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A War for Every Continent

[ 0 ] August 11, 2008 |


Meanwhile, if we launch a war with Russia — which would seem to be the point of busting out the analogy — then how are we going to find the time to launch wars with Iran and China? And what about Syria?

Not to mention our depressing tardiness in conquering Burma and Zimbabwe. Also, Hugo Chavez still lives. And surely, Australia and Antarctica have done something requiring a stern display of American moral clarity. If nothing else, the elephant seals hate America and everything we stand for; in the name of decency and national honor, we must demand satisfaction.

Meantime, over at Blog of the Year 2004, someone claiming to receive alien radio transmissions through the fillings in his teeth work for the State Department believes that Russia’s incursion into Georgian territory is analogous to the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran, and that the appropriate American response would be to organize a “bold response” comparable to the Berlin Airlift.

Because really, the best response to such a hostage situation would be to plan an air rescue of some kind.

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Reds exploit world distracted by Olympics and . . .

[ 14 ] August 11, 2008 |

. . . donate Adam Dunn to Arizona for a petrified starfish and two pre-owned copies of The Transformed Man.

Dunn is a free agent in six weeks, so if the Reds would have gotten two first round picks if they had kept him, assuming they would have offered arbitration and he would have walked (which seems like a safe bet).

Obviously you can’t really evaluate the trade without knowing who the two propects to be named later are, but as it stands now it looks like something of a giveaway and I don’t understand why the Dodgers let him clear waivers.

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Gori Falls; Russians Moving on Tblisi

[ 0 ] August 11, 2008 |

Fox News (which has been solid on this thus far):

Russian forces swept across Georgia on Monday, capturing the town of Gori and moving to within 35 miles of the capital city Tbilisi, FOX News confirmed.

Georgia reportedly was rushing more than 1,000 troops to Tbilisi in anticipation of a battle with Russian troops.

Russian armor, meanwhile, moved beyond two breakaway provinces and seized a military base and police stations in the country’s west, officials said.

The Russians are also advancing out of Abkhazia.

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Most Likely, You Are, Or Know Someone, Morally Worse Than A Slaveholder

[ 25 ] August 11, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Michael Novak: “As a violation of natural right, abortion is even more extreme than slavery.” I certainly hope that John McCain will repeat this as often as possible as an attempt to appeal to the Catholic vote!

The rest of the column involves feeble defenses of idiotic, useless abortion regulations and hilarious attempts by Novak to justify his own cafeteria Catholicism, which has a remarkable tendency to reach policy results favored by George W. Bush.

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Justified Wars

[ 46 ] August 11, 2008 |

Balko has a poll. Inferring from his comments that we’re judging wars in retrospect, I get five (Balko’s three plus the Civil War and the first Gulf War.) A couple of these would be more problematic at the time, especially the Civil War. (Evaluating the Civil War after the fact, conversely, one has to account for not just emancipation but the Fourteenth Amendment, which almost certainly could never have passed under normal circumstances.) Afghanistan also looks worse in retrospect but I’m not prepared to say it was unjustified yet.

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Of what does the Georgia-Russia situation remind Billy Kristol?

[ 23 ] August 11, 2008 |

My guess would be . . . Munich, 1938!

What do I win?

BTW it would be difficult to top this phrase for some sort of Neo-Con Unselfconscious Irony Award: “Fanatics aren’t deterred by the disapproval of men of moderation or refinement.”

The funny thing is that the whole column is structured around the idea that Russia isn’t like the Nazis because there are no Nazis around these days. Except in Wingnuttia, that argument is going to go over like a lead zeppelin, so whaddaya know by the end of 750 words we’re somehow back in England in 1938, looking for Winston Churchill. Again.

I don’t know the first thing about this conflict (or rather everything I know is based on Rob’s excellent blogging on the subject), but there are few rules in life more dependable than that if William Kristol is advocating something it’s almost certainly a good idea to do the opposite.

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More Blather About Georgia

[ 0 ] August 11, 2008 |

For alcoholics, angry loners, and the unemployable who happen to have 50 minutes to kill…. Heilbrunn is a little bit more Realist than myself, but I think that we have pretty similar instincts regarding the crisis. On the other hand, we disagreed about the appropriateness of the John Edwards coverage; that comes in about the last five minutes or so.

In other news, the Georgians appear to be displeased at the lack of a more forceful American response. This, as much as anything, gives an indication as to what Georgia thought it was buying with its Iraq deployment:

As a Russian jet bombed fields around his village, Djimali Avago, a Georgian farmer, asked me: “Why won’t America and Nato help us? If they won’t help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?”

