Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, August 15, 2008 - 7:35pmSanction this postReply

I am highly impressed by the quality and timeliness of the commentary I have been getting from TIA Daily, an email service for TIA subscribers. This email list is available for a free one-month trial, sign up here. Since the mailing is copyrighted, I do not want to excerpt from it daily, but today's issue is so topical and of such a high quality that I am posting several excerpts of it below.
(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/15, 8:48pm)

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Friday, August 15, 2008 - 8:36pmSanction this postReply

Here, on Putin, Georgia, Poland, "Neo-Cons" and McCain, are portions of the August 15th TIA Daily:

Blood for Oil

Why is the Russian invasion of Georgia so important? Because it is Vladimir Putin's attempt to cut off independent suppliers of oil to Europe.

Commentary by Robert Tracinski

1. Blood for Oil

The more I look at the crisis in Georgia, the more I realize how important it is to American interests. It is not just the moral imperative of supporting a free nation against an authoritarian aggressor, and it is not just reassuring the other nations of Eastern Europe that we will support their independence from Moscow. Above all of that, it is important to recognize that the invasion of Georgia is Vladimir Putin's war for oil.

This is not the beginning of Putin's war for oil. TIA has extensively covered the Putin regime's persecution of independent oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and its subsequent seizure of his Yukos oil company. Having secured the Kremlin's total power over all domestic oil production, Putin has now moved on to the next step: controlling the oil supplies of Russia's neighbors.

The article below describes the importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which links the oil-producing center of Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan—by way of Tbilisi in Georgia. Putin's Russia is already one of Europe's main suppliers of oil and natural gas, giving him tremendous leverage over the Europeans. This is his attempt to cut off an important independent competitor.

Putin's oil grab would have an impact on both sides of the pipeline. By giving Moscow control over all of the energy transit points between Central Asia and Europe, it would enable Moscow to intimidate the producers of oil on one end and the consumers of oil on the other. It is, in short, a foreign policy disaster almost as big as Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

We must do everything we can practically do to stop it.

2. Monsieur Chamberlain

For the past five years, the left has exploited American difficulties in Iraq to resurrect its case for a foreign policy of appeasement, and these new defenders of appeasement have come out in droves to advocate the abandonment of Georgia. A particularly disgusting example comes from a Washington Post blogger who responds to John McCain's declaration of solidarity—"We are all Georgians"—by replying petulantly, "I Am Not Georgian."

The article displays the psychological reaction of a second-hander who resents Mikheil Saakashvili for taking a strong stand and therefore forcing others to make a difficult choice on a controversial issue. It boils down to: "How dare you expect me to stick my neck out for anything."

Even worse is looney leftist Robert Scheer, who puts on his tin-foil hat and claims that the Georgian war is an election-year plot orchestrated by a conspiracy of neo-conservatives to serve the interests of the military-industrial complex.

But the top prize for appeasement can't go to those who merely advocate it. It has to go to an actual practitioner of appeasement. The Neville Chamberlain role in this crisis has to be awarded to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Acting in his capacity as President of the European Union, Sarkozy flew to Tbilisi and Moscow to negotiation a "truce." The agreement he negotiated was such a cave-in to Russia that its immediate result was to embolden Putin to expand Russia's grip on Georgia, citing as justification one of the articles of Sarkozy's truce agreement.

Note that Sarkozy presented this capitulation to the Georgians with a fatalistic shrug of the shoulders, telling them, "This is where we are." That, in a nutshell, is the whole metaphysics of Western European foreign policy: to adjust to conditions made by others—rather than taking action to change conditions in their favor. And that is why Georgia and the Eastern Europeans need a non-fatalist ally like the United States.


"How to Stop Putin," Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, August 14

What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps—troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces—will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia. But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin's refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to "give peace a chance."

The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin….

We are not without resources. There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorship long made Russia's presence in this group of industrial democracies a farce….

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia….

The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: Reaffirm support for the Saakashvili government and declare that its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.

President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film "Charlie Wilson's War" to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians' capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.


5. Leader of the Free World

The conflict in Georgia will also be important because of its impact on domestic politics. The article linked to in item #6 below, for example, notes that a new missile defense agreement with Poland "poses potential political problems for Democratic critics of missile defense who would be fighting to cut financing for the program in the face of the specific request from Poland and in light of the Russian offensive into Georgia."

This will have its biggest impact on the presidential race. While the Bush administration was slow to respond to this crisis, Barack Obama hasn't even regarded it as important enough to interrupt his vacation on the beach in Hawaii. This has left John McCain to be America's loudest and clearest voice on this issue and to promise that the US will enforce respect for "the values and security of all free people."

As the article below points out, in the past week McCain has "seemed almost more the leader of the free world than the president." And the results are showing up in public opinion polls, where voters reply that they trust McCain over Obama to deal with this kind of crisis—the primary job of the president—by a margin of nearly two to one.

Barack Obama was recently criticized for his presumptuousness in acting as if he is already president, and some have attempted to criticize McCain for doing the same thing in this crisis. But there is a crucial difference.

Obama's presidential presumptions were mere play-acting. He appropriated the outward symbols and style of a president—adopting his own fake presidential seal, going on an overseas trip to give speeches in front of other countries' monuments, scheduling meetings with the Treasury secretary and the Federal Reserve chairman. But it was all presidential trappings without presidential substance.

