Cathy Young Responds to Glenn Greenwald Re: The Left and Putin's Russia

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Editor's Note: On October 24, Contributing Editor Cathy Young wrote a column taking the left to task for "making excuses for Putin's Russia." That column, which discussed in detail Salon's Glenn Greenwald, provoked a response from Greenwald, which can be read here. Below, Cathy Young responds to Greenwald.

Several points are in order.

1.  Once again, Greenwald muddies the issue by conflating two different positions: (A) that Russia's invasion of Georgia was an "unprovoked" attack; and (B) that the principal "bad guy" in the conflict was Russia while the principal victim was Georgia.  Position A is indeed, as Greenwald states in his new post, "factually false."  But it has not been espoused, to my knowledge, by any prominent person other than Sarah Palin.  Position B is indeed the consensus, not only in the United States but also in Europe, as evidenced by the European Union's strong commitment to Georgia's reconstruction.  (The preliminary report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, issued on October 2, faulted Georgia for escalating the conflict to open warfare but devoted about ten times as much space to criticizing Russia's actions.  The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers also contained some criticism of Georgia's actions but concluded that these actions could not be regarded as aggression against Russia to which Russia had a legitimate right to respond.) 

If Greenwald wants to challenge the view that Georgia was the principal victim in the conflict, that is of course his right.  However, he can hardly call this view a "blatant falsehood" or "factually false"; it is an entirely legitimate interpretation of the events.

According to Greenwald, the instances I cited of Georgia's role in the conflict being acknowledged in the U.S. media are just isolated dissenting viewpoints against the backdrop of a prevailing orthodoxy.  Not so.  These examples show that Palin was widely criticized for characterizing the Russian attack as "unprovoked," and that Condoleezza Rice accurately described the Georgian role in initiating military action in her speech at the German Marshall Fund.  There are numerous other examples, such as this Time magazine article.  In a random TV news transcript I pulled off Lexis/Nexis, from NBC Nightly News on August 10, both anchor Brian Williams and reporter Tom Aspell clearly stated that the Russian invasion came in response to the "Georgian attack" to retake South Ossetia.  A September 16 New York Times article about new evidence offered by Georgia to back up its claim that Russia actually started the military action was based on the premise that Georgia is generally viewed as the instigator of the open conflict.

2.  My very first article on the Russia/Georgia conflict, published on August 13, stated that Saakashvili is "no liberal hero," that his move to reestablish control over South Ossetia "was not only a major strategic blunder but also an assault on an area heavily populated by civilians," and that "on a political level, there are no real good guys in this conflict; the only true innocents are the ordinary people caught in the crossfire."  It's a bit absurd, then, to suggest that I accuse anyone who doesn't consider Saakashvili a hero in a while hat of being a Putin-symp.

3.  I strongly disagree with Charles Krauthammer's column, quoted by Greenwald in his latest post, accusing Obama of "moral equivalence" for his initial statement urging "mutual restraint" by Russia and Georgia.  Obama's statement on August 8, made immediately after the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali and the Russian counter-assault, was entirely appropriate at that point.  However, I have a far higher opinion of Obama than does Greenwald, who scoffs:

After an initial lapse into fact-based rationality, Obama quickly followed suit and has faithfully recited the approved script ever since, and any dissent—and truth—about the Russia/Georgia War has thus basically disappeared from mainstream political debate.

Could it be that Obama changed his response (the very next day) as the circumstances of the war changed, and as it became clear that Russia was using the counterattack in South Ossetia as a springboard for full-scale aggression against Georgia?  Incidentally, in his later full statement on the issue, Obama harshly condemned Russia but also urged Georgia to "refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," so Greenwald is quite wrong to say that he adopted a completely one-sided position on the issue.

4.  Greenwald approvingly quotes a BBC report claiming that Russia came to be seen as the bad guy in the conflict because it "lost the propaganda war" and just wasn't as good at spin as Georgia and its U.S. backers.  This notion, also eagerly adopted by Russian officials, is utter nonsense.  Russia lost the propaganda war because it made claims that turned out to be flagrantly false—such as the absurd allegations of Georgian "genocide" in South Ossetia.  Russia's initial estimates of 1,500 to 2,000 dead in Tskhinvali have quietly dropped to about 150, and according to PACE findings most of those dead may have been combatants.  Reports of atrocities such as execution-style shootings of young men, rapes, and intentional killings of children turned out to be pure fiction.  As the PACE report recognized, while both sides were guilty of violence toward civilians, most of the ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia was inflicted by South Ossetian militias on Georgians while the territory was under Russian control.  (This highly informative statement by a Human Rights Watch representative discusses grossly unreliable claims by South Ossetian refugees.  Yes, they're all a bunch of neocons over there at HRW.)

5.  Greenwald thinks the notion of autocratic Russia trying to snuff out Georgian democracy is too simplistic.  Really?  Few dispute that Russia has engaged in a covert war against Georgia since 2004, when Saakashvili came to power after the "Rose Revolution." One of Russia's tactics in this covert war was to create a class of "Russian citizens" within Georgia by issuing Russian passports to thousands of South Ossetians.   (If the Bush administration gave the status of expatriate U.S. citizens to thousands of people in a separatist Iranian province and then used their "protection" as a pretext to invade Iran, would Greenwald see moral ambiguities in this situation?  Somehow, I doubt it.)  Over the same four years, Russia turned South Ossetia into the world's most militarized region—essentially, an armed camp run by Russian military and security officers and a launchpad for small-scale warfare against Georgia.  (For more on the subject, see this speech at the Cato Institute by former Putin advisor Andrei Illarionov.)

Has the Georgian government made mistakes and committed abuses?  Sure.  In particular, in November 2007, Saakashvili imposed a state of emergency in response to unrest, ordered the violent dispersal of demonstrations, and temporarily shut down an opposition TV station (ironically, one owned by Rupert Murdoch).  However, shortly thereafter, he called for new elections to renew his mandate.  These elections, which took place in January 2008, were recognized as generally free and competitive by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, despite some fairness problems.  Four candidates were able to run and campaign freely, with the leading opposition candidate getting 27% of the vote.  (Saakashvili got just over 52%.)  In fact, it may well have been the "cleanest" election held so far anywhere in the former USSR.  Compare and contrast to Russia's farcical "election" of March 2008, in which no serious opposition candidate was permitted to run against Vladimir Putin's handpicked heir/puppet, Dmitry Medvedev.  In 2007, Georgia ranked 66th out of 169 countries on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters without borders, while Russia ranked 144. (In 2008, Georgia's ranking dropped to 120th as a result of the crackdown in late 2007 and the war-related press restrictions—still well above Russia, at 141.)

It is this struggling and imperfect, but nonetheless real democracy, subjected to tremendous pressure from neighboring authoritarian Russia, that Greenwald scornfully describes as a "neocon project."  A few words on that: The opposition movement that brought Saakashvili to power—and ousted the U.S.- and Russia-backed Eduard Shevardnadze—was financed mainly by that noted neocon, George Soros.  (In mid-2004, The Weekly Standard ran a rather harsh article attacking Saakashvili as a Soros puppet.)  As for the supposedly damning fact that the U.S. has helped train the Georgian military, Newsweek recently ran an interesting report on the subject.  Apparently, U.S. military involvement with Georgia actually began in 2002 in full cooperation with Russia, with the purpose of training and equipping the Georgian army to hunt down Chechen rebels (allegedly linked to the Al Qaeda) in the Caucasus mountains.  More recently, according to the report, U.S. military training programs carefully avoided doing anything that could have been perceived as training the Georgian army to fight Russian forces—which partly explains why the Georgian military fared so poorly in the war.

