If nothing else comes of it, the West's response to the rape of Georgia should end that delusion. Georgia did almost everything right. And for its actions Georgia was celebrated in the West with platitudes of enduring friendship and empty promises of alliances that were discarded the moment Russia invaded.
Georgia only made one mistake, and for that mistake it will pay an enormous price. As it steadily built alliances, it forgot to build an army. Israel has an army. It has just forgotten why its survival depends on our willingness to use it.
If we are unwilling to use our military to defeat our enemies, we will lose everything. This is the basic, enduring truth of international affairs that we have ignored at our peril. No matter what we do, it will always be the case. For this is the nature of world affairs, and the nature of man.
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“Georgia did almost everything right.”
Nope. They shot first. International affairs is not the Star Wars cantina.
JJ – who said they shot first – Russia?
Please, it’s too late for these naive declarations – 8 days had passed, we know about bombardment of Georgian villages by South Ossetian bandits preceding the Georgian advance on Tshinvali. We know about 58th Army. About coordinated air force strikes, the NAvy operations. We know now about ossetian “refugees” in Russia who are protesting living conditions they are given for free – obviously they were promised mountains of gold. We now know real number of killed in Tshinvali – not the 2000 sent out by Russian propaganda machine, but 44 – on both sides!
JJ, you’d do better not to take the word of your Russian friends too literally.
Jonathan, thank you.
I’ll link your post @my place, if you don’t mind.
Glick states the obvious:
“While South Ossetia and Abkhazia are separatist provinces, their sovereignty is not in dispute. They are part of Georgia. Georgia acted legally when it tried to protect its territory from separatist violence last Friday. Russia acted illegally when it invaded. Yet aside from the Georgian government itself, no one has noticed this basic distinction.”
Russia has subverted the government of Georgia by handing out citizenship and passports to Georgians living in Ossetia. It has trained and armed these “Ossetian-Russian citizen” as terrorists. When Georgia attempted to protect itself from these Russian proxies, Russia invaded.
The major question that confronts us is should international law govern actions between countries or do we live by Jungle Rules (aka Realpolitik)? International law, favored by liberals, is normally used to justify acts of war aimed at reconquering lands previously lost. In other words, disputes of this type under International Law are normally resolved out of court by making war. If your army is weak, you lose.
A droll solution would be for the US to enforce the Kellogg-Briand Act of 1928 which outlawed war by using military force to punish Russia for making war on Georgia.
Putin presents the 21st century world with the same choice that Hitler presented the 1930’s world. The facts are similar. In both cases Putin and Hitler want to rebuild their countries by reuniting lands lost in the last 15-20 years. Even the names of the countries are the same. The arguments are the same — why can’t we solve this with negotiation? And just as Germany, Italy and Japan were allies, so are Russia, Iran and China. Barak Obama is ideally situated by his core beliefs and his enormous popularity to become the next Neville Chamberlain. But this time there is no slumbering giant who can step in and defeat the forces of evil.
This time we have to defeat the tyrant while he is still weak.
Correction. Russian proxies shot first.
She has no idea what she is talking about.
Georgia has an army. They built it with American help. According to various reports on the Net it fought well. They used it in South Ossetia, again apparently effectively. They even have an air force, which was superior to the Russian one, since it had been upgraded with American and Israeli equipment.
She is arguing from facts that don’t exist. Sloppy. This is the kind of shoddy work I would expect from a New York Times editorialist.
Georgia had only a couple of years to equip and train its army. The fact they fought like lions speaks of their patriotism, not their preparedness.
Glick is absolutely correct in her conclusion: US and West Europe are not the allies to trust. International Law, so much talked about in EU corridors, is a smoke screen, a tool to use according to circumstance. I’m surprised that you Lex, as a lawyer, are not appalled at the way the Law was raped in this case. That is, if it represents Justice, and not just collection of documented excuses for an aggressor.
Handing out passports to those who might have some ethnic allegiance to your country and a weak allegiance to their own is surely just a formalization of an old tactic, but how new is this and how do other nations want, then, to look at such passports?
Ginny, Ossetians are not ethnic Russians. They belong to greatly diminished tribe of Iranian origin. Nothing Slav about them.
How other nations want to look at such passports?
Imagine same tactic used by Japanese on Kuril Islands. Say, they decided that population is worthy of Japanese citizenship – and handed out passports to anyone who wants it. Then they invade the islands in order to protect their citizens – and to serve as “peacekeepers”, eventually annexing the territory for themselves – possibly, to throw a bone to international community, after very well funded “referendum”.
Now they have a precedent for doing just that. And who cares about a tiny speck on a world map like Kurils? It’s not even visible from Washington.
Or, another example – as it was described on some LJournal.
