Monday, August 25, 2008

Hegemon Hold 'Em

It is a senseless policy, apparently meant to intimidate Russia, but why? For the sake of perpetuating international tension so as to strengthen the forces that with Cheney and Bush have been promoting constitutionally unaccountable executive rule in the United States?"

William Pfaff, August 19, 2008.
The art of analyzing international affairs is somewhat like discovering new planets. The astronomer notes the behaviors of observable objects; when those objects behave in a manner that other observable phenomena can't explain, the astronomer begins hypothesizing what unseen phenomena may be present whose gravity could have produced an otherwise irrational event.

So it is with the ongoing monkeyshines between Russia and the Borscht Republic of Georgia. Assuming that Georgia is a "rational actor," it doesn’t make sense for it to have invited invasion from Russia by launching an offensive into South Ossetia.

Georgia's deputy defense minister Batu Kutelia admits that his country's forces were unprepared to repel the Russian attack, but that's a bit like saying Mexico isn't prepared to repel an invasion from the United States. Georgia has a 20,000-man army, built with salvage yard Soviet-era equipment at a cost of $2 billion and trained pro bono by the U.S.

The main reason the Georgians didn't get ready for Russia's invasion, though, is because they didn't think they needed to. "We did not prepare for this kind of eventuality," Kutelia told the Financial Times. "I didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this." If Mr. Kutelia really thought that, he's sufficiently incompetent to take Condi Rice's job.

In July (yes, just last month) Russia held a military exercise in the North Caucasus region. Georgia claimed that Russia planned to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia said that Georgia intended to take the two regions by force. The Blind Boys of Alabama could have seen Russia's invasion of Georgia coming.

Hence, one can't avoid concluding that the Georgians were counting on intervention by a higher power to stay Russia's hand, and the higher power they had in mind probably wasn't God.

Help from Below

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has been making "me so horny" overtures to the Bush administration for some time. Described by Helene Cooper of the New York Times as a long-time "darling of [Washington's] diplomatic dinner party circuit," Saakashvili made the rounds in D.C. five months ago to urge the U.S. to flip Russia off and muscle Georgia into NATO. At the White House, according to Cooper, "President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer." Saakashvili called this Washington trip “one of the most successful visits during my presidency.” That may be true, but even a private lap dance from Bush in the Oval Office shouldn't have given Saakashvili the idea that Bush was ready to bail him out if he goaded Russia into invading Georgia. And Saakashvili should have known he didn't have an exclusive thing going with Bush when, three weeks later, Bush was sighted at a Black Sea resort with a certain ex-KGB agent named Vlad.

At this point in our search for a plausible scenario, we can't help but sense that influences emanating from behind the curtain of the Office of the Vice President of the United States might have been in play. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that if any country gets invaded these days, Dick Cheney had something to do with it. Here's Cooper's take on the maneuvering within the administration: "Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression."

I can't decide who among Cheney, Saakashvili and Cooper is dull enough to believe that Georgia could defend itself against Russia with a truckload of shoulder-fired SAMs, but I'm guessing that at least Saakashvili believes it because everything else he's done lately indicates that he's dumb as a quarry.

Hegemon Hold 'Em

Henry Kissinger supposedly remarked once that the reason infighting is so vicious in academic circles is that the stakes are so low. Apocryphal or not, the Kissinger comment reflects the game theory principle that says rational players will take risks in inverse proportion to the stakes involved. That in part explains how the world survived half a century of nuclear brinksmanship between the ideologically opposed super powers.

It also largely explains why Bush's Cheney-centric foreign policy seems so reckless. It's patently obvious that an administration that made John Bolton its ambassador to the United Nations has no interest in diplomatic solutions to any international issue. Like Big Brother's Inner Party in George Orwell's 1984, the New American Century neocons—who at this point encompass Big Energy, Big Arms, Big Media and Big Jesus—seek to maintain a constant state of low level war in order to preserve the social order of which they constitute the oligarchy.

The Big Brotherhood operated in a balance of power environment. Oceanea, Eurasia and Eastasia could fight each other on remote frontiers indefinitely without a decisive conclusion because none were sufficient to overcome the others. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, inherited a hegemony; no other power can match theirs because America already kicked everybody else's can at least once, and nobody wants to go bare knuckles with us again. This simply can't be repeated often enough: America spends as much or more on defense as the rest of the world combined, and the rest of the world combined isn't going to fight a war with us. Russia and China, our closest military competitors, spend about a tenth as much on defense as we do. Iran, the nation that presents our biggest "challenge," has a defense budget less than one percent of ours. Al Qaeda, who after seven years of our woebegone war on terror remains a "strong and competent organization," has a defense budget on par with that of the Campfire Girls.

So it's hard work keeping America at war with teddy bears and paper tigers and Islamo-fabulism, but Dick Cheney and his constellation continue to throw every ounce of influence they can muster to deter peace. And they can continue to be as aggressive in their pursuit of forever war as they like; the threat of the entire planet perishing in a contest between superpowers is over. Oh, if the Cheney Gang gets a little sloppy a U.S. city might go up in smoke, but no big. We got plenty of cities, and there's nothing like a mushroom cloud every now and then to keep the proles in their foxholes. America might go broke financing all these cock and bull wars, but the oligarchs won't, so what, them worry? They're like players at a Vegas poker tournament; they're betting house money so they can raise all they want.

I hope that when Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party recover from their mile-high hangover, they realize what an enormous job they have ahead of them. Dick Cheney will be out of office soon, but his gravity field will persist for a long, long time. Changing America's trajectory will take a lot more than a three-word slogan.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.


  1. I am convinced that Cheney's calculations of power would be alien to any of the real master of Real Politik.

    Thank God the current threshold for a nuclear exchange is high, or I swear he'd find a way to get us in one.

