Do I Care?

I’ve been trying to formulate a response to Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus’ WaPo op-ed for most of the morning, and I think I’ve ome to the conclusion that I’m having most of my troubles because I simply don’t much care for any of their points or argument. To be sure I think it’s troublesome that these supposed luminaries of liberal foreign policy thought are so readily accepting neoconservative and other right leaning assumptions about foreign policy in general and Russia in particular, but that’s really about the only thing that I’m finding myself able to so much as have an involuntary thought about. Most of the rest of the column just leaves me wondering why I’m supposed to care about Russia wanting a sphere of influence, wanting to dictate events in the immediate vicinity of their territory, and a whole host of other things that have been extremely common among great powers, including the United States, for a very long time.

For example, the most aggravated part of the article seems to come when the authors allege that Russia’s real ends is ultimately regime change in Georgia:

Russia’s goal is not simply, as it claims, restoring the status quo in South Ossetia. It wants regime change in Georgia. It has opened a second front in the other disputed Georgian territory, Abkhazia, just south of Sochi. But its greatest goal is to replace Saakashvili — a man Vladimir Putin despises — with a president who would be more subject to Moscow’s influence.

Call me an America basher if you must, but my immediate thought process goes something like this; Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Panama, El Salvador, Haiti. In all of those countries the United States pursued a policy of outright regime change, and in many of them replacing freely elected governments with brutally oppresive regimes. The important thing was simply their attitude towards the United States, especially if they were in the Western Hemisphere, which we have officially considered our turf since the Monroe Doctrine. So I’m not exactly sure why I’m supposed to get outraged when another country does something we’ve made an explicit point of doing for almost 2 centuries. Does anyone remember what “Manifest Destiny” meant?

None of this is to say that Russia is right to do escalate the conflict or to pursue a policy of regime change in Georgia, but it’s also no reason for us to put priorities like non-proliferation efforts on the line to tell Russia to do as we say, definitely not as we do.