Georgia (and Ukraine)

Joe Klein accuses Robert Kagan of warmongering.

When a column starts off like this:

The details of who did what to precipitate Russia's war against Georgia are not very important. Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.

The events of the past week will be remembered that way, too.

..the author has got to be a neoconservative pushing for the next war. In this case, it's Robert Kagan, girding for a new twilight struggle with the Sovi...uh, sorry: that was a couple of twilight struggles ago...Russia.

I don't follow. Kagan's main point is simply that Russia remains a dangerous and assertive rival to the West.

Historians will come to view Aug. 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Russia's attack on sovereign Georgian territory marked the official return of history, indeed to an almost 19th-century style of great-power competition, complete with virulent nationalisms, battles for resources, struggles over spheres of influence and territory, and even -- though it shocks our 21st-century sensibilities -- the use of military power to obtain geopolitical objectives. Yes, we will continue to have globalization, economic interdependence, the European Union and other efforts to build a more perfect international order. But these will compete with and at times be overwhelmed by the harsh realities of international life that have endured since time immemorial. The next president had better be ready.

If I wanted to criticise that view I think I'd say it was too much a statement of the obvious, rather than attacking it as insanely militant. As Klein himself acknowledges,

To be sure, Russia's assault on Georgia is an outrage.

And yet, he continues

But it is important, yet again, to call out the endless neoconservative search for new enemies.

I cannot see that underlining the significance of an outrageous (in Klein's own view) Russian assault on a US ally (Georgian soldiers serve in Iraq) constitutes a desperate search for new enemies. What a strange reaction to these events.

My colleagues Quentin Peel and Robert Kaplan both have excellent commentaries, Quentin underlying the miscalculations on the Georgian side, Bob echoing Kagan's view that Russia is back as a grand adversary. Why is it so difficult to hold both of these ideas in one's head at the same time?

One further thought. Asked about Georgia on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne said that a repaired alliance with Europe might make it easier for the next administration to contain Russia. I wish it were true but this is a classic instance of diverging interests among allies. Europe has no appetite to check Russia over Georgia. On an intelligent assessment of ends and means, what choice does it have? Europe has far more to lose than the US in resisting/antagonising Russia. Obama or McCain would make no difference.

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