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28 August 2008

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lina

Have not the policies of VP Cheney, and the poor execution of those policies, made the U.S. appear "weak, soft and self-absorped?" Not to mention deranged.

But I hear ya, Col, about Armageddon. I was on the tube in London about 10 days ago and saw the screaming headline in one of the tabloids "We'll Nuke Poland." This was in response to the missile defense shield deal.

They didn't exactly say that, but here's what the BBC reported:

"A foreign ministry statement said that Moscow 'will be forced to react, and not only through diplomatic demarches.' It did not elaborate."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7573409.stm

Then just last night, we get Joe Biden dropping a little bellicose statement into his acceptance speech about Georgia. Is that supposed to help them get elected?

I also heard young people in the U.K. referring to America as "yesterday's country."

Good luck Barack. You're going to need it. You're going to need the full weight and power of your much derided celebrity to dig us out of the hole we're in.


VietnamVet

Colonel,

Well said.

It is very curious that corporate media and the neo-con war mongers totally ignore Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). It is just as much in play now as 30 years ago. More and more, the only reason to wave the red flag in Georgia has to be to elect John McCain. Staying out of jail is strong incentive to try any political ploy including risking nuclear war

The break up of Europe into ethnic states within the framework of the European Union is one outcome of MAD. Rolling tanks across a border horrible increases tensions and can easily escalate to nuclear war especially when both sides are nuclear powers. Sensible people recognize the risk. Blustering over Georgia is solid indication of American weakness and delusional thinking of the current Bush/McCain White House.

Bill W, NH, USA

What I don't understand is why the Presidential candidates don't take the high road on Georgia. Biden could have said, "just another blunder in a long line of blunders by the Bush team (regime)". They act as if we don't know who did the initial slaughtering of innocents.

Dave of Maryland

Dear Colonel,

If you believe that nuclear war is a possibility because of the current Georgian flare-up (and, frankly, I agree with you), then it is the responsibility of all responsible people, everywhere in the world, to remove the war making powers from the parties that currently hold them.

I am open to suggestions as to how this can be done in an expeditious fashion, vis-a-vis Washington. I did not respond earlier because I did not think anyone wanted to act.

Curious

After all the sabre rattling, bluffing, shouting and yelling.

The war machine depends on the economy. And there is a giant problem with the economy.

The russians are going to call that one out. No amount of military action can fix this issue. Because the insane military expenditure is not sustainable.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JH29Dj02.html

As the recent financial crisis has clearly demonstrated, when monumental loans are in default, only massive bailouts by central banks can prevent the total collapse of the banking system. Bailouts are the inevitable offsprings of money creation out of thin air intended to provide liquidity to banks. While for central banks bailouts are costless, for the economy they are extremely costly and have delayed disruptive effects. Massive liquidity injection, since August 2007, and the bail out of banks has, in turn, increased money supply at faster rate and contributed to sharp exchange rate instability and acceleration of energy and food price inflation. It has also stalled economic growth.

Bailouts mean that the central bank validates uncontrolled and disorderly money and credit creation by banks. In view of their high inflation and income (and wealth) redistributive effects, bailouts impose a huge outright tax burden on fixed income and working classes. Massive bailouts socialize financial losses and protect private gains from speculation. They, therefore, lead to considerable social injustice.

robt  willmann

The edginess and foolishly dangerous nature of nuclear weapons "policy" in the Bush jr. administration is noted in the following articles.

Paul Craig Roberts was a Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration, was an associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and has been at Georgetown University and the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He speaks to the nuclear matter here--

http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts08192008.html

I have not had time to trace through the changes in U.S. nuclear policy, especially since 2001, but some work has been done by Jorge Hirsch, PhD, who is a physics professor at the University of California at San Diego. A couple of writings are
here--

http://physics.ucsd.edu/petition/

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/22physicists07.asp

Professor Hirsch's Internet homepage is here--

http://sdphln.ucsd.edu/~jorge/jh.html

isl

Vietnam Vet: Actually MAD is more in play. The reduced capability of the Russian army means nuclear deterrence takes a greater importance, and of course, this administration refuses to state that it would not use a preventive nuclear first strike to prevent nuclear war.