If McCain has appeared "presidential" in this crisis, by contrast, it is because he has provided real moral leadership when no one else was doing it—and his statements of encouragement to Georgia may well have changed the course of events for the better. I am no fan of McCain, and I fought vigorously against his nomination by the Republican Party. But if anything can make me vote for the bastard, this will be it.


Today, in a speech in York, Pennsylvania, McCain continued his role as the strongest advocate for Georgian independence. His remarks were so cogent and so eloquent that I will quote them almost in full:… [But I have excerpted only the end of the speech.—RWT]

"This is the situation in Georgia as we meet here this morning. The impact of Russian actions goes beyond their threat to a democratic Georgia. Russia has used violence against Georgia to send a signal to any country that chooses to associate with the West and aspire to our shared political and economic values.

"My friends, we learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. With our allies, we must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to withdraw its troops from Georgia. There must be an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions. And we should ensure that humanitarian aid can be airlifted to Georgia's capital, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their country back together. And we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability, and peace of that world.

"My friends, today the killing goes on and aggression goes on. Yet, I know from speaking this morning to the President of Georgia, Misha Saakashvili, who I've known for many years, that he knows that the thoughts and the prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation as they struggle today for their freedom and independence. And he wanted me to say thank you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny little democracy far away from the United States of America. And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, today, we are all Georgians."…

Georgia's President, Mikheil Saakashvili, addressed a rally in Tbilisi today. He, too, talked about his conversation with McCain earlier in the day:

"Today, John McCain said that Americans are supporting Georgia. McCain said, we are Georgians today, everybody are Georgians today."

It has been an extraordinary moment, in which John McCain has seemed almost more the leader of the free world than the president. You can be sure that in November, Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin will be following our election results with equal attention.

Subscribe to TIA here.

(Edited by Ted Keer on 8/15, 9:12pm)

Post 2

Friday, August 15, 2008 - 9:08pmSanction this postReply

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your reasoned and extremely intelligent input on this matter.  Thank you so much.

Post 3

Friday, August 15, 2008 - 9:50pmSanction this postReply

Wow, I think you have.

Post 4

Saturday, August 16, 2008 - 9:57amSanction this postReply
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am subscribed to Robert Tracinski's monthly TIA, and have had it up to here with him. He is WAY behind and never puts his monthly magazine out on time. He'll go for months without publishing an issue, with no explanation as to why. Just nothing. I have asked for my money back on the unused portion of my subscription, and have got no reply. I have called his office and left a message and have got no reply.

He's spending all his time on the TIA Daily apparently, and is ignoring his monthly subscribers. So much for practicing what you preach! I am fed up with this guy. How the hell can he justify this kind of behavior?!

- Bill

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Saturday, August 16, 2008 - 2:30pmSanction this postReply
Bill's past complaints are the only reason I haven't re-subscribed to TIA (it's been years).  It sucks, too, because the writing is really excellent.  

Have you been getting your TIA editions, Ted?   

Post 6

Saturday, August 16, 2008 - 4:00pmSanction this postReply

I had only recently enrolled in the free monthly trial of emailings, with which I have been very impressed.

I had enough of a problem with Liberty, (which I dropped after their disgusting response to 9-11) whose "news" lags five months behind the headlines.

Post 7

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - 11:42pmSanction this postReply

I continue to be impressed by the quality of Robert Tracinski's writing. His recent comments on Pakistan, given Musharraf's resignation, have been quite good. He says that winning in Afghanistan is the proper response to our problems in Pakistan - and he shows great integrity by citing his own previous writing where he had thought otherwise. I was so impressed, I wondered how Robert does as a comentator. So I looked him up on YouTube. This is what I found:


What is wrong with this picture? It is not the link.

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Post 8

Monday, August 25, 2008 - 4:21pmSanction this postReply
TIA on Biden:

But don't take my word for how bad this plan was. Ask the Iraqis. Reuters reports that Obama's choice is not going over well in Iraq.

Senator Joe Biden may be one of the only US politicians [who] can get Iraq's feuding Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish politicians to agree. But not in a good way.

Across racial and religious boundaries, Iraqi politicians on Saturday bemoaned Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's choice of running mate, known in Iraq as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

As one Iraqi member of parliament summed it up: "We rejected his proposal when he announced it, and we still reject it. Dividing the communities and land in such a way would only lead to new fighting between people over resources and borders." So much for Obama's promises about showing more respect for our allies. In fact, Biden's proposal hearkens back to the era of Western colonialism, when politicians in London or Washington took it upon themselves to draft plans for how to divide up other people's countries.

Post 9

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 - 5:08amSanction this postReply

... Even more pointed was this remark from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who became visibly emotional when he concluded that "I'm here with our people and will be here until all's clear in Mississippi and we've done what we can to help our sister states, if they bear the brunt of this hurricane like we bore the brunt of Katrina."

Wait—you mean that Mississippi bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina? Yes, it did, and its citizens distinguished themselves with their resilience and self-reliance during the disaster. But that didn't make for the right political story, so they were ignored.

... And that's the big injustice that the Republicans are trying to reverse. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it caused damage across the Gulf Coast, particularly in Mississippi. But the only place that the hurricane became a badly mismanaged humanitarian disaster was in a city with a Democratic mayor, in a state with a Democratic governor. Yet by the time the media was done presenting its version of events, it was Republicans who somehow took all of the blame.

Last night was an attempt to correct that injustice by writing over the media's Katrina narrative...

And if Republicans can succeed in that goal, it might just be worth canceling half of their convention.

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