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Russo-Georgian War - a few observations
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The first, via Ralph Peters, on a more tactical level. It has to do with the Russian response to the Ossetia "crisis".
For all that US commentators and diplomats are still chattering about Russia's "response" to Georgia's actions, the Kremlin spent months planning and preparing this operation. Any soldier above the grade of private can tell you that there's absolutely no way Moscow could've launched this huge ground, air and sea offensive in an instantaneous "response" to alleged Georgian actions.

As I pointed out Saturday, even to get one armored brigade over the Caucasus Mountains required extensive preparations. Since then, Russia has sent in the equivalent of almost two divisions - not only in South Ossetia, the scene of the original fighting, but also in separatist Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast.

The Russians also managed to arrange the instant appearance of a squadron of warships to blockade Georgia. And they launched hundreds of air strikes against preplanned targets.

Every one of these things required careful preparations. In the words of one US officer, "Just to line up the airlift sorties would've taken weeks."
His point, of course, is in order to deploy the military assets in the manner and time frame in which Russia deployed them takes extensive preparation and planning. You don't just suddenly see a crisis pop up, call your military commanders in the area and give them some orders and see them on the move in a couple of hours. That is, unless you've done all the planning and preparations to make that happen and have your troops staged just awaiting a "go" order.

And of course, you wouldn't stage them unless you were pretty sure that order was going to be given. That hints at a plan that would ensure that a significant enough provocation would develop so that order could be given. As information continues to come out of Ossetia, it appears that provocation was provided by attacks on Georgian troops there which prompted a response.

Victor Davis Hanson provides a couple more:
Indeed, tired of European lectures, the Russians are now telling the world that soft power is, well, soft. Moscow doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, the European Union, the World Court at the Hague, or any finger-pointing moralist from Geneva or London. Did anyone in Paris miss any sleep over the rubble of Grozny?

More likely, Putin & Co. figure that any popular rhetoric about justice will be trumped by European governments’ concern for energy. With just a few tanks and bombs, in one fell swoop, Russia has cowered its former republics, made them think twice about joining the West, and stopped NATO and maybe EU expansion in their tracks. After all, who wants to die for Tbilisi?

Russia does not need a global force-projection capacity; it has sufficient power to muscle its neighbors and thereby humiliate not merely its enemies, but their entire moral pretensions as well.
Russia is developing into the same sort of state it was during the cold war without all of the baggage the USSR brought with it. It has adopted an economic model which will keep it financially viable while again trending toward its old authoritarian self.

As I mentioned yesterday, the irony here is while it will suffer world condemnation (something it obviously doesn't care a whit about) it has just changed the regional balance of power to its advantage. And as Hanson points out it has completely let the air out of the NATO "promise". While not exactly vassal states, the countries which border Russia now understand the reality of their continued existence in their present form. And NATO and the EU may not play a part anymore.

Hanson also points out that Russia understands that in the long-run, their actions will be sanctioned and excused by the moral relativists and apologists in the West:
The Russians rightly expect Westerners to turn on themselves, rather than Moscow — and they won’t be disappointed. Imagine the morally equivalent fodder for liberal lament: We were unilateral in Iraq, so we can’t say Russia can’t do the same to Georgia. (As if removing a genocidal dictator is the same as attacking a democracy). We accepted Kosovo’s independence, so why not Ossetia’s? (As if the recent history of Serbia is analogous to Georgia’s.) We are still captive to neo-con fantasies about democracy, and so encouraged Georgia’s efforts that provoked the otherwise reasonable Russians (As if the problem in Ossetia is our principled support for democracy rather than appeasement of Russian dictatorship).

From what the Russians learned of the Western reaction to Iraq, they expect their best apologists will be American politicians, pundits, professors, and essayists — and once more they will not be disappointed. We are a culture, after all, that after damning Iraqi democracy as too violent, broke, and disorganized, is now damning Iraqi democracy as too conniving, rich, and self-interested — the only common denominator being whatever we do, and whomever we help, cannot be good.
Some of that has already begun, and I expect it to pick up significantly as the weeks pass. As Ralph Peters said, this move by Russia "may have more important strategic implications than Iraq and Afghanistan combined." I tend to agree with that assertion.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

our principled support for democracy

As the Georgians are beginning to ask themselves, what exactly is the meaning of "support?"
Written By: Andy Vance
URL: http://
Well done. And when the dust settles, there is room where U.S. and NATO interests coincide with Russia’s national interests for cooperation.

This isn’t the end of the world - or NATO - unless the politicians spin it out of control.

Russia isn’t the enemy. Not yet. Russia isn’t an ally. Not yet. Choices have consequences.

Written By: James Atticus Bowden
More random thoughts:

If this is a repudiation of "soft power", in the long term that actually plays to both Russia’s and the US’s favor, at the expense of Europe. The US has a lot of hard power, it just lacks the will to use it; if the will develops, probably as a result of repudiating strong left-wing views (a process I still think can occur), the US can still do interesting things.