Clifford Kiracofe

<"a confrontation, fed by mass emotion expressed by modern media could easily escalate in an an uncontrollable process.">

Certainly, didn't we experience this in the run up to the "irrational" Bush Iraq War. Have Americans learned any "lessons"? Do Americans "learn" or is this too rational a process for the masses within our (present) borders. Certainly seems too "rational" for the delusional foreign policy elite deeply wallowing in phantasmagoria.

On can argue the White House and Congress are not operating as "rational actors" being deluded by geopolitical fantasies masquerading as national strategy. The mass media easily generates the level of mass hysteria needed to justify US wars such as the "irrational" Bush Iraq War. A few calls from the White House, some buzz in the elites, and voila, instant yellow journalism/jingoism and etc.

All manner of "scenarios" are "possible": general nuclear war at the intercontinental level or "limited" nuclear war at the "tactical battlefield" level or...pick another one.

Here anent the latest Topol ICBM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RT-2PM_Topol

Does the recent testing indicate narrowing CEP's and thus have implications for blast overpressures and "hardened" US targets?

Given recent tensions, Russian planners may develop some nostalgia for MIRV'd systems like the good old SS-19s of days of yore with their "hard target kill capability.":
http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/icbm/ur-100n.htm

Given globalized financial markets a good play today seems to be investment in US-Russian-Chinese military complexes. Russian market looks attractive this week with some good buys out there...

DTR

Final Song of Dr. Strangelove:

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do,
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

Got A Watch

The grand incompetence of US/UK policy towards Russia since 1989 has played out to a non-optimal outcome. Inflamed by 21st century neo-con thinking to 'The Brink' we are building to now.

Have the neo-cons have made the same grand strategic mistake as Hitler and Napoleon did? If your oft-stated "goal" is to "destroy Muslim terrorism", exactly what "goal" is served by opening up a second Russian front now? Anyone?

By continually pushing Russia in so many ways in pursuit of their "encirclement" strategy, the neo-cons, provoked an inevitable backlash from the Bear. A product of flawed logic and faulty old style Cold War assumptions.

Interventionista policies like the "color revolutions" usually fail in the long run, as history shows. I am all for democracy, but I would like to see the citizens of each "post-Soviet" "republic" (or whatever you want to call these areas) work it out on their own. Their history suggests it won't be easy or pretty, with or without outside interference.

The Russians want to control the areas that used to the "Soviet Union"...and the oil/gas there...they always have, and probably always will. This is a surprising strategic concept to whom?

Being half-Polish, I am no lover of Russia, but I do respect them. From the Polish point of view now, or so I hear, they are happy to sign the ABM deal. Apparently the US is going to re-equip the Polish Army, they are very happy about that, and hosting as many NATO bases as may be desired. From the informal relative grape vine. I am not sure about American taxpayer reaction.

b

@VV - Yes, some folks in the U.S. seem to have forgotten MAD. The Russian federation just sent a reminder.

Reports: Russia test-fires long-range ballistic missile

MOSCOW, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Moscow test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia on Thursday, news agencies reported.

The Topol RS-12M ballistic missile, designed to defeat anti-ballistic missile systems, has hit a designated target at a testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula, said Alexander Vovk, head of the Russian Strategic Missile Troops press service.
...

Now why did the RF president decreed the independence of those areas.

Two reasons I can think of:
a. internal political pressure
b. to put them in a legal state that makes western intervention less justifiable/likely.

a. seems unlikely. The latest Russian polls are 75+% pro Medvedev's action

b. would be reasonable if the Russians really feared some military actions to get back those areas back.

I call b.

It is NOT that the RF fears the U.S. is weak, it fears that the U.S. is strong.

The U.S. has daily sent some 30-40 tons of equipment by plane to Georgia for some 14 days now. It additionally unloaded 100+ tons from ships. It has some 50 Tomahawks and some 50 Harpoons on ships in the Black Sea. Those could certainly sink the Russian Black Sea fleet and disable the RF airbases in the area.

There are strategic non-nuke U.S. air assets to consider(B2).

The Georgian army, with U.S. and Israeli trainers, is still 27,000 men strong. The RF has 10,000 men in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If those hundreds of tons the U.S. unloaded over the last 14 days were Javelines, Stingers, etc how well could those troops fight?

The Russians really, really fear U.S. troops at their boarder. Never forget, they lost 20 million people in the last big fight.

If the Russian Federation would look weak now, the nuts in the U.S. might feel free to use the capacity build up to retake the areas and, after that, have a direct presence in the Caucasus.

