s treat the dictatorship issue first.

It is known that he won his second elections with something around 95% of the votes. If you believe this is enough to consider him a totalitarian ruler you’re having exactly the same methodology problems which are usually pointed out in mainstream econometry: you’re mistaking some correlation for cause-and-effect connection.

Second, Saakashvili’s revanchism prior to the events of August 7 has only been a feature of his rhetorics. More the point, it was not the “we shall smite them and torture them and kill them” kind; he had rather focused his attention on regaining political control and trying to maintain stability in the region. When I say ‘stability’ I primarily mean ‘some way for people who live there to earn their living’. It is slightly different in Abkhazia, where there is a port and a bunch of seaside hotels, but South Ossetia for about 20 years now has been a huge Russian military base.

There is no other source of income in this separatist state apart from the Russian federal budget. There’s just approx. 100,000 of them and they hardly get more than $50 per month on average, so it’s quite feasible. (Note that Russian military budget is tens of billions, and don’t tell me it’s fifty times smaller than the American: the point is, with Russian military budget you never know what happens with the money assigned).

And as far as South Ossetia authorities are concerned, there is no desire to get one. The fact is, for the last five years or so Russian policy in the region was centered on supporting separatists in ways which go far beyond conventional diplomacy. In a sneaky move they were given Russian passports – bypassing all the procedures the relevant laws require. They were granted military and financial support. More the point, they were given political support – I mean political support for their provocative military actions.

In fact, the beginning of the war was not Georgian army entering the city of Tskhinvali and South Ossetians running North for help, or hiding in cellars, or begging for mercy while their daughters were trampled by tanks and their sons raped. This had all happened in reality, but there was something before that.

There were provocations from South Ossetia. They were numerous. They happened every other week, but they were very poorly covered in media. There was some response from the Georgian side, of course, so it was like a bunch of missiles flying this way – ten minutes later you have some mortar fire as a means of saying ‘good day to you as well’.

What was only different this time was the hysteroid response of Saakashvili. It was quite probably his sole personal decision that no one dared doubt – but then, again, it is not a trait of a dictator rule. Remember it’s Caucasus. There are times when you don’t argue with the elder people – such is the culture. Remember another thing: Saakashvili had spent the whole week talking about another round of negotiations with South Ossetia.

So it went like this. Some fire in the morning. A couple of hours later he says ‘guys, we gotta talk’. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. One day, he does his ‘we gotta talk’ routine and a new provocative fire is started some 20 minutes after that. And only then does he go ‘oh fuck you’ and gives order to begin the offensive.

Not that I’m trying to say it’s acceptable behaviour or something. I’m just telling you the story. What we have so far is South Ossetia, who knows that the Russians are behind and ready to help, starting another provocation, and then there’s Georgia, who responds in a highly hysteroid manner. It is probable, too, that their idea was not as much to destroy Tskhinvali and murder everyone, as Russian media have been trying to convince anyone Russian-speaking ever since, but rather to scare them and occupy the land.

What happened next is the coolest part. Within 12 hours after the Georgian offensive had begun, the Russian 58th Army was in the area of the conflict. I don’t mean the peacekeepers – new troops, new tanks and new whatnot.

And then the tide turned. And then it began to dawn on some of my fellow citizens that this is not just a peacekeeping operation. No wait, it’s not even peace enforcement. No wait, it doesn’t even look like operation requital – it’s downright aggression.

Given the ‘provocation – hysterics – aggression’ scheme, I find it hard to believe that there had been no plans on the Russian side. You see, 58th Army is not usually in such state that it can start acting within 12 hours. No army is – unless it really is going to do something right now.

Once again, let me point out I’m not trying to protect Saakashvili in the context of this war. If you will, I’m proposing a question of quilt distribution: is it the provocator or the hysteroid you would blame?

Consider a man walking down the street – being furiously attacked by some three feet high kid. He says ‘shove off’ and pushes him aside; the latter goes wailing, and perhaps justly so, for being pushed aside by a striding man may hurt even if he didn’t mean that it hurt too much. But what happens next is that out a back street appears a thug who’d been lurking there all the time and says ‘why do you treat my little lad so badly?’ and starts to bash up the man.

It may look a silly story, but it really is the best metaphor there is for that war.

And that in fact is the reason why the failure of US diplomacy had not been the prime cause behind the beginning of the war, and in fact had not been any cause behind it at all. True that US diplomats didn’t prevent Saakashvili from acting hysterically. However, there was nothing they could have done about Russian provocation.

The point is, Mr. Rockwell, when you aim to blame your government in all the sins of the world, please remember the lesser ones. We are weak maybe, but when it comes to evil, we contribute every effort we can.

PS. Speaking of Saakashvili’s efforts out of the context of the war, I’m afraid Mr. Rockwell lacks some vital information on the status of Georgian economy. It currently undergoes a stage of rapid privatization. The state is becoming smaller – whole ministries are shrinking in headcount and size, moving to smaller and cheaper dwellings. The road police has been eliminated, so the traditional post-Soviet practice of having a special cop on the road for bribery is no more found in Georgia. The taxes had been diminished and the social program of the state greatly optimized – unlike Russia, there are personal social support programs in case usual state pension is not sufficient. Up to August 7 Georgia has been a much friendlier place to invest. And so on and so forth.

