Features

Doug Thompson

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Marching through Georgia
By Doug Thompson

The United States never sticks its neck out for Eastern Europeans.
The Russians know that better than most.
And that settles that for Georgia. Russia has control of much of that small country. By the time this article comes to print, Georgia might not exist. Even if there is a viable Georgia left, it will be a lot less viable and a lot more cowed than before.
There’s been a lot of finger pointing about who’s to blame for this war between one of the world’s great military powers and a country that has about as many people as Alabama. The Russians are to blame. Sure, Georgia attacked to suppress some pro-Russian separatist groups. Those groups never would have mattered much without Russian support. You know, the kind of support that would have infuriated the Russians had someone provided the same thing to Chechnya.
More important, Russia declared economic war on Georgia years ago. It cut off air flights and closed the border. It started issuing Russian passports to “citizens” of the breakaway provinces. Georgia, worried about its security, wanted into NATO. Earlier this year, NATO said it could happen someday. Guess how the Russians reacted.
Economic warfare didn’t work. The Georgian economy grew by almost 9 percent last year.
Russia’s determined to show Georgia and other former provinces of the Soviet Union what cuddling up to the West will get you. More important, they intend to show how little the West cares.
It’s working. It would probably have worked in any circumstances. However, having the United States bogged down in Iraq, broke financially and led by a discredited president didn’t hurt Russia’s actions one bit.
Georgia provided some 2,000 troops to U.S. operations in Iraq, helping us claim the war there was a multi-national effort. That force is — or rather, was before those troops were rushed home by U.S. transport to defend what’s left of their country — one of the largest non-U.S. contingents still there. In gratitude, Georgia received direct military assistance over the years, including arms and training.
The result: We have a de facto military alliance with a country that is now being crushed while most of the U.S. military is stuck in a sandbox.
I’m not arguing that we should fight for Georgia. I’m merely spelling out why we won’t — assuming we wanted to.
In 1992 I briefly met the wife of the much-mocked Vice President Dan Quayle. I covered Marilyn Quayle’s speech to a loyal Republican enclave in Hot Springs Village. She rhetorically asked who could have believed that the Iron Curtain would fall “without a single drop of blood” being spilled.
That struck me as a rather curious remark, considering that a significant amount of blood had gushed already and was still spurting at the time. The bloodletting included a rather bloody coup and counter-coup in Georgia, no less. Russia then, as now, also saw a need to knock some former provinces around. I asked about her comment when she met with the press after the speech and started listing a couple of those conflicts that were going on at the time. She interrupted me: “I meant American blood.”
I lack the nerve and the imagination to make that up.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”
Why, sure you do. It just doesn’t matter. Only American blood matters. After all, we haven’t even kept count of Iraqi civilian deaths.
We should tell the Georgians the truth. Nobody’s going to war with Russia for their sake. Sue for peace. Hopefully, Russia doesn’t want street-by-street battle in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi followed by an insurgency.
Second, we should not let this attack achieve its real goal. We should get the Ukraine and what’s left of Georgia into NATO as fast as possible — assuming they still want in.
Or we should drop the pretense.
Make them allies and draw the Russians a clear line or drop the pretense and tell the former provinces they’re on their own.

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