The strategy to avoid that is to look strong and decisive. Make sure that the U.S. understands that this will escalate.

Therefore, the RF acknowledged the independence of those areas and made sure that the world knows the cost of interfering there is not simply a local issue.

Got A Watch

Things are heating up. Note the longer SwissInfo version of this Reuters story:
Reuters headline: "Putin says suspects U.S. provoked Georgia crisis"

SwissInfo headline, a more reserved: "Russia faces diplomatic isolation on Georgia"

SwissInfo

excerpts:
"Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a CNN interview he suspected someone in the United States provoked the Georgia conflict to make the situation more tense and create "a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of U.S. president." He did not elaborate.

The United States and Europe have demanded Russia respect a French-brokered ceasefire and withdraw all its troops from Georgia, including a disputed buffer zone imposed by Moscow.

France, the current EU president, has called a meeting of EU leaders on Monday to discuss the Georgian crisis, and its Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters that "sanctions are being considered and many other means as well."

The United States, Georgia's closest Western ally, said it was premature to say whether it would consider sanctions against Russia, White House spokesman Dana Perino told reporters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kouchner had already suggested Russia might attack Moldova, Ukraine and the Crimea, and added: "That is a sick imagination, and probably that applies to sanctions as well. I think it is a demonstration of complete confusion."

Moscow expressed alarm at a naval build-up in the Black Sea, an area normally dominated by its southern fleet.

Two U.S. warships are already off the coast of Georgia to show support for their ally and Washington has ordered the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the sophisticated joint command ship Mount Whitney, to the area, saying it will deliver humanitarian supplies.

A NATO official denied there was any build-up linked to the Georgia crisis, saying an alliance group of four warships were on a long-planned routine exercise.

Russia's military has spoken of up to 18 NATO vessels being in, or expected to be in, the Black Sea. It has responded by sending the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, to the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi, less than 200 km (120 miles) to the north of where the two U.S. warships are sailing."

My comment: The French sound bellicose, as do US/UK. The rest of Europe +, looking at Gazprom's hand on the valve, is reacting how? Is NATO united on this? The SCO seems to have wisely stepped aside on this one.

Desperate to save face, will they give Russia a strong 'tut-tutting' followed by a stern 'finger-wagging' (as I am hoping) or stumble down slippery slopes?

TomB

Col. Lang wrote:

"There will be many who will say that the time has passed when we needed to fear such a thing. The argument will be made that the powers are at last firmly lodged in the character of "rational actors." Are they correct in assuming this state of affairs? I think not. Humans remain a species as much dominated by emotion and the herd instinct...."

Isn't there some tension between this view and a fundamentally non-interventionist international stance however? E.g., if indeed the human factor involved with nukes makes their "mere" possession so dangerous and the situation so fragile, then what's wrong with Bush's policy on Iran saying that no, their mere possession of same cannot be allowed and indeed must be guaranteed against?

(Even if under the present circumstances they would pose no direct threat to the U.S. since, after all, times change, and since they may be anyway used in such a manner that *indirectly* draws the U.S. into a nuke confrontation.)

Same with our invasion of Iraq. Obviously even Saddam admitted he was trying to let everyone believe he was working on getting nukes, so therefore while we were mistaken in going in, were we still justified in doing so?

FWIW I tend to think not. Indeed, as terrible and paradoxical as it may be, isn't there some substantial evidence that in fact nukes do lead to more rational actors? At the end of WWII we had just emerged from maybe the bloodiest half-century ever, and yet with half of mankind still at daggers drawn with the other half. So what prevented what can seem like the natural normal continuation of the previous half-century of blood-letting other *than* the invention of nukes?

Cheers,

John Howley

I agree that the moves and counter-moves seem not to be rational and escalation is always a threat.

Unfortunately, rational actors can also pretend to be crazy for intimidation purposes so it can be hard to tell.

Of course Russia is focused on the Kosovo precedent.

Serbia has submitted a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the Intl Court of Justice on Kosovo. This requires a vote from the UN General Assembly to go forward. Vote likely September.

US/EU will round up votes against it. Many countries with their own separatist troubles would like to see it go forward.

Where does recognition of Abkhazia and Ossetia leave Russia vis a vis supporting Serbia's resolution?

Serbia World Court move on Kosovo seen buying time http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSN2348483120080824

alnval

Col. Lang:

Thank you for expanding the theme.