To sum up: Do I think Greenwald loves the Putin regime?  No, of course not.  Do I think his (often deserved) revulsion at the Bush administration's policies has turned into a knee-jerk tendency to be against whatever the "neocons" are for, and consequently into a very real moral blind spot?  Yes, and this blind spot is nowhere as evident as in Greenwald's glib, reprehensible dismissal of Georgian democracy.

A final note: I did not, of course, mean to imply that sympathy with Putin's Russia is limited to the left.  Vlad also has the European fascists in his corner.

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  1. Cathy’s comments about Obama are revealing in that they show someone who is rationally responding to a changing situation (about which he knew very little), versus McCain, whose “we are all Georgians today,” sounded like hollow, ineffective, political pandering.

    Obama sounds like he is more concerned about saving further innocent lives, rather than choosing sides.

    This one reason he is ahead in the polls.

  2. Let’s be clear what we’re debating. There are people who want the United States to let Georgia into NATO. That would mean going to war against Russia if Russia and Georgia get in another fight – or at least applying economic pressure against Russia, military aid to Georgia, and other measures “short of war.” What are the American intersts in getting involved in such a fight? Even if siding with Georgia was abstractly a good idea (and I don’t see how), would our economy be ablse to sustain another military involvement? If we went the military-aid-and-sanctions route, could we be assured it wouldn’t end up in war (I know it’s paranoid to think that sanctions and military aid would progress ultimately into war, but it *could* happen).

    We don’t seem to be discussing this very much. We’re not discussing the *alleged* American interests (Caucasian oil – pulling Europe’s chestnuts out of the fire, etc). Instead, we’re talking about noble little Georgia, how they’re a glorious 120 in some Press Freedom index rather than Russia’s repressive 144, etc.

    Where is the American interest in all this? How can that alleged interest be vindicated without messing up the economy even more than it is now? How do we balance the equities?

    In this dispute, I support the Georgian Bob Barr, who wants us to stay out of the Caucasus.

    (Don’t get me wrong – some of my best friends are Caucasians.)

  3. I don’t think Greenwald is pro-Putin at all.

    I do think there’s a kind of knee-jerk reaction against SOME of the simplistic rhetoric that is being put out.

    The problem is that Greenwald isn’t noticing that the ‘manichiean’ storyline really *isn’t* dominating the news media the way he claims it is. Actually, I don’t even think it dominated that much in the run-up to the Iraq war. There was plenty of coverage of anti-war viewpoints. The pro-war consesnsus had nothing to do with media bias and everything to do with lots of dead people in New York.

    The left has this attitude that it is perpetually the victim of a vast media conspiracy to supress it’s views. Even when their views are the dominant opinions. This goes back to Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’: Marxism hasn’t won yet, not because people disagree with it, but because the evil corporate media conspires to brainwash people out of believing in the obvious truth of it.

    In reality, it’s more like, their views get plenty of airing, but it just happens that lot of people don’t agree with them, so other non-lefty views get lots of airing too. They just aren’t happy unless everyone else’s views are suppressed the way they think theirs are. In this case, Greenwald is upset that his view that Georgia was the primary aggressor doesn’t seem to be getting as much airing as he thinks it should. But the issue is more that people know that and have moved on to talkign about the high-level issue of Russian orchestration of the overall conflict. While he’s still stuck at square one yelling “But Georgia invaded FIRST!!!!”

    Ultimately this debate comes down not to Russia versus Georgia at all, but whether you think there’s some sort of neocon conspiracy controlling the news media or not.

    If you buy the paranoid line that Chomsky has been feeding the left for years (as Greenwald clearly does), then every instance of pro-Geogian commentary gets integrated into a picture of deliberately orchestrated lopsided coverage designed to push the US into a war with Russia.

    If you don’t buy into that view, you’re likely to see a much more complex picture with multiple viewpoints competing for dominance, and a more nuanced discussion of Georgian democracy and Russian interests.

    Greenwald thinks he’s trying to argue for a more nuanced view of the conflict, but in doing so he puts out a highly simplistic view of the media coverage of it.

  4. The press’s favored shorthand description of what happened very quickly became “the Russian invasion of Georgia.” Assuming no bias whatsoever (and we could volley back and forth on that forever), I think it’s easy to see why such shorthand is both accurate yet problematic. I’m not sure if it’s entirely appropriate, or if there’s a better way to sum up what happened in a concise manner, or if it reflects any particular bias, or not. But I do assume there are folks out there who quickly forgot what little they may have read about Georgia’s instigation after reading that shorthand a lot more often than they read any accounts detailed enough to include said instigation.

    Also, the “covert war” of Russia against Georgian democracy (which possibly helps explain, if not entirely justify, Georgia’s attack) is a lot less well known still.

  5. Cathy,

    This is a pretty odd way to try to prove that there hasn’t been a consistent media narrative imposed on the situation.

    You are simultaneously arguing that there’s no consistent media narrative, but also that the consistent media narrative is justified by the events in question. Which is a lot like going into court and arguing, “I didn’t commit the crime I’ve been charged with – oh, but if I did commit it, it was justified.”

    And you’ve also returned with more parsing of quotes. If John McCain’s statement that “We are all Georgians,” and his call for a new Cold War weren’t unambiguous statements that Georgia was 100% in the right and Russia 100% in the wrong, what were they? The media’s positive and supportive reporting of McCain’s position as reflecting his “foreign policy strength” and fine moral insight are what, exactly, if not an endorsement of his view of the dispute? How much importance can we put on your obsession with the word “unprovoked”, after McCain’s statements? Maybe Palin was the only one you’ve found who used the word “unprovoked”, but if the attacks were in fact provoked, what the fuck is John McCain doing declaring us all Georgians? If they provoked the attack, we wouldn’t all be Georgians, right?

    Do I think his (often deserved) revulsion at the Bush administration’s policies has turned into a knee-jerk tendency to be against whatever the “neocons” are for, and consequently into a very real moral blind spot?

    So the neocon project has involved invading and occupying countries in the central and south asian area, and seeking military bases in other countries in the same area, but when all of a sudden a bunch of neocons on the Georgian government’s payroll happen to be on John McCain’s foreign policy team and John McCain happens to declare that we are all Georgians, we shouldn’t think that maybe Georgia policy is being set in the context of a broader regional policy? That’s just totally unreasonable? Whatever.

  6. I’m glad to see that, thanks to Greenwald’s famous lack of hesitation in defending himself, this debate is now suddenly more about what Georgia and Russia did and did not do, and less about whether Greenwald is one of those annoying leftists who have a knee-jerk contrarianism to anything America does. And yes, that’s really what Young’s first column was about:

    Or could it be that to some on the left, the cause of sticking a finger in America’s eye is progressive enough?

    Could it indeed? Hmmm…I think even having to discuss factual matters in question regarding the war provides something of an answer to that absurd question. It’s nice to see that Young, when pressed at least, can actually have a rational argument (to some extent) about facts, as opposed to merely sliming someone who disagrees with her as being vaguely anti-American.

    That being said, I don’t really understand why the history of this conflict only begins earlier in this decade for Young. Believe it or not, trouble has been brewing there since before the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. For a more nuanced portrait of what’s happened in the region (something you won’t get from Young) I recommend Robert English again.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22011

    Unlike Young, English does not believe that Georgia are the good guys in this conflict simply by the virtue of being not-Russia.

  7. Georgia got spanked for acting like bigger brother Russia.

    Russia violently put down its separatist movement in Chechnya. Georgia thought it could do the same.

