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Georgia, regime change, and casus belli
Posted by: Bryan Pick on Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This is one of those "I must respectfully disagree" moments...

Earlier today, McQ made the following point in his post, "Is Georgia Worth Going to War Over?":
But one thing [it] does point out is that Russia believes if "regime change" is a legitimate reason for the US to invade another country, it is certainly just as legitimate for Russia to do so.

And while you can argue the differences between Iraq and Georgia until you are blue in the face, the basic premise holds, like it or not.
"Regime change" is a strategic objective of an invasion rather than a rationale for one. If a state wishes to forcibly change the regime of another state, they must have a separate, legitimate casus belli.

And the differences between the causes (in this case, between invading Iraq and invading Georgia) are precisely where one builds the case that one regime change is less legitimate than another.

In the beginning of the post-Cold War era, and especially as we began the War on Terror, the United States and her allies began to lay out a standard for the legitimacy of state sovereignty that rested on the consent of the governed, which includes states' respect for human rights. In Iraq and Afghanistan, these states were beyond the shadow of a doubt not states of consent. Their people did not enjoy even the most basic protections; they did not select their own governments. (That is not to say that we will go to war with every country that violates its people's basic rights, but it is considered a valid rationale.)

In addition, we had national security rationales for invading both Iraq and Afghanistan, and more generally for our global war on terror. In the case of Afghanistan, our national security objectives were both retaliatory (they had harbored and provided support to the group responsible for the attack) and preclusive (as opposed to preemptive — we wished to prevent from arising the conditions that could lead to more attacks). In the case of Iraq, they were almost entirely preclusive.

Both sets of rationales found their way into our arguments before the UN and in the congressional Authorizations of the Use of Military Force. The AUMF against Iraq had 23 such rationales. Where our sacred values and strategic interests intersect, we build the strongest case for war.

Can Russia build a similar, strong case for its invasion of Georgia? That is the salient question.
 
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I agree with you but, the Russians claim the Georgians committed war crimes during their invasion of South Ossetia. Supposedly burned villagers and ran an old lady over with a tank. This may or may not be true, but because in the 90’s the Georgians and the Abkhazians, etc. did do ethnic cleansing of each other its not going to be easy to dismiss as impossible.

Or they can simply say that the Georgians broke the ceasefire. Georgia really need to get evidence of any S. Ossetian attacks on them into the public record to avoid "the Polish soldiers attack German radio station" situation here.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
If I were to wager a guess Bryan, I’d say Bruce was referring to how the left could make an argument that would fall upon sympathetic ears, first in the media, then, by extension upon public opinion. You make salient points, but most likely, they will be lost upon the beach volleyball and synchronized diving crowd that makes up public opinion.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Psst - the real comparison is with Kosovo:
http://scotterb.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/american-hypocrisy/
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb’s back!

So Scott, if the real comparison is with Kosovo, what do you think Europe will do?
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Can Russia build a similar, strong case for its invasion of Georgia? That is the salient question.
Actually, that’s not the salient question at all. Wake up.

Russia does not need a strong case. It doesn’t need a case at all. Because it will not be prosecuted for its actions. No one is going to do jack in response to what Russia is doing.

The wingnut fantasy on this site is the Bush fantasy - that the US can invade Iraq and turn it into a democracy. And that therefore we are good, and every other invader is evil. McQ and the rest of you have smoking that crack on this site for years. The converse is your implied point: Russia cannot make the same case with respect to Georgia.

But it doesn’t need to. It has oil and gas.

Now, of course, Bush didn’t invade Iraq to bring democracy there. He invaded because he is a petutlant child, and so are his advisers. Idiots. They invaded because they hate Saddam and were mad about 1991. And the War in Iraq has gained America nothing, and even less.

Putin, by contrast, invaded Georgia and has won. He won’t lose anything. And he had weakened a foe. And re-asserted power. And gained stature at home and abroad. In the real world.

The weird neo-neocon thinking on this site is getting really weird. It’s like Bush and his cult-members have infected your brains and turned you all into bunch of ivory-tower idealists.

"Russia can’t make a case for war, and therefore they will be seen as insincere, and then Russia will go home from the dance crying, and so shame on them ..., and I will make the case to get the nicest guy at the dance. "
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
The wingnut fantasy on this site is the Bush fantasy - that the US can invade Iraq and turn it into a democracy. And that therefore we are good
The wingnut fantasy? No, I suspect the moonbat projection, especially after reading the rest of your rant.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
The wingnut fantasy? No, I suspect the moonbat projection, especially after reading the rest of your rant.
Orwellian.

The wingnut fantasy was to invade Iraq, turn it into a democracy, and then the rest of the Middle East would turn democratic too.

The fact that you are now accusing the left as the perpetrators of this fantasy is quite literally insane. You are now accusing the left of being responsible for the right’s neocon’s nonsense.

WTF is wrong with you? Look, I know wingnuts are insane. But do you really think that you can pass off the invasion of Iraq as some kind of leftist plot?

But of course to wingnuts, Obama is to blame for current gas prices.

So maybe you can do it.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Orwellian.

