Free Advice

I know the Washington Post takes flak from all over the place for their Op-Ed page these days, and it’s pretty obvious they have no idea what to do about it, so let me help for just a second. As a rule of thumb, any column that leads with “The details of who did what to precipitate Russia’s war against Georgia are not very important,” should be sent back to the author with a healthy dose of snark in a letter explaining why a respected publication like the Washington Post wouldn’t consider running that premise this lifetime.

But this is the Post op-ed page, and that’s exactly how today’s column from Robert Kagan opens up, and Kagan does his neoconservative best through the entirety of the column to make you think Russia, not Georgia, started this conflict. He even includes the obligatory 1938 reference in the first damn paragraph, predictably moving from claiming that what happened won’t matter down the road to, “Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.”

Now I assume all of us just expect the neocons, even the “respectable” Kagan, to bust out the Munich analogy anytime anyone does anything they don’t like, but it’s worth pointing out how ridiculous the analogy is here. In 1938, a militarizing dictator demanded he be ceded a territory on the basis of ethnic identification. In 2008, Russia and Georgia have been having a territorial dispute for awhile, and Georgia decided to use the cover of The Olympics to attempt to occupy the territory, assuming a great power wouldn’t launch aggression during the games, and that by the time the games were over the situation wouldn’t be fresh enough to keep the global community understanding towards Russia. Russia might have responded disproportionately, but to equate the situation to Munich is to smear the Czechs. Afterall, they didn’t invade Germany.

All you really need to understand the column is that first paragraph. Kagan’s entire point is that Russia is bad, we should do more to fight them, and that the “details,” as in what’s really happening, don’t matter. It’s a timely reminder that, above all else, the neocons have been earnestly searching for another great power to engage in great, Cold War-esque conflict. Indeed, it’s a central tenet of neoconservatism that America must have a great enemy to rally against and oppose for the doctrine of “American greatness” to prosper. If Kagan is the best of the bunch, thank God for Bob Gates.