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August 12, 2008
Russia Invades Georgia, and Americans See Boogeymen Once Again
is a question – do people miss the Cold War so much they need to see
enemies under every rock?
That’s the question that comes to mind after watching reaction to
Russia’s invasion of Georgia. In some circles – admittedly mostly
conservative ones – the invasion has been taken as proof positive that a
new Cold War is dawning upon us. Russia is flexing its muscles, a sure
sign that ultimately it plans to bring down ruin upon the United States.
a natural reaction to the Russians stretching their muscles. For many
Americans, the Russians – then the Soviets – were our mortal enemy, the
Joker to our Batman. Old habits die hard, and one of the hardest to die
is the assumption that old enemies are always out to get you.
After the Russians stopped being the Soviets, it meant the end of five
decades of simmering tensions. There were no more bogeymen worthy of the
worldwide stage. The more paranoid tried like mad to find him, and along
the fringes they suggested that it was Saddam Hussein and not Timothy
McVeigh who bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
Chinese for awhile seemed tailor-made for the role. They were a rising
economic power, and bellicose enough when it came to U.S. ally Taiwan.
There was a naval stand-off in the late ’90s over Taiwan. At the same
time some of the more paranoid suggested that Bill Clinton’s promise to
fulfill the treaty obliging us to return the Panama Canal to the
Panamanians would land it in the hands of Chinese agents and made
Clinton a traitor.
long after, when an American spy plane clipped the wings of a Chinese
fighter over the South China Sea, resulting tensions sparked what
appeared to be the imminent emergence of a full-fledged, Cold War-style
Then, 21 hijackers gave us an even better target.
the better part of the last seven years, it’s been the Muslim world that
has played the role of chief antagonist. Terrorism became not a tactic
for extremists, but a tool for an entire culture to wage a shadow war
against the West. Iraq became not just a bungled adventure in search of
oil reserves, but the spear point at which we would wage war on a Muslim
culture through a war of ideas. We must win because failure to do so
would mean the death of all that we know and love.
That, unfortunately, crashed on the rocks and shoals of reality. Iraq
turned out to be the bungled adventure it always was, and
nation-building in Afghanistan turned out to be a great deal more
difficult and tricky than anyone imagined. Muslims wouldn’t desert their
Muslim ways simply because we showed up, for all to admire and respect.
Enter the Russians and Georgia last week. You can say a lot of things
about Russia’s response to Georgia’s incursion into its separatist
region. Perhaps the one that comes most to mind is horribly
disproportionate. Acting on a U.N. mandate to keep the peace, the
Russians responded with a full-scale invasion, a naval blockade and
regular air strikes that at one point had Georgian president Mikhail
Shasakavelli thinking he was dodging bombs as he ran across a courtyard.
Disproportionate it was, but evidence of a global menace on the rise?
say we start with baby steps, like with Russia expressing its interests
regionally? Flush with oil money, Russia’s interests in the region are
clear. Rising American influence on Russia’s southern doorstep threaten
them, and a pro-West Georgia on track for membership in NATO means a
permanent thorn in its side.
is hardly the stuff of revolution, at least any related to Bolshevism.
This is the kind of thinking that gave us the Monroe Doctrine, not the
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