Yep, certainly is. Perhaps you ought to read source material before using antithetical references.

But Obama is dreamy...
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
The Kosovo example is probably better if we are talking S. Ossetia and Abkhaz independence. While we did pressure Milosevic then, that was due to his other actions in the Yugo split up, no? In any case, I seriously doubt the Russians can get international opinion and a war crimes tribunal to get the Georgian president outed. It may even strengthen his support!

Iraq may be in everyone’s mind now, but you know what? I’m not sure Iraq is really some sort of oh-my-god precedent. We were not "at peace" with them. There were cease fire violations, UN resolutions, etc. More than Grenada. More than restoring Aristide in Haiti. More than in Vietnam, maybe.

The key in Kosovo was the idea that nation states could openly help parts of other nations become separate nations. That WAS a big precedent. (or was it? See East and West Germany...)

Regime change happens in a lot of wars, especially if they have a clear winner and loser.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
The wingnut fantasy.... blah de blah blah
Someone is off their meds today :)

Like I said no parody is better than the unintentional self parody.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Actually Prof Erb does have a valid point that this Georgian affair is likely blow back from our decisions during the Kosovo affair.

On the question asked by Bryan, I don’t recall hearing about any UN resolutions concerning the Republic of Georgia.

The Russians are backing separatist movements, and then claiming they are only there to help the separatists. But then their actions are going far beyond defending the separatists.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
mkultra -
Can Russia build a similar, strong case for its invasion of Georgia? That is the salient question.

Actually, that’s not the salient question at all. Wake up.
If one is comparing and contrasting the legitimacy of regime changes, it is the salient question.
Strategic consequences are a different matter.
The wingnut fantasy on this site is the Bush fantasy - that the US can invade Iraq and turn it into a democracy. And that therefore we are good, and every other invader is evil. McQ and the rest of you have smoking that crack on this site for years. The converse is your implied point: Russia cannot make the same case with respect to Georgia.
On the first point, well, we did invade Iraq and they are a democracy. Perhaps not your favorite flavor of democracy, but there it is: free elections.

As for whether that makes us good, that’s a question of values, but replacing a state of terror with something much closer to a state of consent sure doesn’t strike me as evil.

"Every other invader"? You have one data point from my blog post, and that’s Russia. Have we lately discussed other invaders whose evil is questionable?

And I haven’t implied that Russia can’t make the case, although I invite the reader to make that judgment for himself. That being the case, it seems like you’ve made the judgment already, and Russia doesn’t come out looking good. Interesting.
The weird neo-neocon thinking on this site is getting really weird. It’s like Bush and his cult-members have infected your brains and turned you all into bunch of ivory-tower idealists.

"Russia can’t make a case for war, and therefore they will be seen as insincere, and then Russia will go home from the dance crying, and so shame on them ..., and I will make the case to get the nicest guy at the dance. "
Here you are, ripping on the supposed ulterior and base motives of the Bush administration in their justification of the Iraq War, and in the next breath you’re calling me an idealist for talking about casus belli when pure power will determine the (short-term) outcome.

Consider me chastened!
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Bains, I’m not "back" in the sense of participating. I’m lurking, and every now and then posting a brief comment or link. I’ll probably not actively participate until after the election.

For instance I think this current crisis creates a real danger and opportunity:
http://scotterb.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/limits-of-american-power/

An excerpt:

"...However, American actions have led to an overstretching of US power and a demonstration of America’s relative impotence. Why?

The simplistic response would be to blame “Bush and the Neo-cons,” but often foreign policy decisions, good or bad, transcend domestic politics. I think the reason for the US errors in overstretching its capacity come from globalization, and two complementary beliefs: a) that the US could and should be a force for democracy and markets now that the Cold War is over (idealism); and b) the US needs to maintain access to oil, especially as demand increases with uncertainties about future production. This created a perfect confluence: if we do what is morally right to try to expand liberty and markets, we’ll also get what is in our self-interest, an advantage in the competition for oil and other resources.

The other choice — to try to build a stable balance of power system that does not confront Russia, China or even Iran — was viewed as dangerous. As Charles Krauthammer noted..."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
This is one of those "I must respectfully disagree" moments...
That’s a pretty fine razor you have there to split that hair.
Because it seems to me that “regime change” was exactly our rational for war. We argued that it was the regime, in its belligerence, that was a perceived threat to our national security, thus to bring about its change was our legitimate national security “casus belli”.

"Regime change" is a strategic objective of an invasion rather than a rationale for one. If a state wishes to forcibly change the regime of another state, they must have a separate, legitimate casus belli.
I suppose that if you wanted to point out the academic definition you might be able to separate McQ’s apples from your oranges. But in all practicality, all I see are Granny Smiths and Red Delicious.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
The simplistic response would be to blame “Bush and the Neo-cons,”
Definitely the approach of our resident simpleton mk :)
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
And gained stature at home and abroad. In the real world.
Yeah, this will make all the other former soviet bloc countries feel warm and fuzzy when dealing with Putin.

If you mean stature as in eastern europe will be scared witless of him, yes.
If you mean stature as in Europe will continue to act like Europe, yes.

