Monday, August 18, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

If we’re invading other countries and liberating their people from fascist governments in order to help them secure their basic rights as human beings, we would do well stop and think, now and then, about the state of liberty in our own country.

This is why most people over the age of nine learn that issuing a bunch of threats and failing to carry them through --- or following through and failing to succeed --- is a recipe for people to stop taking you seriously. Bush and Cheney (and now McCain) have made a fetish out of sabre rattling for the past eight years and the results have been, shall we say, less than stellar. The US has shown that its volunteer military, while valiant, is undermanned and overstretched, its intelligence services are willing servants of political manipulators and its leadership is dishonest, immoral and incompetent. It's understandable that somebody out there would think that now is the time to make a move. That it would be Bush's soul brother Pooty-poot was entirely predictable.

The invasion may not turn out to be a victory for Russia. The most heartening moment in the last week was the arrival in Tbilisi . . . of the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, and Poland to stand in solidarity with Saakashvili. They are not ready to accept the reassertion of an old-fashioned Russian "sphere of influence." And their public presence and resistance are more important than any American or European statements.


1. The neocons are so distracted by the new meme of Russia as Nazi Germany, they’ve forgotten all about their old meme of Iran as Nazi Germany.

2. The Bush Administration, attempting to save face as a result of its failed promises to Georgia, appears determined to shame and isolate the Russians. If they keep it up, it's unlikely they'll get Russia’s continued cooperation on Iran.

3. The Russians have every incentive now to cultivate the Iranians rather than sanction them.

If I were the Ahmadinejad, I'd be laughing my missile-photoshopping jihadist butt off right about now.


In the days after the fall of the Berlin Wall it was possible to think that history, in the sense of a competition between systems, had stopped. The idea was expressed in the phrase The End of History, which implied that there was no conceivable challenge to the triumph of the liberal democratic system. The future would consist of refining the system to the last decimal place. But if 9/11 did not throw the proposition of the End of History into doubt, then the recent Russo-Georgian war has. When did the End of History End?

In terms of discipline and readiness, I'd say that Russian forces generally outperformed expectations. American and Israeli advisors toughened the Georgian military and helped give it some effective skills, but right now it's a non-factor; the Russians are going where they please, and Saakashvili apparently hasn't been able to put enough of a force together to conducting elementary blocking operations. Nevertheless (and this is the conclusion that most others have come to), the Russians still face some technological hurdles before they will achieve anything close to the efficiency of a modern Western military organization.
In less than an hour, I had become an Internet soldier. I didn't receive any calls from Kremlin operatives; nor did I have to buy a Web server or modify my computer in any significant way. If what I was doing was cyberwarfare, I have some concerns about the number of child soldiers who may just find it too fun and accessible to resist.

The Chinese and Russians scorned each other's neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese "street" felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.


Cartoon by Ben Sargent/Universal Press Syndicate

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