Crimea on Black Sea has been a disputed territory over centuries; at some point – part of the Ottoman Empire, then – Russian, now – part of independent Ukraine. Crimea’s native population (people who were born there) reflects this complex history: there are ethnic Greeks, Ukrainians, Tartars, Russians, Jews (Khazars), etc etc. let’s say Turkey decided that Crimean Tartars deserve Turkish passports, being descendants of former Ottoman subjects. Then they declare that Tartar minority in Crimea is oppressed and cries for Turkish protection – and then invade Crimea. What will Europe do? They have their own coal, I guess, so what’s the point defending unfortunate Ukraine?
I said at the time of Kosovo: this is a precedent of annexion that the world will be sorry has been allowed.
Sorry, Tatanya, frankly, I had never heard of the Ossetians before – my ignorance of such things is pretty deep. Of course, it just seemed a more neutral designation (since clearly the outside power is playing on some sense of attraction to them) than “fifth columnists.”
Lex, I thought the Georgian air force, although upgraded with some avionics, was still basically about four squadrons of SU-25 attack planes, the (Ex)-Soviet equivalent to the A-10.
It would appear that the Georgian air force performed well and the Russian not so well.
Apologies to those who have already seen it. Other reports say that technologically Georgia is well ahead of Russia (whatever happened to all that money the Russian government has been spending on the military?) but, obviously enough, it lacks numbers. There is also a report that the army was ordered to retreat, which would indicate – and I can put it no stronger than that, as it is just a report – that the high command has some kind of a plan in mind. But don’t jump on me if that turns out to be wrong. Also, there is the unanswered question of the 2,000 troops airlifted out of Iraq. I have not heard where they are. Perhaps, someone else knows.
Tatyana is right, Lex. The Americans have not been training the Georgian forces for long.
As for who started it, that is rather a convoluted question – almost as convoluted as to who the Ossetians might be. Yes, Saakashvili ordered the most recent attack on South Ossetia but there had been a lot of attacks on Georgia out of that region and on Georgian villages by Ossetians. There have also been reports of some bombing and of Russian planes buzzing Georgian targets. This has been going on for some time. The best way of describing Russian activity is controlled provocation that, unfortunately, the Georgians fell for. On the other hand, it was going to happen some time and, clearly, the Russians were prepared, what with those passports and the troops so conveniently to hand.
Bottom line on my critique of Ms. Glick. I usually agree with her, though I think she is sometimes hysterical. In this case she got a pretty significant fact wrong: Most people who were following the war and who are qualified to say so were surprised at how well the Georgians performed. So, the idea that neglect of their army was the problem is simply wrong. Since I consider her to be pretty much on the same side of things as I am, I am less sparing in my criticism since, as someone on the side of truth and justice, I expect her to check on easily-checked things like that.
The Georgians were not going to win a conventional war against Russia under any circumstances. Small countries lose conventional wars to large ones. Small countries that are menaced by large ones have four options. (1) Get a strong friend to promise to protect you, (2) allow yourself to be pushed around or even outright annexed, or (3) get nuclear weapons, (4) be prepared to fight a conventional war, lose, and turn it into a guerilla struggle. Georgia tried to do 1, but we were not willing to go that far, and they weren’t willing to do 2 and 3 was apparently beyond their capacity and incompatible with attempting to do 1. Israel has done 1 and 3. Iran is trying to do 3 and could probably do 4.
None of this has anything to do with whether I “approve” of what Russia did. I don’t. The Russians are, as usual, being evil. The Georgians, on the other hand, were irresponsible.
Small countries lose conventional wars to large ones. Small countries that are menaced by large ones have four options…
Glick writes from an Israeli perspective, and it seems to me that Israel’s history refutes your assertions about small countries. Small countries usually lose against big countries, but not always. Israel won its wars against bigger countries with bigger armies by outfighting them, not because it had (during the later wars) nuclear weapons. It was extremely costly to Israel to do this, both in lives lost and in the diversion of a huge proportion of national resources to defense, but the Israelis decided they had no choice. Of course they were right.
Another counterexample to your assertions is Switzerland, which won by successfully deterring invasion by Nazi Germany.
Georgia might not have prevailed against Russia, but it might have been able to deter attack by investing much more in national defense. It would have been costly to do this, it would have taken years and it might not have been successful ultimately, but in hindsight any measures Georgia could take to strengthen its defenses would have been less costly than the defeat that actually happened. A small country that has hostile neighbors and is determined to survive has no choice but to build a large military and arm itself to the teeth, and this is Glick’s central point.
all the comparisons are useless. Georgia and Russia is not the same as the Arab states and Israel. In passing, Israel had sold a huge amount of military supplies to Georgia. Georgia attacked first–Rice had warned them not to. Russia is Russia and we are back to the cold war. and the US is mired down in Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia was fully aware of our impotency to do anything but protest. The bluster that we should have done something is just bluster. We are not able at this point to do anything militarily. But keep your eyes on Straits of Hamuz, Iran and the blockade that is going into place.
and the US is mired down in Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia was fully aware of our impotency to do anything but protest.
