Friday, August 15, 2008

American Neo-Cons vs Aggressive Nationalists

There's no end to the prominent figures in the neo-conservative movement who advocate a hardline policy toward Russia. Of course, there's John McCain and Dick Cheney (who's probably growing much more comfortable with the idea of John McCain as president). John Bolton got a long op-ed published in the Telegraph today while other neo-conservatives have been filling up cyber-space with their reflections on Russian aggression and Western appeasement.

But that brings a question to mind?

What would McCain, Cheney, Bolton, William Kristol, Max Boot, Robert Kagan, and Robert Kaplan have done if they were Russians? How would these figures have responded to Georgia's incursian into the territory of South Ossetia if they were working for the Russian version of the American Enterprise and giving advice to Putin and Medvedev instead of Bush and Cheney?

There's a variety of questions that need to be answered here. Would a Russian Bolton have accepted any Georgia had right to invade South Ossetia? Or would he have considered any Russian softness as "appeasement? If a Russian Bolton would he have accepted the dislodging of Russian peacekeepers from their posts, or would he have considered the "molesting" of Russia's "brave men" to be an excellent pretext for retaliation against Georgia.

And finally, would a Russian Bolton be eager to withdraw from Georgia now that there is a cease-fire? Or would he have been eager to demonstrate Russian strength, resolve, and will to the Georgians and their American sponsors?

The answer should be obvious. If the John Bolton, William Kristol, and other neo-conservatives had been on the Russian side of the Russia/Georgia dispute, they would have strongly advocated everything the Russians ended up doing. They would have argued for an armed response to the Georgian incursion into South Ossetia. They also would have backed the expansion of the Russian military advance into Georgia proper. Likewise, the neo-cons would have been reluctant to respond to "Western pressure" withdraw.

The main evidence for this conclusion is that John Bolton himself made it clear that he thought Russian actions were more appropriate than either the European or American response.
Fear was one reaction Russia wanted to provoke, and fear it has achieved, not just in the “Near Abroad” but in the capitals of Western Europe as well. But its main objective was hegemony, a hegemony it demonstrated by pledging to reconstruct Tskhinvali, the capital of its once and no-longer-future possession, South Ossetia. The contrast is stark: a real demonstration of using sticks and carrots, the kind that American and European diplomats only talk about.

From Bolton's point of view, the Russians know how to play the power game of carrots and sticks as John Bolton himself would play the game.
In fairness to Russia, it at least still seems to understand how to exercise power in the Council, which some other Permanent Members often appear to have forgotten.

Matthew Yglesias notes the "deep admiration" ofAmerican hawks for "global bad actors." That's because American hawks are actually like a lot of "global bad actors" in being aggressive nationalists. Indeed, the influence of the neo-cons on American foreign policy has made the United States a "bad actor" which launches unprovoked invasions of other countries, engages in the widespread torture of terrorist suspects, and maintains a complicated system of off-shore prisons (Guantanamo) and torture out-sourcing to countries like Romania.

One of the outcomes of Russia's conduct is that we can get a clear view of the bullying viciousness of our own aggressively nationalistic foreign policy elites in Russia's conduct toward the Georgians.

Needless to say, it's not a pretty sight.

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