Eric August 22, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Max,

Thank you for those informative remarks. Given that, it is disturbing to see a website devoted to Mises publishing a screed that endorses the violence of an autocrat while condemning a man who has been heroic in his efforts to bring classical liberalism to this little corner of the world. One doesn’t have to advocate American intervention to simply recognize the good guys and the bad guys here.

fundmentalist August 22, 2008 at 1:36 pm

There is some evidence that the Russians are immitating the US/NATO response to the Serbian/Kosovo situation. A group within Kosovo wanted independence from Serbia and the US forced Serbia to surrender the territory after quite heavy aerial bombardiment and ignoring Russian protests. The Russians might have been thinking that if NATO can do it, so can we.

George P August 22, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Fundmentalist,

There is no equivalence, moral, political or otherwise between Kosovo and Ossetia/Abkhazia.Politically the comparison would be to Chechnya where the Russians were permitted by the internaltional community to use the most brutal means to put down the revolt. This was done because it was considered an internal matter and Russia was given, as is the international norm, the greatest lattitude to deal with it. Apparently, Russia is not willing to extend the same consideration to Georgia. There is the added feature that whereas the Chechnyans did not receive nor need outside support for their revolt the Ossettians and Abkhazians have been supported in their insurgency by the Russian FSB.

Eric and Max,

You should not be surprised at Rockwell’s sentimensts here. He like Rothbard, is quite willing to be the “useful idiot” for tyranicall regimes. Throughout the cold war Rothbard saw no real threat from the Soviet Union. Once you conclude as these anarchists have, that the State is the locus of all evil, there is no distinction between the Soviet Union and the US, Russia and Georgia, and in fact you can from the freedom and safety of our evil State launch the most misguided and ignorant criiticisms. This is the reason that libertarians will always be a fringe movement never taken seriously by anybody. What is maddening is they use Mises’s name who was not a pacifist or anarchist and never expressed sentiments like these.

Mark August 22, 2008 at 4:31 pm

How this has been spun by the Liberal Media into an “Innocent Georgia was attacked unprovoked by Russia” is no mystery to me.
It was Georgia who invaded Osettia, a Russian protectorate-what else did that idiot Comrade Saakashvili think was going to happen-the Russkis would deliver him a birthday cake?
(Or a box of new neckties to slobber on?)
They came to defend Osettia.
The US wants an excuse to put a missile shield around the area-would we allow the Russians to put a line of missiles all along the border, inside Canada? I think not.
So they have a right to be mad-and use force to stop this blunder by wonder boy Bush and the has-been NeoCON-artist movement.

The Youtube video of Saakashvili slobbering on his tie, while trying to chew on it/stuff it in his mouth at some function or press conference, is worth the price of admission alone.
Some of the usefull idiots of US/Israeli policy try to deflate the film by saying “He was only wiping his chin and mouth……….” (!!)

I gotta say that only an idiot would use his tie to chew on or clean his mouth with in front of the world. Only an idiot would invade Ossetia, knowing full well what Russians response would be.

Anyway-wuddya think they make napkins for?

George P August 22, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Clever use of language. Georgia did not invade anybody. Osettia is part of Georgia. Russia on the other hand invaded Georgia. As for the pre-text of protecting ethnic minorities in a foreign country that excuse has a long and sordid history. Anybody remember Sudetenland?

Loren August 22, 2008 at 9:31 pm

Oh yes, talk about limiting government all you want, but don’t you dare disrespect the evil demons out there that demand a military machine.

I guess I can take some solace in the fact that neocons are starting to really fear mises.org, even to the point where they are posting in the blog and hinting Mises was pro cold war.

hayesy August 22, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Yes, Loren. We’re the Evil Neocon Zionist Warmonger Flying Monkey Army on orders from Bush to shut down this treasonous debate. And 9/11 was an inside job. And no blood for oil. And the Fed is a private cabal of Jewish bankers. Et cetera.

The tragedy is that this kind of Lenin-esque pontificating on American “imperialist” foreign policy analysis undermines the very incisive and germane economic commentary the Mises Institute helps to promote. Those unfamiliar with sound economics may stumble onto the site, happen upon an article like this, which might just as easily have been written by Michael Moore, and dismiss the economic content as just another subset of paranoid, kook fringe politics.

Loren August 22, 2008 at 11:32 pm

hayesy, so it seems you are trying to separate economic and political freedom… good luck.

Yep, I question the USA’a foreign policy because I am a libertarian, but apparently I am Lenin-esque. I’ve been called worse, but then again I started it by calling you guys neocons.

hayesy August 23, 2008 at 1:16 am

Don’t need luck, but thanks for your concern. I’ll get back to you regarding libertarian foreign policy when we’re living in an ideal world.

Lenin-esque, incidentally, is the best adjective I can think of regarding the knee-jerk prescriptions of imaginary imperialism, not skepticism of foreign policy per se. I’m always open to better suggestions, but it’ll do for now.

