A. Sinan Ünür
August 13, 2008
Until about 11:15 this morning, I had been waiting for the real response from President Bush to the invasion of Georgia by Russia.
I have been nervous for some time of the possibility of some major actor in the rest of the world misinterpreting the internal political struggles in the U.S. as a signal that they can act with impunity.
What the outside world sees when they look at a lot of U.S. politicians and press is a country which is ready to chicken out. Representatives and senators claim the U.S. military is broken. The press provide extensive coverage of cases of alcholosim and suicides in the U.S. military. So-called military analysts parade on prime time TV talking about how the U.S. cannot simultaneously maintain a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and intervene in hostilities somewhere else in the world. Economists and politicians talk of the second great depression and paint the picture of a country and economy in shambles.
An outsider looking in might easily be misled into thinking that the U.S. is reliving the post-Vietnam era.
While the current economic troubles and the sacrifices of members of all branches of the U.S. military are real, the general sense of panic and doom one is left with after an examination of the U.S. media and certain politicians is not.
Despite all the troubles, the U.S. would be able to handle any serious threat not just to the U.S. mainland but also to the functioning of the world economy. The question is, however, not whether the U.S. has the capacity but rather if there is leadership to channel this capacity.
The outside world looks at the rhetoric of Barack Obama and the rest of the Democrats and perceives this leadership to be missing — mistakenly, but that is beside the point. This has been the source of my trepidation for quite a while now: That the perception the U.S. cannot do anything but stand idly by was going to lead to some serious miscalculations on the part of some unsavory characters throughout the world.
That possibility of miscalculation became reality when Putin decided to go ahead and invade Georgia. He expected nothing other than so-called diplomacy and calls for ‘restraint’.
Given the boldness of Russian action, the potential set of responses was limited indeed. What can be done against Russia, still in possession of a massive military, flush with oil cash, with the capacity of waging nuclear war or transporting nuclear weapons to various other countries such as North Korea or Iran? Wouldn’t any attempt to stop Russian action by words be futile and therefore further damage U.S. credibility? And, wouldn’t any attempt to intervene militarily bring U.S. and Russia to all out war?
I was unable to see any way out. Either the U.S. response was going to be empty rhetoric which would open the way for Russia to re-annex a whole bunch of countries from Ukraine to Tajikistan paving the way to the second coming of the USSR or the world would plunge into a war the likes of which had not been seen since the Second World War.
This morning President Bush made a game changing move. Let us take a look at the President’s plan:
First, he is sending Condoleezza Rice to Georgia:
She will then travel to Tbilisi, where she will personally convey America’s unwavering support for Georgia's democratic government. On this trip she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.
This is a bold move with two potential outcomes: First, it might lead Putin to speed up the pace of military operations to take Tbilisi before Dr. Rice arrives there. If Putin indeed chooses to take or attack Tbilisi, the true motive behind his military action would be revealed. In this case, Georgia would be lost, but it would be easier to rally an international coalition against further Russian aggression. If Dr. Rice does make it to Tbilisi, the Russian advance would likely be stopped. The presence of Dr. Rice in Tbilisi would serve as a powerful deterrent unless Putin is ready to risk war with the U.S. by harming her. While this may not cause the Russians to withdraw, the resulting stalemate may restore U.S. credibility by demonstrating that Russia does not have free reign to invade any which country it wishes.
The second action President Bush took is even bolder than the first one:
I’ve also directed Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to begin a humanitarian mission to the people of Georgia, headed by the United States military. This mission will be vigorous and ongoing. A U.S. C-17 aircraft with humanitarian supplies is on its way. And in the days ahead we will use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.
He took Russia at their word that there is a cease-fire and sent the U.S. military to Georgia! This puts Putin in the position of choosing between attacking the U.S. military directly to stop the aid from coming in versus either withdrawing or again yielding to a stalemate with the same consequences as outlined above.
These two actions combined, unless Putin really is willing to wage all out war with the U.S., practically ensure that Georgia will not become a province of the new Russian empire for now. On the other hand, a return to status quo ante still seems impossible. Finally, even if Putin is stopped in Georgia, his desire to return Russia to the ‘glory’ days of the USSR will not be extinguished (and in fact, may become stronger).
In the coming days and months, it will be more important than ever for the U.S. and NATO to project an image consistent with the strength and determination they actually possess in defense of liberty.
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