    But in this case at least, there is a good argument that the break-away regions of Georgia really have no traditional connection to Georgia. When the USSR broke up, their forced integration into Georgia should have dissolved as well.

    It seems the libertarian position on this would be to support the non-violent separatists rather than the coercive central governments of Georgia or Russia.

  8. Actually, I don’t even think it dominated that much in the run-up to the Iraq war. There was plenty of coverage of anti-war viewpoints. The pro-war consesnsus had nothing to do with media bias and everything to do with lots of dead people in New York.

    Name a pundit on staff at a major network or cable news outlet who consistently articulated an anti-war position during the runup to the Iraq war. I can think of one – Donahue – and he was fired for being anti-war.

    Name one who questioned the existence of WMD in Iraq in more than a rhetorical manner.

    The fact that the media ran dismissive and disdainful stories about filthy unpatriotic hippies and foreigners holding antiwar demonstrations doesn’t really constitute “coverage of antiwar viewpoints”, Hazel. I was pro-war at the time, but I have to acknowledge that anyone who says that the media didn’t close ranks behind the march to war is a liar.

    It sounds to me like you’re arguing like Cathy: “Of course the media was behind the war, there were all those dead people in New York!” Um, the fact that you think there should have been a dominant media narrative marshalling support for war is not evidence against someone else’s claim that there was a dominant media narrative marshalling support for war.

  9. Okay, let me try to explain this one more time.

    Yes, there is a fairly consistent “media narrative” that, overall, Georgia is right and Russia is wrong. It’s a media narrative that (IMO) happens to be supported by the facts.

    However, this media narrative does not assert that Georgia is completely blameless in the conflict (which would be factually false). Maybe McCain believes that. But not even Condoleezza Rice does.

  10. “What are the American intersts in getting involved in such a fight?”

    Well, I think that there is a sequel for “Red Dawn” in the works. So this could potentially boost ticket sales.

    But all kidding aside, we really have no interest whatsoever in getting in to a fight over whether the Georgian or Russian flag flies over certain small areas in the Caucasus.

  11. One of Russia’s tactics in this covert war was to create a class of “Russian citizens” within Georgia by issuing Russian passports to thousands of South Ossetians. (If the Bush administration gave the status of expatriate U.S. citizens to thousands of people in a separatist Iranian province and then used their “protection” as a pretext to invade Iran, would Greenwald see moral ambiguities in this situation? Somehow, I doubt it.)

    How closely do you think the historical relationship between the U.S. and Iraq parallels that between Russia and Ossetia? How closely do you think the geographical and cultural relationships compare?

  12. Fine, let’s replace Iran with Mexico or Nicaragua in this example.

  13. Yes, there is a fairly consistent “media narrative” that, overall, Georgia is right and Russia is wrong. It’s a media narrative that (IMO) happens to be supported by the facts.

    Right, but not that’s what you said a couple of hours ago when you posted this article.

    Back then, in those long-forgotten, dusty and ancient days of 6:02 PM, you wrote:

    According to Greenwald, the instances I cited of Georgia’s role in the conflict being acknowledged in the U.S. media are just isolated dissenting viewpoints against the backdrop of a prevailing orthodoxy. Not so.

    Before you said there was no prevailing orthodoxy, now you say the opposite.

    I’m willing to let your last statement be your official position, however. We’ll stipulate that you’ve conceded that there is a media orthodoxy on this issue.

    Your original post attacking Greenwald consisted of two interconnected accusations: First, that Greenwald was crazy for asserting that a media orthodoxy had been imposed on this issue, and second, that the reason behind Greenwald’s craziness was because he’s a leftist who just wants to stick a finger in America’s eye. Since you have pretty much abandoned the first claim after a lot of doubletalk about it, let me ask you about the second claim:

    Why would any position Greenwald, or anyone else, takes on the Georgia/Russia conflict be “sticking” a finger in America’s eye?

    The only reason I can think of is: It is advantageous to America’s strategic issues for the media orthodoxy that Russia was the aggressor and Georgia the hapless victim to be in place, and therefore anyone who messes around with that narrative is attacking America.

    To me, this means that the very fact that you are angry at Greenwald for rocking the boat on this issue, and the fact that you consider it an American issue at all, is pretty good evidence for Greenwald’s claim that the media narrative being imposed on this story is designed to favor US interests in the region, and not necessarily to favor truth.

    And by the way, wouldn’t West Virginia be the best metaphor for South Ossetia, and not Iran or Iraq or Mexico or Nicaragua or anyplace else? A large political entity fell apart into separate states. Now, some people in one of the successor states want to go back to being part of the previous Union. Sounds like West Virginia to me.

  14. ‘Georgia democracy’ isn’t that the name of the new Guns N Roses album that they’ve been working on for 10 years?

  15. Actually, fluffy, here’s what I said at 6:02:

    Greenwald muddies the issue by conflating two different positions: (A) that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was an “unprovoked” attack; and (B) that the principal “bad guy” in the conflict was Russia while the principal victim was Georgia. … Position B is indeed the consensus.

    You say “prevailing orthodoxy,” I say “consensus.”

    Before you said there was no prevailing orthodoxy, now you say the opposite.

    No, I didn’t. I said that the “prevailing orthodoxy” (or rather, consensus) is not that Georgia is completely blameless, but that the primary aggressor was Russia.

    Why would any position Greenwald, or anyone else, takes on the Georgia/Russia conflict be “sticking” a finger in America’s eye?

    Because the U.S. has taken Georgia’s side?

  16. Well, the forum just ate a long post I had made in respose to Fluffy’s, and I am not in the mood to write another so I’ll summarize.

    There was a dominant narrative, though not a media created-one, in the run-up to the Iraq war. But the competing anti-war narrative did not go unheard.

    Here’s a couple samples from the NY Times archive.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/30/opinion/30BENJ.html?ex=1225252800&en=425e6c9d1c021f32&ei=5070
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DEEDD1338F936A15754C0A9649C8B63&scp=1&sq=gordon%20o'hanlon&st=cse

    The problem, IMO, was that so much of the anti-war movement at the time was dominated by groups like the Stalinist front ANSWER and was tainted by far-left “US had it coming” viewpoints. That so antagonized the public than nobody was willing to jump on board the movement even if they weren’t eager to go to war with Iraq.

    Because those were the people making up the anti-war movement. The competing anti-war narrative was dominated not by the more sensible arguments, but by “no blood for oil” and Marxist crap about US economic imperialism. (Just as the pro-war arguments were dominated by idiotic Saddam-Al Qaeda links and WMD talk).

    I wasn’t pro-war at the time. I was ambivalent, and listening quietly to the more sensible voices in the background making the more sensible arguments on both sides. But I don’t think that the media was itself responsible for pro-war views dominating. They’re just part of the mob, like everyone else. They happen to have bullhorns, but they tend to be only capable of shouting superficial slogans that others have invented. opinions get promulgated through other mechanisms. The TV media is just a kind of combat arena where various groups engage in rhetorical blood sport. How those groups get their opinions in the first place is something else.

  17. In order for there to be an orthodoxy on Georgia, dissenting viewpoints would somehow have to be punished. I don’t see that happening, and I don’t see Obama’s shifting stance as an example of him responding to punishment by amending his views to adhere to the orthodoxy.

  18. To me, this means that the very fact that you are angry at Greenwald for rocking the boat on this issue, and the fact that you consider it an American issue at all, is pretty good evidence for Greenwald’s claim that the media narrative being imposed on this story is designed to favor US interests in the region, and not necessarily to favor truth.

    I’m angry at Greenwald for kicking a victim of Russian aggression, just because the “neocons” happen to be on the victim’s side.