Brainpolice August 23, 2008 at 5:47 am

Sigh.

Matt Haak August 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Max,

Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. They were very interesting and I think an important reminder that even Lew Rockwell is capable of biased insight. I am curious though if you could share your thoughts on this brief excerpt from Louis Bromfield’s A New Pattern for a Tired World. It is an interesting commentary on how the enemies of the United States are portrayed as compared to what they actually are. Keep in mind the book was published in 1954.

As in the case of Europe, so again the average American lazily or ignorantly maintains a vague physical picture of Russia which resembles his own U.S. and again he falls victim to the military and bureaucratic propaganda which constantly presents Russia as a vast, rich, united, powerful, productive world power which it is not.

If we take the vast land mass of Soviet Russia, we discover that the actual known real wealth and natural resources are small by comparison even with the united resources of Canada and the United States alone. By comparison Russia has very little reliable agricultural land which can be depended upon consistently to produce adequate amounts of food. By far the greater part of the vast land mass is desert, frozen tundra or dry blowing sand. A huge part of her territories lies within the barren Arctic Circle. And the greater part of her agricultural land, because of undependable rainfall and extremes of temperature, is fit only for raising occasional quick crops of wheat which are themselves subject to periodic failure through adverse weather conditions. Russia’s balance of wheat for export is always small and is frequently found only by actually sacrificing the bread of her own people. Genuine famines and near famines have occurred frequently during Soviet Russian history.

Forest areas are perhaps Russia’s greatest single asset, and these remain in regions where soil, if cleared, cannot be converted to an agricultural and food potential. Means of transportation are primitive or nonexistent. Just as in China and India manpower becomes a liability, so in Russia the vast sterile distances and the huge expanse of barren territory become a handicap useful only as a military protection – and in the grim realities of and atomic world with long-distance planes they no longer serve even in that capacity. Moreover, Russia is made up of countless races, tribes, and sub-tribes of peoples speaking different languages and possessing utterly different religions, traditions and customs.

The fact is that since the beginning of greater Russia as a nation, its whole history, under the Czars or the Soviets, has been a history of gigantic expansion in which gains have never been consolidated or digested. The absorption of the smaller Middle European and Balkan nations can well become a liability rather than the dubious asset it now is, especially since the Soviet government continues unbroken the traditional Czarist policy of exploiting and pilfering newly taken territories rather than developing and absorbing them in an economic and co-operative sense.

Again the fact is that much of the “menace” of Russia is fictitious and has been created through propaganda out of Russia herself and by those forces in the Western World, particularly by generals and politicians in the United States, who wants to expand their own power, influence and financial appropriations. All this has been of the greatest aid to Russia and the Comintern and in general has promoted on many occasions the effectiveness of her bluffing tactics in international affairs.

While the average American citizen has a lazy mental picture of Russia as a nation with schools, railroads, hard-surfaced roads, automobiles, modern telephones and a network of plane services, and is encouraged in this picture by the hysterical or warmongering elements which constantly emphasize the threat of Russian power and menace, the picture is grotesquely false. Schools, except in a few areas, are primitive. The distribution and mileage of railroads is far below that of the U.S. and by far the greater part of the railroads and equipment and rolling stock is antiquated and in wretched condition. Telephones, save in a few limited metropolitan areas, are primitive or unknown. Commercial plane service in the abundance and efficiency known in Europe, South America and the U.S. and Canada, does not exist. Living standards and diet are among the lowest in the world. Luxuries are unknown save to a small minority of Communist bureaucrats. Even what most Europeans or Americans regard as necessities, such things as dwelling places, shoes and clothing, are of shabby quality, scarce and ferociously expensive.

A New Pattern for a Tired World. Louis Bromfield. Harper & Brothers, New York. 1954

George P August 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Matt,

I disagree neither with Bromfield’s history nor his assessment of Russia’s strength. I do disagree with his claim that military and bureaucratic (read Right Wing) interests exaggerated Russian power. The biggest propagandists for the Soviet Union were on the American Left who as late as the 80′s claimed that the Soviet economy was already outpacing the US. Lester Thurrow ( I may have mispelled his name) a noted economist from MIT was singing the praises of the Soviet economy only a couple of years before the whole thing collapsed. Despite the fundamental weakness of Russian society they managed to produce 10,000 nuclear weapons during the cold war. This fact requires no exaggeration. They still possess some 4500 weapons today. Russians are at the core an insecure people who need to dominate others. They believe respect comes from military power and the exercise of that power. They do not understand that influence and respect come from achievements, in the arts, sciences and commerce and the only purpose the military serve is to protect these achievements.

It is tempting for civilized peoples in the West to dismiss such barbarians as the Russians. We do so at our peril. Before 9/11 who would have taken 19 idiots trying to fly airplanes seriously? Any attempt to investigate them was seen as paranoia on our part or worse as Bromfield suggests self-serving fear- mongering. It is not funny anymore.

If 19 Arabs with no significant resources can cause that much harm think of what a country with thousands of nuclear weapons could do. The Soviet Union was an existential threat and not a figment of Right Wing paranoia as so many revisionists would have us believe.

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