Oh, please. Your BDS is showing: even if every member of our armed forces was safely ensconced in domestic bases, we would still have been “impotent”. More so, in fact.
The simple fact is that the US is not going to war with Russia over Georgia.
A small country that has hostile neighbors and is determined to survive has no choice but to build a large military and arm itself to the teeth, and this is Glick’s central point.
I think you’re forgetting the part about having the resolve to use that military.
It will be interesting (like a car crash) to watch as Russia continues to poke and prod its European and Asian neighbors. Many, most, all of them (except China) violate both tenets of Glick’s thesis: little or no military and little or no resolve to use it.
Resolve, willingness to spend, willingness to train, willingness to fight are all assumed.
this sholuld raise the heat
1. Israel fought only one large-scale war after it acquired nuclear weapons, and the Arabs in that case were hoping for a tactical victory followed by negotiations. The whole world, including the Arabs themselves, were surprised by how initially successful they were in 1973. Everyone knew that a mortal threat to Israel meant nuclear war, which is one reason Nixon, not particularly a friend of Israel, worked so hard for a conventional victory. No one has since then tried anything on that level. Conventional threats to Israel are checkmated from the outset. The first intifada was the most successful campaign against Israel since 1973, and its primary weapons were rocks and television cameras.
2. Switzerland is exactly my case 4. It is also Pakistan v. India (the Paks plan to take to the hills if India ever overran them; though now that threat is gone since they have nukes) and several other cases.
3. I don’t disagree with the premise that countries need to defend themselves. Georgia has spent a great deal of effort on its military, for a small country, as its battlefield performancs shows. So, to the extent Carolne Glick says they did not, or derives any lessons from this nonexistent failure, she is talking nonsense.
On the issue of resolve, I just ran across this, about Erwin Rommel’s thinking about warfare, at the time he took command of 7th Panzer Divisionin February, 1940:
It is always a matter of will + means.
But it is also a matter of understanding the type of war you are in. For Georgia, they tried to do my option 1, get a big friend, which they did not get to the degree they needed, because the NATO countries balked, in time to deter Russia. The presence of American personnel in Georgia as “humanitarian relief” is in fact a NATO-like tripwire, to warn off the Russians. If they actually kill off a bunch of Americans by continuing their attacks, they will piss off a large part of the US public. That may have some deterrant effect.
The quote is from Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century by Dennis Showalter. It is pretty good, though a bit of a potboiler, as of page 174/425.
Latest thing from StrategyPage about Georgia.
And the latest from Germany!
Germany backs Georgia’s NATO bid. I am shocked. I believed the Germans were neutralized by their oil and gas needs, and would in effect support Russia in whatever it did rather than risk any disruption to their economy.
Angela Merkel actually has some courage. I underestimated her.
I am not sure it actually makes practical sense for NATO to enlist Georgia, and thus give it a security guarantee. But it is certainly not the craven, compliant course I expected from Germany.
I don’t agree that Glick is off-base. Georgia was another small country with a competent military. This was inadequate. Georgia should have had a massive military relative to its population.
Israel’s nuclear weapons did not deter the attack by Egypt and Syria in 1973. Their armies would have advanced into Israel if they could have, and in Syria’s case almost did. Before 1973 Israel would have ended up like Georgia, or worse, if it didn’t create (and pay for) an exceptionally powerful military capability relative to its population.
The Swiss promised publicly a fight to the death if they were invaded. They were not invaded. We didn’t invade Japan either.
If Putin is stupid enough he may actually convince the Western Europeans to rearm.
“Georgia should have had a massive military relative to its population.”
Paid for with what?
They did what they could, and more importantly, tried to get a big friend to protect them, which is the best possible strategy, and it looks like it is now going to happen.
Another Strategy Page item. The Georgians were doing about as much as they could in terms of preparation for war, on a limited budget.
Jonathan is correct. Israel and Switzerland are the models for any small country that wishes to stay free from the grips of hostile neighbors.
John McPhee’s classic study of the Swiss Army “La Place de la Concorde Suisse” is a good read.
The Amazon blurb provides a good introduction to the subject:
The roots of the concept that a Republic, if it is to retain its freedom, must be defended by an army of its citizens go back to the Roman Republic.
Switzerland and Israel adopted the citizen army not merely from strategic necessity, although both countries have long been menaced by hostile neighbors (the Swiss less so in the second half of the XX century), but, also, out of a conscious desire to achieve the republican ideal.
This ideal is not a stranger to the United States. The Founders were deeply familiar with classical Rome and admired it intensely as the architecture of their capital attests. 10 U.S.C. Sec. 311 says:
This law is descended from one passed by the first Congress under the Constitution.
Could countries bordering the bear’s den adopt this model? I do not see a material barrier. Both Israel and Switzerland were poor when they first adopted it. AK-47s are dirt cheap. Training takes time, but poor farmers often have long stretches of down time in the winter. It is the concept that is needed.
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