    And yes, I do happen to believe that the advance of freedom and human rigths in other parts of the world is a good thing for America and for all of us, and that the empowerment of an authoritarian police state is not. If that viewpoint makes me a “neocon,” fine.

  19. Oy, this shit is boring. Why is Cathy Young so desperate to get into a cat fight with Glenn Greenwald? Doesn’t she have something better to do?

  20. “And yes, I do happen to believe that the advance of freedom and human rigths in other parts of the world is a good thing for America and for all of us, and that the empowerment of an authoritarian police state is not. If that viewpoint makes me a “neocon,” fine.”

    Well that depends on how you think it should be advanced. If you think one country is justified in taking a couple trillion dollars from its citizens in order to invade another country, overthrow a foreign government and remove the infrastructure, leaving most of the citizens of that country worse off in many ways than before, because you believe that this advances freedom, then yes, you are a neocon. No quotes needed.

  21. Things I learned from Cathy:

    1.If you don’t agree with the W and Obama consensus on foreign policy then you must be a facist or a commie.

    2.We can effectiely spread freedom around the world by raising taxes in america or borrowing some extra money from Russia to fund covert operations in Georgia. Anyone who thinks this is not the best way to spread freedom is a commie or a facist.

    3.Georgia does not have a police state…they just shut down some tv stations and lock everyone in their houses occasionally.

    4.Cathy can be counted on to faithfully defend the policies of Obama and W and she justifies this to herself by convincing herself that it is helping to spread “human rights”.

  22. Cathy,
    Did the terrorists hate us because of our freedom?

  23. wow, Gabe, thanks for the thoughtful and not-at-all biased or annoying “criticism”.

    Do you really expect anyone other than people who already agree with you to read that crap?

  24. Gabe,

    What is the point of comments like that? Was this internet forum not up to expected jackass levels? “Screw anybody who tries to have a legitimate discussion, this is the internet, ima throw some stupidity in there!”

  25. I’m angry at Greenwald for kicking a victim of Russian aggression

    So if they were a victim of aggression by a country you weren’t contantly picking fights with, it would have been ok.

    The other implication of this statement is that Georgia’s status as “a victim of Russian aggression” should render us incapable of making any judgements about Georgia itself.

    Shut down TV stations? But the Russians!

    Thuggish squashing of dissent? But the Russians!

    Shelling South Ossetia, launching a military attack in an effort to solve a political problem? But the Russians!

  26. Ok angry optimist, I took your criticism to heart.

    Here is my thoughtful question that should not be to insulting to anyone.

    James Madison said at the constitutional convention: “Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded….War is the parent of armies, from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies and debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of teh few….No nation could preserve it’s fredom in the midst of continual warfare”

    “A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home”.

    Tocqueville warned: “All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it”

    Gabe:
    Given these powerful arguments from astute, intelligent observers, why do you continually seek to defend policies that are intervionist at every opportunity, policies which have alrady resulted in massive new power grabs fromt eh american people?….do you not see how this greatly contradicts your stated goals of desiring more human rights?

  27. I take it from the responses of angry optimist and Dave that they belive the terrorists did not really hate us for our freedom?

  28. I gotta say I agree with greenwald, again. did you know senators have quoted his blog in the well of the senate?

  29. Donahue – and he was fired for being anti-war

    I thought he was fired for being anti-viewership. Stupid unfair ratings!

  30. This is all a tempest in a teacup. Georgia was merely a trial balloon for Putinesque Russian expansion of (at least) influence in the region. Putin baited Saakashvili into a dumb play, then made his move because he sees NATO as paper tigers without U.S. supplying the muscle, and the U.S. is bogged down with Iraq/Afghanistan issues.

    Western Europe (on their own) couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. We made a bunch of noise, but both we and Putin know we’re stretched thin militarily.

    He probably would have pushed even more in the near future, but with oil/gas prices (and therefore his funding base) dropping by half recently, Putin will pull in his horns for now.

    Geo-Politics is, and has always been, a giant combo game of Risk/Chess/Poker.

    We can argue Federal/State/Local politics on a philosophical level all day, but when it comes to Nation-States, if you don’t see events on a Geo-Political level, don’t bother even commenting.

  31. Dave, we all know no one is gonna change anyones mind know matter how well thought out the argument. Either you are:

    1. a naive idiot who believes lies like “al kida hates our freedom” or

    2.you are a paid shill who writes things like “well now we are there so we should not talk about who lied to get us here we should just discuss the best way to achieve victory, we can still spread freedom if we bomb some more weddings”….”russia is the old awakening bear, we must expand NATO to militarily defeat them”…and forget about the fact we depend on them to buy our bonds, deficits aren’t important.

    3. You are already a well schooled non-interventionist who understands the many many problems that arise when you seek to tax 300 million people to fund a military superpower with the idea of assigning them to police the entire world.

    4. You are a practical person who does understand than any foreign policy goals being pushed by neo-cons probably is bad.

    once a person who is a #2 intnetionally over looks all the rational arguments and persists with innanities like ” i guess I just like to spread human rights”…then obstinate mockery of ideas is the only weapon left.

  32. Ed- Look at some numbers. Donahue was the highest rated show on MSNBC at the time and he was cancelled.

  33. Following Kant’s line of thought. Do you think that it might be a geo-political move to allow this deflationary chill to take over the economy so quickly the last couple months….thus weakening Iran and Russia to some degree?

    This could de-stabilize Iran greatly( $140 to $50 a barrel is big drop)

    If so thne Russia could retaliate by libuidating a few hundred billion in dollars/US debt…while withholding precious metals supplies from world markets…destroying the dollar and hitting American Empire just as badly….or are russia and the US really just each looking to use each other to scare their respective masses into giving up whatever liberties they are seeking next?

  34. careful amber…I sense Ed is going to use the c word before he will acknowledge our media is controlled.

  35. Joe — I really have better things to do than answering straw-man arguments and snarky asides, but do tell: Where have I said that we should make excuses for Saakashvili’s actions like dispersing protests and shutting down TV stations? Again, I pointed out these actions in my very first article on the Russia/Georgia conflict as evidence that Georgia isn’t exactly a paragon of liberal virtue. My point is that the Georgian government’s actions in November 2007 were a brief lapse into what has been the status quo in Russia for the past 5 years or so. Again, read the OSCE report I linked. Georgia had a free, open, competitive, and mostly fair election in January 2008. (“Mostly” fair because Saakashvili definitely took advantage of the benefits of incumbency and access to government resources, but I’m not sure that’s different from any election in any democracy.)

    As for “launching a military attack in an effort to solve a political problem”: I’m not saying that shelling a city is a nice thing to do, but let’s not forget that the “problem” Saakashvili tried to solve included the constant shelling of nearby Georgian villages by South Ossetian militias. Incidentally, it is pretty well established that the vast majority of non-combatants were evacuated from Tskhinvali in the first days of August, before the outbreak of open warfare (which further supports Georgia’s claim that the South Ossetian/Russian side provoked the escalation).

    Also, can someone show me where I said that we should have intervened militarily in the Russia/Georgia conflict? I don’t want World War III any more than the next person. What I reject is the notion that we should refrain from passing appropriate moral judgments because such judgments might be interpreted in favor of interventionist policies, and adopt a false moral equivalency just to keep the peace.

    Re the comment that I’m “always picking fights with” Russia, I really should not dignify that with a response. Nonetheless: I hope that I would be just as outraged if Greenwald or anyone else was kicking a victim of aggression by any other country. Russia happens to be an area where I have pretty high confidence in my ability to make sense of the situation and to sort through conflicting information. By the way, if you read my articles over the past eight years, I think it’s pretty obvious that I have been more than willing to criticize the Bush administration for tactics that threaten human rights. Oh, and as for those observations by James Madison, I have quoted them myself.

