Lincoln Mitchell takes Saakashvili’s Western fans to task:
Saakashvili said all the right things in English, and they believed him to be a true democrat — but he was also capable of abusing power, using violence, and authoritarian behavior, as history has shown. Recognizing this mistake is not something politicians are likely to do. It is much easier to accuse Georgia’s new government of being vengeful and looking backwards. But in doing this, these Americans and others — like the leadership of the conservative European People’s Party — are damaging Georgian democracy.
The Western attachment to Saakashvili is a good example of the bad habit I was criticizing in the previous post: those that claimed to be Georgia’s strongest supporters were in practice just reflexive defenders of an abusive Georgian government that happened to align itself with Washington. It didn’t matter what effect this had on Georgia and its people so long as the “right” people stayed in power, and any abuse or blunder could be explained away or justified because Saakashvili was on “our” side. Many Westerners appointed themselves arbiters of what it meant to be “pro-Georgian,” which they defined as being reflexively supportive of whatever Saakashvili and his allies did while in power, and in the end that meant that their definition of being “pro-Georgian” was diametrically opposed to good government in Georgia and the preferences of most Georgians. By the same token, to criticize Saakashvili, to tell the truth about his recklessness in the 2008 war, and to state the obvious about his authoritarian tendencies were treated as proof of hostility to Georgia.
The official excuses for this enabling behavior were that Saakashvili was a democrat and “pro-Western,” but it was always the second of these that mattered most. The more that it became impossible to defend Saakashvili’s record as a political reformer, the more that his boosters went on the offensive against Saakashvili’s domestic opponents, smearing them as Russian stooges and as a threat to Georgian democracy. Having put in so much effort to dress up Saakashvili as something that he wasn’t, they have had to keep flacking for him now that there is an outside chance that he may be held accountable for the abuses of power that he committed while they were cheering him on. Mitchell is right that this Saakashvili boosterism by outsiders is detrimental to Georgian democracy, but then it always was, and the boosters never really cared about what happened to Georgia or its democracy as long as it could be used for their purposes.