“We are all Georgians!”: Fantasy as Foreign Policy


By Joe Campbell
September 8th, 2008


[Photo by World Economic Forum licensed under Creative Commons.]

[digg-reddit-me]Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times reported yesterday on Cheney’s visits to former Soviet states:

Mr. Cheney, who visited Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine this week to express American support, offered no new proposals either, but he described the conflict as a new test for NATO that required a unified response.

This has been the baffling and fundamental flaw of the neoconservative approach to foreign policy. How America responded to 9/11, how America endured the occupation of Iraq, how America responded to the Iranian’s development of nuclear weapons, how America responded to Russian aggression in Georgia – each of these represented – in the words of Bush, Cheney, McCain, and other neoconservatives – a “test” of America’s and our allies’ resolve.

Yet – the neoconservatives only offer a single way for America to pass each of these tests: Escalate matters until America can plausibly threaten to use military force.

That was America’s justifiable response to 9/11. It was the Bush administration’s strategy with Saddam Hussein. It has been Cheney’s strategy for containing Iran. It is McCain’s strategy for confronting Russia. The reason neoconservatives are so eager to use military force – instead of diplomacy, containment, alliances, creating and living by systems of rules for international affairs, or economic pressure – is that they believe America’s military might can solve any problem. They are correct that our military superiority ensures that we can defeat any other military on the planet. But what they do not acknowledge is that the military is a blunt weapon and that without a draft, it can only be deployed under limited circumstances and for limited periods. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate these lessons – yet McCain, Bush, Cheney, and company do not seem to have noticed.

Thus, McCain invoked Kennedy’s defense of Berlin when Russia invaded Georgia – saying, “We are all Georgians!” Kennedy had proclaimed, “Eich bin ein Berlinier” to demonstrate our resolve to the Soviet Union – that if they tried to take Berlin, we would protect it as if it were our own home. McCain, by saying that we are all Georgians, was committing the United States to take military action against Russia. Yet, if that is his plan, he has not admitted it. If it is not his plan, then he has not been following the advice given by his hero, Teddy Roosevelt:

Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

McCain talks a good game – but if he means half of what he says, we’ll have more than one new war on our hands by the time he’s through. Either way, he’s not the president I’m hoping for.