    By the way, Gabe, thank you for this observation:

    or are russia and the US really just each looking to use each other to scare their respective masses into giving up whatever liberties they are seeking next?

    Nice moral equivalency there, and instant proof that any further discussion is pointless.

  36. Without even going into such fine points as that Georgia has always been referred in all the American articles that I have seen as “small democratic Georgia,” and led by “US-educated president.” And without ever noticing that Russia, as a country, has its own interests, which just might be best pursued not by hewing to some ideological line or by deferring to interests of the US. Let’s get straight to facts on the ground…

    Both Abkhasia and (South) Ossetia are granted to Georgia by Soviet authorities for reasons that had nothing to do with desires of people populating those regions. They were, however, granted a degree of authonomy. After Georgia broke away from the USSR those authonomies were supposed to have a say whether they wanted to join the newly independent Georgia or not. Interestingly enough, they did not want to. Georgia fought multiple wars there, and was successful in integratingd Adjaria, but not in Abkhasia or South Osssetia. Since then, every candidate for Georgian presidency campaigned on a platform of bringing those territories in, whether they want it or not, and general “Georgia for Georgians” platform. In the meanwhile every referendum in the territiries had shown practically no support for being a part of Georgia.

    So where exactly do you get the story of good Georgia being attacked out of the blue by bad Russia? Georgia might be “good” from a point of view of it being pro-American, or from POV of it paying more lip service to demoocratic trappings (in those instances when they are not closing down media outlets they do not like or arresting protesters, but this is all in the service of greater good so it is fine), but claiming that _in this particular situation_ they were in the right takes rather neocon-like disregard for the facts.

    As for Mrs. Young complaint about moral equivalency in her latest post… I do not want to sound like a broken Chomsky record, but after Iraq and Kosovo, the equivalency not only is there, but it is quite arguable who comes out looking better…

  37. @Mad Ivan:

    I see we have some common ground, in this regard. I still maintain that, if you truly want to understand foreign policy moves by Nation-States, you have to pitch the good guy/bad guy dichotomy out the window.

    Now, I have some pretty definite principles regarding my own government (or lack thereof). I can also see (and engage in)debating the relative merits of differing forms of government, and the effects on their “subjects”.

    Philosophically, anyone who tries to equivocate the internal policies of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Hitler, etc. with the ABSOLUTE WORST examples of “democratic” governments is a douchebag of the highest order.

    But, that has nothing to do with Geo-Politics. In that grand game, played since the dawn of civilization, every country has an ongoing policy that takes into account their relative strengths/weaknesses, their topography, their neighbor’s goals, etc.

    They form, then constantly massage a strategy that attempts to move them up, rather than down, the world pecking order. This policy transcends personalities and short-term time scales.

    As a pure capitalist, I sneer at the concept of wealth as a limited pie. But world geo-political power is another matter. That pie IS finite, and EVERY country wants the best slice they can attain, including the “white-hatted” U.S. of A.

    In 150 years we went from the new kids on the block with no real clout, to “Number One with a bullet”. During that same time frame, we went from a policy of “no tangling alliances” to literally interfering with/bullying/cajoling/bribing in some manner every other country on the planet.

    Coincidence?

  38. Kant — I’ll be pretty much in agreement here. Even though I would not necessarily put Stalin or Mao on the same level as Pol Pot or Hitler. The former at least led their countries from backward agrarian states to superpower (or major power) status. The later brought only ruin. Which is not an excuse for gross abuses under their rule, but does put things in a somewhat different perspective.

    In any case, equating, say, Putin with Stalin is equal douchebaggery…

  39. Kant: I agree with you that no one wears a “white hat” in geopolitics. However, the reality of the modern world (or perhaps of the world, period) is that someone will have geopolitical dominance, and I’d rather see democracies in that role (without denying that at times democracies can do very dumb and even criminal things abroad). The Russian political satirist Dmitry Bykov recently wrote that a world in which the sole superpower was Russia is a world he wouldn’t wish even on Osama Bin Laden, and I have to concur.

    By the way, Putin is not Stalin, but:

    1) if Russia doesn’t want to be tarred with the Stalinist brush, it shouldn’t be adopting history textbooks that whitewash Stalin’s crimes;

    (2) equating Bush with Putin is also douchebaggery of the highest order. Unless I missed something and we’re about to have an “election” in which all serious challengers to a handpicked Bush “successor” have been disqualified, all the TV news shows are filled with Sean Hannity clones, and George Soros has been in a federal prison for the past five years.

  40. World dominated by _any_ single country would be a very unpleasant place, be it Russia, US, China, or Gabon. Not that using Bykov to prove anything were any better than sappealing to Chomsky. Actually, it’s not any better than appealing to Barbra Streisand for analisys of US policies.

    Adopting particular textbooks is a tricky issue (just ask the Japanese…) but leaving them with “Stalin was a criminal who killed people. Period.” would not have been any better.

  41. Actually, that’s pretty much what the textbooks should say, obviously in more detail. Discussing Stalin’s “positive achievements” is pretty much on a par with giving Hitler pointers for shoring up the German economy and building the autobahn.

    And yes, I agree that global dominance by any one country is a bad thing, first and foremost for that country itself. I actually said that I think the best thing is for geopolitical dominance to be in the hands of democracies, plural.

    I would like nothing more than to see a genuinely democratic Russia allied with the US against the likes or Iran, but let’s face it, that’s not likely to happen in the near future.

    By the way, it might surprise you to know that I don’t take a knee-jerk anti-Russian position in any foreign policy issue. I think, for instance, that there are legitimate questions about the status of the Crimea, where the population is nearly two-third ethnic Russian and which was actually a part of Russia until 1954 when Khrushchev arbitrarily “gave” it to Ukraine. Heck, if Russia was a normal country I might well support their claim to Crimea. (What do I mean by a normal country? Well, for starters they could put the old NTV back on the air, lift the ban on Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov appearing on other TV channels, allow opposition parties to function normally and release Khodorkovsky, Alexanian, Bakhmina and all the other Yukos defendants. And by the way, please don’t make me laugh by saying that they’re in prison for fraud etc. Everyone knows what a crock that is.)

  42. Oops — that should be “against the likes of Iran.”

  43. Except, of course, that difference between Russia in 1917, say, and in 1953 is concrete, measurable, and significant, and no matter what you think about Stalin’s methods, limiting the discussion to “Stalin killed people, here are more details” does not serve any useful purpose. One could argue until blue in the face what would have been results of different leadership, but we have what we have. Glossing over what Stalin did _for_ USSR because of what he did _to_ USSR is rewriting history.

    Putting aside for a moment an interesting question of how one defines “genuine” democracy as opposed to “fake” one, it seems very doubtful that Russia, no matter how democratic, would be siding with US in fights US picks because it would be contrary to their own geopolitical interests.

    I have no doubts that Khodorkovsky was prosecuted due to his political activities. Nevertheless I do not know a single Russian (but then I do not keep contact with likes of Novodvorskaya) who does not believe that there were enough reasons to lock him up.. The issue is not so much the government prosecuting him but rather government looking the other was as far as others of his ilk (who keep out of politics) are concerned.

