Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Irony Curtain

Vladimir Putin has gone from being Russia's president to being Russia's Dick Cheney. As Prime Minister, he still has all the real power but has shed the accountability that goes with being the head of state. So while Putin is undoubtedly the dastard who decided to put the clobber on Georgia, the guy who has to take criticism for it is Putin's political Pinocchio President Dmitry Medvedev. Being the man in the hot seat sort of makes Medvedev Russia's George W. Bush, except that Bush has never really been held responsible for anything. (Bush is only sixty-something and he's only been on the job for seven and a half years, what do you want?)

Medvedev is like Bush in other ways, though. Tuesday August 12, he told the press "he had decided to end the campaign after restoring security for Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia," so like, Bush, he enjoys acting like he's the "decider."

But even as Medvedev announced he was ending the operation, fresh reports emerged of Russian warplanes bombing the Georgian town of Gori. That Medvedev says things to the media that directly contradict reality makes him frighteningly like our young Mr. Bush.

Kettles, Pots and Presidents

It may simply be that Medvedev has a penchant for saying one thing and doing the opposite, which would make him a Dubya-class hypocrite. There are of course, many ways to commit hypocrisy, and Mr. Bush is adept at all of them. He's especially handy with the kind of hypocrisy that indicates "irony" will be stricken from the next edition of the Newspeak Dictionary.

On Monday August 11, Mr. Bush castigated Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighboring state" and decreed: "such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century." This came from the man who kicked off the New American Century by invading a sovereign state half way across the world and lied about why he was doing it.

"Russia's government must respect Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Bush said, even as his henchmen ignore the Iraqis of Iraq's demand that the U.S. recognize the integrity of sovereign territory by agreeing to leave it.

Mr. Bush said that Russia's hostile actions in Georgia "have substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world." Will poor irony ever rest in peace? One suspects that Bush still thinks his hostile actions in Iraq have enhanced America's standing.

So's His Old Man

Bush's echo chamberlains joined in the condemnation of Russia. That senior U.S. official we've heard so much from since the New York Times helped Bush sell a false casus belli for the invasion of Iraq said that Russia's use of strategic bombers and ballistic missiles against Georgia's civilians was "far disproportionate" to Georgia's alleged attack on Russian peacekeepers. I'd love to get my fingers on that senior official's throat and ask him how "proportionate" to anything he thinks America's use of cruise missile equipped nuclear submarines to bomb Muslim weddings in the hope of accidentally killing a terrorist is.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad oopsed his way out of staying anonymous when he pulled a John Bolton and lost his cool in front of a group of grown ups. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili "must go." Condi apparently let that item slip out in front of Zalmay, and Zalmay blurted it out in front of the UN Security Council.

Lavrov's answer was pretty good: "Regime change is purely an American invention," he said. He's just about right, and I'm starting to think America is the only country left whose leaders are dumb enough to think that toppling a regime and replacing it with a sock surrogate is a good idea. Look how things have gone in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Bush yahooligans are still raving about "regime change" in Iran. Franklin-class insanity, that is.

The triple reverse knuckleball irony of this situation is that while the Bush scumbags are accusing the Russian scumbags of pulling the exact same scum baggery the Bush scumbags pulled, the Russians' latest scum baggage actually looks more like the relatively heroic measures Big Daddy Bush took in the first Iraq war. If the Bush administration spin merchants were working for the Russians, the story would go that mean old Georgia decided to beat up on poor little South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the big strong Russians swept in to save the day for the underdogs, just like America did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Irony Curtain

Early on the morning of Wednesday August 13, Medvedev and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia announced they'd reached an agreement whereby Georgia would make nice and Russia would go home, so we can quit camping out in the backyard fallout shelters and go about our normal lives, I guess.

Russia's field trip to Georgia wasn't likely to amount to much. It was physically impossible for their monkey business to encroach on our monkey business. Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan separate Georgia from Iran, and the bananastans are clear on the other side of the Caspian Sea. The only spillover problem would have involved refugees who would have sought refuge in Russia, and don't think for a second that wasn't a large part of the reason Medvedev stepped in to stop things as soon as Putin thought he'd made his point.

