Wednesday, August 20, 2008

World War III 2.0

Ooh, goody, sabre-rattling with Russia! Grand alliances, evil empires forward siting of nuclear missles! If the 80s are coming back, maybe the Talking Heads will get back together. Actually the current situation seems to blend elements of WWs III and I, as we'll see.

I find it somewhat disturbing when I read a Pat Buchanan piece (esp. when it's at Lew Rockwell's site) and find myself nodding at his sagacity. But even better on the war in Georgia is Billmon, who has quietly returned to blogging after a long hiatus. Both writers point out how the US had a hand in stirring up this shit. Among the many nuggets in Billmon's piece is the revelation that Congress had passed something called the "NATO Freedom Consolidation Act", which enables the US to treat Ukraine and Georgia as full-fledged NATO allies in all but name. Might this make the Russians a little antsy? Apparently so. Who could have known?

Hardnosed realists at Stratfor point out that this minor war simply serves as a signal of a shift in the balance of power that has already occured.

And of course Jim Kunstler jumps in with a word about how its going to bring our financial system crashing down. If he keeps on saying that eventually he'll be right.

Chris Floyd muses that the US deliberately encouraged Georgia to attack, essentially hoping for a Russian reaction that would enable more sabre-rattling at home, giving a boost to warriors in US politics, notably John McCain:

However, at this point, it is still unlikely that Butt-Thumper and the gang will actually take a pop at the Russians. But they don't have to, not right now. The racheting up of tensions, the resurrection of the mega-profitable Cold War tropes, and the convenient burial of the huge, fetid mountain of Bush Regime crime -- torture, aggression, corruption, tyranny -- by a juiced-up media with a new conflict to play with: all of these will serve the militarists very nicely, thank you.

I have no problems at all believing that the motivation and will to do something like this exists; but I have some doubts about whether the current administration is capable of being that strategically devious.

What's the other side saying? Here's Michael Gerson, a reliable gauge of offical neocon opinion (h/t IOZ):

The worst option would be to excuse Russia by blaming ourselves. NATO expansion did not cause Russian belligerence. The desire to be part of NATO in liberated Europe was fueled, in part, by a justified fear of Russian belligerence. ....
Georgia has been foolish. But Russia's crude overreach has had one good effect -- revealing the courage of others. Poland has quickly upgraded its relations with America, even under nuclear threat from Russia. Ukraine has been defiant, even though Russia still makes claims on Crimea. These nations have recent memories of Russian national "pride." And their courage should provoke our own.

Oh yeah. There's battle lines being drawn / And no one's right, if everybody's wrong.

More Gerson:

Again and again in European history, there has been a temptation to sacrifice the freedom of small countries to the interests of great powers. And it generally hasn't worked out very well, for them or for us.

Oh yes, and pulling small countries under the blanket of great power alliances in an atmosphere of saber-rattling has worked out so wonderfully in the past.

Well, this at least returns this post to one of the consistent themes of this blog, which is the dynamics of militarization and polarization. Militarists everywhere create the justifications for militarism everywhere else. We can see it happening here. McCain the militarist ought to be sending Saakashvili and Putin muffin baskets, at the very least.

The reality of this dynamic is perfectly obvious to me at this point, maybe because I've been obsessing about this idea for years. What's less obvious is how much the players in these games are aware of the dynamics versus how much they are simply being pushed around by them. Do militarists genuinely want war? I suppose they do. If it's what you are good at, it's what you want. Firemen would be bored and depressed without fires, and so they occasionally go and create some. Similarly warfighters must needs be warmakers, shit-stirrers, conflict-amplifiers. Like the fireman-arsonists, they probably don't mean for things to get out of hand, but they always do.

[[update: Jim Henley caught a Wall Street Journal article that highlights the financial aspect, which is of course a hugely important driver of all this:

Russia's attack on Georgia has become an unexpected source of support for big U.S. weapons programs, including flashy fighter jets and high-tech destroyers, that have had to battle for funding this year because they appear obsolete for today's conflicts with insurgent opponents...

Some Wall Street stock analysts early on saw the invasion as reason to make bullish calls on the defense sector. A report from JSA Research in Newport, R.I., earlier in the week called the invasion "a bell-ringer for defense stocks."...

Now, the Russian situation makes the debate over the equipping of the U.S. military a front-burner issue. "The threat always drives procurement," said a defense-industry official. "It doesn't matter what party is in office."

Ah, well. All my nattering about dynamics and I'm ignoring the most important driver of all, namely money.]]

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