Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Bears in the Pipeline
The gloom and doom scenario bandied about for Georgia may very well turn out as predicted. There are other scenarios quite different, given the unmistakable fact that the Russian Bear has bared it's claws ... again. This is shaking those who thought that Russia could join the global family of nations formed on the realization that economics is not a zero sum game as it was, or was seen to be, for thousands of years where land ownership was a zero sum game. If you had it, some one else didn't.
For the last couple of decades, the developed nations have been disarming, reducing the size of their regular military establishments, reducing or eliminating their reserves, and selling off military equipment. This trend may very well come to a screeching halt with the prospects of a resurgence of an expansionist Russian bear and all the images of Tsarist and Soviet conquest.
At present, serious discussions of what to do about the Big Bad Bear are going on in capitols east, west, and in between. Should the Bear be appeased, pleased, or confronted. Unlike ages past, the value of European, Baltic, Caspian and Black Sea nations isn't their land or booty, it's their markets for Russian oil. or products needed in the Russian economy. This blatant attempt to strangle the BTC pipeline in conjunction with other manipulations of gas and oil delivery may backfire on Russian long range interest.
Those nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain have clear reasons not to return, reasons once for plain freedom, are now rooted in their own economic success once out of the oppressive blanket of socialism, and Russian imperialism. And not all of these nations are as exposed as they once were.
One issue to watch is Georgian admission to NATO which isn't as dead as many think. An accelerated admission would check the Bear without the need for direct confrontation.
A NATO membership might facilitate Turkish backing, which is also in their national interests, the Turks having some experience in these matters.
The disconnect during the operation between Russian official pronouncements of a limit to Russian advance or of intentions and the actual movement of Russian forces in Georgia, is not unique to this conflict or, for that matter, of Russians in general. It is a good bet that Russian forces exceeded their orders. The chance to redeem the honor of Russian arms after the debacles of Afghanistan and Chechnya is far too tempting by any red blooded Russian to ignore.
Conquering armies, like wild horses or bears, do not like the constraints of reins, chains, and home office blather. Admiral Dewey was directed to destroy the Spanish Fleet on the orders of Teddy Roosevelt the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, given without the approval of the Secretary of the Navy or of State Department or White House.
The Japanese sinking of the USS Panay in China on December 12, 1937 was done by Japanese Naval on the orders of the Operations Officer in defiance of the orders of the Imperial Chain of Command. The Japanese incident at the Marco Polo bridge incident on June 7, 1937 was also done contrary to orders from Tokyo and of the orders of Japanese flag rank officers at the time, but the incident was used by the Japanese Army to justify conquest of Central China. .
In the winter of 1846, John C Fremont on a mission to map the sources of the Arkansas River, made an unauthorized detour to California to stir up American settlers which eventually added California to the Union over some circumstances not taught in California history books.
The French governm
ent repeatedly ordered French troops in Africa not to take this town or that by name, to which the towns were renamed by the troops in the field.
The end results of these adventures are rarely overturned by the national government, but it does happen. This is the situation faced today. If allowed to stay in the open, too many egos, and national sentiments will be aroused.
What we should look for is how Condi and Gates handle things, which they have been very much behind the curtains and in smoke filled rooms. For those on the outside looking in, we can only watch and wait and hope those on the inside can play some serious poker.