The main signal Putin sent with his Georgia outing was that Russia is indeed willing to go along with the revival of the Cold War that the American neoconservatives are trying to produce. In Cold War II, Iran and Venezuela will assume the parts originally played by East Germany and Cuba respectively, and the U.S., Russia and China will reprise their original roles.

Don’t move back into the shelters just yet, though, fellow citizens. The Cold War sequel will be far more carefully choreographed than the original. What we just saw in Georgia was a reasonably well-controlled rehearsal and demonstration. It gave Medvedev a chance to practice talking while Putin drinks a glass of water, and it gave the Russian military a chance to trot out its heavy hardware. Don't be alarmed. Putin is still really in charge and he still knows how to keep things from spinning out of control. As for the military demonstration: from my decades of close observation of the mighty Soviet/Russian arsenal in action, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the ballistic missiles and strategic bombers the Russians used on Georgia were actually the ballistic missile that had an operable inertial guidance system and the strategic bomber that managed to get off the runway. At this point, the bomber is no doubt hard down awaiting parts that won't be manufactured for another ten years and the missile either blew up or crashed.

The Russians, like the Chinese, spend around a tenth as much as we do on defense at most, and they aren't looking for a rematch of the first Cold War's arms race. They're perfectly content (and wise enough) to sit on the sidelines and watch us spend ourselves into insolvency arming for wars with foes that only exist in the Star Trek franchise.

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. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Ah so you fine tune your articles after publishing them too! I think Star Trek is much too real for this lot. We really are into full delusional hallucinations; the thing is that it is astonishing how much influence they retain, how they can drag so many into their lunatic world.

    A fine, fine piece.

  2. Yeah, Chris. That amazing part is that people actually buy their bill of goods.

  3. Great analysis, Commander.

    First you have to admit --- Putin (if that is Putin with the fishing rod) is in much better shape than Cheney.

    Secondly, about the one missile, and one bomber thing: I just read in Der Speigel --- that what the Russians are still doing in Georgia, around the military base in Gorin, is making away with all the military stuff, that belonged to the Georgian Army (if that's a correct term for a small military force) that we and the Israelis have been selling them -- lo -- these many years.

    This has been an interesting few days.

    The biggest contrast photo op: Putin offering comfort,in a refugee camp on the border and, our guy in Georgia ducking for cover, and being covered up by flak jackets in Gorin.

    Oh well.

  4. Anonymous3:16 PM

    BBC is reporting that Young Mr. Bush is sending humanitarian relief to Georgia -- via US military aircraft and naval forces. Should I worry?

  5. Independent UK is reporting the same thing.

    US troops and "humanitarian aid."

    Oh sh**.

  6. Ah..I was waiting for your response to this. Sha..what's good for the goose as they say..

    btw.. I'm assuming (even though you did not mention it) that you know about 'Immediate Response 2008' in Georgia where American troops participated for three weeks in July? Americans and Israeli military involvement (military advisers, weapons) have no doubt added to this extra whammy of Georgia. The message to the US was loud and clear, even if the Russian military expenditure does not measure up to the US. After all, the US is seeking global dominance and Russia is just happy to stay alive..

    Saakashvili behaved like the arrogant and yet naief Westernized lawyer who thought he could get away with attacking Georgia.. as one of my other blogger friends said, he just got his balls cut off by Medvedev. Only a guy can make that observation..


  7. EL,

    Karl Rove is in better shape than Cheney.


    I don't expect any further monkey business to come from the humanitarian aid malarky.


    Like you said, Russia just wants to throw its weight around in convenient places; Georgia was as convenient a place to do that as they come.

  8. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Jeff writes:
    If the Bush administration spin merchants were working for the Russians, the story would go that mean old Georgia decided to beat up on poor little South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the big strong Russians swept in to save the day for the underdogs, just like America did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

    Isn't that exactly what the Russians are saying just now? They have, after all, had good teachers.
    They have also learnt from the Kosovo-case, which for example our foreign minister doesn't understand at all.
    But anyway, we in Sweden stand by you nowadays (well, we and we), you know, so feel safe! Nothing can happen to you as long as USA has our Swedish military force on its side (that is, what is left of it after it was slaughtered).

