"Russia Attacks Neighbor"

That is CNN's headline. And strictly speaking, it is true. But obviously it is a ridiculously misleading description of the situation. But that does not really matter. As Matt Yglesias writes (btw Matt, who I often disagree with but ALWAYS read, an interesting blogger you must agree, is now at Think Progress), American Media coverage is pretty irrelevant to this situation - something the Georgian President seems not to understand:

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, perhaps seems to have been confused by the fact that he gets great press in the U.S. and Vladimir Putin gets terrible press. Thus, he made the puzzling decision last week to escalate the “frozen conflict” by launching an attack aimed at retaking South Ossetia. Russia, predictably, is now retaliating with results that look set to be disastrous for Georgia.

Putin could not care less what Fred Hiatt thinks of him. Someone may need to inform the Georgian President of this. As Stalin once asked of the Pope, "how many divisions does Bill Kristol have?"

Speaking for me only

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    Kevin Drum (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:27:52 AM EST
    Good post:

    Do events in the Caucasus demonstrate that we ought to expand NATO to include Georgia (and Ukraine)? The argument against is simple: NATO is reserved not just for friends, but for countries we're willing to go to war for. If Georgia were in NATO today, we'd be forced to commit troops to a direct conflict with Russia, and nobody wants that.

    The argument in favor is equally simple: if Georgia had been part of NATO, Russia never would have invaded. The commitment itself would have prevented war in the first place.

    Unfortunately, there's a wild card here: the Russians have obviously been itching for war with Georgia for a while, but in the end, it was Georgia that sent troops into South Ossetia first. Did they do this because they felt they had a tacit commitment for help from the United States? Would NATO membership have made Mikheil Saakashvili even more impetuous than he already is?

    Hard to say. But one of the reasons we have no formal defense treaty with Taiwan, instead maintaining "strategic ambiguity," is that we believe it restrains Taiwan's options. If they were guaranteed American help, they might declare formal independence from China and touch off a war that no one wants. In this case, longstanding U.S. policy holds that the lack of a treaty helps keep the peace.

    Obviously that didn't do the job in Georgia, but by all accounts Saakashvili felt that recent events suggested he could count on Western help if he took on Russia. If he hadn't been led to believe that, maybe he would have held off on baiting a neighbor he knew could crush him easily if it wanted to. Perhaps a bit more strategic ambiguity might have been in everyone's best interests here.

    Indeed, thanks (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:45:27 AM EST
    International security politics are complicated and dangerous.

    i get the distinct impression (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by cpinva on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 12:05:57 PM EST
    that a fair % of the georgian population is similarly confused as well; they seem to be under the impression they already belong to NATO, and wonder why help from the US is not immediately forthcoming. at least, that's what i'm reading.

    not a very bright move on Saakashvili's part.

    Cicago Dyke at CorrenteWire has post with several (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by jawbone on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 12:41:53 PM EST
    links--divergent opinions and analyses, plus commenters have some good links.

    Good if you want to get into some of the taller weeds.  

    Why did Georgia make its military move against South Ossetia at this point in time? One analyst sees the hand of BushCo in urging this regional conflict (they did so well with Somalia, they wanted to try it again?).

    Maybe it's just me (none / 0) (#1)
    by lilburro on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 10:42:37 AM EST
    but it seems like Saakashvili could be instigating his own regime change by exhibiting such disastrously poor judgment on this matter.  I don't know how the Georgian system works, but I imagine if he could be voted out right this second, he would be.  Unless I am miscalculating the sentiments of the Georgian people.

    He has imposed martial law. Probably (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 10:46:07 AM EST
    no elecctions anytime soon.

    I've been trying to figure out why (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 10:44:23 AM EST
    Saakashvili instigated this conflict.  Doesn't seem to help Georgia's bid to join NATO.  He couldn't have thought Russia would sit by and watch.  Looking at world power reaction to China's suppression of Tibet and the military junta's suppression of the monks, he couldn't have thought the U.S. would do anything but talk.  So, you may be right--he's believing his press coverage.

    Reports that the US tacitly approved (none / 0) (#8)
    by JoeA on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:19:13 AM EST
    the attempt to seize South Ossetia.  It's impossible to believe that the Georgians didn't get at least a nod and a wink before doing this.

    It's as if the Republicans (none / 0) (#13)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:33:12 AM EST
    want this war in an election year ;-).

    Links, please (none / 0) (#19)
    by BernieO on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:50:43 AM EST
    Below (none / 0) (#25)
    by JoeA on Tue Aug 12, 2008 at 04:03:42 AM EST

    Mr Saakashvilli may also have banked on support from his closest ally, US president George W Bush, whose administration is said to have given tacit support for a Georgian assault on South Ossetia in the believe that the territory could be recaptured within 48 hours.