    As for Kasparov… if there ever was a good case for punitive pshychiatry, Garry makes one quite convincingly. Guy’s as crazy as Fischer (who wasn’t exactly welcome in the US until his death, as I recall)…

    All of this, of course, is really a part of a different discussion anyway, as it has nothing to do with Georgia trying to subjugate ethnic enclaves by force, launching a massive attack, getting kicked in the nuts, and still managing to present a story of evil Russia occupying them…

  44. The press was scared to question the pro-Iraq war buildup in 2002-2003. There was 100% sean hannity compliant pro war discussion on allthe entwroks before the invasion. Bush/Clinton killed about a million people between the free trade blockades in Iraq daily bombing raids and the eventual War in Iraq that have been going on the last 20 years. At the same time they lied about the reasons for the war to the american people. At the same time Bush refused to answer questions to the 9/11 comission and they blocked many areas of investigation and covered up a lot of evidence relating to the crimes of 9/11. Bush also vouched for Putin…whom is more moral is not clear. That both are treasonous liars is clear.

  45. At least this “different discussion” has shown us your true colors. Cheers.

    Oh, and FYI, here’s a list of organizations and individuals who have signed a letter on behalf of Khodorkovsky and the other Yukos defendants. I await more trenchant insights from you — for instance, that one of the signers, famous actor Oleg Basilashvili, played the Devil in a 2005 TV miniseries and therefore obviously cannot be trusted…

  46. Ah, Gabe reveals himself as a “truther.” Nice.

    I have nothing to add on the original topic of the discussion. I think anyone who reads the links I’ve posted can make their own judgments on whether “Mad Ivan’s” version of the conflict bears any resemblance to reality.

  47. Uh, thanks?

    Sorry, but I am not going to take anything that was signed by Novodvorskaya seriously. Since you do read Russian, http://www.lenta.ru/news/2008/10/28/exchange/ — somehow a petition signed by a person who proclaims to be an enemy of Russia does not hold too much weight with me in this case.

    Bringing cheap humor in does a disservice to the discussion. Basilashvili is a good actor. So is Sean Penn. I’m not taking political opinion of either seriously.

    Of all the people posting here you should know that Russian “intelligentsia” tends to be opposed to any government the country has. And the more liberal the Tsar the sooner he gets blown up.

    As an aside, the news page at your link lists as the latest development Moskalenko being poisoned with mercury. If I am not mistaken, police had said several days ago that this was an accident, something about car’s previous owner’s barometer or somesuch.

  48. Cathy has already revealed that she is a “truther” conspiracy theorist when it comes to terrorist incidents in Russia. She cannot be taken seriously.

  49. You know, Gabe, if CIA agents had been caught planting explosives at the WTC on 9/10, and the head of the CIA claimed that they were engaged in a “preparedness exercise,” and if three members of Congress who had called for a congressional investigation of 9/11 had been mysteriously murdered, I’d be a “truther” for 9/11 too.

  50. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7692751.stm I guess BBC is a den of Putin-loving iniquity now, too…

  51. Cathy,

    Firstly, Khodorkovsky was key in looting Russia’s oil resources. Putin was almost a darling of the west until he captured Khodorkovsky. Overnight democracy in Russia suddenly became the cause du jour. The same tune is bandied about Venezuela.

    How fascinating it is that when Yeltsin was (apparently) in charge, he was held up a beacon of reform by the West, while despised at home. Putin is demonized by the West by has enjoyed overwhelming popularity at home – just like Chavez in Venezuela. The pattern is all to obvious. Any foreign leader who doesn’t cowtow to the Washington is Hitler/Stalin personified.

    Speaking of Stalin, isn’t it revealing that he is still revered in Georgia, not in Russia.

    Sakashvilli’s election campaigns always ran on the platform that he would retake South Ossetia and Avkazia. As early as November 2007, there were news reports about Georgia arming themselves to prepare to retake these regions.

    Now moving on to NATO. I seem to recall a promise being made to Russia that NATO would not expand if Russia agreed to allow East and West Germany to unite. 9 countries later….

    Then we install missile bases in Poland and pretend that these are to protect Europe from Iran’s missiles…even though Europe has never asked for such protection.

    What happened the last time someone tried to park missiles within striking range of our shores?

    Funny how it’s OK for us to throw our weight around and bend the rules (coz you know, we’re the good guys) but any muscle flexing from non allies is a sign of expansionism. Please explain how we can have a border conflict with Russia over Georgia, and yet they’re the aggressors?

    If anything remotely resembling what took place in Georgia/SO happened in Latin America, we would be all over it like a bad rash. No one would be even considering if our response was disproportionate or whether we were even in the wrong. Just look at what we did to Grenada, Nicaragua, and Panama.

    As for providing passports to the residents of South Ossetia, what is your point? As you suggesting that people were forced to accept these at gunpoint? The fact is that the passports were obviously accepted by the public who have a closer affinity to Russia than a country to which they never belonged anyway.

    Then of course, your comment about Iran is most revealing of your bias. What has Iran done to be the subject of such animosity from the US?

    No they have not threatened to destroy Israel. That has been debunked.

    Sponsoring terrorists? Look up the MEK, listed by our State Department as a terrorist organization, then get back to me about who supports terrorism.

    They are developing nukes? And your evidence is?

    You just asked Gabe to produce some conclusive evidence of the WTC attacks being staged by the US government – so provide one sliver of EVIDENCE that Iran is making nuclear weapons, threatening to destroy Israel, and arming “special groups” inside Iraq.

  52. With reagard to Donahue, Ed said:

    “I thought he was fired for being anti-viewership. Stupid unfair ratings!”

    That’s the point Ed. Donahue was the highest rating program on his network. Management are on record as admitting they axed his show becasue the network was afraid of appearing un patriotic in the lead up to the Iraq war.

  53. “1) if Russia doesn’t want to be tarred with the Stalinist brush, it shouldn’t be adopting history textbooks that whitewash Stalin’s crimes;”

    Of course, we in the US don’t whitewash crimes do we? Phase II of the SSCI regarding the manipulation of the intel leading to the Iraq was was just stonewalled for 4 years.

    Abu Graib was just the work of a trailer trash in the night shift. Meanwhile, a Federal Judge has blocked the ACLU from obtaining Guantanamo torture documents

    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Federal_court_blocks_ACLU_from_Guantanamo_1029.html

    “(2) equating Bush with Putin is also douchebaggery of the highest order. Unless I missed something and we’re about to have an “election” in which all serious challengers to a handpicked Bush “successor” have been disqualified, …”

    Interesting logic. The right wing cries MORAL EQUIVALENCY, the way most of us call UNCLE when we’re losing.

    So according to you Cathy, the fact that Bush’s handpicked Bush “successor” aren’t succeeding are failing is proof that we’re a democracy? How do you explain him being re-elected in 2004 and the fact that tens of thousands were prevented from voting or were wiped off the voter rolls?

  54. I’m sorry, but I don’t see it. Ms Young seems here to misunderstand Mr Greenwald’s opinion, which, as far as I can see, is simply that one can indeed be very critical of Russia, very critical of the authoritarian direction that its government has taken, and still not necessarily belong to Saakashvili’s fanclub or think that Georgia was simply and merely a victim. And that, despite this possibility, most of the media decided to support the idea that Georgia could not be blamed for anything.

    Can’t Ms Young and Mr Greenwald agree on that? Can’t we go back to criticizing Russia for the way she dealt with this crisis–an overblown reaction that has had repercussions on all its neighbors–without having to see Saakashivili as a patron saint of democracy? Can’t we criticize both, each for its own reasons, for Christ’s sake? If I criticize Saakashvili, does that immediately make me a Putinjugend Standartenf?hrer?