    I am so proud of the fact that our conservative government is wagging its tail for Bush and his vice president :-(.

    Kerstin / Motvallsbloggen
    (who will never be able to visit USA)

  9. Kerstin,

    I wish I could get a good snapshot of how well the Russia-as-savior story is playing globally. I'm fairly certain the neos have a pretty good grip on the foreign press.


  10. Anonymous11:17 PM

    While Young Bush was cavorting with a pair of beautiful volleyball players, Cheney emerged from an undisclosed bunker to announce "this must not go unanswered!" Meanwhile, where was SoS Rice - our Russian, sorry Soviet expert and the NSA over the weekend?

    The irony is that we're busing our Georgian coalition forces out of Iraq back to another "front."

    Left Coast

  11. Anonymous12:41 AM

    OK, I have been distracted from noticing the two carrier battle groups moving into the Persian Gulf! Notice that all of the frigates, destroyers and cruisers are guided missile types?

    What happens if Iran (or someone) sends some of the reputed rocket-propelled torpedoes into the stern of one of the carriers and just disables propulsion and steering? Does it drift into Iranian coastal waters unable to launch or recover aircraft and leave over 5000 troops as targets?

  12. Anonymous5:40 AM

    The Russians had no choice but to pursue the war into Georgia, as this was not the first time that Georgia had invaded South Ossetia, and it as reportedly done with Shock and Awe style ferocity. At the very least, the Russian army had to destroy the base Nato had built provocatively just 15 miles from the South Ossetian capital. Like the rest of the US media, you seem to have drunk the koolaid that says that it was really Russia that attacked and not Georgia.

    As for your assessment of the Russian military, I think there is some indication that just as the US military has made a virtue of wasteful spending, the Russian and Chinese militaries have made a virtue of spending where it really is most likely to count.

    But, oh great Commader Huber, peerless master of military knowledge and peerless weilder of matchless sarcasm, how dare I question your noble and mountainous pronouncements. Indeed, I tremble at the thought.

  13. Anonymous5:43 AM

    Anonymous, I can answer for the Great Commander on this one. the only thing suburns can cause to the US navy is some slight embarrasment. Nothing to worry about.

  14. Anonymous6:12 AM

    I really just stopped by to see what your latest foolishness was Huber, because it is always valuable to get a different perspective, so I shall leave just one more comment before not returning for a good long while.

    I think people like you, who choose to play down the potential dangers posed by potential opponents such as Iran, Russia and China, are every bit as irresponsible as the madmen who portray such nations as evil and all-powerful bogeymen. Whether you want to admit it or not, the US military is NOT invulnerable and not every enemy is a toothless tiger like Saddam.

    And while - thankfully - many people turn from war because they think war is wrong or counterproductive, at least in most situations, there are many who would be moved by the realization that we actually could face signifigant or even disastrous loss of life if we persist in what seems to be our national obsession with winning the Global Military Superbowl.

    You go ahead and sneer at Russia's capabilities. I can tell you this: I sure hope none of our people ever have to test those capabilities out.

    As Admiral Fallon said (to extend his point a little), every military in the world is an ant compared to ours. What he didn't say, but the obvious next point would be "and so what? " Ants have different capabilities to which we can be vulnerable.

    YOu sure have a sharp tongue. I'm not sure your insight is up to the challenge.

  15. LC,

    Somebody at HUFFPO has a great piece about Rice from yesterday. I'll see if I can find it and get back to you with a URL.


    A rocket torpedo up the screws of a carrier would be real, real bad news.


    I suggest you work on your reading comprehension/retention skills. I did, in fact, point out that the Russians were reacting to Georgia's invasion of Ossetia, and Anonymous asked about rocket torpedoes, not SSN-22 Sunburn missiles.

    But yes, Anonymous, a fistful of Sunburns could cause a lot of shame and gnashing of teeth among USN brass as well.


  16. The HuffPo piece on Condi was by Chris Kelly;

  17. One thing about the "humanitarian aid."

    The Bush Administration got it to Georgia, one hell of a lot quicker, than they ever got it to New Orleans.

    Also a good analysis of this war, by Michel Chessudovsky. offers "The Israeli connection."

    Not to worry. McCain is also sending "his people" to Georgia. Lieberman and Graham to the rescue.

