On NRO’s Corner, John Derbyshire argues:
Either you believe the U.S.A. ought to commit — in writing — that we shall go to war on behalf of Georgia (Estonia, the Ukraine, etc.), or you believe we ought not.
Precisely backwards. It’s not the behalf of Georgia on which we will go to war some day—or at least not primarily so. Of course, we can’t be everywhere and catch every sparrow that falls—few Americans have ever heard of, much less called for intervention in, the Second Congo War which wiped out almost four million Africans between 1998 and 2003.
As I argued here, the reason one goes to war for a far-away people of whom you know nothing in a case like this is to hinder a powerful, aggressive, revanchist power from upending the international economic and political order by slaughtering its way to territory and imperial aggrandizement, all the while encouraging like-minded despots to do the same. If this becomes unchallenged precedent, and the West proves supine, authoritarian countries around the world will feel free to kill their way to their goals—many of which involve damaging the United States and its interests.
Consider Taiwan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, the Baltics, South Korea, Israel, etc., protectorates of necessity. It’s not them in their particulars that is in our interest to save, but the international order that keeps them safe that we’re attempting to protect: the idea of war as a last option, open trade between nations, and the promotion of consensual government. That is our interest. It’s partially practical, partially moral, as American foreign policy has always been forced to be. Israel is a tiny, democratic land established by international consent whose authoritarian neighbors have tried to annihilate it with some regularity. South Korea was a fairly squalid, if nominally pro-Western dictatorship when we saved it. Many Americans found a way to rationalize their distaste for the government of South Vietnam into a strategic judgment that we and the South Vietnamese were better off with their abandonment to the tender mercies of Hanoi and its Soviet masters. Taiwan has only become a legitimate multi-party democracy in the last few years, yet its liberties relative to the People’s Republic and its manifest desire not to be swallowed up by a totalitarian empire and its emergence as a mercantile power, have made it worth American efforts (however inconstant) to retain its independence.
In any event, we will not go to war against Russia in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. We can assist the Georgians with military as well as diplomatic aid, however, and we can punish Russia in various ways short of war. I would argue that it’s in our national interest to. Moreover, a credible threat of war (and whether we or NATO can make that threat credibly is a good question) can deter an aggressor. Si vis pacem, para bellum, as some neo-con once said; and you don’t always get to set the terms of every war in your interest.
I may be wrong, but to argue that the only reason to commit American power to the defense of countries on the periphery of a revisionist Russia—run by the people who ran the Soviet Union whose neighbors we were committed to defend—is the “behalf” of those countries about to swallowed up is near-sighted, if not deceptive.
Derbyshire’s Little America First myopia seems at least based a very narrow definition of American interests (and perhaps fatalistic indifference). Derbyshire’s friend Steve Sailer, whom linked to several times approvingly in connection with the anthrax investigation, here makes a smarmy anti-Semitic insinuation that somehow American sympathy for and interest in Georgia derive from an anti-Russian bias in American politics ultimately deriving from Israeli-influenced American Jews in media and politics. This is flatly despicable. Sailer plays cute and says, “Hey, this isn’t a conspiracy, just Jews being Jews,” like, one presumes, reflexively anti-British Irish-Americans in government are constantly undermining the Special Relationship due to their dual loyalties to the Emerald Isle. But there’s a reason one is careful and exact in speaking about the influence of prominent Jews* on public life—like 300 years of conspiracy theories accusing the Jews of manipulating gullible, innocent goyim governments for their own nefarious ends. Polite, careful frankness about ethnic groups can be praiseworthy and illuminating, but trading in this kind of venom is vile, especially in the utter absence of evidence—oh wait, there are some Jews in the Georgian government with ties to Israel, and, er, one part of the Israeli government has had ties to Georgia even though another wants to cut off rearming them.
Why would one small country menaced by its vastly larger neighbors be sympathetic to another in a similar position? Doubtless merely to rip them off on weapons sales. Just like John McCain’s full-throated denouncement of Russia must be due to his advisor who’s lobbied for Georgia in the past (named Scheunemann—Jew or No Jew, tune in to find out!), not an clear-sighted abhorrence of sleazy, warmongering tyrants earned in one’s dungeon. Sailer’s either too clever to state his obvious belief that Jews are at the root of much foreign-political evil, or too autistic to realize that that’s what he’s saying. Either way, it’s beneath contempt.
*Of whom there are many and whose opinions do carry weight and are often formed by specifically Jewish historical and cultural factors. No one disputes this, and while some Jews can be too quick to allege anti-Semitism, that doesn’t mean it’s always an overreaction.