Given where we are today, I cannot read the Melian Dialogue as anything other than a metaphor for the importance of MAD.

Like the absolute deference of a primitive people to an all powerful god, the threat of mutual nuclear destruction created a 'force majeure' to which all nations had to defer. Some even called it a “Pax Americana.”

Twenty years ago we thought that political imperative went away with the dissolution of the USSR, but we, in our mantle as winners chose to ignore the reality of the nuclear threat that was and is still there.

As a result, we are once more stuck with the wide range of imperfect human cognitive processes that are all too easily swayed and disinhibited by irrational emotions, fed and driven by the unresolved conflicts that are produced by arbitrary and unrealistic expectations: a recipe that can quickly lead to world ending disaster.

The Melians had no 'force majeure' by which they could defend themselves. Unfortunately, as you remind us, the United States, the Russians, and up to seven other countries do.

Given our present administration, it is all too easy to imagine what the consequences would be if an Ambassador of the United States were to be assassinated while on a mission of peace to the Republic of Georgia.


meletius

And our Russia "expert" Sec of State can't even meet with our "partner", apparently. Maybe she's sent an email. Quite a situation.

This timing of this crisis is very suspicious, and the GOP seems to be thinking that McCain benefits from it. Putin reads the papers, at least.

The elites of fading empires, having wrecked their military and economic power, desperately thrash about seeking to maintain their geopolitical "reach" and "stretch". These are the final stages of imperial overstretch and it's comforting to see that the old rules apply again and again.

Not too comforting for one's physical life, but that's not the concern of our hardened-concrete bunker elites, is it?

Clifford Kiracofe

So what are the perceptions of the Russian leadership regarding the Georgian crisis?

Their Prime Minister just said:

1. "We have serious reasons to believe that American citizens were right at the heart of the military action. This would have implications for American domestic policy. If this is confirmed, we will have grounds to suspect that somebody in the U.S. has created this conflict to aggravate the situation and create a competitive advantage for one of the presidential candidates”.

....
“As far as the perception of these events by the general public goes, it depends not only on politicians, but also on how artful they are in controlling the mass media. And our American colleagues do this much better than we do and there's a lot we can learn from them”.

The beer baroness in Georgia? What does this signal to the Russian leadership? And Biden's visit and statements?

2. The Prime Minister also said:

“On 7 August, at 14:42, the Georgian peacekeepers left the headquarters of the peacekeeping forces under the pretext that they'd received orders from their commanders to leave their posts, and they never returned.

One hour later, heavy artillery shelling began.

At 22:35 a massive bombardment of Tsklhinval started. At 22:50 the transfer of Georgian ground troops started to the combat area. At the same time Georgian field hospitals were set up.

And at 23:30 the Brigadeer General commanding the Georgian peacekeeping forces announced that Georgia has declared a war against South Ossetia. They announced this publicly, looking straight into the TV cameras.

At that point we tried to contact the Georgian leadership, but everyone refused to talk to us.

At 12:45 AM on the 8th of August the Georgian commander repeated his statement. So who attacked whom?”


3. "For eight years while I was President I often heard one and the same question – what place does Russia think it should occupy in the world? We are a peace-loving state and want to co-operate with all our neighbours and other states. But if someone thinks they can just come in and kill us, and that our place is in the cemetery, these people should think of the consequences of such policies”.
http://www.russiatoday.com/news/news/29626

4. Shaul Mofaz and Barak were in the White House on August 1. Was this when the green light was given for the Georgian attack?

Walrus

The comments by "b" underscore the narcissistic, militaristic, jingoism that is common in America today, and that ultimately is going to lead to your doom, unless it is immediately stopped. If you want an example of what this looks like in full flight, visit the right wing hate site www.blackfive.net.

It has been clear since 1992 when the first drafts of what became "The project For A New American Century" surfaced that there was no way that the military industrial complex was going to allow a "peace dividend" to be extracted from the American Defence Budget, and their efforts to prevent such action have flowered into rampant Islamophobia, the Iraq war, and now probably this engineered confrontation with Russia over Georgia, Poland, and probably by next week the Ukraine.

The trouble with the Neocons strategy is that it is based on rational calculation, but people are not rational and miscalculations can, and will continue, to be made, especially by the idiot in the Whitehouse.

