When little countries think big

Yglesias writes (and for once I agree with him):

Meanwhile, Americans would do well to abandon some of the moralism that infuses commentary on this. Fundamentally, Russia is supporting the claims of Ossetians and Abkhazians for reasons of cynical power politics. But the American perspective on this is also mostly driven by reasons of cynical power politics. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Georgia wants to cultivate American friendship so it makes sense to reciprocate. In the current moment of crisis, we should try to back our ally up. But we should also remember that in the scheme of things, Georgian territorial integrity is not the most important item on the US-Russian docket — getting Russia to do what we want vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear program is way more important than getting Russia to do what we want vis-à-vis Georgia. Is that fair to the Georgians? Of course not. But they have the misfortune of being far from God and close to Russia.

Georgia is important in respect to the BTC pipeline, which is (thus far) relatively removed from the locus of combat. The Georgians have claimed that the Russians attempted to bomb it, but those reports are questionable. It is unlikely that the Russians would attack the pipeline, thereby drawing the United States directly into the conflict. My view of the Georgians is somewhat less than favorable; their pinstriped president wrought the war on them, arrogantly and stupidly. He now complains that the Russians dare wage a war against Georgia in Georgia (“Russia is fighting a war with us in our own territory“). Mr. Saakashvili is a man who must be taught the place of a puny country on the frontiers of an enormous country many times its size with firepower fully capable of turning puny and mid-sized countries into Rubblestans. He should, as Mr. Djerejian writes, take a “large dose of humble pie“. The price of his idiocy is far too expensive. Americans should not endorse reckless behavior such as this. The nationalisms of small countries are often the largest, and the result is seen here.
Beyond whatever casualties the Georgians are incurring and the disproportionate response the Russians are serving up (funny how American television news is so concerned with this in Georgia’s case but was foaming at the mouth for more when this was the case in Lebanon a couple of summers back), the geopolitical results will be interesting and important. As I study the issue I will provide more thoughts.

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