I just had to say it, after reading the story about the ramshackle province (country?) in the Times today, whose inhabitants wouldn’t fill Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. Of course there are sound realist reasons for not backing Georgia in this little Caucasus ethnic/boundary spat: our relationship with Russia is important on many fronts, especially those concerning nuclear proliferation (we have a joint common interests that trump just about anything else).
But I find it mystifying, and a subject that deserves serious exploration, why my erstwhile fellow Cold Warriors are so eager to stick it to Russia, to humiliate it, to run Nato right up to its borders. There was a time– more than forty years to be exact–where almost anything that happened in international politics could be measured on the “good for communism/good for freedom” continuum. Of course a simplification, but a significant truth as well. The world came near to blowing up over this in 1962. Virtually every significant battle in America and Western intellectual life referred to this dichotomy in some way or other. And it seemed so impossible to solve–captive nations, thousands of nuclear weapons, an evil empire on one hand, a more virtuous crusader state given to over-reaction on the other.
And then, miraculously, the other side capitulated. So gracefully it couldn’t even be believed. Eastern Europe, free, without a shot fired. The Soviet Union dissolved–deaths, maybe in the hundreds. No real worry about rogue military units with nuclear weapons, no civil war. Russia conceded the justice or our case, the injustice of theirs. No more graceful surrender had ever taken place. If Moscow’s behavior at its defeat could not possibly be seen as vindication of communist morality, it certainly seemed a measure of something positive, even noble– the goodness, perhaps, of the Russian soul.
And surely the George Orwells and Arthur Koestlers and Raymond Arons rejoiced in their graves, both at the West’s vindication and decency with which it was accomplished.
But what would they have made of the efforts to not celebrate the victory but to push it forward, to turn into a humiliation of the defeated? Not just autonomy and freedom for Latvia, the Ukraine, Georgia, full NATO membership! Richard Perle spearheading a committee for the liberation of Chechnya! If any of us had known that victory in the Cold War was supposed to mean a permanent humiliation of Russia, the cause would have never seemed attractive. So, Long live the autonomous Republic of South Ossetia!