The commander in chief of America’s laptop bombardiers, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, can always be counted on to reveal not only the content of the neoconservative party line, but also, in so many words, the impulse that motivates it. In his latest peroration from his perch at the New York Times, the intellectual architect of our disastrous war in Iraq lays out a rationale for yet another catastrophic blunder in the foreign policy realm, this time in the Caucasus:
“In August 1924, the small nation of Georgia, occupied by Soviet Russia since 1921, rose up against Soviet rule. On Sept. 16, 1924, The Times of London reported on an appeal by the president of the Georgian Republic to the League of Nations. While ‘sympathetic reference to his country’s efforts was made’ in the Assembly, the Times said, ‘it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid, and that the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlikely to make any impression upon Soviet Russia.’
“‘Unlikely’ was an understatement. Georgians did not enjoy freedom again until 1991.”
You get the idea: in Kristol’s world, Putin’s Russia is Stalin’s USSR, and poor, doe-like little Georgia a bastion of freedom is in danger of being devoured by the insatiable Russian bear. Meanwhile, the world stands by, helpless, as appeals are made to a nation impervious to the very concept of morality.
To begin with, Kristol’s historical analogy is misleading: Georgia in 1924 was very far from a democracy. What he doesn’t tell you is that it was under the control of the Mensheviks, a faction of the Russian Social Democrats (later renamed the Communist Party) that lost out to Lenin’s Bolsheviks but was in fact very little different from its factional rivals. As the British writer Carl Bechhofer described Georgia’s Menshevik regime:
“The Free and Independent Social-Democratic State of Georgia will always remain in my memory as a classic example of an imperialist ‘small nation.’ Both in territory-snatching outside and bureaucratic tyranny inside, its chauvinism was beyond all bounds.”
George Hewitt, a professor of Circassian languages at London University, cites the colorful and well-traveled Bechhofer in an illuminating essay that lays out the grave error underlying American policy in the region:
“In the hope of avoiding a proliferation of an unpredictable number of small states, the international community in its collective wisdom decreed that it would recognize only the USSR’s constituent union-republics and would, thus, not give any encouragement to the yearning for self-determination that characterized some ethnic minorities living in regions endowed with only lower level autonomy according to the Soviet administrative system (such as the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and the Autonomous Region of South Ossetia, both lower-status entities within the union-republic of Soviet Georgia). It was a huge irony that, in adopting this stance, the West was effectively enshrining the divisions created for his fiefdom by none other than the Soviet dictator Iosep Besarionis-dze Dzhughashvili, a Georgian known to the wider world as Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.”
Aside from memorializing Stalin’s policy of imprisoning ethnic minorities within larger administrative entities, refusing to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states allows the U.S. and the European community to maintain the fiction of Russian “expansionism.” According to Washington, the Russians invaded “Georgia”; Saakashvili’s invasion of South Ossetia doesn’t qualify as aggression, since how can you invade your own country? South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, you see. Just like a small mammal is part of the anaconda that swallowed it whole.
Hewitt goes on to point out:
“Had the Soviet Union collapsed during the first decade of its existence in the 1920s before Abkhazia was reduced in status by fiat of Stalin in February 1931 from being a fully-fledged republic, which entered the Transcaucasian Federation on 13 December 1922 in treaty-alliance with Georgia, to that of an autonomous republic within Georgia, and had the then League of Nations adopted the same principle of recognition later practiced by its successor, the United Nations, then Abkhazia would for decades have enjoyed independence and membership in its own right of the said international community.”
The same goes for Ossetia, which is today split into North and South, with the latter under the Georgian heel as placed there by the half-Ossetian (on his father’s side), half-Georgian Stalin.
Readers of Hewitt’s 1998 book, The Abkhazians: A Handbook, will note how effectively he explodes Kristol’s myth of poor little Georgia, whose supposedly “democratic” history reflects its present “pro-Western” orientation and general worthiness:
“The aggressive politics of the government of Georgia towards Abkhazia occasioned extreme displeasure among the local Abkhazian, Armenian, Russian, Greek, and a significant proportion of the Kartvelian peoples, which actually helped to facilitate the establishment of Soviet power in the region on March 4th, 1921.”
The fall of Menshevik communism in Georgia was celebrated by the captive mini-nations of the region “as a deliverance from the repression and meddling of the Georgian Republic.” Things have remained pretty much unchanged since 1921 albeit not in the way Kristol would have us believe.
While Kristol sentimentalizes the old Georgian republic, its Menshevik founders and leaders were, as Hewitt points out, unapologetic authoritarians:
“The politics of this state was quite accurately characterized by one of its eminent activists, the jurist-internationalist Zurab Avalov (Avalishvili). In his book The Independence of Georgia in International Politics, 1918-1921 (Paris, 1924), he remarked, ‘At the start of 1921, Georgia had in the person of its government and in the shape of the Constituent Assembly a simple creature of party organization Georgian democracy 1917-1921, a form of social-democratic dictatorship (i.e., of the right wing of Marxism), was a period of preparation for the triumph in Georgia of Soviet dictatorship.”
This dictatorial tradition is today carried on by President Mikheil Saakashvili, who unleashed police on demonstrators, injuring 500 people, during the hotly contested elections and shut down independent media with the same alacrity displayed by his Menshevik predecessors. It is little short of astonishing that Kristol holds up this smarmy regime of small-time hoodlums with big-time regional ambitions as some kind of model, the ideal U.S. ally whose fate we might even go to war over.
