Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Today's Reading Assignment

The Danger of Appeasement, from John Barry of Newsweek. That's right, Newsweek. As Mr. Barry notes, western inaction in the Georgia crisis is eerily reminiscent of the 1930s, when aggression also went unchecked, with cataclysmic results.

A few salient paragraphs:

In the wake of the cold war, the West providentially summoned the nerve to push NATO eastward to incorporate the former Warsaw Pact vassals of the Soviet Union—presciently doing this while post-Soviet Russia was too weak to resist. But once Moscow got its breath back, anyone with historical wit could foresee a revived Russian push for influence in central Europe. Many argued against this NATO expansion, calling it "premature" and "sure to inflame Russia." The usual arguments. Those naysayers might now look at the Russian offensive in Georgia, and ponder how much greater this crisis would be had it involved, say, Poland or Hungary or the Czech Republic. At least central Europe is now under the umbrella of NATO Article 5 guarantees.

Instead, what we see are conflicts at the new margins of the West's sway: Ukraine, the Balkans, now Georgia. These conflicts have one common factor: a resurgent Russia determined to exploit local grievances to beat back Western influence—in shorthand, democracy—on its shrunken frontiers. Using, in all cases, precisely the argument (a Russian right to protect its citizens, in Serbia its co-religionists) that Hitler used in the 1930s. The Sudeten Czechs were Germans, after all. Just as the South Ossetians now are, well, sort of Russian—having at any rate been issued Russian passports.

The European urge to appease Russia will be strong. In the '30s, ghastly memories of World War I dominated the political debate. Besides, Western governments' most pressing need was to recover from the Depression. Who wanted war or the threat of war? Now, Europe relaxes after near-50 years of cold war, and struggles to avoid recession after the subprime banking crash. The more things change …

As a starting point, Barry suggests deployment of the 82nd Airborne to the region as a peacekeeping force. But that may be a bit premature. What's needed first is a no-fly zone, ground-based air defenses and an air bridge into Georgia. Once the airspace is secured--as part of a NATO operation--the deployment of peacekeepers could begin.

Unfortunately, the Europeans have demonstrated no enthusiasm for this mission. As in years past, their "commitment" will be measured in the number of U.S. and British assets that could be dispatched to the region.


According to Air Force Times, planning for an airlift into Georgia has begun. By some estimates, redeployment of Georgian troops from Iraq to their homeland required at least 40 C-17 sorties. The air bridge into Tblisi (and other locations) would mean thousands of sorties--over a period of months--utilizing strategic and tactical airlifters.

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