As usual, the rush to declare victory on behalf of any non-US power is premature. The fat lady has not sung on this affair. Careful investigation shows the indicators are more mixed than it might originally seem, and one must also consider the responses that might result from this action, many of which may take weeks to come forth.

And it is the responses to this affair, rather than the war itself, that will dominate in the medium- and long-term. Russia may have done itself a big disservice by stripping away the pretenses that just so happen to be the primary (self-)restraint on US power right now.

Given that I think the optimal strategy for opponents of the US right now is to not poke it and let it progressively (in both senses) fool itself into thinking the world doesn’t matter and hard power doesn’t matter, I think this was not a good move for Russia in the long term. (The biggest problem with this optimal strategy is that it requires a lot of patience, so there’s really no hope of it being deployed by everybody, everywhere.)
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
Spengler wants Putin as the next U.S. president:
If Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were president of the United States, would Iran try to build a nuclear bomb? Would Pakistan provide covert aid to al-Qaeda? Would Hugo Chavez train terrorists in Venezuela? Would leftover nationalities with delusions of grandeur provoke the great powers? Just ask Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili, who now wishes he never tried to put his 4 million countrymen into strategic play.
intervening in Georgia, Russia has demonstrated that the great powers of the world have nothing to fight about. Russia has wiped the floor with a putative US ally, and apart from a bad case of cream pie on the face, America has lost nothing. The United States and the European community will do nothing to help Georgia, and nothing of substance to penalize the Russian Federation.

Contrary to the hyperventilation of policy analysts on American news shows, the West has no vital interests in Georgia. It would be convenient from Washington’s vantage point for oil to flow from the Caspian Sea via Georgia to the Black Sea, to be sure, but nothing that occurs in Georgia will have a measurable impact on American energy security. It is humiliating for the US to watch the Russians thrash a prospective ally, but not harmful, for Georgia never should have been an ally in the first place.

The lack of consequences of Russia’s incursion is a noteworthy fact, for never before in the history of the world has the world’s economic and military power resided in countries whose fundamental interests do not conflict in any important way. The US enthused over Georgia’s ambitions to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and encouraged Saakashvili to overplay his hand. Once it became clear that Russia would not tolerate a NATO member on its southern border, however, Washington had nothing to say about the matter, because no fundamental American interests were at stake.
Go read the rest of it. When it comes to a cold eye, Spengler’s might be even colder than Putin’s.

There are a number of Spengler’s points that I would argue with, and I think that his general attitude might be a bit overboard. But his eye is cold, Antarctic cold.

But of course the U.S. has to condemn the Russian invasion, even if there’s not much to be done about it other than in the diplomatic arena.

I had an old dog, a dear old dog, who lived to be 17. In his last years he was all lame with arthritis and could barely drag himself down the street on our walks. But when another male dog of significant stature approached, my old boy would square up and carry himself like a bodybuilder on steroids, the complete stud, until the other dog had passed, after which he would fall back down into his arthritic lameness.

Let’s give the Russians that much credit, because that’s about what they got left.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Oh, and this is Spengler’s concluding paragraph:
Unfortunately, modern weapons technology makes it possible for a spoiler state to inflict a disproportionate amount of damage. China recognized this when it cooperated with the United States to defuse the North Korean nuclear problem. The most visible prospective spoiler in the pack remains Iran. If America wants to recover from its humiliation in the Caucasus, it might, for example, conduct an air raid against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and justify it with the same sort of reasoning that Russia invoked in Georgia. Contrary to surface impressions, Moscow wouldn’t mind a bit.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
"For many months I [Obama] have warned that there needs to be active international engagement to peacefully address the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia including a high level and neutral international mediator and a genuine international peacekeeping force , not simply Russian troops."
No one has been able to find any statements by Obama regarding South Ossetia or Abkhazia prior to this week.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
No one has been able to find any statements by Obama regarding South Ossetia or Abkhazia prior to this week.
Michelle will confirm that these warnings were very much a part of Obama’s table talk[1] during this period.

[1] Allusion intentional and serious.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Hubris again - a US senator warned who?
What international body was he advising?
Exactly who did he warn?

And then, just as importantly, where’s the evidence that he ever did so.

As Martin said, probably telling his kids and Michelle. Bet the kids are on bathroom cleaning detail now for failing to take the necessary action and get the international peace keepers on site.

(and as a side thought, don’t we all just KNOW who he means when he says ’international peace keepers’ - Pax Americana baby).
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Why We War … and Why Conservative Policies Are Better

Why can’t we all just live in peace? Because it’s not our nature, because we’re not programmed that way; we are programmed to be tribal territorial animals that instinctively form tribes and contend with one another.