Georgia, in Kristol’s view, is worthy not only of U.S. support, but of membership in an imaginary “League of Democracies,” a neocon project touted by John McCain and pushed by the neocon-dominated wing of the GOP as the “conservative” answer to the United Nations. In short, NATO writ large, albeit with an ideological gloss such as only Kristol (or a Marxist) could bring to it.
No, that’s not a misprint: I wrote Marxist, and meant it. The whole flavor of Kristol’s screed calling for U.S. support to Georgia, with its appeals to emotion interwoven with bogus historical analogies, reeks of the ideologue’s sweaty-browed rhetoric. He is like a little Lenin, exhorting us to follow the bright flag of “democratic” internationalism to the very ends of the earth, which is surely where South Ossetia is located, as least as far as Americans are concerned. One hears, in Kristol’s exhortations, the hectoring tone of the old Soviet commissar, albeit of the Menshevik rather than the Bolshevik variety, and this brings to mind a point made by the late Murray N. Rothbard in his justly famous 1992 speech to the John Randolph Club:
“When I was growing up, I found that the main argument against laissez-faire, and for socialism, was that socialism and communism were inevitable: ‘You can’t turn back the clock!’ they chanted, ‘you can’t turn back the clock.’ But the clock of the once-mighty Soviet Union, the clock of Marxism-Leninism, a creed that once mastered half the world, is not only turned back, but lies dead and broken forever. But we must not rest content with this victory. For though Marxism-Bolshevism is gone forever, there still remains, plaguing us everywhere, its evil cousin: call it ‘soft Marxism,’ ‘Marxism-Humanism,’ ‘Marxism-Bernsteinism,’ ‘Marxism-Trotskyism,’ ‘Marxism-Freudianism,’ well, let’s just call it ‘Menshevism,’ or ‘social democracy.’
“Social democracy is still here in all its variants, defining our entire respectable political spectrum, from advanced victimology and feminism on the left over to neoconservatism on the right. We are now trapped, in America, inside a Menshevik fantasy, with the narrow bounds of respectable debate set for us by various brands of Marxists. It is now our task, the task of the resurgent right, of the paleo movement, to break those bonds, to finish the job, to finish off Marxism forever.”
Of course, the neoconservatives, of which Kristol is the ringleader, came from the left side of the spectrum and trace their historical antecedents all the way back to the schismatic Marxist sects of the 1930s and the epic battles between Trotsky and Stalin (they were partisans of the former). They were, in short, the American Mensheviks of their time. In their hegira from the far left to the neocon right a more fully documented odyssey exists only for that undertaken by Ulysses they yet retain the telling characteristics of their Menshevik heritage, which Kristol proudly upholds to this day.
At a time when people are losing their homes and economists are beginning to talk about another Great Depression, Kristol’s proposal to send millions more in “aid” to Georgia is obscene. Now that’s real anti-Americanism sending taxpayer dollars to a Georgian despot while people in this country are hurting. It’s also political suicide for the Republicans to raise the prospect of intervening in Georgia’s internal problems when we’re already bogged down in the Iraq quagmire, from which there seems little hope of early extrication. So much for Kristol, the grand strategist of the GOP. He and his fellow neocons are dragging down the Republican Party along with their own sinking credibility.
The myth of poor little Georgia, a newborn and promising “democracy” threatened, bullied, and battered by Putin-the-reincarnation-of-Stalin is bogus from beginning to end. It is a Bizarro World rendition of what is really happening in South Ossetia and the wider region: that is, a curiously and consistently inverted version of reality in which up is down, black is white, and the Georgians did not invade South Ossetia, killing thousands and driving many more northward.
According to our “free” media, the Georgians didn’t invade the land of the Ossetians they merely tried to “retake” it, as a child would bloodlessly and even quite playfully retake a shiny red ball from a playmate. Those evil Russkies, on the other hand, invaded, plunged into, and escalated their attack on Georgia. At least, those are the words our “reporters” are using. As George Orwell emphasized, the corruption of language is a form of control, and the American media in collusion with the government is expert at this, especially in its war reporting.
That’s why Antiwar.com’s continued survival is such a value for our growing audience: we give you the facts without the Washington-centric spin that comes with “mainstream” media coverage. You know you can come here to find out what’s really happening out there in the wide world. You also know that we aren’t afraid to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom. Maybe you remember how often that collective “wisdom” has been wrong.
The news media and, not coincidentally, the War Party isn’t interested in reporting the facts. All they care about is the “narrative” one not necessarily based on reality, designed to convince the public that what our rulers are doing and planning is right and just. The Kristolian narrative of poor, little, pro-Western Georgia is a tall tale. Georgian “free market democracy” exists in the same alternate universe as Iraq’s famed “weapons of mass destruction” and the Piltdown Man, but you won’t see many other media outlets saying that.
I want to urge all of my readers, especially those who log in with some regularity, to contribute to our end-of-summer fundraising drive, which, as I write, is in its second day. We still have a very long way to go, and I can’t impress upon you the urgency of our appeal. The foreign policy crisis has been ongoing ever since 9/11, and it still shows very little sign of letting up. We seem to be approaching the breaking point, where the various crises in different parts of the world are seeming to converge into one mega-crisis: the threat of a new world war, involving most of the world’s major powers, is a real possibility. And it is a near certainty as long as the neocons are anywhere near the levers of power in the U.S.
Please, consider giving more than you usually give, considering how grave the prospects for peace have become. The world, I fear, is slowly but surely darkening, with the bright promise of the post-Cold War era now just a distantly flickering memory, the echo of a lost peace.
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