    Also, Mr Greenwald’s point was merely that the media, in its overwhelming majority, embraced the idea that Georgia had done no wrong–notice, NOT the idea that Georgia needed help (which it does) or that it should be supported for strategic/tactical reasons, but the idea that it was a poor victim with absolutely no guilt in the whole story. Can someone provide links to articles that don’t say that? And how many are they, compared to those who do say that? THIS is the way to actually address Mr Greenwald’s point. I’m afraid Ms Young is here confusing the issue by not doing that.

  55. You make some interesting arguments Asehepe,

    I think that given our own recent behavior and our history of intervention/militarism over the past century, it wreaks of hypocrisy for us to lament Russia’s over reaction. Looking back to Israel’s response to the Hezbollah provocation in 2006, Danny Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, was quoted as boasting about Israel’s disproportionate response. The US stood alongside Israel throughout the conflict while Israel were laying waste to Southern Lebanon.

    The other issue that Cathy fails to address is that this wasn’t just about South Ossetia and Avkazia. Russia’s response was in fact the end of a great deal of restraint on their part. What is ignored in the media, is that giving Georgia membership to NATO is in fact, a war guarantee. No only does Georgia have no legitimate reason to be in NATO, but the very policy of butting up to Russia’s borders and encircling them with NATO memebers is a huge provocation – one that we certainly would never have tolerated.

    Cathy has not addressed the similarities between SO and Bosnia, nor the fact that Israel military bases were discovered in Georgia by Russia. Bases that were apparently going to be used to launch an attack on Iran.

    It is obvious why the media does not discuss the strategic/tactical importance of supporting Georgia – becasue it tarnishes any notion that our support is altruistic or moral. In the lead up to the Iraq invasion, the war party scoffed at the idea that Iraq’s oil had any role in the decision to do so.

  56. Cathy Young: My recommendation is that you and Greenwald do a bloggingheads debate. He is not a leftist; my personal assessment is that he could accurately be described as a “left-libertarian,” given the contemporary control of the GOP by neocons (a label he has has not claimed, however; he refuses all political labels).

    But for sure, he’s not the left-wing, Putin-loving sicko your original article suggested him to be. (And if you think he has anything nice to say about Stalin, well again, you are not sufficiently familiar with his POV.)You should be more careful in reading him.(I’ve seen him eviscerate Castro defenders in his comments section.)

  57. 1. Once again, Greenwald muddies the issue by conflating two different positions: (A) that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was an “unprovoked” attack; and (B) that the principal “bad guy” in the conflict was Russia while the principal victim was Georgia.

    When an essay about geopolitics starts out by attempting to assign roles of “bad guy” and “victim”, you can be assured that what follows will be completely useless propaganda. In this regard, at least, Ms. Young’s essay does not disappoint. This trite mishmash of wishful thinking, and cliches about ‘democracy’ scarcely deserves to be dignified with the title, ‘argument’, but Young’s argument is apparently that the US needs to throw more money at the nation-state of Georgia, in order to save democracy in Eastern Europe.

    Look. The neocons, along with some liberals, have been giving money to Georgia for years, trying to build it up into a thorn in the side of Russia, in accordance with their dangerous, retarded, outdated cold war notions of geo-strategy. As you could well expect, the Georgians began to believe the propaganda they were fed, and grow over-confident. Eventually Saakashvili used a crisis with Ossetia to attack Russia. For this, Russia stompted his stupid ass into the ground.

    Exactly as the US would, if Russia or China built up Cuba’s military, and Cuba tried something against the US.

    You don’t have to be a foreign policy genius to see how completely chimerical, absurd, and frankly stupid the notion that Georgia or Saakashvili are innocent victims is. Greenwald is absolutely correct in pointing out the counterproductive, dangerous, and strange media narrative, reflected in this excuse for an essay, that Georgia is an innocent victim.

  58. But for sure, he’s not the left-wing, Putin-loving sicko your original article suggested him to be.

    The sick part, Mona, is that you actually think any significant part of the US left wing “loves” Putin.

  59. I just came across this article in Foreign Affairs magazine, where a couple of American professors admit that the so called ABM defense shield on Russia’s borders is aimed at Russia, with the aim being to be able to successfully launch a first nuclear strike against Russia that would completely devastate the country.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060301faessay85204/keir-a-lieber-daryl-g-press/the-rise-of-u-s-nuclear-primacy.html

    Like I said earlier, when the Soviets tried that stunt, we nearly went to war with them, but we can do it and Russian objections are just completely unreasonable.

    The double standards of our foreign policy as nauseating.

  60. I would like nothing more than to see a genuinely democratic Russia allied with the US against the likes or Iran, but let’s face it, that’s not likely to happen in the near future.

    Excellent! Let us further isolate Iran from western trade! They’re so very un-democratic, scary, and anti-western! And impoverishing thousands of ordinary Iranians is exactly the right way to pressure their government!

    Ms. Young, perhaps you could suggest a naval buildup around the shining democratic beacon of Taiwan, to protect it from the scary, communist state of China! Why go with only two dangerously retarded foreign policy points when you could hit the trifecta?!

  61. “You don’t have to be a foreign policy genius to see how completely chimerical, absurd, and frankly stupid the notion that Georgia or Saakashvili are innocent victims is.”

    Very well put Aetheist. The fact that Georgia got their asses kicked appear to be sufficient grounds to deign them the victims, irrespective of the fact that the choice to attack South Ossetia were optional.

  62. stop prostituting yourself for that hotheaded little faggot saakashvili, it’s really quite embarrassing. he’s little better than putin, he just runs a poorer smaller country with no oil or nuclear weapons and pledged a bunch of troops to iraq. if he hadn’t been sucking the cock of any neocon that came within 1000 miles of tblisi we wouldn’t have lifted an eyebrow during this whole “crisis.”

    any libertarian that backs a statist militarist opposition-crushing nutjob like saak is either incredibly stupid and delusional or not really a libertarian.

    your holding up the last election is georgia as “clean” is reason enough not to take you seriously: i’ve taken shits that are cleaner than that election.

    why don’t you just admit you have an irrational dislike of russia, one that clearly and perhaps understandably dates from your childhood, and call it a day?

  63. the choice to attack South Ossetia were optional.

    Exactly, that’s the cold fact which undermines the whole drama. I don’t know if you live in the US but I do. After the past eight years, I have become more suspicious of claims that we need to start wars, conflicts or even boycotts due to the terribly anti-democratic, anti-western actions of some oddly convenient villian.

    It seems to me that our renewed imperialism has already had bad effects on the world as a whole, has already inspired some countries to attack others with less provocation. Irregarless of the effect on the world, it also seems to me that if we keep acting this way, we’ll soon end up in a situation that we can’t shoot our way out of, or buy our way out of. What happens then? Do we use a nuclear strike on someone? Do we lose a war and end up paying reparations, causing more political chaos at home? Do we really want to find out?

  64. By the way Shingo, thanks for the link to “Foreign Affairs”, looks like an interesting article.

  65. Shingo:

    Firstly, Khodorkovsky was key in looting Russia’s oil resources. Putin was almost a darling of the west until he captured Khodorkovsky. Overnight democracy in Russia suddenly became the cause du jour. The same tune is bandied about Venezuela.

    How fascinating it is that when Yeltsin was (apparently) in charge, he was held up a beacon of reform by the West, while despised at home. Putin is demonized by the West by has enjoyed overwhelming popularity at home – just like Chavez in Venezuela. The pattern is all to obvious. Any foreign leader who doesn’t cowtow to the Washington is Hitler/Stalin personified.

    Perhaps you should brush up on your history a little. Yeltsin was often harshly critical of the West and the US in the last years of his presidency, particularly over the issue of Serbia and Bosnia. (Are you aware that Russia actually sent troops to Kosovo as a counterweight to NATO troops in June 1999?) Also, concerns about Putin’s actions (such as banning opposition parties and curbing free speech on the airwaves) started long before Khodorkovsky’s arrest.

