Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Post-Mortem is Better than Your Post-Mortem

Now that there is a truce, we get to fight about what it means.

This morning's Washington Post carries the following (which I excerpt):

"The Bush administration suggested yesterday that an apparent cease-fire in Georgia came about because Moscow feared it would be banished from Western-dominated international economic and political institutions if it did not stop its "aggression" in the former Soviet republic. "Russia has one foot into the international community . . . and one foot that is not," a senior administration official said. Membership in institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the Group of Eight major industrialized nations "is what is at stake when Russia engages in behavior that looks like it came from another time."

It's worth noting that the French, who actually negotiated the cease-fire (their historic thumb-in-the-eye approach to US relations gives them an odd sort of ability to do this) have not made such statements. It's possible this is correct, but it seems more likely that Russia is not as interested in the WTO and the G8 as we would like to believe.

I strongly suspect the Russians stopped because they accomplished their goals of humiliating Georgia and forcing the Georgians (further) out of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia. I doubt the Russians were afraid of being kicked out of international oganizations. That's actually something we should be scared about, since we OUGHT to want engagement with Russia, not isolation.

The Washington Post reports the following also, in connection with Russia's (routine) denial of the US theory:

"The United States "is as much interested in the relations with Russia as Russia is in the relations with the United States," said Vitali Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations."

Now, I think Ambassador Churkin was spot on, if you understand both his meanings. Russia also suggests it will be as little interested in good relations with the US as we are with them. It is important for the next president to realize that relations with Russia and China are as much a matter of choice for us as for them. We can have good relations or not. They are not desperate for our approval or companionship. Engagement or isolation are two differnet paths.

McCain totally does not understand this. He still has the immediate-post-Cold War mentality that the US is the sole superpower in the world, the navel of the universe. He often says that meeting with the US president is some kind of prize that should be carefully doled out. That's why he slammed Obama for suggesting he meet with Iran's president, saying it would legitimize his regime, discourage reformers and encourage Ahmadinejad's supporters. Bush says the same thing, that meeting with foreign leaders is like a gift to them. That's why he says we can't meet with Cuba's leaders, Iran's leders, etc. Actually, most don't see it that way. They don't see us as their legitimizers. The bigger countries are even more dangerous: they will only be as interested in us as we are in them.

That's why the phrase "constructive engagement" must apply to Russia and Iran as well as China. It is a mistake to think of our friendship as a carrot and isolation as a stick. If isolation is a stick, the whole world gets a poke in the eye. If Russia were expelled from the WTO, would this encourage them to shape up and fly right? Didn't we all make the opposite argument vis-a-vis China? Other than the fact that Russia actually poses LESS of a long-term threat than China, given its smaller population and diminished industrial and economic capacity, what is the difference?

We can disagree on this blog as to how bad Russia is, but I think that (most) of us agree that our response must be to draw Russia into the world community, not try to push it out.. certainly not on the theory that they will be desperate to get back into our good graces.


Raised By Republicans said...

Of course, the Russians are already violating the cease fire. So this mortem isn't quite post yet.

I agree with LTG that constructive engagement should be the guiding force of US policy in this regard. And, sadly, that probably means realizing that Russia is more important to the US than Georgia in the grand scheme of things.

BUT, I am no where near as sanguine about the current leadership in Russia as LTG (who has still not admitted his own emotional ties to Russia despite accusing US West of being biased by personal connections). I think we should look the Russians' leaders in the eye and say "We are not fools. We know what you've done here and why. You should not take our inaction in this situation to mean there are no limits to your future actions in your precious 'near abroad.' You have won in Georgia but you have lost our respect. What you do next will determine whether you can earn that respect again."

Dr. Strangelove said...

RbR... When did LTG "accuse" USWest of being biased? And when has he ever denied his emotional investment in Russia? His experiences in Russia are well known to almost all of us on this blog--I would forgive him for assuming (wrongly) that USWest already knew.

Perhaps I missed it, but the only passage I could find in which LTG knocks USWest's Georgian connection is where he wrote, "I'm not sure why USWest (other than the personal connection) feels so strongly about 'our Georgian friends.' There are no longstanding American ties with this country which, until 16 years ago, was part of the USSR and ruled directly from Moscow."

To construe that as an outright accusation of bias seems at least a little uncharitable to me... Besides, I feel USWest has defended her position on Georgia quite well.

Raised By Republicans said...

Perhaps "accuse" is too strong a word. Hint would be better.

FYI, US West was unaware of LTG's strong Russophilia.

And I think it is worth pointing out because LTG is far more tolerant of belligerent and anti-democratic actions from Russian leaders than he is from leaders from the US, China, or other countries.

USwest said...

I agree with LTG here. The US has got to get used to the idea that we are now a country among many countries. Actually, much of the world now has progressed as wealth has been more even spread around. Granted, there are huge disparities, but other nations, once considered weak on at best, back benchers, are now more powerful than before.

I think this is a good thing in the long run. We have to learn to work with all of these nations more as equals than as a dominate power. And if we act constructively, then we will have more power to influnece and we won't feel the need to "control".

As for Russia: yes, let's keep them in the international community. But Russia has to show that it is willing to play in that community. Vetoing everything that UN security council does to punich states like Iran is not playing. It's jus tbeing obstructionist.

But what needs to be done is to change the composition of our international organizations. But that is another post for another day.

USwest said...

As for the other thing about US West and bias: I was not aware of LTG's background. But it's ok. I appreciate RBR's attempt to clarify things. I am biased toward Georgia, yes. For the record, I have Russian friends as well. But this issue just doesn't seem to matter to them very much.

You will note that I am also biased toward France because I lived there and speak French and like the French, the Palestinians because I think they have gotten a raw deal, Turkey because I have done a lot of work with the Turkish language and have done a lot of reading on Turkey. I tend to be biased against Scandinavians because they are so damn perfect it makes me sick, that and I spent a very difficult three months in Norway working. I think I have covered them all for the future. My cards are now on the table

Let's let it drop.

Pombat said...

RbR: "You have won in Georgia but you have lost our respect. What you do next will determine whether you can earn that respect again."

Not to be too blunt about it, but honestly, how much is the respect of the US worth these days?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Thank you, Pombat. That is a very important point. Bush's mishandling of US foreign policy for eight years has severely limited our leverage where we need it most, with the other permanent members of the security council.

Raised By Republicans said...

Absolutely Pombat. And to be frank, what I think western leaders should say to Putin is more or less what Chirac and Schroeder said to Bush, Blair and Howard et al.

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