Why are we not aware of the tribal instincts driving much of our behavior? Because the left-brain Interpreter function (described in all of Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga’s books from “The Social Brain” in 1985 to “The Ethical Brain” in 2007) automatically generates implicitly believed conscious explanations for any actions we perform that are actually triggered by subconscious motivations, i.e., instincts.

As tribal territorial animals we are instinctively Good to those within our tribe, and instinctively Evil toward other tribes; that is, we instinctively fear and suspect other tribes and assign base motivations to everything they do. If another tribe becomes viewed as an enemy we are easily capable of conducting pogroms, genocides, holocausts, and jihads against them without any twinge of conscience.

Human tribes have the unique feature of forming tribes around common beliefs. Thus we have Liberal and Conservative tribes, Democrat and Republican tribes, and multitudes of religious tribes. Because our brain processes ideas by subconsciously comparing them with existing beliefs and automatically generating an emotional cue for the conscious mind to react to (satisfaction, annoyance, anger, outrage), we are incapable of discussing opposing ideas rationally without a conscious act of will to do so. (see Abortion, etc.)

Hopefully, in due time, this emerging understanding of human nature based upon hard knowledge of how our brain functions will blunt once and for all the liberal delusion that “Man is basically Good,” and that Russian resurgence and Islamo-Fascisism can be dealt with through understanding and compromise. … The Conservative view that Man is subject to Evil instincts as well as Good must eventually be acknowledged to be correct.

Adam Leonard
(author of “Man by Nature: The Hidden Programming Controlling Human Behavior”),
Written By: Adam Leonard
The one humorous aspect to this whole grim situation is the uncharacteristic silence of the "peace activists" as they scratch their beards thinking up ways to justify Russia’s use of that aggressive force which the "peace community" is supposed to oppose in principle.
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
I think the US could easily begin flying in "peacekeepers" of our own, and offering help for Eastern European nations to do the same. This ceasefire is the best time to do this.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I had an old dog, a dear old dog, who lived to be 17. In his last years he was all lame with arthritis and could barely drag himself down the street on our walks. But when another male dog of significant stature approached, my old boy would square up and carry himself like a bodybuilder on steroids, the complete stud, until the other dog had passed, after which he would fall back down into his arthritic lameness.
Why does your dog do that? Meet that one moment summoning up the appearance of being fit? Because if he blows it, that other dog will treat him like a b... "girl dog" from then on. It may require a real fight to reverse that mindset in the other dog.

So, I’d say that the analogy is reversed. The US is the old dog, but we got caught off guard and weren’t able to muster any sense of being a ’stud’.

Basically he have had our thumb up out collective behinds in general but especially when it comes to Russia in particular. If we were really committing to Georgia, we should have shored that up. True ’support’ or ability to meet our promises should have been implemented lock step with those promises.

This isn’t only about Russia. The US and the West got caught looking old, decrepit, and a puffed up fake. Just the perception Russia needs to exert increased influence.

Like McQ has said, the Empire is back but without being hamstrung by adherence to Communist ideals and increasing control of Europe’s energy supply.

I for one don’t want a return to the cold war. Or rather, I don’t want a return to the cold war on a global scale. So I would say its time to start fighting this cold war while it is on the smaller side.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Well, America is still a vibrant, complex, multi-dimensional society, with a growing population, a 15 trillion dollar economy, and most important of all an extraordinary capacity to adapt.

Russia, by contrast, is banking heavily on a single-commodity (fossil fuels) economy, struggling to diversify, with a shrinking population, etc.

Who, really, is the old dog here?

The U.S. just stayed the course in Iraq and picked apart a complicated societal hairball to win Iraqis over to a reasonably modern civil society. We don’t know if it will last, but 18 months ago everywhere you looked the cognoscenti were saying it was folly, impossible to accomplish.

Russia, on the other hand, wants to reverse the achievments of a sovereign, independent country that doesn’t have a competent military to defend itself. The Russian leadership thinks that this is the way to finesse the world and re-establish its power. That’s going to last exactly how long?

And that is Russia’s posture to the world: squaring itself up so that it looks great again while its on the verge (in historical time) of further collapse and disappearing into the mists.

Why does your dog do that? Meet that one moment summoning up the appearance of being fit?
Because he was a great and noble beast, who had great pride. It was just for show though, because I would never have let him fight and would have protected him against the other dog’s attack.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
this move by Russia "may have more important strategic implications than Iraq and Afghanistan combined." I tend to agree with that assertion.
Hmmmmm. So perhaps having most of our deployable forces stuck in Iraq leaving us unable to respond to this more important event wasn’t such a great idea in retrospect. Big of you to admit that McQ
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
No Retief, we wouldn’t have responded even if everyone was sitting at home.

You pick your battles, and this isn’t one to pick - especially if you’re smart enough to understand what Russian’s motives are in this one.
Written By: McQ

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