As for American "strength", I think this is narcissistic BS, and I will refrain from making the obvious unkind comment comparing our adversaries in Iraq to the Russians, and anyone who thinks they are a pushover is a fool. As for NATO warships in the Black Sea, not one of them would make it out alive if the Russians decided to take them on.

In my opinion, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania should be regarded as buffer states, and treated accordingly, not "Bastions of freedom and democracy".

To put it another way, don't provoke the Bear.

Keith

Latetly, the similarities to Austria-Hungary 'liberating and defending' Bosnia from the Turks as part of the Treaty of Berlin, and annexing it to the needs of Empire 30 years later seem evident.

Does anybody know how to say 'The Black Hand' in Georgian?

Cieran

Colonel Lang:

Thanks for making your concerns explicit. We seem to suffer from some collective mass delusion that the end of the cold war somehow defused all those thousands of nuclear weapons built by the US and by the USSR, and yet it obviously didn't.

So one comment and a question:

First, there is an excellent book-length treatment of this nuclear war problem courtesy of Jonathan Schell's recent "The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger". Schell has been documenting the insanity of the nuclear arms race for as long as anyone, and his most recent book includes some good discussion of what he has called the "invisibility" of US and Russian arsenals.

Schell distinguishes between dangers due to proliferation (i.e., countries like Iran that don't yet have such WMD know-how) and dangers due to existing arsenals (i.e., the US and Russia doing lots of saber-rattling). Why we seem so obsessed with the former while completely ignoring the latter is probably one of the great mysteries of our time, but it's pretty obvious that a country that has thousands of thermonuclear weapons is an infinitely greater threat than one trying to build its first HEU-assembly atomic weapon.

Second, a question about the seriousness of the nuclear option. Neither the US nor Russia has tested a full nuclear weapon in the better part of two decades (we've done subcritical tests under the aegis of validating equation-of-state laws for special nuclear materials, but these don't reach critical mass, much less design yields for real weapons). Real nuclear weapons systems are fairly simple in theory, but incredibly complicated in actual practice.

So I find myself wondering if any truly credible threat of nuclear activity wouldn't have to be preceded by some underground testing, e.g., opening up the NTS and shaking some tall buildings in Las Vegas. I know that the tri-lab managers periodically testify to Congress that the arsenal is in working order based on computer simulations performed within the ASC program at the three weapons labs, but I gotta wonder if Congressional testimony and gazillions of lines of C++ running on NNSA supercomputers are sufficient to know that our weapons work as advertised under realistic conditions.

And physical testing like we did pre-1992 seems like the only way to be sure (and it's not like we have a shortage of weapons to test).

Any thoughts on whether our leaders appreciate that they might want to check out the workings of their guns and ammo before they start taking aim and pulling the trigger?

Grumpy

As we look at the Georgia - Russia Conflict, there are many things to consider. As the Col. Lang talked about the very real possibility of NUCLEAR WAR, I personally believe he is right. But there are some nagging questions that annoy me. Very few things happen in a vacuum. Did you ever notice, there is a precise begin date for the Russian behavior, which is the focal point for everyone. I would rather back off and look at all of the regional players and all players in this situation. Were their actions aggravating or mitigating? I personally believe there is plenty of blame to go around. We should be look at the time before the Russian moves, this will help us to put everything into a historical context.

V/R
Grumpy

Fred

Curious, those are great points and should give everyone pause for thought.

MAD? All the more reason the neocons want a missle shield; just think what the next neocon led pre-emptive war will look like. It should be called a 'first strike' shield.

jonst

I simply took it, and take it, as a given there is an all too real possibility of miscalculation here, by buffoons, and by even a few, relatively speaking, wise men. And so of course nuclear war is a possibility. To think otherwise is to think....well, is akin to thinking that American troops would be welcomed in Iraq. With chocolates.

Patrick Lang

Anonymous

There may be young people whose experience of war is Iraq or Afghanistan who are hypnotised by neoconism into thinking that a national policy of military aggression is a good idea but you will find few of the old breed who are like that.

A reasoned attitude of caution and proportionality in strategic matters is not to be confused with a personal commitment to pacifism. Old soldiers are willing to fight but not eager to commit the country to war. pl

David W.

According to the Zionists, MAD is inoperable against an irrational, zealous foe. Perhaps they are spreading this meme while they 'do business' in Georgia.

Not incidentally, I believe that nukes crossed the rubicon long ago from 'threat to human civilization' to 'lucrative business opportunity.'

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