Give him this, his time in Soviet government was not wasted. He knows we’re divided, and tired of fighting, and are unlikely to find any strong reason to stop Georgia from becoming Russia once again.

You keep up your good work comrade Ultra, it’s people like you who help reassure him that he can do as he pleases.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Pogue Mahone -

My argument is rather straightforward. "Regime change" is not a casus belli. If somebody asks you how you justify hitting somebody, you don’t say, "I hit him because that was the way to get him flat on the ground." That just begs the question of how you justify forcing him to the ground.
By the same token, you don’t justify an invasion just by saying, "I wanted to change the regime"; you have to give reason that the regime needed changing.

The case for war rests on the rationale for removing the regime, not on the fact that you intended to change the regime.

Where am I splitting hairs?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"they must have a separate, legitimate casus belli."

Legitimate according to who? You? There is an old phrase, ’Might Makes Right’, which seems to still be valid, despite what you or anyone else thinks. To paraphrase what someone once said about the USSC, ’you have made a moral judgement, now enforce it’. The world can get its panties in a twist over this if it wishes, but at the end of the day, Russia wins, and in a year or so, noone will care. Unless, of course, someone wants to go to war with Russia over it.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

"That just begs the question of how you justify forcing him to the ground."

No, it begs the question ’I did it because I wanted to, and who is going to stop me’?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
timactual -
Legitimate according to who? You?
I understand where you’re coming from, but given the context of McQ’s statement, the answer is: legitimate according to anyone making the judgment.

If any country, Russia included, wants to argue that their invasion is just as legitimate as the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq, on account of the fact that they’re both intended to bring about regime change, I’m arguing that their premise doesn’t hold water. We didn’t open up a new can of worms by deciding to change a regime or two.

As for the strategic consequences of legitimacy, like I said earlier, that’s another matter.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Legitimate according to who? You? There is an old phrase, ’Might Makes Right’, which seems to still be valid, despite what you or anyone else thinks. To paraphrase what someone once said about the USSC, ’you have made a moral judgement, now enforce it’. The world can get its panties in a twist over this if it wishes, but at the end of the day, Russia wins, and in a year or so, noone will care. Unless, of course, someone wants to go to war with Russia over it.
I love the smell of reality in the morning. Nice one, tim.
 
Written By: Jeff
URL: http://
The real comparison is with Kosovo, huh? That was architected by that arch-neocon Bill Clinton, IIRC.
 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
"Legitimate according to who? You? There is an old phrase, ’Might Makes Right’, which seems to still be valid,..."

Oh, yeah? Then riddle me this:

Why are U.S. nukes still in their silos?
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Why are U.S. nukes still in their silos?"

I am not sure I understand your point, but anyway...
Because everyone on all sides concerned with the authority to launch nukes knew that right, legitimacy, morality, or anything else was irrelevant once they were used. A lack of a legitimate reason to use them is not why they are still in their silos.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I see right where Billy is going with this. I’ll make part of it concrete for you, tim.

There’s no shortage of targets that lack retaliatory capability and are irritants to the US. We could erase a few cities here and there and the rest of the world (America included) would wake up the next day and talk (shout) about whether it was the moral thing to do.

Let me narrow it even further: the United States enjoyed an atomic weapons monopoly in the years immediately following World War II. Our capacity to make credible threats in that time is unmatched in history: not just first strike capability but essentially unassailable power to obliterate our foes. All the other great powers had been devastated by the war. Why didn’t the atom bombs fly after we polished off Japan?

Ultimately, the straightforward version of "might makes right" has never held up against the contrary aphorism that "war doesn’t determine who’s right; it determines who’s left."
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
After some reflection, which shouldn’t have been necessary really, I think perhaps the MAJOR difference between Kosovo and South Ossetia is that Kosovo is not going to become the 51st state of the USA but S. Ossetia wants to join Russia. That means there is a conflict of interest big time for Russian peace-keeping.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Thank you, Bryan. It’s always nice to see someone who can mange implications.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
This sort of situation has the potential for spreading like wildfire over many cross-national border ethnic groups. The Kurds in Iraq and Turkey is one such instance that’s already simmering.

http://hotair.com/archives/2008/08/13/sovereignty-wars/
It isn’t just a matter of precedent, either. This is at least in part payback for the West thumbing its nose at Russia while it dismembered the Balkans over the last 13 years. Russia and Serbia have traditionally been close allies, and the suppression of Serbian sovereignty produced a completely predictable result. The Russians want to protect what’s left of their turf, and in this instance, supported attacks by separatists in order to provoke Georgia into attacking them. Now Russia feels justified in doing to Georgia what NATO did to Yugoslavia, and later to Serbia itself.

This will echo in places other than the Balkans and the Caucasus, however. The lesson separatists took from Kosovo is that any ethnic group has a right to secede from a sovereign nation simply by being different from their countrymen. As Meany and Mylonas note, that could apply to almost every nation in the world, including the US, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, France, Germany, and so on. That precedent undermines the concept of sovereignty as understood since at least the Peace of Westphalia, and leads the world into dangerous territory, especially in an age of terrorism.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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