    So according to you Cathy, the fact that Bush’s handpicked Bush “successor” aren’t succeeding are failing is proof that we’re a democracy? How do you explain him being re-elected in 2004 and the fact that tens of thousands were prevented from voting or were wiped off the voter rolls?

    That right there shows me there’s absolutely no point in talking to you. So, thanks for saving me the time. (And no, I’m not saying that our voting system is perfect, but I don’t buy voting conspiracy theories from left or right.)

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see it. Ms Young seems here to misunderstand Mr Greenwald’s opinion, which, as far as I can see, is simply that one can indeed be very critical of Russia, very critical of the authoritarian direction that its government has taken, and still not necessarily belong to Saakashvili’s fanclub or think that Georgia was simply and merely a victim. And that, despite this possibility, most of the media decided to support the idea that Georgia could not be blamed for anything.

    Can’t Ms Young and Mr Greenwald agree on that? Can’t we go back to criticizing Russia for the way she dealt with this crisis–an overblown reaction that has had repercussions on all its neighbors–without having to see Saakashivili as a patron saint of democracy? Can’t we criticize both, each for its own reasons, for Christ’s sake? If I criticize Saakashvili, does that immediately make me a Putinjugend Standartenf?hrer?

    Oh for heaven’s sake, more straw men. I have repeatedly said (again, read my very first article on the conflict, linked in this post!) that Saakashvili is no “patron saint of democracy” and deserves harsh criticism on many counts.

    Also, Mr Greenwald’s point was merely that the media, in its overwhelming majority, embraced the idea that Georgia had done no wrong–notice, NOT the idea that Georgia needed help (which it does) or that it should be supported for strategic/tactical reasons, but the idea that it was a poor victim with absolutely no guilt in the whole story. Can someone provide links to articles that don’t say that?

    Yes, I provided exactly those links. Can anyone provide links to articles which did not acknowledge that Georgia started the military action?

    By the way, the idea that “encirclement” by NATO poses some sort of threat to Russia is something that I’m sure not even Putin takes seriously — it’s useful only to whip up paranoid hysteria among the Russian public.

    your holding up the last election is georgia as “clean” is reason enough not to take you seriously

    Then your issue is not with me but with the OSCE.

    Re my “irrational dislike of Russia” — I wrote a lot of sympathetic articles about Russia in the 1990s. I think the fact that democracy in Russia (however imperfect) was strangled in its infancy by Putin and his oil-guzzling KGB cronies is a tragedy.

    I’m not going to even try to answer the other “arguments” in this thread, but I do want to respond to Mona. I don’t think that Glenn Greenwald loves Putin, of course! I just think that he’s showing a bit of the “if the neocons are for it, it must be wrong” syndrome.

  66. I’m not going to even try to answer the other “arguments” in this thread, but I do want to respond to Mona. I don’t think that Glenn Greenwald loves Putin, of course! I just think that he’s showing a bit of the “if the neocons are for it, it must be wrong” syndrome.

    This is the kernel of the sometimes vehement disagreement that has been directed at your argument on this thread. Please look realistically at the actual effect of neoconservative US policies over the past thirty years. Examples of these policies would include, the substantial military aid to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a way of striking at the USSR, the campaign of character assassination directed at Bill Clinton during the 1990s, the worst attacks on the idea of constitutional government in the US after 9/11/2001, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The next policy that they are working on is to invade or strike Iran.

    The effects of these policies are characterized by massive destruction of human life, a tearing of social fabrics, a polarization of politics within nation-states, and a rise of fundamentalist parties. These effects have been felt within the USA as well. Despite intense opposition to many of the particulars of their policies, the neoconservative point of view is currently still the default point of view for most of the US mass media. In my view, this is the largest danger facing the USA now. Your oddly moralistic attacks on Russia for simply doing what any great military power would do when faced with this kind of attack on its flank seem to dovetail too conveniently with the neoconservative dream of re-starting the cold war. Your attacks on Greenwald seem too similar to the neoconservative attacks on any public statement which attempts to put US actions and the actions of other policies in context.

    If I am reacting too vehemently to your statements about Greenwald, then I am sorry. It simply seems to me that the underlying assumptions of your statements about Greenwald, Russia, and Georgia are oddly naive and moralistic. I, on the other hand, strive for a wide-angle, and clear view of great power politics. It seems to me that this kind of view is what is needed at this time.

  67. “Yeltsin was often harshly critical of the West and the US in the last years of his presidency”

    Is this the same Yeltsin that was inebriated 24/7?

    Seriously though, the fact of the matter is that Yeltsin was the key to implementing the draconian economic policies on Russia that brought the country to it’s knees. As a politician, Yeltsin may well have made statements that were politically expedient, much like McCain or Obama condemning Wall Street while taking donations from them.

    “That right there shows me there’s absolutely no point in talking to you. So, thanks for saving me the time.”

    I don’t see what the problem is Cathy. Do I take it that your point is that voter suppression never happens or that democracy in the US is sacrosanct, even when it is undermined and compromised?

    Perhaps you agree with John McCain and Condi, when they say that in the 21st century, countries do not invade other countries? Fer crying out loud, you don’t have to be a liberal or a pinko to agree that we are hypocrites when it comes to foreign policy.

    “By the way, the idea that “encirclement” by NATO poses some sort of threat to Russia is something that I’m sure not even Putin takes seriously”

    Based on what premise? The very notion of communism making any inroads into South and Latin American, sent Washington into hysterics up until the 80’s. Didn’t we even justify our invasion of Vitnam (hardly on our border) over the possible threat that communism might spread South?

    Take your own advice and get up to speed in recent history. I already provided a link from the Foreign Affairs web site outlining why Putin SHOULD be taking the encirclement by NATO seriously
    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060301faessay85204/keir-a-lieber-daryl-g-press/the-rise-of-u-s-nuclear-primacy.html

    After all, what was NATO’s raison d’etre to begin with and why does it even exist today now that the USSR no longer exists?

    When this article appeared, it was very big news in Russia and understandably.

    Mark Aimes, author of The Cold War That Wasn’t, points out in a recent interview (http://antiwar.com/radio/2008/10/30/mark-ames/) that America’s decision to pull out of the ABM treaty was a huge political loss and embarrassment for Putin.

    “Re my “irrational dislike of Russia” — I wrote a lot of sympathetic articles about Russia in the 1990s.”

    So did most of the Washington elite who were bathing in the glory of their Cold War victory. It’s easy to be gracious when someone is down and defeated.

    “I think the fact that democracy in Russia (however imperfect) was strangled in its infancy by Putin and his oil-guzzling KGB cronies is a tragedy.”

    Interestingly, 80% of Russia feels otherwise. The more I read of you, the more I suspect that what really gets your goat is that under Putin, Russia has made a dramatic economic recovery and has done so by going against the recipe laid down by the free market Friedman policies that Washington expected Russian to implement.

  68. Shingo — I think that the issue is not so much in Russia following or not following a prescribed ideology (nobody outside of different magazines’ editorial boards does not do more than pay lip service to those), even though lots of people were getting very rich off of various economic reforms instituted under Yeltsin, but simply that under Putin Russia actually started actually doing something about its national interests — something that did not happen before (couple armoured personnel carriers beating NATO forces to Kosovo notwithstanding).

    Not to get into Russia’s paranoia about the West’s vast conspiracy against it (which is as popular there as “they hate us for our freedoms” nonsense is here), but when neocons and their ilk start getting their panties in a bunch so much, may be Russia is doing something right (for itself)…

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