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John McCain: Staunch Opponent of a Woman’s Right To Choose

[ 13 ] August 11, 2008 |

Sarah Blustain powerfully reminds us of what should be obvious: John McCain is a strong opponent of reproductive freedom. He’s certainly no moderate on the issue. Make sure to read the whole thing, but a taste:

McCain’s views may matter especially to Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom are pro-choice; according to syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, “[T]hey’ll want to know this: Would McCain stock the Supreme Court with foes of Roe v. Wade?” But, she writes, “The answer is unclear but probably ‘no.’ While McCain has positioned himself as ‘pro-life’ during this campaign, his statements over the years show considerable latitude on the issue.”

That, however, is simply not true. There is no “latitude” in McCain’s position on abortion. Interviews with dozens of people who have dealt with him on the issue–pro-choice and pro-life activists, Hill staffers, McCain confidants, pollsters, and staffers–along with a two-and-a-half-decade-long perfectly anti-abortion voting record, make that clear. And his record on related issues, like contraception, is no better. “I think it is outrageous that people give him a pass, as they gave George W. Bush a pass,” reflects Feldt. “John McCain will be that and worse.”


During his political career, McCain has participated in 130 reproductive health-related votes on Capitol Hill; of these, he voted with the anti-abortion camp in 125. McCain has consistently backed rights for the unborn, voting to cover fetuses under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and supporting the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which allowed a “child in utero” to be recognized as a legal victim of a crime. He has voted in favor of the global gag rule, which prevents U.S. funds from going to international family-planning clinics that use their own money to perform abortions, offer information about abortion, or take a pro-choice stand. And he has voted to appoint half a dozen anti-abortion judges to the federal bench, as well as Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. During the Bork hearings, McCain attacked the Court’s creation of a right to privacy in Roe v. Wade: “Whether one is pro-or anti-abortion,” McCain said in an October 1987 hearing, “it is difficult to argue that the Court’s opinion is not constitutionally suspect.”

Blustain also hasn’t gotten the key script on this issue, which is that holding highly unpopular (Republican) views on abortion isn’t a political problem; it’s only holding the majority (Democratic) position that should be a political liability. Blustain seems to think that holding unpopular positions is a political problem, giving McCain and his acolytes every incentive to obfuscate their categorical opposition to abortion rights. What a strange view of politics!

And while I’ve said this before, it’s also worth addressing this particular attempt to portray McCain as a moderate that Blustain cites:

He also told reporters that if his then-15-year-old daughter got pregnant, they would make “a private decision that we would share within our family and not with anyone else”–a response that to some ears sounded a lot like code for the right to privacy and abortion.

Of course, having no objection to your daughter getting a safe abortion in that context doesn’t make you a pro-choicer; it makes you a Republican. John McCain’s daughter will be able to obtain a safe abortion under any legal regime, including if Roe v. Wade was overturned tomorrow and her home state banned abortion. It’s not women with the connections to obtain gray market abortions or the resources to travel who are affected by abortion bans, and the fact that McCain would exempt his daughter from rules he would apply to poor women in Mississippi makes his support for criminalizing aboriton even worse.

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The Cat That Won’t Cop Out

[ 2 ] August 11, 2008 |


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Day 3 Evening Update

[ 0 ] August 11, 2008 |

A brief round-up; I’ll have more tomorrow on Russia-NATO and Russia-US relations specifically. At this point the situation in Georgia doesn’t seem to have changed radically from what it was this afternoon.

Galrahn has an update on the situation in the Black Sea.

Charli Carpenter talks about the casualty count.

Charlie Whitaker makes an extremely important point regarding Russian military and economic power:

For example, shells fired from a Leopard 2 will likely pass clean through the hull of a T-80, but not vice versa. (Korolev’s rocket designs were good, admittedly.) It’s only because military investment was such a high priority in the USSR that we see today’s Russia in possession of a variety of functional materiel.

Now that we can measure it,* we find that Russia’s GDP is approximately equal to that of Portugal (which is not to knock Portugal). Much of Russia’s wealth comes from resource extraction: in other words, Russia is not making stuff. Is it thinking stuff instead? Well, is there a nascent biotech or semiconductor industry in Russia today? (Or is there maybe some other, more esoteric kind of activity that hasn’t yet permeated popular consciousness?) How are Russian universities doing?

Russia is fairly populous, although no one would call it densely populated. However, its population is shrinking; in part, because it is not a healthy country.

So we’re left with territory – Russia borders a lot of places – and with its military, which still has some potency. Put those two together, and maybe it’s not surprising that some Russian tanks will pop across the border from time to time. Or at least, they’ll want to.