    Instead of conventional calculations of risk, I see calculations based on ideological purity and aggrandizement of personal power. Rather than the way my father used to kick off military briefings during the Nixon administration where the briefing would be begin with a list of who is in military contact with whom, who got killed or injured, and what is at risk, I see a Cheney briefing opening with which donor promised what, who's unhappy in the neocon base, and how they can get even with Republicans Cheney perceives as having "deserted" the cause.

    In other words, Cheney and "W" don't perceive risk because they consciously don't look for and wouldn't know it if wacked them over the head with a Backfire bomber. We're ruled by moral cowards who believe power is their birth right and stewardship is something liberals do. We're really lucky it isn't any worse than it is. Really lucky . . .

  2. John,

    Exactly, realpolitik doesn't apply for these guys. I added a few more "so whats" to the essay. They literally have all to gain and nothing to lose.


  3. "I can't decide who among Cheney, Saakashvili and Cooper is dull enough to believe that Georgia could defend itself against Russia with a truckload of shoulder-fired SAMs. . ."

    Hey it worked with the mujahadeen against Russia, didn't it? Actually, though what I most don't get about this whole thing: Did Saakashvili actually think the US and/or NATO would come to his defense and fight Russia?

    If he believed that, he's even less qualified for his job than was previously thought.

  4. Nobody says this better. As you read it you get a sense of Déjà vu as if you are having something explained that you already know, yet hardly anyone factors it into their analysis. It doesn't stop with the neocons, or at least the American ones. The whole mindset is spread through the empire's satellites.

    I loved your introductory metaphor with the astronomers and planets.

  5. wkmaier1:57 PM

    It never ceases to amaze and confound what form of "democracy" our current Group of Bad Actors think they are exporting.

  6. Russ,

    You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder how the Georgians could be dumb enough to have made someone as dumb as him their president. But wait, look at us.


    Cheney must think his cloaking device still works.


    Of course the Iraqis have electricity. How else could they see to bomb each other at night?


  7. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Please check out this "gravitational force":


  8. Just to make things very clear, I have no known biologocial relationship with H. Cooper. I can pretty much guarantee this as my father was the first member of the family to be born here.

  9. Watching the coverage of the DNC last night, I kept seeing this trailer across the bottom of the secreen:"Cindy McCain is on her way to Georgia to make an assesment of civilian casualties. And, to visit with their "good friend" Mahiel Shaskavilli." (?)

    My first thought was "No..... he didn't."

    But, yes he did. He dispatched his wife to Georgia.

    I guess..... painful wrist, sling, and all.

    Good Grief!

  10. Add to all you already have -- the main guy in Russia (Medvedev) has decided to "recognize" the independence of the two breakaway "whatevers", South Ossetia and the one I can't spell or pronounce.

    And, we have warships (probably carrying more baby food and bottled water) on the way to the Port of Poti, which is more or less occupied by the Russians.

    So, Commander --- whose going to "blink" in this game of nuclear chicken. Us -- or Them? Or will anybody?

  11. EL,

    My first thought is that if Cindy McCain doesn't scare everyone away, nothing can.


  12. When there is smoke there is fire... Cheney sure seems like one of those smokejumpers with a torch starting a backfire!
    I note that Cheney allegedly pushed for the development and doctrine for use of tactical nuclear bunkerbusters...

  13. FkD,

    Yep, he plays like there's no risk.


  14. wkmaier1:29 PM

    Or plays like he's playing Risk!

  15. Commander,
    Former Republican Congressman, Bob Ney, who was just released from prison, has been interviewed by Thom Hartmann, on his Air America radio show. There is a transcript of most of the interview on Josh Michael's "Talking Points Memo."
    A couple of things: Bob Ney, who speaks Farsi, was dealing "back channel" with the Swiss ambassador, and Iran. Claims the existence of a letter, from Tehran, in which they state their willingness, to, among other things recognize Israel. Interesting interview.

    Another interesting tidbit, I found this morning on

    One of Dick Cheney's senior foreign policy advisors was in Tblisi, just prior to the outbreak of war. (No surprise there.)

    The Democrats should have left the "zinger" in Dennis K's speech last night. The line went "they want 4 more years, --- in a just world --- they would get 10-20."

    Speculation about Ted Steven's "troubles" is that he didn't fall in line with the GOP mantra (i.e. John McCain) on drilling in ANWR.

    Most of this suspect activity: including the Republicans ratting out their own, and all these damned wars, have the Cheney fingerprints all over them.

    Next week in St. Paul should be interesting.... to say the least.

    Cheney is scheduled to speak.

  16. Anonymous7:57 AM

    Is there any truth to the news i've seen (Aug. 27th) that Bush has snuck 3 more battle groups (aircraft carriers and support) to the Persian Gulf while everyone is watching the convention? There of course is no mention of it in the mainstream media.

  17. Robert Wexler, in his new book, "Fire Breathing Liberal", has the following quote from John F. Kennedy:

    "When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find things were just as bad as we had been saying they were."

    I suspect we may hear similar words, in January, 2009.

  18. it"s funny to see that it's always those retired military people that are always right

  19. Nobody's always right. Not even (gasp!) me.

  20. Much of the reason why Russia and China spend a fraction of what the US does on their military budgets is that they are capable of getting considerably more "bang for their buck" than we do. And both Russia and China, unlike the US, have growing economies and have plenty of "wiggle room" to increase their military spending if they are so inclined. And there's the question of manpower. Just look at the number of bodies (AND brains!) that the Chinese can put into the field, and look at the legendary hardihood of the Russian people and military over the centuries. Can we match that?

  21. The issue with Russia and China is not so much how many of what kind of soldiers they have, but where can they put them.

    Only the US can invade and occupy countries halfway across the world from itself.


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