Friday, August 15, 2008

Vital Interests for Idiots

Vital Interests for Idiots
As if Waziristan weren’t worrisome enough, now Ossetia and Abkhazia have been added to the distant and dangerous threats we never heard of. We fret because former defense secretary Cap Weinberger told us that there is no spot on earth so obscure or remote that it doesn’t represent a vital interest of the United States.(1)
If you notice, cities and states don’t have such interests. Minneapolis is not overly concerned with matters in Miami, and Alaska doesn’t anguish over events in Alabama. In the world beyond, few countries besides ours have interests that go much beyond their borders.
If you add up all of our vital interests you get what our government calls its policy of “full spectrum dominance.” That means we’ve not only declared ourselves the world’s CEO but all of its regional branch managers as well.
For instance, as branch manager of the Caucasus and central Asia our interests include putting amenable politicians in office, creating and managing local armies and police forces, supplying them with weapons at nice markups, making sure we take our oil from under their ground, and seeing to it that the locals don’t unduly interfere in their own internal affairs.
Our Caucasian commitments are fairly new. Up until the early 90’s, the region was part of the Soviet Union, a failing empire in which we were very interested in developing interests. When the USSR shattered into 15 separate countries, we moved quickly. In no time at all, we had military bases, not to mention McDonald franchises, in eight of them.
One of our most successful ventures was Georgia, proud homeland of Joe Stalin. We installed a Wall Street lawyer as president, dispatched thousands of U.S. and Israeli military and secret police advisors, and built an oil pipeline that had the advantage of bypassing Russia, the erstwhile boss of the Soviet empire.
Unhappily, there were a couple of big fat worms in our Georgia peach. First, the Caucasus are to ethnic strife what church basements are to bingo.(2.) Second is that it's not in the interest of Russia, the big bear of the Caucasus, to let us turn its former subject states into a ring of hostile bases for American interests.
So when the incomparable incompetents in the Bush mob pitted their Georgia peaches against their giant Russian neighbor, it was hardly surprising that the Georgians proved as inept as their mentors. Their solons screwed up and their soldiers skedaddled. The Russkies squashed them like rotten fruit.
This raises questions: Why, given the endless wars in the Caucasus, are we making a big deal about this one? What was Karl Rove doing in the region last month ? Why did a military equipped by the Pentagon and trained by our Marines and Israel’s elite fold like an empty six-pack? Does this permanently queer our play in the Caucasus and points east? How much of this mess traces back to the McCain campaign? And how do we handle a resurgent Russia flush with oil, big bucks and a rebuilt military led by a tough and smart cookie who's more accustomed to dishing it out than taking it?
I’m no fan of Henry Kissinger. But he often intones a maxim that’s worth observing: Don’t give the other 96 percent of the world reasons for ganging up on the U.S. For the last eight years the Bushies have been handing out those reasons like free rolls of Charmin. They just sent a gold embossed one to Vladimir “Putie Put” Putin, George Bush’s trusted buddy. You know what he's doing with it.

(1) There is no corner of the world so remote, no nation so insignificant that it does not represent a vital interest of the United States--U.S. defense secretary Casper Weinberger. Manchester Guardian Weekly, May 20, 1984
(2) The Caucasus region is subject to various territorial disputes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994), the Ossetian-Ingush conflict (1989-1991), the War in Abkhazia (1992–1993), the First Chechen War, 1994–1996, the Second Chechen War (1999–present), and the 2008 South Ossetia War--Wikipedia