Right. Russia has taken advantage of the extraordinary price of oil to somewhat revitalize its military establishment, but the equipment it’s using in front line units is still a generation behind Western (to say nothing of American) capabilities. And the Russian economic and social situations remain, fundamentally, a mess. I think that the Russian economy has a sounder foundation now than in the 1990s, and I think that Russia will be able to enjoy high energy prices for the foreseeable future, but it’s simply not the case that the Soviet Empire has rebuilt itself while we weren’t paying attention. This is a point that we risk losing in the next few days as the McCain campaign continues to structure itself around calling for the return of the Cold war.

I just recorded a Bloggingheads on Russia-Georgia with Jacob Heilbrunn; I’ll link as soon as it goes up.

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[ 0 ] August 10, 2008 |

McCain supporters are obviously going to try and run a good distance with the argument that he was somehow “prescient” on the question of Russian power. I’m not quite sure how to put this, but McCain’s apparent inability to view Russian foreign policy as anything other than retooled Soviet ambition strikes me as unhelpfully alarmist. Let’s recall that if things had gone as McCain preferred, the United States would have somehow expelled the Russians from the G-8, forced NATO to rapidly absorb Georgia and the Ukraine, unleashed the fookin’ fury on Iran, and pursued any any number of other needlessly provocative (and delusional) goals. (On the other hand, things certainly did go McCain’s way in the run-up to the Iraq War, which was in itself has been an absolute crackerjack for US-Russian relations. In the very least, the Russians seem to have developed an appreciation for the virtues of regime change; to their modest credit, they seem to have outperformed the Bush administration in so far as creating a pretext for that sort of work.)

I suspect things will get even more pointlessly silly in the coming weeks. McCain is already arguing that the pussification of NATO green-lighted Russian aggression, while his blogospheric taint-moisteners are in full St. Vitus’ dance, comparing the conflict in South Ossetia to the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Afghanistan, warning once more that Barack Obama is a minstrelized Jimmy Carter, and calling for the US to . . . I dunno, go kill a few Muslims somewhere to show the Russians we mean business. I predict that with a few days, “National Greatness Conservatives” will begin calling out the pantywaists in the State department for “losing South Ossetia”; insisting that all of this traces back to our Failure of Will in Iraq; reviving Bush’s assertion that global tyranny is still FDR’s fault; and reminding the world that the Russia is once more trying to execute the dying wishes of Peter the Great.

. . . Well, I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of this one: Someday, apparently, “8/8″ will be remembered as this generation’s “9/11,” or something. Does this mean we can still keep playing that shitty Lee Greenwood song during the 7th inning stretch?

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Georgia Cries Uncle?

[ 50 ] August 10, 2008 |

This looks like a surrender to me:

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said its soldiers were observing a cease-fire on orders of the president and declared the move in a note handed over to Russia’s envoy to Tbilisi.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy confirmed the Georgian note was received; the Russian Foreign Ministry had no immediate response.

“Georgia expresses its readiness to immediately start negotiations with the Russian Federation on cease-fire and termination of hostilities,” the ministry said in a statement.

Things appear to have quieted in South Ossetia; unclear if fighting in Abkhazia is continuing. Russian air attacks, as far as I know, are ongoing.

…Russia isn’t finished:

Russian tanks and troops moved through the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and advanced on the city of Gori in central Georgia on Sunday night, for the first time directly assaulting a Georgian city with ground forces after three days of heavy fighting, Georgian officials said.

Georgian tanks were dug into positions outside Gori and planning to defend the city, said Shota Utiashvili, an official in Georgia’s interior ministry. He said the city of Gori was coming under artillery and tank fire. There was no immediate comment from Russia.

The Russians have overwhelming firepower on their side, while the Georgians are dug in, defending their home territory. Putin is risking a lot by escalating this.

…Fire up your Google Earth and take a look at the situation. Gori is about 17 miles from Tskhinvali, about 1000′ downhill over what looks to me like a fairly even slope. Tblisi is about 50 miles by road to the east, over much more difficult terrain.

…Matt Weiner notes that this was included in an earlier version of the NYT article cite above:

Exhausted Georgian troops, their faces covered with stubble, said they were angry at the United States and EU for not coming to Georgia’s aid. A Georgian major who was driving an armored truck out of South Ossetia and who gave his name as Georgy, said, ‘Over the past few years I lived in a democratic country, and I was happy. Now America and the European Union spit on us.’

If either the Georgian military or political class believed that the US and the EU would provide material assistance, then this was a larger miscalculation than I had previously believed.

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