    Russia scares me (none / 0) (#4)
    by TheRealFrank on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 10:50:04 AM EST
    They can do whatever the hell they want, basically.

    They've got most of Europe by the throat because of Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas. So if the EU complains too loudly, they'll just threaten to shut off the gas, like they've already done with other countries.

    What is anyone else going to do?

    Russia has been increasingly using cold war style rhetoric, and I'm not sure where this will end.

    I'm not sure what Sakaashvilli was thinking when he gave the Russians an excuse for what they already wanted to do: make a powerplay in the region.

    And yes, noone listens to the US anymore, since Bush has squandered all international authority and goodwill.

    and more importantly (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by JoeA on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:21:00 AM EST
    the US cannot credibly threaten anything militarily given that the armed forces are all tied up in Afghanistan and Iraq and are breaking under that strain.

    Should the US (none / 0) (#10)
    by Warren Terrer on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:24:53 AM EST
    be threatening anything militarily over a place like South Ossetia? (Which, frankly, I had never heard of until this war started.) Do American liberals think this way now too?

    Did I say that? (none / 0) (#12)
    by JoeA on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:30:10 AM EST
    I'm just saying that the US has zero military leverage against anyone just now.  I'm not sure if you have read the op-eds by Kagan and Kristol but it seems to me that it is the neo-cons that are pushing the parallels with Sudetenland and trying to get the US to go to bat for Georgia.  Now what they actually think the US can actually do is another matter.

    And that is exactly why (none / 0) (#14)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:34:29 AM EST
    Putin had no qualms about entering into this.

    It was implied (none / 0) (#16)
    by Warren Terrer on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:37:34 AM EST
    But I will read your comment as ironic.

    I've read parts of the columns, including MY's comments about it. I think he's right on the money that you don't talk about Hitler and the Sudetenland unless you are arguing for the use of military force.

    Kristol is a moron. Putin has already called the neocon bluff, and now here's Kristol arguing for a policy of more bluffing.


    Georgia (none / 0) (#5)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 10:50:37 AM EST
    is a country that has the third largest number of troops in Iraq (2000).  Well, I should say they HAD that many troops in Iraq until this conflict.  I think I read they were being withdrawn.

    This headline is pro-Georgia, because they're our "staunch ally".

    If you want to see what's actually happening, don't read American propaganda, go to Canadian TV

    I want to hear (none / 0) (#6)
    by lilburro on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:00:07 AM EST
    what the candidates have to say about this.

    People are just beginning to tune in, so it is a great opportunity for Obama to frame the conflict the way he wants to.  

    Perhaps Obama should suspend (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:03:15 AM EST
    working on his acceptance speech and return to the contiguous 48 states.  Looks rather withdrawn.  

    And maybe skip the stadium speech (none / 0) (#15)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:35:37 AM EST
    looks rather frivolous when so many things are heating up, this being one.

    reminds me of when Saddam invaded Kuwait (none / 0) (#17)
    by DandyTIger on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 11:38:59 AM EST
    I had the feeling he thought it would be just peachy because he was getting positive signals from HW. What an idiot. Sounds like the Georgian president was similarly stupid.

    Most people have no idea (none / 0) (#21)
    by BernieO on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 12:20:31 PM EST
    that we told Saddam that we didn't care what he did in his dispute with Kuwait. From what I can gather, Kuwait was thrilled when Saddam went to war with Iran (as were we) and promised financial support which supposedly they did not deliver. Also there were reports at the time that Kuwait was likely taking oil from nearby Iraqi fields by drilling at an angle under the border. Iraq was virtually bankrupted by the war with Iran, so Saddam was threatening to invade Kuwait. BUT before he did he specifically asked our ambassador what our position was on this dispute and she told him that we didn't have one. At the time this was played as a mistake because of the  her inexperience, ignoring the fact that the State Department spokesperson also told our media that we had no treaty to defend Kuwait, a clear signal to Saddam that we would do nothing if he invaded. (At the time he had his troops massed at the border of Kuwait, so it was not idle speculation that he might invade.) I gather Cheney at first said we would support Kuwait but was forced to retract the statement and agree with the State Department.

    Within a short time of Saddam's invading Kuwait Bush did a 180 and condemned him, much to the surprise of many inside Bush's own administration.

    I do not understand why this story is buried. After all there has been a lot of talk about whether FDR saw Pearl Harbor coming. But bunglint the lead up to a recent war which set us on the path to where we are now? Not worth discussing. You can make a strong argument that had we told Saddam, who depended on us for his weapons, not to invade and helped settle the conflict, there would have been no 9-11, therefore no Iraq War. After all it was the presence of our troops in Saudi Arabia as a result of that war that made Osama go after us.

    Funny how the Bush's seem to get a pass from our media, unless they screw up so badly that it can't be ignored. Looks like this may be a repeat of Poppy's screw up.