    Totally objective analysis is sure to follow. Condi, Lieberman, and Lindsay. The words "human shields" come to mind. (sorry.)

  18. Those three need to attend a wedding in Pakistan.

  19. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I hope Sen. Graham doesn't get lost in some closet whilst in Georgia... to paraphrase one of Jeff's great lines. :-)

  20. Lindsey wouldn't do well as somebody's gulag bitch, would he?

  21. Anonymous1:20 PM

    I dunno, he's a JAG or some such, isn't he? Perhaps he could sue for better accomodations.

  22. Yeah, but he's an Air Force JAG and a reservist to boot, plus I've been reading Solzhynetzin (sp) and I don't think Lindseys' legal background will do him much good in the old SSR.

  23. Bush's motto in the waning days of his presidency: "Keep irony alive."

  24. That'll take a brigade of EMTs. ;-)

  25. Having removed, or blown up, most of the arms that we and the Isralis sold to Georgia, Medvedev is ready to sign a "cease fire" and may even withdraw his troops --(or Putin's troops) or Russia's troops.

    The more I hear from, and read about, "our man in Georgia" the more he reminds me of the "guy we are stuck with for another 100 days in the White House."

    Similiarities are eerie. Right down to the flag pin in the lapel.

    Surely, the man/or woman upstairs, couldn't wish that on humanity. Not two of them. Talk about "irony". Geeeesshh.

  26. And we send Keystone Kondi over there to close the deal. Yikes.

  27. This is getting a little hairy and scary.

    Does it have to do with Russia, or does it have to do with Iran?

    Three things may be at play here.

    (a) Georgia attacking Russia - with the possible blessing of not only the United States, but of NATO. (Takes your eyes off the prize as it were.) Also gives Bush a huge propaganda opportunity against the bear --- which along with China, does business with Iran.

    (b) A Naval buildup in the mideast, with the possibility of a blockade on Iran, which would be a declaration of war. Not only war, but possible nuclear war. (With a coalition of idiots). Including a ship from a South American country.

    (c) Attorney General Mukasey, and George Bush -- both calling for more police power to use against American Citizens. ("We need these things to keep us safe") I think is the way it was put by Mukasey.

    I read this one, and in my mind, the dots started to connect.

    Hairy and more than scary.

    Things never are as they seem to be.

  28. EL,

    I can't get all het up about this naval exercise deal, or about the deployment. Happens all the time. But like we always say, if Cheney's involved, don't stray too far from the fallout shelter.

    Georgia invade Russia? What would their objective be? They certainly can't occupy the country and topple the government. Heck, we couldn't do a decent job of that in Iraq.

    Nah, I'm not worried about a nuclear war.


  29. That may be the biggest problem of living on the Gulf Coast. That "fall-out" shelter thing.

    Here the soil is such that --- you can't even have a basement.

    So, if they start throwing around even "itty-bitty" nuclear bombs.

    The best we can do is "shelter in place."

    (Remember the Homeland Security recommendation about plastic wrap and duct tape?)

    That's our only hope.

    You read world news. Propaganda war on Georgia/South Ossetia - advantage: U.S.A. Reading the comments on this in my home town paper -- the cold war is on again.

    Georgia doesn't want to invade Russia. They just want to keep them occupied, whilst we decide what to do about Iran.

    If we've been having war games, and Brazil is included.....

    Yep.... Cheney's last hurrah!

    October --- maybe???

  30. The Russians took some definite lumps:

    Aviation Week Article on Russian Air Losses

    One Backfire bomber and three Frogfoots confirmed downed by Georgian ADA. Some of the other comments are laughable. The claim that the captured pilot of the Backfire, a 50 year old instructor, represents Russia using its "A-Team" is beyond incredible. Most military pilots are long off flight status when they're 50--most of the ones I've known have been retired.

  31. John,

    Yeah, Fulgham's full of it. I'd have bought that the 50 YO pilot was the colonel in charge of the bomber wing. It could be that he is the senior backfire pilot in the Russian air force and as such demanded to be let in on the action.

    But to call 4-10 air losses any kind of ass whipping is silly. We lost more than that in the first Gulf War.