Saturday, August 16, 2008

McClatchy's Landay on the Georgian Conflict

While I'm highlighting articles on the Georgian mini-war, it would be a crime to skip past this article by Jonathan Landay of the excellent McClatchy chain, which illustrates the depth of the Bush Administration's strategic clusterfuck:

One problem in under-estimating the Russian response, another U.S. official said, was "a dearth of intelligence assets in the region."

U.S. "national technical means," the official name for spy satellites and other technology, are "pretty well consumed by Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan," the official said, and there was only limited monitoring of Russian military movements toward the Georgian border.

Additionally, the United States had lost access to vital information when Russia dropped out of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in December to protest U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in Europe.

Under the treaty, Russia had been required to exchange reports on troop, armor and aircraft deployments with the United States and other members on a monthly basis. But once Russia dropped out, that information was no longer available.

"I wouldn't say we were blind," the official said. "I would say that we mostly were focused elsewhere, unlike during the Cold War, when we'd see a single Soviet armor battalion move. So, yes, the size and scope of the Russian move has come as something of a surprise."

So: the Iraq war deprived us of the resources to deal with other potential conflicts, as we DFHs had been warning for years. And in this particular case, it's even worse: it deprived us of the resources to see what was coming.

Though as Landay points out, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty gave us another (if weaker and more intermittent) set of eyes to watch Russian troop movements with. But we decided we'd rather give Poland and the Czech Republic a somewhat porous missile defense than be able to see.

This is the Bush/neocon attitude towards the world: we can be as aggressive as we want - invade Iraq, rattle sabers at Iran, back out of a deal with North Korea, abrogate the ABM treaty with Russia, and put missiles in Poland - and none of it will have any consequences. Until it does.

Speaking of actions with consequences, as everyone now knows, we gave Saakashvili mixed messages. He evidently heard the part he wanted to hear, as people will. Giving him the slightest reason to believe we might help him out militarily in a pinch, in a time when we were already desperately scrounging for enough troops for Iraq, was absolutely crazy on our Administration's part.

Bush lavished praise on the U.S.-educated Georgian leader as a "beacon of democracy." He gave military training and equipment to Georgia, which supplied the third-largest contingent to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and had promised NATO membership, they said. He visited the country in 2005 and addressed a huge crowd from the same podium as Saakashvili.

"The Russians have clearly overreacted but President Saakashvili . . . for some reason seems to think he has a hall pass from this administration," said former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

And then there's the coup de grace. You know how, for neocons, the year is always 1938, and the place is always Munich? Well, guess who, under that characterization, got to play the Neville Chamberlain role in the current kerfluffle?

That's right: George W. Bush.

At the same time, U.S. officials said that they believed they had an understanding with Russia that any response to Georgian military action would be limited to South Ossetia.

"We knew they were going to go crack heads. We told them again and again not to do this," the State Department official said. "We thought we had an understanding with the Russians that any response would be South Ossetia-focused. Clearly it's not."

Remember all the shit Carter got for his "Brezhnev lied to me" remark, when Russia invaded Afghanistan? This is Bush's "Putin lied to me" moment.

And, even more icing on the cake: Bush promised humanitarian aid he couldn't deliver.

WASHINGTON — President Bush Wednesday promised that U.S. naval forces would deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia before his administration had received approval from Turkey, which controls naval access to the Black Sea, or the Pentagon had planned a seaborne operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.

As of late Thursday, Ankara, a NATO ally, hadn't cleared any U.S. naval vessels to steam to Georgia through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, the narrow straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the officials said. Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, countries must notify Turkey before sending warships through the straits.

Pentagon officials told McClatchy that they were increasingly dubious that any U.S. Navy vessels would join the aid operation, in large part because the U.S.-based hospital ships likely to go, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, would take weeks to arrive.

"The president was writing checks to the Georgians without knowing what he had in the bank," said a senior administration official.

There comes a point at which you'd think even Bush's most diehard supporters have to admit he's a total fuckup. They won't, of course, but when you hit 'em with a bunch of stuff like this, all they can do is slink away or change the subject. How 'bout them Cubbies?

P.S. Here's the link to the main McClatchy news page. I recommend checking it at least once a day. They catch some good stories that the WaPo and the NY Times miss.


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